Friday, March 20, 2009

Crossing the bay on a cloudy day

Yesterday I flew at Kahana with Jim and visitors Big Island John and Arkansas Paul. The conditions were very strange - aside from the low thick cloud cover we've grown used to over the past few days, I could never figure out if the wind was blowing north or east or somewhere in between.

When I got there I put up a streamer on the LZ, and it seemed pretty straight in, more north than the sensor was showing, which had been around 63 degrees most of the day. I opted to hike to low launch on the east ridge to set up. But when I got airborne, it felt like the flow really was coming from the north side, so I headed over there, and found better lift. Paul and Jim hiked to the high launch on the east ridge and launched to join me soon after that. We were all working the north side, getting high easily over there and hitting the clouds at around 1800 feet. I tried to cross the bay from that height but came back when I realized I wasn't going to make it. Paul took a great line and made it across the bay first, but came back because he wasn't sure how to work it over there.

I crossed again, cheating this time with an extra 200 feet gained in the white room, and I made it over fairly easily, except for the full speed bar I used to get in front of the Lion. It was very strong over there, and the direction was still confusing. Sometimes it seemed pretty east and sometimes pretty north. The clouds were still incredibly low, so it wasn't worth finding the top of the lift, and I just flew out wide of the ridge in the strong lifty air over Kaaawa. I hung out there for a while, but when it became clear that no one else would be joining me, I headed back.

By this time, Big Island John and Thom had hiked to mid launch on the east ridge. I guess Thom was just hiking with his gear for the exercise, since there was no one there to supervise his flight...! Well it is excellent exercise - it's the only kind I get. I tried to buzz them on launch but the airflow still seemed really north so I couldn't get comfortably close. John launched and got picked up hard, but soon made his way around the north ridge into the best lift. I landed soon after that, as Thom was hiking down, in wind that felt strangely east compared to what I expected.

I checked the sensor and it was showing 55 degrees just after I landed. Not very east at all. But then I noticed that while we were in the air, the sensor had turned gradually northwards from the original 63 degrees, down to 25 degrees, holding for about an hour, then suddenly snapping back to the current 55 degrees. We're not used to 30 and 40 degree swings in direction while we're flying - wow. I guess I'm just glad it didn't swing 40 degrees the other way! Yikes.

Dorothy dropped Logan off to hang out with us at the LZ for a while as we were debriefing. Mostly he just wanted to see if he could pin me. Thanks to John and Jen for the cold refreshments.

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