Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prefrontal Party at Kahana

Dear online flight log: I spent quite a few fun hours at the end of the day with the Slacker twins, Don and Thom, at Kahana yesterday, just trying to get up and soar in the lightest and northest conditions ever. Of course I nursed a secret wish to get across the bay. And my wish finally did come true, but not until the sun had already sunk low behind the mountains, and my buddies were already down on the beach with cold refreshments. Note to self: remember to include the other guys in your bay crossing wishes next time.

It was a strange pre-frontal day, not our typical cloudy southerly conditions, but clear and north for a change, more like our usual post frontal days. Mad Dog and others had checked out Makapuu to find it was ripping strong from the north there, with whitecaps in the bay. But it was super light and north at my house all day. The sensor had been showing a 5 mph average wind speed at 5 degrees for most of the day. If it hadn't been such a shiny and beautiful clear blue day, and if Don and Thom hadn't been willing to come out and play, it surely wouldn't have seemed worth even running out to give it a look. But on such a gorgeous day with such great friends, even hiking and sledding seemed worth it.

We hiked up to check it out, and it actually seemed like it was almost enough up there. I took the time to do some kiting, then after a while tried some launching, some scratching, and then some emergency toplanding. After repeating that a few times, I managed to climb out, and I checked the sensor to see that it had moved to a more useable 23 degrees (though still with a 5 mph average speed).

I wasn't able to get high enough to consider a bay crossing, but I figured I'd milk it up there as long as I could, to see if it would get any liftier. I watched from above as Thom launched and scratched hard for quite a while, but he never could quite bench up above the rhino horn to get established, so he finally headed down to grab some refreshments.

Larry stopped by the LZ and chatted over the radio. Scot, Maui Doug, and Reaper all called to see if it was worth coming out, but I couldn't recommend it to anyone who hadn't already made the investment of hiking up to launch. It was just too light and north. Meanwhile, Scrappy posted on the chatterbox that Makapuu was finally working.

Visiting pilot Don had a tough time with our scruffy ill-groomed volcanic jungle launches. (These poor visiting mountain thermal pilots are often spoiled by their beautiful grassy alpine launches.) After watching him struggle with the light cross airflow and the steep and slippery footing at top launch, I toplanded up there to give him a hand, and he finally got out of there and started to work the light lift. By the time I laid out to launch again, I didn't see him, and assumed he'd hit the beach, but when I got up I was suprised and glad to see him laying out again on mid launch! I saw him fighting with the snags on that launch, so I toplanded again to help him get clear. He inflated and kited nicely for a moment before making a textbook launch, but I think he got a rather sinky cycle and was flushed to the beach in short order.

I launched for the last time, and thought about just heading straight down, because I knew those guys might have trouble saving me any refreshments. But then I thought, dang it, there's still a half hour of daylight left, and the wind actually feels more solid now than it has all day. Why not see if I can get high enough to just make a half-hearted bay crossing attempt? Plus I had put my jacket on, so I knew I wouldn't have the usual excuse of freezing my butt off up there.

Sure enough, it was still barely strong enough, but it was pumping through a bit more than before, and I milked my way up to 1,650 before giving up and heading across for what would surely be a U-turn to the beach. I was feeling pretty low as I approached the knob at the Crouching Lion, but the tipsy peanut gallery was egging me on over the radio, saying that from their perspective there was no way that I wasn't going to make it. I should know better than to listen to their beverage-fueled beach banter, but somehow I took it to heart, and pulled in ridiculously close to the knob, like I think I could have kicked it.

Come on little vario, show me a sign! Nothing. I knew I should have turned back! Then, a little chirp of hope. Beep. Beep beep beep. Whew! Once again I lucked out and didn't have to land on a condo roof. It turned out to be working well over there after all. Of course there was no daylight left to enjoy it, and no other pilots in the air, so it was kind of a hollow victory. But I snapped a few pictures of Kualoa Valley in the low light, plus a shot of Joey or his buddies in the P3 over Kaneohe Bay, and then headed in to soar the trees and see if they'd saved me any refreshments.

Thanks to Thom for the beverages, and thanks to both Thom and Don for saving me a couple - I know that wasn't easy, considering how long I kept them waiting!

1 comment:

MauiDoug said...

How fun! Nice video Thom, welcome to the wonderful world of video editing, where more fun awaits! I wish I can cross the bay, I wish I can cross the bay, I wish I can cross the bay! Hopefully today is that day. Aloha MDoug