Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thermonuclear Fun

This year, good flying weather has become a precious and non-renewable natural resource. Like uranium. A resource that is extremely rare, and capable of generating thermal power, while also being potentially quite hazardous. We can't make it ourselves, and once it's gone, we can't get it back. So it certainly behooves us not to waste it! Yesterday, it was clear early on that the weather conditions at Kahana were going to be light and north, a mother lode of unstable fissile material, and even though I couldn't find anyone to come out and help me consume it responsibly, I was compelled to run out and harvest that precious substance by myself.

Jim called while I was on launch, to let me know that he'd be out to join me in an hour, but I boasted that I'd just cross the bay first by myself, and then come back to meet him when he showed up. Which is just what I did! Continuing the trend of the last few days, the wind was nice and north, so getting up and across the bay took no time at all. There were nice fat thermals at Kahana and even more over Kaaawa, mixed in with the easy ridge lift. I got to Kualoa and fantasized about heading back to Ohulehule, but it was cloaked in low clouds. One day I'll make that jump!

Jim called again and let me know he had arrived at Kahana, so I made my way back, to find him on north launch getting ready to inflate. As I got down to his level and buzzed him a few times, I could tell the wind had lightened up considerably, and I was a bit worried about climbing back out. And I was even more worried for Jim, since he is 20 pounds over in that wing, and the keyhole at the LZ was almost covered by the high tide. But he battled it out in the diminishing lift and managed to climb up to join me. It soon became clear that the precious natural resource was cooling down. The unstable isotopes were no longer registering on our geiger counters. We were hardly getting any beeps at all!

Then I blundered across one last rich vein, and mined it for all I was worth, getting a measly 1,600 feet or so for my efforts, but I knew it was the last best chance to escape, so from there I just blazed over to the Punaluu ridge on a death glide. I came in about as low as I ever have, but thankfully it was pumping there a bit harder, possibly just because there's a lot more land mass around the ridge to generate some nice thermic lifting power. But it still wasn't enough to get me very high.

I continued my quest, heading to the Hauula ridge in hopes of finding a more powerful energy source, but it was pretty much depleted everywhere by this time. I limped along to Suckers Hill behind the shopping center, squandered the obligatory couple of hundred feet, and then boated over to an easy landing next to the soccer field at PCC. I had hoped to make it past Laie Point to land at the beach house where Reaper and Mad Dog were working on the roof, but I just couldn't quite find the fuel. Thanks to Duck for the retrieve back to Kahana.

I think I flew for about three hours, covering 14 miles of straight line distance. Sort of a squashed triangle from Kahana to Kualoa to PCC, with Jim keeping me company for quite a while on the middle portion. Thanks, Jim! He ended up landing at the keyhole on the damp sand, avoiding the kids playing on the dry part. I keep hoping the beach will grow back before I have to land down there. I guess every flight will have to be an XC flight for the next year or so! One day I hope to close that triangle by returning to Kahana, as others have done. I just need a day where it's consistently nice and north all day with high cloudbase and good thermals. A day like that is truly a rare commodity!

Next time I hope to have an easier time finding company when the flying weather is so good. Even if it means people have to play hooky from work or family which is of course what I had to do. It's actually the responsible thing to do - just tell your boss or spouse that it's a matter of resource conservation.


allanc said...

Alex, I need to remember to use the resource conservation line with the boss and family next time the conditions turn on. May also need a code name wind-lines screen name and a different color glider. I will call it incognito mode. This may allow me to assume my paragliding alter-identity and fly when I know I should be doing other things. Feels like I am about due for a sick day when it really gets good.


Thom said...

Alex I am glad you did not waste it.

Kalei came up with a saying one day that I am not sure if it is out there,
"God gave us wind, let's not waste it".

Resource Conservation, I like it.