Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Does That Make Me Crazy?

Yesterday, forecasters were calling for light tradewinds, along with low pressure and instability, and even some scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. But when I got to Kahana around 2, it was still sunny and perfect.

Sure, there was a huge and menacing dark foggy shadow filling the back of Kahana Valley. But I wasn't planning on flying back there anyway! The wind was a bit brisker and a bit more easterly than I prefer. So much for the forecast of light trades. But at least the texture on the bay was nice and consistent, with no cats paws. The radar showed some rain in town, but nothing coming our way.

Thom raced out to join me and we hiked up, launched from low launch, and benched up quickly. Observing the big black shadow expanding in our direction, we got to cloudbase at about two grand over the front, turned and pointed our trusty steeds towards the sunny vista downrange. It was a bit stronger than I prefer for XC flying, but the whitecaps didn't look too bad, and our penetration was still okay.

We benched up to two grand again at Punaluu, well out front, and then turned again for Hauula. We heard Duck on the radio and he said he'd follow and pick us up. Thom opted for the safest high wind landing spot, Hauula Beach Park.

But I had a crazy idea. Wouldn't it be cool if you could take advantage of a really brisk and really easterly day, to just rocket downrange with a massive tailwind? The landing might be a bit sketchy, but man, think of the glide ratio you'd achieve! I figured if I could get to two grand over Hauula, I could just scream straight to Kahuku Golf Course from there! I was only able to get to about 1,700 feet, but what the heck, that's about where the cloud ceiling was by then anyway.

I headed out towards the ocean as far as I could, while still maintaining my height, and then I turned towards the golf course. As I zoomed over Pounders I checked my GPS and I was moving at a brisk 45 mph, but I only had about 1,400 feet of ground clearance now. It soon became apparent that the strength and angle of the wind were really too cross to give me the boost I needed to make it much past Laie Point. In fact, I think I cleared that peninsula lower than I've ever skated over, and I was using almost full bar just to keep from blowing back over town.

I saw the Hokulea sailing vessel parked in Laie Bay, and I zoomed over it and parked myself into the howling breeze, backing my way down onto a stretch of beach just past Hukilau Beach Park. I was able to stand and kite for a moment, with zero brake input, but then I got lifted off my feet by a gust and had to kill the wing, as it dragged me over the dune and into the woods. Whew! A bit sketchy but super fun. Does that make me crazy? Probably.

Thanks to Thom for supporting my craziness. And thanks to Duck for the retrieve and the refreshments! Driving back with Duck, we could see that the black fog had completely swallowed Kahana. It turned out to be a thick foggy haze, but no actual rain ever fell there. When we got back to the LZ, LarryMc showed up, and said he'd got drenched as he was kiting at Kualoa.

As we finished our refreshments in the parking lot, we could hear several long low rumblings of thunder from somewhere over the center of the island, and a few flashes illuminated the blackness. A quick check of the radar showed red and orange conflagrations of thunderstorm activity over three corners of the island. But our little corner was still magically dry. I heard Scrappy saw funnel clouds over town. And Pete lost power in Kaneohe for a while. Crazy!


Thom said...

"Crazy" perfect title.
I was driving through Kaneohe and just kept looking at the sensors on my phone to avoid looking out the window at the totally overcast scary looking sky.

I kept going and met with Maui Doug at Kualoa, he was kiting and said its starting to look good. "Well, I am going to hike up with Alex and check it out".

Kahana Bay was looking great, kinda east but the Alaskans would fly even more east. Blue skies over the bay but it looked ugly in the valley....ha but we are not flying there.

We snuck one in. Unless you were there at the exact second you would never believe we or at least Alex was Crazy, it looked kinda good.

After launching the LZ looked a little menacing so burning a left towards friendlier skies was the only option.

I stayed out front and landed with out incident at Haaula Beach Park and no money moocher either....guess he thought it was too Crazy to be out in this weather. Don't get me wrong the LZ at HBP was nice, little windy but manageable. But to look back where we came from was, well, just Crazy.

Again, thanks to Duck for his unending willingness to retrieve wayward Monkeys and help up their BAC to normal Torpedo levels.

It was a great flight to sneak in Alex, thanks for the vid and for your willingness to "Always Go First".

Brazilian Ray said...

Alex i burning some Karma.... he got plenty accumulated ;)

Thom, you forgot to say "it is time to fly, get your gear and go first"


Thom said...

I did not forget.

It was not really Time to Fly and leaving Your Gear behind would have been a better decision.

I hope this story does not entice people to go up when the whole island is getting wacked except a small corner which we 'luckily' took advantage of. It was simply barely the right time, quick left and some luck. Mother Nature does not give those chances out lightly.

Also, I was with Alex, who titled this story Crazy I am sure to signify that maybe we shouldn't have even though it looked really nice even though we knew the conditions around the island and approaching.

This time I stayed way out front of him. A year ago, I did not have the experience watched him go land and I got sucked over the back.

I had no problem letting Alex go way beyond me this time, he's got 10 years on me, a faster glider and dam he's just good.

If your ever flying in marginal conditions and your looking for ques, stay in front of and lower than a pilot better than you and on a faster glider than you, if you don't know that while flying you made your second mistake, the first was launching even though it looked good.

I got lucky on my lesson, take heed, this time it was better to land out shorter than expected safely than to chance a windier landing for an extra few feet and end up on injured reserve or worse.

It Will be Time to Fly, Get Your Gear and Go, when the conditions are right for YOU!!!!!!!!!!

Duck said...

Thom, Alex,
Just to let you know you both ARE officially CRAZY (but that was a foregone conclusion)--the rest of the island was getting hit by waterspouts and lightning, but our little corner was ok. I must admit that I was very suprised to see pilots in the air when I came through KNA yesterday, but that was from having the perspective of coming through the H3. It was DARK there...

Once again great writeup, great storytelling and great video. As someone who plays with video, I especially love the soundtrack!

So are you 9 for 10?

You guys scored a very limited window, but you both made good choices aloft and had great flights.