Monday, August 22, 2011

Cheating the Curse

Soaring pilots in Hawaii are cursed with low clouds. I don't know what we did in our past lives, but it must have been bad. Our clouds are typically very low, which sometimes makes it pretty hard to go places. But we've found that we can fly a long way on the "foothills" of the main range, even on a day with the lowest of cloudbases, like the one we had today. The ridge at Kahana is one of those foothills, and today, a hardy group of non-jobbers soaked up the primordial vistas of Punaluu and points north, as we cruised long and far along the base of the clouds.

Thom and I hiked and launched in the lightest of conditions shortly after lunch. The clouds seemed plenty high at that point. But we were scratching like dogs with fleas. There were snot rocket thermals pinging off the ridge, and it was hard to get a purchase. I was thinking we must be flying at Kealakahana! Then a wide, thick and low band of clouds approached, with rain dropping all along it, so we top landed and hid in the bushes. (Nice landing, Thom!) Larry was already up on launch, but he couldn't see the rain, so he stayed out on launch in defiance of the drizzle. But drizzle it did.

After the rain passed, the wind filled in a bit, but the clouds never really lifted up again. They were often as low as 1,800 feet or so, brushing Puu Piei. Joey hiked up, and the four of us launched and started to make plans. Larry landed after a while and offered to chase us. I blazed to Punaluu right away, but I had a hard time convincing Thom and Joey to follow me. I swear they almost didn't come! Finally they found an opening in the clouds that seemed nice enough, and they came over to play with me. Jim benched up at Kahana as they were leaving, and he followed a while later.

We cruised at cloudbase for a couple hours, up and down the Punaluu and Hauula ridges, dodging clouds and helicopters. Duck was on the radio egging us on from his house. We ended up gaggling at the Hauula ridge for our final glide. Joey was cold and opted for a quick landing at Hauula Beach Park, as did Thom. I got an unexpected last minute boost from some cloud suction, to 1,900 feet, and set a course past Laie, to Hukilau Beach Park. Jim followed and landed at Pounders.

Thanks to Larry Mac for checking on me at Hukilau. Thanks to Duck and Ginger for picking up me and Jim, and for the beverages, and to Larry for picking up Thom and Joey.

Don't get me started on the other curse -- strong wind. That's a topic for another story!


Alex said...

Thom, I want to see your pictures! I saw you snapping away above me. Only people with cameras are allowed in that position, by the way! Or people with gorilla balls and no fear of the white room. :-)

Thom said...

Good Fun,

I was over HBPark with 1900' But Larry was there with Beer, RootBeer he said and I was actually looking forward to it. Then he pulled out the Sierra's, reluctantly Joey and I had to have one.

Amazing How we can fly for an hour and talk about for 2.

Let's Do It Again. But like Dave mentioned, but I think it would be fun to go from KNA to MPU, cause I have never done that before!!(Remembering comment of Plaine Joux)