We all saw Jeff spending some time in the water working on his rig. He was in the shallows and only a few hundred yards out, so while everyone had an eye on him nobody was particularly concerned. After about five minutes he walked his gear in to the beach on the far side of the inlet. Once on the beach it was clear from where we stood that he'd broken a boom arm, but not until he got close to the inlet could we see that both arms were snapped.
Many windsurfers are familiar with the recommended strategy of dealing with a broken boom, the usual case for which is a single snapped arm. If you were sailing outbound when the break occurs, just turn the board around, uphaul (or waterstart most gingerly), and gently sail back to shore using the one good arm. Remember that your boom is at half strength at best...whatever weakened the other side to the point of breaking probably has lessened the strength of the good side as well. And if the inbound side of the boom is snapped, then it's a matter of releasing the outhaul, removing the boom over the tip of the mast (don't seperate rig and board), flipping the boom, reattaching and retieing the outhaul. Your harness line will be upside down but bfd...you're still sailing home.* This is less of a hassle than it sounds like...I once contemplated swimming my gear the few hundred yards to shore when this happened to me, but flipping the boom only took about two minutes. Also, doing it once is a great confidence booster.
But what to do in a case of complete boom failure, like Jeff's? Walking your gear to shore is a good choice, if it's available. If you're with other windsurfers and someone can come out with a new boom that fits your sail, that will of course work. You can de-rig, roll up your rig and paddle in. If conditions are too hectic for that you can thank your rig for its years of service, give it a sea burial, and just paddle your board in. If by myself, I would be tempted to try the following: I'd extend a boom arm about a foot further than had been necessary, and square-lash** it to the mast with the extra downhaul*** I carry. Retie the outhaul (not worrying about achieving anything close to proper tension...we just want to be able to shlog to shore.) ****
But hey, this is a post about Jeff, and now the best part comes! When Jeff gets to the inlet, the tide is ebbing and there's a good 3 knot current flowing out into the bay. Also, the inlet is dredged so that it's deep right up to the shoreline (the uninitiated trying to land here invariably find themselves carried 100 yards out in the bay by the current. One windsurfer...me...found himself 100 yards out in the bay three times in a row before he figured out to pretty much run aground before stepping off the board. ***)
Jeff positions himself on the upstream side of the inlet, tosses his broken rig in, and swims like a sunuvabich and makes the other shore! Then he swims BACK, gets his board, and does the same, by which time I'm happy to say I'm back on land and able to help him the last few feet. Later we learn that he used to be a lifeguard. It showed!
The Peconic Puffin regrets that we can not bring as many details to you as Jeff. As soon as Jeff tells his story on his own blog, we'll link to it directly for additional color and detail. (UPDATE: HERE IS JEFF'S POST.) Meanwhile in the interest of safety it's good to think about what to do in the event of a complete boom failure...in a discussion about hypothermia here a week or so ago, complete boom failure was not considered in the mix of things that could go wrong.
* Unless you're Bjorn Dunkerbeck, who once reportedly sailed out to someone who broke a boom in crazy conditions at Hookipa...the break was on the wrong side for heading back in, so he just came in clew first overpowered.
**Learning a few tricks with rope is helpful. I was a Boy Scout, learned me my knots well, and have been dubbed "knot boy" by fellow Puffin Slo (Slo who can BARELY RIG! But he's a hell of a cook, so I help him out with his gear and he feeds me.)
*** The preferred launch is on the other side of the road.
****If anyone has different ideas about what to do in this situation (or has any other thoughts on the matter), please comment!
UPDATE: See Jeff's photos from the day as well as his other fine windsurfing and water-related photography.