Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Round Trip to Koko

It overdeveloped early today, with dark clouds and drizzling rain blanketing the island from Kahana to Kaneohe. Mad Dog and Thom cajoled me into coming out to Makapuu, promising perfect conditions for a flight to Lanikai. They've both done that flight once before, and they know I have tried many times and failed. I'm a sucker for that kind of ploy, so naturally I headed out.

I drove by Kahana and found Mike the Romanian there, hanging out at the LZ in the drizzle, and I convinced him to follow me to Makapuu. We drove through lots of rain to get over there, and it sure didn't look like the kind of day you'd want to fly towards Lanikai!

Mad Dog, Gary, and Thom were in the air. The wind was very light and easterly. I hiked up to Cactus with Mike and Hendrick, both of them excited about the prospect of their first flight at Makapuu. We launched and started to scratch our way along the ridge, looking for thermals. Hendrick couldn't quite find enough lift and headed in to the LZ. Mike worked hard to stay in the game.

It was so east that the air was rising completely parallel to the ridge. Thermals were drifting along the top of the ridgeline but it was hard to stay in them. After working it for a while, Mad Dog and I finally got high in a really nice thermal over hang launch, to around 2,000 feet, and headed to Koko Crater along Kamehame Ridge, while Thom and Gary continued the battle to get high enough to follow us.

At Koko Crater, Mad Dog connected with a great thermal and got high before he even got close. I got a piece of that thermal, didn't really like it, and figured it would be better when I got to the Crater. Wrong. The Crater was working, but not like whatever Mad Dog was in. He must have been over two grand. At one point he said, I wish you were up here with me. I said, me too! Gary chimed in from Makapuu: we all do!

After quite a while, I finally blundered into a very well organized thermal column that was obviously generated from one of the more unpleasant sources of lift on the island: the East Honolulu Wastewater Treatment Plant. When you smell poop, hold your nose and start turning - welcome to the house thermal at Koko Crater. Or should I say, the sh!thouse thermal. A rather stinky but reliable elevator rising from the effluent of the affluent.

I spiraled up to cloudbase in that odiferous plume of warm air, and from there I saw that Mad Dog had got himself quite a bit lower than before. Thom came over from Makapuu to join him down there, for his first time heading over the back to Koko. Both of them searched around the crater rim for some decent lift.

Higher now than I'd ever been at the crater, and eager to clear my head and start breathing through my nose again, I took a line straight out along the clouds towards Queens Beach, into the headwind, and I found myself going up all the way. At some point it occurred to me that I might be able to make it back to Makapuu! Mad Dog has done that once before, and so has Doug Hoffman, but I never imagined I would find myself in a position to try.

But here I was, around 2,500 feet over the golf course. I asked Mad Dog what line he thought I should take, and he said the time he'd made it, he just went straight for Cactus. Good plan. I dug my heels into my speed bar and headed that way. It worked perfectly. I had been worried about having to punch through some possible rotor but I arrived super high over Cactus with nary a ripple of turbulence. My first round trip to Koko Crater!

Jim was there flying his new Aspen 3, and Five-0 Mike was on the beach getting his wing out of a Naupaka bush. I took a quick tour of the east side of the lighthouse ridge, and then landed. Hendrick gave me a ride from the LZ back to the car, and we both went to retrieve Thom and Mad Dog from Sandys. Thanks to Hendrick for the refreshments! Ken, Pete, Bonnie and Joey arrived and ran up to Cactus to launch the late shift. I drove home through the rain, which was now pouring down all along the windward side.

It was great flying with everyone on the east side today. That hop to Koko is always fun, and making the return trip was just a dream come true.


Puka Wai said...

Effluent of the affluent??? There's gotta be some hypoxia involved to come up with that one!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Alex, on your round trip from MPU to KKHD and back. Thanks for the great coffee read and as always a master of words. As for myself, I now know that the Naupaka shrub can grow in to a large tree if left to grow wild. 5-0 Mike

Thom said...

First thanks for the ride, the beverage and the hilarious write up.

It was my first time going over the back on purpose. When I initiated the turn I was shaking in my pod.

I got there low 850' and did not get over 1100'. Cruising the ridge lip on the Sandy's side of the crater would never give me more than 1000'.

I heard we had a para-taxi on route so I went in to land with Mad Dog at Sandy's. I cruised over the crap kettles and got bumped up from 850-1100. I have heard of cow sh!t thermals, just wished I had headed for this affluent air earlier.

I had now, flown the rim where it all started for me almost 3 years ago. I had launched from Koko Crater on Reaper Radio Control, 'stick man' style. Did one right turn and 2 lefts to land on Sandy Beach. Bob & Ike met me at the LZ and they could tell by the look on my face, I was hooked.

Thanks for leading us out Mad Dog and Alex. I have been waiting to soar over this spot for sometime.

ya, Reaper I know it's a first. We'll have a beer soon.