Sunday, September 14, 2008

L&V Weekend

The season's first weekend of light and variable conditions drew many of us out to Koko Crater and Nanakuli - and some lucky pilots actually got to fly! The light convective winds spread volcanic haze and well developed rain clouds all around the island, but we managed to enjoy plenty of sun and fun on both days.

Saturday: Koko Crater

Early signs of overdevelopment nixed our hopes for thermal flying at Nanakuli, Tantalus or Mariner's Ridge, and a hint of moderate SE winds convinced us to check out Koko Crater. Eighteen pilots were out there, variously involved in tow training, ground handling, house building, etc. The early birds hiked to high launch but soon realized it was totally cross from the south: we were dealing with more of a sea breeze than any actual wind, and the sea breeze always sucks in from the south over there.

I convinced the three most enthusiastic pilots (suckers) to make the epic hike up the blowhole face to launch into the southerly sea breeze flow, while the rest of the crew supported us by dining at Kona Brewing Company and toasting to our success. Despite their good wishes, we didn't manage to stay up in the light conditions. At the end of the day, as the eastern tip of the island barely managed to remain clear of the haze and rain blanketing the rest of it, Jetflap and Frank soared on the lighthouse side at Makapuu in the most westerly conditions I've ever seen out there.

Sunday: Nanakuli

Finally Nanakuli looked like a good bet. Eleven pilots headed out to play in the steamy soup bubbling up from our island's best thermal cauldron. Jeff and Jim hiked up first, and reported gusts of up to 23 miles an hour ripping through mid launch. Jorge, Chandler, Scrappy and I hiked to low launch, and Jim and Jeff descended to join us. Everyone else decided to wait down below for a mellower day (Reaper and students) or a more epic day (Nikki "King of the Rat Race" Johnson).

Jorge launched first, and rocketed straight up into the stew of hazy clouds swirling over the summit. Chandler was so inspired he jumped off next with only half a wing, sorting the other half out once he was off the hill. I followed soon after, and tried my best to navigate the strong narrow cores punching me towards the hill. Scrappy hucked off to join us shortly afterwards, and Jeff followed him off to be the last pilot for the day, while Jim opted to hike down and wait for a gentler day. While we were launching, Jorge got stinking high and blazed out towards Ko Olina.

After what seemed like an eternity trying to keep my wing over my head and open in the strong and punchy conditions, which turned out to be about 5 minutes or so, I decided to beat a hasty retreat to the beach where I knew the air would be nice and gentle. Chandler raced me over there, and Scrappy followed a bit later. Jeff made a good attempt to join us but didn't quite have the glide and turned back to land near the dump instead. While we folded up, Nick dashed over to pick Jorge up from Ko Olina, and Reaper and his students headed up the coast to look for alternative flying sites.

After we had regrouped and slaked our mighty thirsts, we discuss the day's flying: Jorge said a strong day like this at Nanakuli reminded him of flying the Andes mountains at home in Venezuela. For the rest of us it was mostly about working on our thermal comfort levels and bump tolerance.

While we were talking, we got word from Reaper that his students were soaring the dunes at Yokohama Beach. Wow! The frosty refreshments we had consumed must have addled our brains, because we actually half believed his fish story. Or maybe we just wanted it to be true. In any case we couldn't resist zooming up there to see it for ourselves. Naturally the big one had got away by the time we got there: the dune turned out to be a small rise in the sand, and the light sea breeze was barely enough to inflate a wing, let alone soar a gently sloping beach. Good one, Reaper! But we weren't sorry to find ourselves enjoying a gorgeous day on one of the most beautiful hidden corners of the island.

Thanks to Jeff and Nick for driving today, and to Jeff for the delicious frosty cans of iced coffee. Yum!

Please note: a resident of the neighborhood in Nanakuli warned Chandler that we are not allowed to be there, citing the signs posted along the street - and he said he'd have to call it in. I wanted to talk to the guy myself, but he seemed to have left by the time I arrived. If anyone gets a chance to talk to any of the folks who live out there, please spread some good will: thank them for the rare and wonderful privilege of continuing to fly the best thermal site on the island under the terms of our official new permit. Please refer any questions or concerns directly to me, or to the DHHL land manager, Kaipo Duncan. Let's do everything we can to make this permit work: by minimizing our parking presence on the street, driving slow back there, hiking up right away without milling around or making a big commotion, and treating everyone we meet out there with aloha and respect. Thanks for your help!

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