Friday, September 07, 2007

Good Company

I met the Earls (Jim and Jeff) at Kahana on Wednesday, only to find the wind had slackened and veered into impossibly east and light conditions. We hiked anyway, and on the way up, Jeff joked that if anyone were to get up over the ridge today, it would be worth an article. Of course, I think every flying day is worth an article, and even some non-flying ones. So here's another report for our files.

For the sake of my long-neglected work, I had tried to resist going out there, which was easy for most of the day, since it was completely overcast and no one was flying there. But later in the afternoon, Jeff and Jim came out to fly, and the sky cleared to a perfect sunny blue. The work would have to wait -- I couldn't withstand that kind of pressure.

But when I arrived, I could see it was way too east and too light. The Earls could see it too, but they hiked up anyway because they had come so far, while I waited a good long time to see if they'd launch, or if the conditions would improve. Finally, I hiked up slowly, meeting them at the upper launch.

By the time we got to top launch, there was just enough wind remaining for light reverse inflations, so we set up for what we assumed would be sled rides. I went first, and out of sheer luck I managed to launch into the day's very last dying breath of soarable lift. Despite the impossibly light winds on launch, I was amazed to find myself buoyed up in widespread smooth lifting air, which took me above launch with very little effort, and I happily scratched my way slowly above the ridgeline. From there I could hear someone at Makapuu on the radio.

At the ridge level, the lift seemed to consist of smooth light thermic bubbles, and I found they drifted in a variety of directions, with some of them taking me slightly offshore. If I had had company I bet we could have spread out to find the best columns to get high enough to go somewhere.

The poor Earls got ready to follow me shortly after I launched, but they were hoping for more wind than they were feeling, and they ended up waiting on launch in air that was growing more still every minute. I still hoped they'd find a way to join me, but apparently I must have sucked the very last of the good cycles up into the air with me.

After saying goodbye to a group of five 'Iwas, I finally drifted down for a top-landing to see what was happening. By this time the Earls were just waiting for enough of a cycle to inflate their wings and burn for the LZ. I hucked off again in a decent enough cycle, and made a very lazy attempt to stay up, but finally sank out to the LZ. Jeff followed soon after, and Jim hiked down after having expended too much energy taming his uncooperative wing during the long wait.

I was happy to have got up today, but I felt bad that I couldn't share it properly with the Earls, and obviously they weren't too happy about it either -- they both blazed out of there as soon as they got down. To their credit, both of them have made great strides in recent months, stepping their flying up and doing some thermalling and XC flights. I am very lucky to have such great flying buddies who enjoy my most frequent flying site as much as I do, and who share my interest in exploring the lighter side of the windspeed envelope. Good flights are always better with good company. See you guys out there!


JeffMc said...

Good article Alex :) Luck had little to do with it - you are the MASTAH!!

It was so light, I noticed those 'iwas were actually flapping quite a bit, something I usually don't see at Kahana.

Jim had a double whammy of light winds AND snags. Each attempt at popping the wing up in the light winds just slid him further down the dirt spot into the roots. He said he was still picking roots out of lines when he was folding up the next day.

The trip out to Kahana is always worth it to me, even if it is only a sledder. It was yet another flight with my new wing, which I'm finally starting to warm up to.


Doug said...

Told ya! I bet there is more thermal flying in your area than we suspect. I once had a flight at Kahana where we flew the bay side the green valley side and the front finding strange lifting air on all sides. On that day we launched from the top. This was back in the day we thought because Kahana was a big hill we needed to fly it on days that were Cactus days at Makapuu.

Of course Nanakuli looked EPIC around noon as well.

Alex said...

Doug, this article was actually about Wednesday's flight, not today's -- but they were very similar. Today was more of a sea breeze and had way more potential, maybe because it was earlier. Jim took the most advantage - I flew for a short time but then I bombed out on my re-launch after top-landing, which was fine because I had to leave soon anyway. Jim flew for quite a while, and reported some very strong and smooth convergence lift in the back. Definitely worth exploring the light wind days out there.

Waianae Jim said...

I agree with Jeff's comment Alex. I really have lots more to learn about launching in thoe light winds. Not to mention those top landings you made too. On the bright side yesterdays' flight was way better. I'm sure someone less chicken could have set a new altitude record for KNA.