Friday, July 16, 2010

Battle Over Kahana, Kualoa and Hauula

Yesterday I fought a fantastic super light three hour battle with a thermic day at Kahana, along with Alex and Duck. After Alex flew straight up from high launch, Duck and I sank out, top landing at low launch. I hiked back up and sank out to low launch again, then hiked up again, before I finally scratched all the fleas off to get up and join Alex. Duck had work to do, so he opted for a sledder down to the beach.

The tight, small bullet thermals were so punchy and ratty that I kept yelling down to Alex, "TORPEDOES... TORPEDOES...!!!" to taunt him into giving up. We were bouncing between one grand and 1,500' at best, until after I have no idea how long we were trying, finally a freight train came through and swept us to cloud base in the most broken up rowdy thermal I've ever been in. I must say, my Sol Torck 2-3 surprised me with spot-on accuracy and handling, with stability I have never seen before in this type of air. At 2,400' we started the bay crossing, and penetrated with 14-16 mph speed, so I knew we would make it easily. Losing just 600' during the crossing, we came in stinking high, at 1,800' on the Crouching Lion ridge.

The wind was still very light, and there were only thermals to deal with, we both hooked another straight away and went deep and high into the bowl, where I have never been before, behind Uncle Bobo's. After getting high behind Kaaawa school, I made the jump to Kualoa alone, as Alex was still not high enough yet. Not much lift on Kualoa side, so I opted to return from 1,700' to Kaaawa again. I climbed up to meet the King and we both crossed to Kualoa (the second time for me, luckily). Now we both got the idea to make a run from Kualoa to Pounders, so off we went, arriving back at Kahana to the same ratty small bullets we left from. No surprise there, I thought to myself, but we would give it a shot, as we had been very lucky to get up and out of there the first time.

Huge tops on an incoming large cloud line brought wind for the first time of the day, so as we hit 2,000' over the front at Kahana we made the crossing to the Sacred Falls side of Punaluu valley. Staying well out front, as plenty of sheep started to appear rapidly in the pasture (sailing lingo for whitecaps). It was looking even windier now, so we made the decision to glide out to Hauula and land before the real wind hit! It was looking like we would barely make the Hauula Beach LZ before the white caps came racing in.

We certainly were two souls worn very thin, but also very excited and happy to accomplish this battle with nature, over the skies between Kahana, Kualoa and Hauula. As we were too tired to fold up, we sat down to drink Alex's ballast, which was well deserved by this point. We had worked hard for it. As we sat there reflecting and resting, we realized the wind we were expecting never did start to blow that hard after all. Then Alex looked up the Punaluu sensor readings from the time period of our flight and we saw that the windspeed averages had been between 4 and 5 mph since we started! No wonder we struggled so hard! I would like to send out Gros Bisous to La Peste for the retrieve, and for bringing more refreshments to our aid.


Alex said...

Thanks to Mad Dog for writing this one up. For me, it was definitely my best flight in recent memory! Which of course isn't very long...

I have never worked that hard or that long to stay up at Kahana, nor have I ever tried to work such strong ratty bullet thermals in such light wind there. They weren't shredded or blown out or diced up, just strong and slippery and snotty, surrounded by equal amounts of sink, with no ridge lift to keep us in the game.

Even after the two hours of very hard work it took to get established above Kaaawa, Mad Dog was still fired up to try a trip back to the boogaland pyramid, Puu Ohulehule, but by that time the cloudbase was looking quite a bit lower, and we decided to play it safe and stay out front.

On the glide from Punaluu to Hauula, I really wanted to stop in and tank up at the second Sacred Falls ridge, but Mad Dog was concerned about the incoming gust front under the cloud band, so he skipped the last ridge to head straight for the Beach Park. I followed right behind him, as best I could, but I was quite nervous about making it, watching the school field as a last minute option. I made the beach park, but lower than I would have liked - I'm glad I made it, but I really prefer to come in with a more comfortable margin!

But my only real regret for the day is that Duck couldn't come along for the trip. Next time!

Thanks to Jeannine for the ride back!

After we left, Bonnie hiked up and flew a nice flight in the now very northerly conditions, and Ray and Tommy came out as well.

Duck said...

I also regret that I did not make it...I spent a long while on the beach watching you guys and came very close to heading back up, but work and errands prevailed.

In retrospect, I should have tried to go with you guys. The wind and rain are not maiking for good flying today and it is supposed to get stronger over the weekend...oh well. As Alex has told me before, "Carpe Frickin Diem!!!"--I believe that is latin and french--Next time for sure.

Thanks for the great writeup and next time you should maybe make Mad Dog carry the ballast--he is just too good in that wing (need somethin to slow him down, haha).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story guys, finally got internet, I need to read these stories to get me through until Sunday when I hope to fly with Big Island Don and the crew here.

Presently in Pahoa hiking to the lava flow in a few moments.

Wished I had brought by wing to Waipio, left it at Don's in Kona, it looked flyable and they gave a 4x4 Jeep for retrieve.

See you all later,

It's Time to Fly Get Your Gear & Go !!


MauiDoug said...

Great story and great flight Mad Dog and Alex! Wow, definitely scratching at its best! Great job guys!