Monday, June 06, 2011

Overdue Fix, but Not Enough

This disease we all share, that overwhelming desire to get high, is not, alas, curable. It cannot be squelched by any means, nor is it diminished after we've been banished to the ground for a length of time. This disease of many names - sky-alis, fly-agra, para-crack, thermalitis, ridge-ganja, XC-smack, and more to follow in the comment section I am sure - becomes a life obsession. Once under your skin, these soaring desires will never cease.

I finally broke an 18 day dry spell, which is the longest I hope I ever have to go without a flight, even if it's not a 'Good Flight'. I know some of you who are more strong willed have gone longer without a fix, but as a labeled non-jobber, it just about killed me. Even Donna wanted to send me to the Big Island or somewhere, just to take the edge off.

We all hang near our computers and smart phones like junkies waiting to hear of a score. The Chatter Box brought me out of the doldrums of meaningless drool with a post from Maui Doug: Harvey soaring KNA 68 deg@10 launching in a few. I had to go even though it looked dismal in Kailua.

When I got far enough around the corner to see the majestic hillside, I was soon depressed by the lack of color that usually paints the skies. I tried the radio with no response, but an immediate cell call from Maui soon alleviated the anxiety. "I am landing at Pounders, and Harvey is at Punaluu." After a slight pause, I replied, "I will come get you."

Reading stories about pilots flying those little wings, and others flying in those marginal windows on a few days, has been hard to swallow. But when you gotta pick up two pilots that can't stop ranting about butter smooth air, and how lifty and perfect it was, I just about lost it!!! Maui Doug calmed me down by saying that he would hike up again so I would not have to fly alone. What a pal. I know he just wanted another hit.

The numbers were perfect - 67 degrees with an average speed of 10 mph. I hiked up east launch in record time. I was shaking, and my palms were sweating - hell, I was sweating everywhere. Damn, I am out of shape.

Doug let me launch first, and Kevin soon joined him on the hill. I realized my vario had died, but I didn't care, since I was getting a fix. Note to self: check batteries next time. It was a quick ride up to the back, and I reached 2,000 feet in minutes. While I was waiting there for Maui Doug, I snuck out over the Bay to look at the LZ … which I knew had been severely diminished in size by the flooding. Darn, I guess I would have to go downrange. Oh it was gonna feel soooo good.

Like with all drugs, bad side effects can be common. On my way back to Pu'u Piei, I got a few bumps, and then a good collapse that hung in there long enough for me to look up and watch it pop back out. What the heck was that for? Doug radioed, "Thom, the direction at the sensor just went to 84." That figured. I knew I might as well go, while I was still high - and then I got another little collapse. I leaned left and went. Doug even got a few bumps off Rhino. He and Kevin both tacked left. Bonnie turned around on the trail and hiked back down - good call.

Well, I found out that some of Punaluu Beach has also changed, at least the part just after Chings Store. What looked like a big sandy jetty from high up was a very wet cove by the time I took a second look on approach. Darned shadows! I still had plenty of altitude to explore other options, but it was high tide, so it would be a challenge to find a big enough spot. There was a small square of sand a little further down the beach.

For once, I was glad old Ike was not there. It looked like I might get wet, and he doesn't need to shoot another splashdown video to hang over my head. I overshot my threshold with a little help from tree lift, but I managed to stick it just before the beach got thin.

I radioed up, "On the ground safe and sound, but it wasn't pretty." Kevin got his first flight to Punaluu, as many others will be doing in the months to come, while the LZ grows back. My truck came to get me, with Bonnie at the helm, and we picked up our fellow wind whores. We debriefed each other at the LZ, which took longer than the flights. We parted just a little before 'O-Dark Thirty'.

The edge came off today, but like with any addictive drug, it was not enough. I need more, and I need it now!!

So It's Time to Fly Get Your Gear, Fresh Batteries, and Go!!!!!!!!!!!!


sandy said...

Mmmm, coffee & flying story, good way to start the day!

If I'd known there would be a 2nd shift, I would have gotten over there. But I guess it's good MDoug didn't have my number yet or I would have been having to swallow flying separation anxiety while playing taxi driver. (Though I would have happily done it. :-))

MauiDoug said...

Nice write up Sidehill! Yesterdays flight was a great reminder for me as to how fast the flying conditions can go from perfect butter smooth air @ 68 degrees, to ratty air @ 76 degrees, then no fun air @ 84 degrees.

I'm glad the Punaluu sensor was down for that month awhile back, because it made me pay way more attention to the visual wind effect on Kahana Bay.

I have learned to not trust the PUN sensor, since sometimes it has read 68 degrees and there has still been some nasty looking cats paws from the Crouching Lion rotor. I would rather hike down and not risk a possible unpredictable sled ride into rotor!

The upside to the KNA LZ washout is that it reminds us to always have another landing option as a backup, especially one that is east wind friendly!!! Punaluu only becomes a good option once you are above the Rhino Horn. Just to be on the safe side, I like at least 1000' altitude before I go. That way I have plenty of altitude to assess any fishing poles or high tide effects that narrow the beach.

Thanks again Thom & Bonbon for the retrieves! Harvey for the flyable heads up, and congratulations again to Kevin for your 1st Punaluu LZ, the first of many! :-)

Alex said...

Great story, thanks Thom! Dorothy noticed it was raining hard this morning and she was worried about washouts, so to check on the weather she went to...Wind Lines! And there she saw your story and picture, and while she didn't have time to read the text, she loved the picture, and how it shows the new river so clearly. I'm calling it the North Fork of the Kahana River.

Doug, I trust the sensor readings implicitly. The sensor is just a dumb machine, like a computer, and it can neither earn nor abuse your trust. However, what I trust it to do is report exactly what the wind is doing right there at the sensor, every few minutes. Good readings at the sensor don't guarantee it's flyable, they are just a starting point to decide if it's worth taking a closer look. Of course, observing clouds and the surface of the bay is even more important, from the LZ, from launch, and while in the air. Sometimes the sensor reads a perfect 68 degrees and the air is trashy and sinky, like on the days when we have SE flow with a sea breeze. But overall I have not found a better predictor of flyable conditions. It's more like the detente motto of "trust, but verify" - I trust the readings, but I also verify that it's flyable by direct observation. And finally, as Thom tells me, just because it's flyable doesn't mean it's going to be a "good" flight.