Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween at Tradewinds

Halloween is creeping up on us! Spooks are everywhere in SL, and there's a Halloween Boat Show running at Tradewinds YC. Loads of creepy stuff everywhere. This guy here looks kinda spooky too, but on closer inspection, it seems he is having a party.
Yohoho! I bet that's rhum
This guy here... his cousins are all over the place, but let's start with a few spooks. Yes, they are out even in the daytime, mind you, this is very early morning, so the shadows are looong and shady. I suppose that provides some kind of sun-protection for spooks. They need sun-factor 10000 or more. This next shot is a Trudeau One. It seems to have a magnetic effect on spooks.
A T-One overtaken by spooks
Well, they won't have it to themselves. Not for long. That guy in the first picture, he may not be able to sail right now. Don't drink and sail as they say. However, his cousin is on his way out there to claim the T-One. Or maybe he isn't. I didn't stop to ask. Just took the picture while pretending I was not scared.
Coming to get you
Not scary enough? I'd say a sailing dead is pretty spooky, but make no mistake. The scariest of all scary creatures in a marina is there too. The landlubbers aka the walking deads. Oh yes. They wander around in the sanddunes just north of the boathouse. And if that's not enough for you, this creature here is ready to take off and have you for breakfast.
This sea monster looks hungry
Having that guy in the wake makes me wanna sail something extremely safe and durable such as the Nautilus or maybe just something extremely fast. In the back you see the white shadow of a transparent tallship making its way down south. Oh, and there's a bunch of bats flying around. I hate those things. Yuck.
Dead man hanging
There's boats too. Here's a Loonetta. The spooks seem to like that as well. Dunno if they had a fight with that guy hanging from the spin pole. Maybe he just likes to hang there. Incidentally, what's that flag they hoisted at the back of the boat?
Feeling a bit worn out?
There's loads more to see. There's several ghost ships, spooky tallships such as the Blake Perl and more,  spooks, bats, spiders and other yucky creatures. There's a pumpkin lighthouse and more spooky buildings to explore if you dare. Plus there's more boats. There's even a Fizz with a Halloween themed gennaker. Oh, and don't forget the sailable pumpkin. I sailed that last year. This guy right above here, he seems to have had a bit too much. Too many spooks or too much rhum. I dunno.
The Blake Perl
Those tallships are amazing. So many details. I can understand that guy there on the raft. Doing maintenance on these huge old-timers must be a lot of work. Takes a lot of rhum too I suppose. Normal tallship sailors would dip their hardtacks in the rhum, but I guess spooks they don't need to feed on stuff like hardtacks
Check it out
I could go on and I have loads of pictures, but instead I'll just invite you to go see for yourself. You'd probably need to hurry up, cause the show runs till the 31st of October. With a bit of luck it will take a few more days to clean up after the show, but once Ahab gets started deleting things... He can be very efficient. Happy Halloween... or is it trick or treat?

PS: More Halloween stuff for afficionados if you click halloween right under here...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Let's build a boat

There are so many fantastic boats in SL. For a long time I wanted to try to build one myself, but the process is rather cumbersome and lengthy. Building a boat like the Laser takes maybe 200 hours; If your into it. Starting from scratch will take much longer. So, it is hard to find the time for it. However, here's an initial experiments of mine. I decided to share it; Perhaps it could inspire someone else to get started building. I know I needed a push to get started. Thanx Jim.
Start with the simplest building blocks
Creating building blocks is easy. It only takes a few seconds to click and voila - there's a cylinder, a box or a sphere. That's what I did in the image above. I got six simple shapes - aka prims or primitives - from which I will build a boat. The simplest possible boat would be something like a sphere cut in halfs, then slightly elongated. In RL it would float, but it would not provide any stability. You could go with a box. That would help on the stability, but not in SL. More on that later on. For now I decided to make it just a tad more difficult and make a sailboat.
Adjust the width, length and diameter
In the first image it is probably not very obvious what will happen. Check this one. These are the same building blocks, but they've been adjusted to suit my needs. Left to right you see a mainsail, a mast and a headsail. The latter has not yet been flattened. Then there's the hull consisting of the aft, the center and the bow part. All all I need to do is to position these correctly and glue them together.
Just add waterproof glue
Here it is. Five minutes after I started I have something that appears to be a little boatlike. Just in case you can't see it, it's a sailboat with a mast, two sails and a pretty clumsy hull. All made of plywood. Yes, even the sails are plywood. Remember Plywood Marina? Plywood is the default appearance of prims, so all parts of the boat will need to be textured to look like real materials. The system itself (SL) has a handfull of different materials, but they seem to make little difference.

On with the building. There's no rudder. We'll add that later on. Sailors would also complain that there's no keel. Not a problem. The SL physics works in mysterious ways. More on that in a while. Right now let's just see it float.
OMG! My shoes...
Here it is. It appears to be floating, but it is really not. Right now the thing is simply hovering - like it did on the previous picture. This time it is just hovering at a height that makes it appear as if it is floating. The weird thing is, it won't float. The water doesn't work. Even though the boat is made of plywood, it will sink the minute I set it to be physical. If I set gravity to zero, it will stay at a certain height. If I set gravity to a positive value, it will sink. Negative values will cause it to be very unboatlike. It will fly like a rocket to the sky and never come back.
Well, almost ready to float
So here's what happens when the boat goes physical. Not much fun. The physics engine isn't really made for this kind of action is seems. In fact the boat sank to the bottom and then it started tumbling further down to the deep side on the left. Boats simply need to hover, and it that respect all virtual boats are really spacecrafts carrying an anti-gravity device. So that's why there's no keel. The water does not provide any bouyancy, so a keel would make no difference; Except for the appearance of course. SL is nothing but an illusion. Surprise, hehe.

So! This post shows how boats were built in the old days. The Tako was built kinda like this. Then came the sculpts. They are just a weird way of controlling the shape of these basic building blocks. Still, amazing boats were built using sculpts. The Flying Fizz is one. The virtual 2m from Qyv is another. Today, boats are built with mesh technologies. Modelled outside SL and imported to the grid. While this facilitates much more complicated structures, - it is also a bit sad. The idea that you can build inside the grid is very nice; I guess merging SL with photoshop just isn't an option. The important thing to know is, that the Laser is built with mesh, so there's no reason to learn sculpting.

All in all it seems boatbuilding is pretty simple. There are three phases: The shape, the texture, the script. There is a fourth phase and that is to get some kind of wind blowing. That built-in SL wind is no good for sailing. Here's a note on that, but that's another story.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Virtual weed

I've tried virtual pizza and hot dogs. I've had virtual beer, redwine and champagne. I've been out to dinner and had a virtual steak and salad. It's all been a little bit fluffy and not very satisfying. Then I've had virtual drinks that made me dizzy. Three sips of "Sex on the Beach" and my digital me start stumbling over my own feet. This, however, tops it all...
Zoso weeding smoking in his Laser
I met this guy, Zoso Zepp, at the Tradewinds dock. Amazing outfit. Complete with rastafari hair, knitted cap and all. However, the first thing I noticed was the sail. First thing I said was "You look like you're too far north". He laughed ans said he was about to cruise south. So I pulled out my Laser and we took off.
Heading south, me in the dirtwind, sniffing
Zoso said he knew the Laser from RL, but this SL Laser was rather new. We took it slowly. I tried to sail in the dirtwind to get a sniff of Zosos ever pulsing not quite ordinary cigarette. You get the idea, right? Suddenly I felt like singing. "Weed is in the air, everywhere I sniff around. Lalalalala...". Turns out this guy runs a virtual weed store. Not seaweed! Smokes and plants and what nuts. I will most definately have to check that out.
I am not really sure what virtual weed will do to the SL experience; It could be fun growing it. Like those virtual plants on the desktop. Perhaps virtual weed will make the virtual sailing experience better. Perhaps it will make you a better virtual sailor? You never know what's gonna happen. Maybe it'll psych you out completely. Get you a bad case of hydrophobia, hehe. SL never stops to amaze me. Peace out...

Peace in...

Here's a weedy sailing haiku to go with this post:

I like dirty wind
trying hard to stay in it
windward dude smokes weed

... and out...

Ships biscuits

I've been following the fabulous adventures of Buff Staysail over at Captain JP's for a while now. However, there are other adventures over there, and they deal with a special type of biscuits: Ships Biscuits. Ships Biscuits are known for their extreme durability, and for their ability to break teeth. Not for their good taste. Any sailor should know about these historical biscuits, so I googled them - just for fun - and look what came up:
A very old Sea biscuit
This here is one very old Ships Biscuit. The danish word is beskøjt;  English names seem to include Ships Biscuit, Sea Biscuit, Hardtack, Liverpool pancakes and Liverpool Pantiles. Obviously they are close to impossible to eat, but back then - when warships had sails - they were probably served with and dipped in some kind of grog. That might have helped a bit.

This particular Sea Biscuit can be seen at the naval museeum at Kronborg, Denmark. It is from 1852, and the museeum received the biscuit some 125 years after it was baked. The story goes that a Danish ship's boy, E. Gade, who served on board the schoonerbrig "Lydia" of Whitby, Capt. J. Wood, brought it home in order to show his mother what he got to eat on board. It's a meal in itself as it is 10 x 2 cm big.

Now, there's loads of recipies out there, so here I'll repeat the Danish version:

Danish Sea Biscuits, crew version.
1kg of - is it called - grahams flour?
4dl of water
25g of yeast
very little salt like one teaspoon or less

Mix it all up till it is no longer sticky. Create round or square biscuit sized biscuits and stick a few holes in them. Bake twice at 180 C for 35 minutes. The officers version uses wheat flour instead.

If you're into these things ( and who isn't ;-) then check out Captain JP's Sea Biscuit experiments. I think I'll do a similar experiment. I'll probably make three versions. The mediterranean Sea Biscuit with thyme, the original one with no additives and a Christmas edition with cinnamon and cardamon.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ktaba updates

A few days back I met Craig at TYC. I was planning to go tune my Fizz, but Craig was quite excited about his latest work on the Ktaba20. We talked boats for a while, but those updates really sounded interesting. I simply had so see them, so I hopped on board the beautiful Ktaba20. I can always do some more fizzin...
Boat talk 
Some of the new things had to do with the sails. That's why I sat on the front deck; To see those sail details. I like being up there. It's one of my favourites in RL, because you are even more immersed in the sailing whilst sitting up there - in the middle of everything. Perhaps my attitude up there is not very speedy, but it sure is a great place to sit while cruising. You could have an autopilot handling the steering for total relaxation, but that's more of an RL-thing. The waters in SL rarely offers hours of sailing in a straight line.
Take off
Besides, it's always nice to have someone like Craig at the helm. Then you know it's a smooth ride. No running aground and stuff. Lotsa nice boat talk too. We sailed north to have a peek at new Seychelles up there. As usual, the Ktaba20 sails like a charm. The sailing engine is Craigs own. It's very stable, and it comes with full WWC support. Make no mistake. We may look very relaxed, but the Ktaba20 is not meant for cruising only. Inside the Ktaba20 there's a racing heart.
It turns out there's not much space in between those Seychelles, - more on that in a future post. We choose another route with more open sea to better test the new features. And they work great those telltails, - for that's what it was: Telltails enabling the cruiser to sail by visual - and the racer to find optimum speed without using huds and pocket calculater-like displays.
Open sea
We talked a bit about telltails. How to use them, where they go and why they work. Lots can be said about that, but in reality it's dead simple. The jib has a couple of telltails not far from the headstay. They indicate the flow coming on to the sails, and they are the ones by which you steer on an upwind and trim in any other case. The main has leech tails and they are the ones by which you trim the main. I better prepare a post on that subject.

It's very nice to see more telltails in virtual sailing. The Ktaba20 is now part of an exclusive club with only a few members still: The Flying Fizz, the Laser, the Cotton Blossom II, the Bolero and the virtual optimist aka the Shelly Fizz. Did I forget anyone? Ahh, yes... Manul made a tri-thingy with a fizzkit engine. I think it has telltails too.

PS: Why are there no closeups of those telltails? Good question. They need just a little bit of tweaking before they are perfect, and when they are, I'll post them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fizz Cruising

So many people tell me the Flying Fizz is too difficult for them. While it is true the Fizz requires work to sail fast, I really think it is a pretty good cruiser. It's as simple as rez and go. The latest Fizz comes with a built in default wind that is perfect for beginners. And for experts.
Fizz Cruising
The important thing to remember is to NOT accept any local wind settings. Way too many marinas have local winds set to 25 knots or more. Now, most normal people would never go out in a wind that strong. Sailing the Fizz singlehanded is almost impossible in that windspeed. There's way too much power for one person to handle. With two people on board it is a little better.
Downwind is a blast
However, it seems singlehanded sailing in strong winds is popular. Ofcourse we all want to go fast, but sailing in those windspeeds is quite unrealistic. For most sailors trouble starts around 25 knots. Dinghies will capsize again and again. Keelers will simply break stuff. In SL those strong winds will not break stuff, but the Fizz will capsize. Other boats will continue to sail in ridiculously strong winds at ridiculously high speeds making sim crossing a real challenge.
Reaching is a blast too
What's worse is the math. The apparent wind calculations and the polar diagrams aren't really meant to handle those high speeds, so we end up sailing at weird speeds - in weird angles. Sailing a keeler so fast you need to gybe like an AC72 may be a fun and outworldly experience, but it has little to do with sailing as we know it in the real world. To me that's when it stops making sense.
Hey! Is that another Fizz over there?
Now, the Fizz may look complicated because it has three sails. That's where the other important thing to remember about the Fizz comes into play. It has several modes. There is expert mode. You don't wanna go there for your first time on the water. Then there's competition mode. Save that for later. There's novice mode, where you need to steer and trim the sails and finally... there's absolute beginners mode. It's point and sail. No trimming, no balancing, no hoisting sails. Just steer and everything else is handled automatically.
While I was cruising around the Blake I met these two guys. We sat there for a few moments enjoying the sunset. Talked a bit about the Fizz Cup. Then we sailed on. I had things to to, and that guy there in the other Fizz was training. The jetski-dude was just out cruising, but he kinda stayed with me for a while. Perhaps he secretly wanted to switch from stinkpotter to real sailing. Dunno.
Catching up
The boatspeed thing, the realism, was obvious a couple of minutes later. I had left the sunset rendezvous and was heading north-east on a beat. That usually means going just a little over five knots. So, the jetski was actually able to catch up with me. Had I been been going 22 knots in a crazy high speed keeler, he would have had a hard time catching me. Not to mention the fact that he would have been thrown off his jetski when he hit my 3 meter high wake, hehe.
Beating is a breeze
Anyway, here's me beating upcoast heading north to get back to Tradewinds. Going upwind in the Fizz requires a little training. Usually you'd go for those perfect telltails, but sailing the Fizz singlehandedly you often need to sheet out just a bit, - or point a bit too high, in order to keep the boat leveled. The speed penalty for not doing so can be more than a knot. There's something for you to work with - preferably before the Fizz Cup.
Me in the drink
Finally, should you decide to go for the Fizz Cup, be aware that you'd be sailing in competition mode as mentioned in the Notice Of Race. That means the capsizing feature is active. Too much heel and you're in the drink. Too tight sheets while gybing and the same thing happens. Not a big problem. Happens to me all the time. Well, not all the time, but still... You just crawl back on board and carry on; Hope the other ones capsize at the next mark.

Have fun Fizzin...

Here's more about those virtual telltails.
Here's a couple of sailing shots from the Fizz Cup 2011.
More cruising with the Fizz here: Destination Paradise.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday, photocontest

There is a grid-wide photo contest running over at It's called Shooting the Breeze, and the theme is virtual sailing. I sent a couple of pics in that direction. They are kinda friday-ish in that magic and relaxed sailaway-kinda way.
Sailing into the sunrise
The first one is me and Dutch sailing into the sunrise somewhere in this virtual world. Writing this post I realize I don't have a lot of posts in this category: Scenery. I looked them over, and my favourite is probably this one ... The second picture I sent shows a truly magical spot I found by accident.
Island Life
So, if you are a virtual sailor... do join the competition. Otherwise just enjoy it. Here's a direct link to the entries so far... SLSailing Photocontest: Shooting the Breeze. Go there and maybe drop a few votes here and there by liking or reblogging, and in any case... have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Virtual telltails

George of Mid-Atlantic Musings-fame asked a question in the comments of the post right before this. The question was : Can you see those virtual telltails on the back of the sail too? The answer is not a straight yes, because virtual boats differ. However, one boat stands out as particularly life-like, and here it is:
Hi George!
It is (of course) the Flying Fizz. Built by a real sailor with realism in mind. It does not have all the trim options that we're used to from RL, but it has quite a few features that will make an experienced sailor feel right at home. In so many ways it is like a real boat.
Main, jib
It is beautifully built, so any RL sailor will immediately see it's potential. I am not quite sure, what it is built after, but it reminds me very much of the International 14 footer. Here it is under sail. Main and jib up. Both sails has sheets. The main has an outhaul, and the jib has a leader. Lotsa work to do for one person. But there's more.
It has a gennaker too. Loads of sailarea for one person to administer. In fact it is a little bit too much for one person; Even when I hike max it's not always enough, but luckily there is room for two. That other person can take over the trim of jib and gennaker - plus he or she can use a trapeze to help balance the boat. So far so good. Let's see those telltails.
Those telltails
Here's a closeup of me, my Flying Fizz and the telltails - all in perfect balance. I am going upwind around 60 degrees to the wind, so I can actually hold the boat being just me. That's why you see those telltails perfectly aligned on both sides of the sail. Note that there are two telltails per "spot". Windward and leeward.
Sun in my back
Yes, the sails are semitransparent. Just like real sails. Here's a shot where I have the sun in my back. The windward telltails are easy to see, and those leeward tails are a little bit harder to see. It is quite easy to see which telltail is on what side of the sail.
Sun at the back of the sails
Here's a shot where the sun is at the back of the sails. Again it is quite easy to see which tail is windward and which one is leeward. That's brilliantly made by the builder of the Flying Fizz. In RL it can be somewhat of a problem to see which is what. At least under certain conditions. That's why the starboard telltail should always be positioned  "a telltail-length" higher up. Green for starbord and red for port side is less important. It's more of a gimmick.
Ease out, peace out
So there you go. Telltails on the Flying Fizz. If the windward tail flutters you need to sheet in or bear away. If the leeward telltail flutters it is the opposite. Just like a real boat. And if you wonder why - on many of these shots here - my windward telltail is not perfectly horizontal, it is because the wind was too strong for me to keep the boat leveled. I had to sheet out just a tad to keep the boat levelled, or I would be two knots down; Be in the drink even. Yes, it's that good. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Laser improvements

There's a new Laser out. It has a new feature that's big to sailors, tiny to cruisers and insignificant for landlubbers and almost invisible to all of us. It's not in the boat. It's in the sail, and it's one of those things that make virtual sailing just a littlebit better and closer to the real thing. It's a working telltail.
Setting sail in Puerto de Malla
So far the Laser has had the looks. Beautifully crafted hull, mast and sail with loads of details such as lines, blocks, cleats and other fittings. Now comes the brains. Not that it will sail by itself, but it will provide the visual feedback needed to enable an even better virtual sailing experience. It will make it easier for everyone to sail.
Looking at telltails
We've been missing a working telltail from the beginning of the Laser. Yes, they were there from the start, but they weren't quite working. They were just painted in the sails. Now, after months of dangerous experiments in the lab, Dutch is finally able to release a working telltail. It's the super classic model: Round dot of black tape and five inches of red wool.
Doesn't get much better than this
Yes, it has to be wool. Wool doesn't stick to the sail; Not even if it is soaked. Not a big problem for the two of us on this particular day. Outside the beautiful Puerto De Malla the ocean was quite calm. We only had a bit of seaspray. However, in a race, you need just just one misread gust, and you're in the drink. Next thing you know, you have defunkt telltails. Maybe just for 3 minutes, but that's when the other guys take off in a 3 degree shift you didn't see, because your telltails were glued to the sail.
See the islands
See? Flat! I am not entirely sure how much wave action the Laser supports, but I will get back to you on that. Promise. For now, I am just glad to see a telltail. Not that it's the first. The Flying Fizz has had telltails since 2008, maybe even before that. The Bolero was one of the first boats to pick that up. You'd think it was in every boat from there on, but no. Not even the supermodern virtual Nacra17  has telltails.
More talk about telltails
However, this is a start. We are moving away from the days of hud based sailing, where sailing was done by staring at numbers on the hud. No more looking at text that is green, when trim is good. Now we just need to get the telltails right.

The starboard telltail should be (always) green at located like 5 inches above the other one, which is (always) red by the way. You need to be able to differ between the two - even with the sun behind the sail. Why? If you're sailing too high the windward telltail will point upwards or flutter. If your're sailing too low the windward telltail eventually will flutter. However, the leeward telltail begins to flutter when the trim is off by a few degrees. Voila! Trimming made easy; Even better: Those telltails are in the lower front quarter of the jib. That's where you should be looking anyway; Forwards. Truely amazing huh? And better yet, it runs without batteries...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Inflatable sailing canoe

I had barely packed away all my boats from the impromptu boat show, before my collection was upped by one. It's from the Rotaru Bootshaus; They just released the Ten and now this. Who knows how many "oldies but goodies" they have in pipeline? This one is a little different though. It's inflatable.
The inflatable boat
It was very easy to unpack. Click and drag. To my disappointment it did not come deflated. It just popped right up, and before I could say "voila", I was ready to take off. It's a littlebit exciting, cause I never ever sailed anything remotely like this before. RL or SL. It's not my first canoe, but it sure is my first inflatable canoe with a sail and two daggerboards of sorts. A rather strange vehicle if you ask me, but I get the idea. It can be deflated and put in the trunk. Not that I drive around SL in a car.
Cuddly sailing
So what's it for then? I studied the notecard, while I sailed south. It said "meant for cuddly sailing" or something like that. Ok? As long as it isn't crammed with weirdo sex toys and stuff. I clicked everywhere to make sure it was safe. Then I rang Dutch. To my surprise, he was all for cuddly sailing. He hopped on right before we reached Pslande.
Blue water, not Bluewater
Dutch quickly agreed it was a nice little boat. It sure doesn't look like a racer. It's not superadvanced with currents and waves, code zero and jib, but it is kinda soft and cozy to sit in. It's simply a tiny sailboat for a cozy afternoon at sea with that special someone. Or anyone not afraid ow water. The simplicity means it is probably less likely to crash, so for cruising and exploring, this could be a good choice.
Heading north
Inside the thing sits an elderly BWind sail-engine. It's the one from the first Babysloop. I wanted to test that stability a bit. After a few minutes in the Blake Sea, we headed north into the inshore waters behind NYC. Right. Yes. North. Unbelievable. There will be no pictures of the Fastnet Rock in this post. Guaranteed.
Lobsters for sale
The inshore sailing went very well. Loads of stuff rezzing. Trees, birds, boats, houses, lighthouses, piers and what nuts... A restaurant even...Or was it just a fishy shop? Dunno. We didn't stop to check, but I will have to check it out sometime. The scenery was actually so nice, I felt like mentioning it. Dutch response was a dry "I know the area. My ex used to live here."
Seeking the ocean again
Ok. Got that! So we looked for a way out. This looked like a way out, but in fact it was the perfect test. At the end of the narrow channel we turned starboard and sailed down a very narrow "piece of water", and that's where the boat went strange. It wouldn't say it crashed, because it kept running, but the boat got stuck, and when I tried to turn back, it sorta went into a vertical position. I really don't think I can blame the boat for that.
We got away
In any case, Dutch's problem was solved as we had to TP out of there. Found a rez spot and here we are again. Super relaxed and cozy. Open sea ahead. So, what's the verdict? I think it's a nice lil fun thing for leisure sailing and exploring. Not very advanced. Supereasy to sail and very stable. Perfect for exploring uncharted waters. I just don't get how it can be inflatable while not being deflatable.