Sunday, August 07, 2011

Reef Soaring

Sometimes when the wind is northerly we get a nice lifty convergence line that forms offshore. I'm not quite sure why it happens, but that doesn't stop me from taking full advantage of it - I love it! Especially on a day like today when the clouds were sparse and high.

Man, did I wake up with a powerful jones for air today. I couldn't remember the last time I flew. It felt like it had been ages - like at least five days, or maybe longer! The forecast this morning called for the strong winds that have been tormenting us to decrease slightly starting today, but it wasn't clear how much they would back down. All the guys had long given up hope on flying - they were posting on the chatterbox about their non-flying plans: scuba diving, stand up paddling, boating out to the sand bar. But I was determined to fly, and thankfully, so was Harvey.

We met at the Kahana LZ and discussed the options. Harvey brought his smallest wing; I had my regular wing, and also Woody's small wing that he wants me to try. I wasn't sure it was quite strong enough to fly the small one. Harvey said he could tell I wanted to stick with my baby - so I did.

There were lots of whitecaps outside the bay, and a few inside too. The Punaluu sensor was showing an 11 mph average at 48 degrees, pretty brisk and north. Harvey and I launched and began to explore the day's air. At first I stayed low, burning some spirals and wingovers below the rhino horn, and I did one touch and go in front of Harvey. But it didn't actually seem that spicy. Harvey had to work a bit to get up in his tiny wing, but I climbed up quickly, and I soon realized that it was one of those magical convergence days where you could head straight offshore and climb up all the way.

JK arrived soon afterward and hiked up to join us. He launched just as I was crossing the bay, and as I climbed up over Kaaawa I waited for him to follow. He made one attempt but didn't quite make it, and he landed soon after because he thought the wind might have been picking up. Harvey landed too because he had to head to work.

I didn't notice the stronger wind, but I definitely found immense lift over Kaaawa. From there I flew over to Kualoa and explored the offshore lift out toward Mokolii island. I don't think I've ever been that far out while still being able to return and get back up. Then I headed back, and explored the lift offshore of Kaaawa. That was probably the strongest area of all - I think I flew a mile offshore before getting spooked and turning around.

Then I took a crazy wide offshore line back to Kahana. JK and Harvey had landed already, but Rich and Five-0 Mike were hiking up. Just as they were launching I headed over to Punaluu, again taking a super wide offshore line because it was just so lifty out there. But I have to admit that I only went over to Punaluu to see if I could get back from there - it just seemed like an obvious day to try it. Sure enough, I headed out from the Punaluu ridge and got into that nice offshore convergence line again, and I rode it back to Kahana with room to spare. Now I wonder if I couldn't have gone all the way to the hill behind Hauula Shopping Center and back! That would have been a record of some kind.

As I pulled into the north bowl, Mike and Rich were landing. It was getting late, so I headed down to join them, but not before a long, fun tree soaring session. I finally set my wing down on the beach, after about five hours in the air, and 15 straight line miles of distance, and more offshore flying than I've ever done in one flight. Thanks to Rich and Mike for the post-flight beverages and snacks!


Gravity said...

Great Alex.
Joey, Nova, Jinju, and I were talking about the crazy Kaaawa lift and how last week I was 2k over Chinaman's hat island. He said "ah you could have landed at the sand bar?"

I'm pretty surprised we didn't see you flying.

I also can't believe you had the nerve to fly out so far into all the air traffic. That's usually where we see all the heli's and planes...

Good one.

Thom said...

A little late but a great read.

Heading to MPU in a few to get a morning flight before work at 2pm.

Thanks for my coffee read, boy my demands seem to get results, now if I could only get the wind gods to cooperate.

Thom said...

Sorry have to post again.

Just watched the slide show, I forgot to click on it earlier.

Wow, I hope you filed a flight plan cause you must have been in Heli paths.

Did you ever get close to the ridge? I have never seen pics from that far out.

Thanks for the pod shot too! I know how you like my boot shots.

JK said...

Again... the perspective of those photos seems unreal! That is, unless you hired a helicopter.

When I launched, you were twice the height of Harvey over the Rhino Horn. It would be nice to know what you had when you left for the crossing.

I got lazy and left the horn at 1850'. It was lifty until the shoreline, then boaty all the way to the reef in front of the Lion. But my penetration was only about 6 mph into the wind on my chosen line. I'd have made it to the Lion easily, but it doesn't always work so well on a north, and I wanted to make the next ridge on a day like that. It doesn't look like you even tried to connect to ridge lift on the other side. I turned back at 900'.

After benching back up at the Horn, I saw caps that I imagined were more than when I set off, but they were likely the same. I went fishing for the wind direction (off bar with GPS ground speed) while in the middle of the bay. I saw 1 mph of penetration when I found it. That's when I decided to land. Harvey soon followed. He was stoked for the gift of flyable conditions, a beer, and a ride to work. Pure joy!

It seems like one of those convergence lift days like at Woodrat, Alex. If you got high, you could stay high and go where you pleased. But if you didn't get above that convergence threshold, you got no love.

Way to seize the day, El Presidente!

Alex said...

Thankfully I never ran into any air traffic while I was way out to sea, and believe me I was looking in all directions constantly because it's a bit creepy leaving the island like that. But I did have a couple spooky close passes near the ridges, where a seaplane and a private heli (John Petri??) came closer than I would have liked on the upwind side. I wonder if they are just not as much on the lookout for a paraglider that's not over the Kahana ridge.

Funny how the pictures I took look like they were taken from a helicopter. Dorothy said the same thing. If only the pictures had a glider right there with me for reference, and maybe one or two back along the ridges for scale. Next time I need a posse with me!

JK, my vario said 2 grand or a bit more as I was climbing out over the road and the breakers in front of Kahana, and my vario is currently about 150 feet short of accurate, so let's say I left with a max of 2150-2200 feet.

I did often fly near the ridges, but I didn't save any of the pictures taken from those vantage points because they just weren't as interesting. I took 333 pictures during my 5 hours in the air, and I managed to whittle them down to about 25 keepers.

The lift was working along the ridges but it wasn't as good as the stuff I managed to find offshore. But the offshore stuff only seemed to be working higher up, and only in certain places, so I constantly had to balance out my quest for lift between the ridges and the convergence band offshore.