Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Highway to the Danger Zone

It's almost summer again in Annapolis and that means it's time for light air, lots of power boat chop but best of all the Blue Angels are in town. Every year we close down the shop for a bit and let the staff walk down to SSA around the corner and watch the show. So if you tried to call around 2-2:45 now you know why we didn't answer the phone.

Some of the APS Staff Watching the Show

Even though I've probably seen the show a dozen times it's still really fun to watch. As Katie put it, "it's like fireworks but louder!" I don't really know what she meant but it's sure exciting to watch super fast planes flying around doing fancy tricks.

If you want to see some more shots of the Blue Angels click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bike to Work Day at APS

This past Friday was Bike to Work Day and some of the APS crew were up bright and early riding their bikes to our shop in Annapolis. Mike, Jarrett, Rob, Rob, Katie, Aaron and James all rode downtown to the Bike to Work rally held at the city dock in downtown Annapolis. Bryn and Torrey also rode to work but didn't make it down to the rally. That's nine APS'ers in all for those of you keeping track doing their part to make the earth a little greener.

The Annapolis rally had a great turnout this year of over 200 riders from all around. Some folks rode from over 30 miles away. Everyone got a free bike to work t-shirt and they also had bagels, coffee, energy bars and other treats for those hungry bike riders. Afterward everyone rode their bikes up Main street en mass. We all had a lot of fun.

Aaron and Katie had a little too much fun and got a little behind the group. We were starting to get worried about what had happened to them but then they called and claimed they got held up because the Eastport bridge was up. Luckily we were all caught up on watching touching but kinda creepy childhood movies so we knew that wouldn't have been a problem for E.T. so what why was it such a big deal for Aaron and Katie?

Once we were all there the APS bike gang gathered in front of the shop for the picture at the top of the post. Turns out APS President Kyle (center of picture under the flag) rode his bike to work too, his new bike was really turning heads as he rode through town.

The coolest bike award went to Torrey rolled in on a unicycle and put on a pretty impressive performance, that made us wish we all could be circus performers. That's right, he rides a unicycle. No joking it's pretty awesome and he's really good at it.

Overall, ride your bike to work day was a great turnout and hopefully it encourages a habit for some to ride their bike to work more often. As always, remember to complete your ride with a nice safety feature called the helmet.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hail from the Rail

This past weekend Katie and I had a tremendous amount of fun sailing a Thistle in the Spring Series Regatta at SSA. It was a gorgeous weekend for sailing on the Chesapeake and we couldn't ask for much more with 10 - 15kts of breeze, sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. We were both on the bow of two different boats and have the bruises to prove it! Take a look at more marvelous photos from last Saturday's SSA Thistle Regatta - courtesy of Eric Reinke.

For Katie, it was her first time out on a Thistle, and for me, the first time out in years! We each decided to show up prepared and try out some gear to improve our sailing performance.

Bryn's Gear Story:

Luckily, I was wearing the new Zhik Deckbeater Shorts under my board shorts. They kept my legs bruise free (for the most part) and I was able to hike harder for longer periods of time. The durable padding on the rear acted as a nice buffer from the lovely 4" rail on the thistle.

There were three things that I really liked about the shorts. One, they fit snug and were comfortable (I easily fit into a Men's small) and they fit underneath my board shorts allowing me just the right amount of flexibility to launch the pole and do some "amazing" roll tacks.

Second, the deckbeaters did not ride up and move around like other neoprene base layers tend to do. Zhik has these nice gel coated squiggly looking grips on the hem of the shorts- as shown above, that kept the shorts gripped to my legs while jumping around in the boat.

Lastly, The Zhiktex wear resistant material on the back of the shorts held out great. They were not too firm, yet they still kept their shape and conformed nicely- it felt a little bit more like sitting on a couch cushion compared to a 4" wooden beam. With four 1/2 mile long legs per race, it was much more pleasant having the deckbeaters around.

Katie's Gear Story:

Since I didn't know what to expect having never sailed a Thistle before, I decided that I should probably gear up as well as I could and hope that the bruises stay away (wishful thinking, I know.. unfortunately for me I bruise easily). I started at the bottom with a new pair of Aigle Maramu Boots, after throwing my last pair of dinghy boots away when I decided they were not suitable enough to take the trip to Annapolis with me last year. Next, I took my skipper Joe up on his offer to let me borrow his wife's SEA Airprene 3/4 Hikers, and wow was I happy I did that. (Thanks Lisa!)

I don’t think I really understood how much I would appreciate them until I got on the water and started to hike. As Bryn mentioned before, Thistles have a lovely wooden rail that is perfect for inflicting pain without the proper equipment. I have to admit I felt a little ridiculous in my hikers (the suspenders really add to the look, especially when they fit up far above my belly button) but they were certainly worth it after a few minutes of hiking, when I immediately started to notice how much support they gave. The battened thighs help support your legs and remain stiff while adding a nice extra layer of support. The extra cushion in the rear was also appreciated.

The other feature I loved about the hikers was the covered and padded knees. They were a ¾ hiker making them come to half way down my calf, which added the needed protection from hiking and tacking. Just a word of advice though (which I learned the hard way) you should put sunscreen in between the hikers and your boots, or you end up looking like a candy cane (or so James told me). It left quite the burn line.

So lessons learned and a better appreciation for gear, we had a blast on the Thistle course this weekend!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Recap from the 2010 Nood Sperry Top-Sider Regatta

This weekend provided perfect sailing conditions for the 2010 Sperry Top-Sider Nood Regatta. Good wind pressure was in attendance all weekend. The mostly warm southerly winds worked against the 50 degree water temperature, making spray tops handy for the early morning hike.

There was an excellent turn-out of boats for the Nood. Sixteen fleets competed in 8 races over the 3-day event.

The J/80's had quite the competition with 36 boats total in the fleet. I sailed on Saturday and Sunday with Bill and Shannon Lockwood from New Jersey on their J/80, Shenanigans, originally called Shenanigan until they realized you can never have just one. We had some good races for the most part. Being my first time on a J/80, I learned how manage the bow and jibe an asymmetrical-which was exciting until I dropped the tack. It was also wonderful having a 14 year old aboard- Bill Lockwood Jr. who had never raced in a regatta prior. He was a fast learner and did a great job helping out with the spinnaker pole and keeping the boat flat.

Most of the J/80 fleet had completed the Nood for their 4th event in the USA Tour and will be heading North to wrap it up. Congratulations to the local J/80 sailors Chris Johnson, John White and Brian Robinson for finishing top 10 in the fleet. We look forward to seeing more J-80 sailors out on the water this season.

Another congratulations goes out to Warren Richter in Customer Service, who wins the consistency award for finishing in the same position for the Nood Regatta as last year. Way to go Warren!

Hands On: Harken Ballistic Eco Shorts

New at APS this year are the Harken Ballistic Eco Shorts. You probably read about them in Bryn's post about how green we are here at APS. These shorts combine eco materials with solid sailing short basics to make a pair of shorts that's as easy on your rear as it is on the environment.

I wore a pair of these on a J22 during the Annapolis NOODs this spring to get a feel for them and overall I was impressed with the Eco shorts. For me, the most noticeable feature was the great stretch offered by the spandex blended into the fabric. I enjoyed the stretch so much I wanted to wear my biking shorts on Sunday for the full on spandex look, but Warren told me that wasn't appropriate. Really though they're the stretchiest pair of sailing shorts I've worn which makes them super comfortable.

The Harken ballistic shorts come with foam pads already inserted which is a plus compare to Camets where you have to buy them separately. The pads feel to me to be comparable to the other pads out there. They did make the toe rail on the J22 a bit more comfortable over the three days of sailing I did. As Bryn pointed out in her post about how eco-friendly these and other things at APS are these shorts are also the only shorts we have that feature two rear pockets separate from the pockets for the pads. I don't really think you'd want to use the pockets while sailing since they're pretty guaranteed to get both wet and smooshed but they're very useful once you make your way to the beer tent.