Monday, September 26, 2011

Such a Perfect Day

Mad Dog made me do it! I was hoping to convince him to fly with me out at Dillingham, but he wasn't willing to drive out there. So I drove out to Makapuu to meet Mad Dog, Jorge and Thom, and try for a long downrange mission. On the drive out, I was feeling sick with apprehension and excitement, as I always do on these light wind days. As I drove along the range, I could see the clouds were incredibly high and the wind was super light. I tried to calm myself down, by visualizing myself making perfect transitions and tanking up at each thermal trigger point. I knew the previous day had been super stable and challenging, and I was really hoping that the increased cloud cover today meant that the lift would be working better.

As I arrived, Jack and SD Robin were launching out of Cactus. But it was feeling fine at Manics, so the four of us set up there. Jorge proposed that we make an effort to stick together, and try and wait for each other as much as possible, and we all agreed that was a good plan. We gaggled up over hang launch, and Jorge made the first little foray out over Waimanalo, not very far, just checking it out. He announced over the radio that it was working great - the best day we've had in at least a month. That was good enough for Mad Dog. He blazed down to Puu O Kona, followed closely by Jorge. That was the last Thom and I would see of either of them until after we all landed.

Thom and I worked Puu O Kona and Greenwalls together. I got jacked up into a cloud there and started to head out to Olomana to get clear, but before I got close, I hit a blue hole, so I turned back to Greenwalls. We gaggled up behind Olomana and set out for the Pali. I got sucked up and totally whited out by a huge cloud, for at least a minute, and had to rely on my GPS for orientation. I watched the map page and tried to steer towards Kaneohe, but when I finally came out of the whiteness, it turned out I had headed 90 degrees the other way, almost out to Olomana. Well, that was scary.

So I went back to the back of Maunawili, above cloudbase now, maybe 3,500 feet, and I did a bunch of spirals to try and get myself back below cloudbase. I watched Thom take a more inside line to the Pali, and when I felt low enough to escape the cloud suck, I took a more direct line. We arrived at Puu Konahuanui together and worked our way up there. Once again it was just a question of avoiding the strong suction of the clouds. Thom led the way to the Stairway to Heaven at Puu Keahiakahoe, and I followed close behind. I got super high there right away, and had a nice opening in the clouds to cross Haiku Valley, so I felt compelled to take the opportunity to blaze over there in the clear, leaving Thom scratching and looking for a way up and out of there. Sorry to ditch you like that, dude!

By this time we could hear Frank and Jack on the radio, not far behind. Now there were six of us making our way downrange. I could hear Mad Dog and Jorge on the radio trying to decide between the route through boogaland or the front way around Ohulehule and Kaaawa. Jorge opted for boogaland while Mad Dog made a play for the pyramid. I saw him get flushed back there to a little hillside in the back of Waikane Valley. I was lucky to have a cloud street leading me on an oblique line to the front spur of Ohulehule, where I pulled in hoping for some love. It was working great! That was definitely the high point of the flight. I benched up to cloudbase above the Pyramid in a smooth strong thermal and relaxed a bit, trying to figure out my next move. I could hear Thom, Frank and Jack getting ready to land at Waiahole Beach Park. It was Jack's first cross country flight - what a great start!

I decided to cruise straight out through Kaaawa Valley under a nice cloud street, hoping for some suction and some thermals on the way. The cloud street didn't suck me up much, but I found a couple of decent thermals, making a few turns to boost me high enough to scrape out of there. I pulled around the front of Kaaawa with a huge sigh of relief - I was low but it was working here. Barely. I had to scratch my way up slowly. Finally I climbed above the ridge into some nice thermals above Puu Manamana. This is what I've been practicing for the past few weeks, and it felt really nice and familiar.

Duck was on the radio coordinating our retrieve. Ray was at Kahana cheering me on by radio from his film shoot. Bonnie went to pick up the guys at Waiahole, so Duck and Ginger set off after me and Jorge. I hopped across the bay to Kahana, and found some more nice thermals there, spiraling up above Puu Piei and making the jump to Punaluu. There I thermaled into the back above Sacred Falls, and tried to get as high as I could. I slowly worked my way to cloudbase in the ebbing afternoon thermals. I headed out towards PCC, where Jorge had landed, turning in a few thermals along the way, and taking one of them pretty deep behind the Hauula gulches. I was still high at PCC so I continued on, in some really nice boaty evening air, wondering if I might actually make it to the Kahuku golf course. It looked like a close call, so I opted for a safe and fun landing at Hukilau Beach Park, in front of a large and appreciative audience.

After 4 1/2 hours in the air, I had flown 29.5 miles, definitely my longest cross country flight here. One time a few years ago, I tried to fly through boogaland like Jorge did today, but I ended up in a tree in Punaluu Valley. I was glad to fly past that ignominious landing spot and to make a safe and graceful landing today. Coming the front way is a bit more technical, but it's a lot safer in terms of landing options.

Roll call: Jim, Berndt, Bonnie, Jack, Chili, SD Robin, AK Scott, Frank, Jorge, Mad Dog, Thom, Flash, Duck, Ray. Thanks to my XC mentors, Jorge and Mad Dog, for leading the way. Thanks to Duck and Ginger and Bonnie for the retrieves. Thanks to Duck for the cold refreshments and to "Beetlepants" Bonnie for the grape juice.

Such a perfect day …


Thom said...

Great flights yesterday and thanks for the read.

No worries about leaving me at the Stairway I wanted to tell you to go but couldn't break my hands free.

It was not long when Frank & FireJack joined me of course they were way higher.

I flew by the infamous ridge that had sucked me over with my Sport4, I actually felt the wing shutter as we got close to it. you can bet I checked penetration a few times.

You were gone and I felt cloud base was starting to creep down so I headed to MDKS. I could see you entering Kaaawa Valley going the opposite way that we had trekked a few weeks ago.

I was on glide and announced one of my very few words on the radio. "Go Alex Go!!!"

Congrats on a new personal record.
Thanks for making me and the Sport4 the headline shot to this read. It made my morning coffee pretty damn sweet and I don't use sugar.

Congrats to Jack & Frank for landing out with me MDKS, I think they may have been able to go farther.

Big thanks to Bonkers for holding off on her flying time to take us back to MPU.

That was so much fun lets do it again.

Thom said...

Oh, forgot Mad Dog & Jorge, well it was no big deal for them they do this all the time. But congrats on your long flight Jorge and Mad Dog for his safe landing behind Pyramid, maybe you should mark that spot.

Duck said...

Sweet flights everybody!! Glad to have been a part of it!

Congrats Jack for the first XC, Jeorge and Alex for new personal bests, and everyone else for the great flights!

Flash said...

Congrats Alex, Jorge and Jack! I missed the XC train, but I had a blast going to greenwalls and back to MPU yesterday. Got sucked up in a cloud at greenwalls and got super high. Eventually it spit me out in a beautiful blue hole -- one of the prettiest views I've ever seen. Amazing flight. Crossing my fingers that there's more of these amazing days soon...

Mad Dog said...

Alex try putting a way point or 2 on your gps & or the altimeter to a destination away from the mountains so while whited out you can relax & just hold a heading & check for forward speed to calm yourself.

I always fly x/c with 2 different waypoints set & I change them as needed to keep one to the left & one to the right of straight away from the mountains so I have the option to fly between the 2 points at any heading I choose best, then of corse I have my compass heading straight into the wind & I watch all 3. I went into only one cloud for a couple minutes at 3K & popped out the top of it 4K+ sitting back calm continuesly watching all 3 to steady my choosen heading. Hope that helps, watching the map of the island to me seems to vague & the 90' miss path was huge! Was a fantastic day & fun to be flying with you all, sorry I didn't wait but the cloud streets just kept setting up in front of me with blue holes coming in fast so I needed to connect the dots while they were presenting themselves to me. But I will take my time on the more important big traverse of triange peak & probably never Booga Booga land as it scsres the bejesus out of me!!!

I did sidehill into a ridge in waist high ferns next to 300' tree's & it was my only option in the Lee of Triangle Peak, my first wild landing ever. At 1000' alt I had to go back to it as I was not making the 4wd roads we normally hit, only big tree canopy below or back to the saftey of a sidehill ridge?

Alex said...

Thanks, guys. Still thinking about that flight. I checked, and the state record for straight distance is 31.5 miles, set by Doug on his comp glider, flying from Makapuu to a field in Kahuku just a hair past the golf course. Marathon Mark previously set it at 31.25 miles from Makapuu to Kahuku golf course, flying a very old DHV 1-2 glider. I wasn't gunning for anything but a personal best, and of course I really just wanted a better landing than on my last attempt at going that far. Although I wouldn't turn down the record if I happened to bag it. :-)

Mad Dog still holds the overall distance record with a 45 mile out and return flight from Makapuu to Kahana. I briefly considered turning around once I reached Kaaawa or Kahana, but then I came to my senses.

My max altitude was 3,600 and change, definitely in the white room; my max lift was 1,000 fpm; and my max sink was 1,400 fpm, probably during my very deep spirals to escape the cloud suck.

JK said...

Well done!!! So proud of you guys. All safely stretched the limitz. Would love to see a few track logs...

MauiDoug said...

WOW! Awesome flying everyone! Congrats to all of the personal bests! We are so spoiled with the incredible flying here on Oahu.

I just got back from some fun Maui flying at Poli Poli. I was hoping for a crater flight, but the guys said it was a tad windy and not the best direction up on Haleakala.

Thanks to the Maui gang for all of the great thermal tips. I had two nice thermal flights and several very relaxing and peaceful sledders from Fern's. Thanks Dexter and Dottie for the shuttle rides and your warm hospitality :)