Monday, October 10, 2011

Tree Soaring Madness

I have an addiction. A lot of us have it. Anyone who knows me knows that I have to fly. Working outside, I constantly find myself looking up: at the clouds, the water, the mountains; looking for pilots … itching to fly.

It has been a wet and windy October, so far. I’m used to flying nearly every day after work, and on my days off, but haven’t gotten to do so recently. I knew today was a little brisk, but was sure I’d be fine in my new wing. I was anxious to finally get my “birthday” flight. When I arrived at Kahana just before four, the Punalu’u sensor was reading about 10-15 mph at 45 degrees. I planned on staying out front, away from the mountain. Quite a few pilots had already flown and landed. One-eye Jim and Ginny were in the air, so Ginny got her birthday flight! I was ready for mine!

When visitor Murari and I got to launch, Maui Doug had just launched his smaller wing from high launch. I had looked all around for One-eye Jim, and Murari finally pointed him out. I looked up, and he was 2,200’ above us! I launched low, north launch, just after Murari had a bungee launch. She was plucked off the hill backwards and got spun around upon launching. I, too, was quickly lifted off the hill. From the ground, Alex said I had made it look easy. Murari discovered she was not penetrating, even with speed bar, so she went in to land. I went way out front and towards the Rhino Horn, and quickly went straight up.

I got up to about 1,700 feet, and just for fun, I tried to see how far across the bay I could get. I felt like I was sinking fast. I added a little speed bar and made it halfway across the bay before turning back; however, I was already too low to go back to launch to get lift again. I was bummed that I had to go in to land already, on my first flight in four days. I thought, ‘I’ll just play around and soar the trees a little bit.’ Well, it was working better than I ever thought it would, and I was having a great time. They were working so well. Alex and Amelia were walking the beach below me, and Alex kept commenting on how well I was doing.

After a while, Alex said I was his tree soaring hero, and said I might get the record for the longest tree soaring. It had been about 20 minutes, and One-eye Jim had told Alex that he had once soared them for 30 minutes. I knew I had to stay up to beat that, and besides, I was having fun. I had never really soared the trees before, not longer than a few minutes. I had always been concerned that if it were windy enough to soar the trees, the chances of getting blown back behind them were pretty good. I had my speed bar out and ready, just in case, and it turned out I needed it a few times. Sometimes the gusts would pick up enough to lift me high and blow me backwards a little bit, so I added a little speed bar and pushed out towards the water. I noticed which trees worked better than the others. I could feel where I was getting lift and where I wasn’t. There were several times I thought it was going to shut off and I would have to land, but then I’d get lifted right back up.

I noticed that the trees that are bent and leaning over had the most lift. I would try different ways of crabbing the trees, trying to get the best lift. At one point, I looked down and saw Amelia playing in the sand. I saw Alex walk up to her and point up to me. He told me on the radio that she said, “Wow! She’s still up there?!” There were several people on the beach this evening, and lots of people waving and pointing and taking pictures. A group of people walked up to Alex and were intrigued about witnessing the tree soaring.

I was up there so long, I had a chance to get my phone out and take a short, bumpy video and a few pictures, looking down at the trees. The sky was turning a beautiful blue and pink and I watched the (almost) full moon peek from behind the clouds. It was beautiful. I stayed up a while longer. Maui Doug came on the radio and asked if I wanted a catcher for when I landed. He said it was blowing about 12-13 mph on the beach. Not knowing everyone had already left, I told him I wasn’t ready to land yet.

A few minutes later, I could feel it shutting down, and I noticed I was getting lower. I told Maui that I could feel it shutting off, and that I was going to land. He came out to catch me. A large group of kids came out on the beach to play football and they watched me land. Maui came over to congratulate me, and one of the boys came over as well.

He asked, “Is that scary?”
“Is it fun?”
“Oh yeah, it’s a blast!”
“How long does it take to get down?”
I said, “Well, it took me an hour and a half!!”
I turned to Maui (somewhat kidding), “I set a world record!!”
The little boy said, “You did?”
I said again, “An hour and a half!!”

I high-fived Maui Doug, and we talked about how cool it was that I was able to stay up for so long. The little boy turned to go back to his football game, and he looked back at me and said, “Congratulations!” It was so cute. Everyone had been cheering as I landed.

Maui checked the sensor just as I landed, and it had died down a little bit, averaging 10 mph at 45 degrees. It had been averaging about 12 mph while I was soaring the trees all that time. It’s probably a good thing it did shut off, or I may have never come down.


Alex said...

Great belated birthday flight, Bonnie! Thanks for sharing the story. Sorry I couldn't stay until you landed - I had to run home to make dinner. But at least I stuck around long enough to see you soar those trees longer than anyone I've seen do it before. I fixed the photo link and I will add some of my own.

The next trick will be top-landing the trees. Well, at least a touch and go! Or launching from the beach (without tow assistance), which will probably require starting in front of some smaller trees. Maybe we can plant some smaller ones at the edge of the LZ, and keep them pruned in a graduated pattern!

Alex said...

The timestamp of my first photo of you over the trees was from 5 pm - and it looks like you landed in the moonlight, which must have been around 7 pm - I think you might have flown the trees for two hours!

My flying day was crazy in a different way. I flew with Michigan Wayne and got high to attempt a bay crossing, above the clouds at one point. Joey launched below us just as a big band of clouds started to approach with some possible rain and a definite gust front. Joey and Wayne landed, just before the gust front hit, but I crossed the bay hoping to escape. I benched up just high enough over Kaaawa to make a dash for Kualoa, watching the gust front fill in behind me. I landed at Kualoa and folded up quickly, and as I was folding I felt the gust front blasting through. That was a little close for comfornt. Thanks to Wayne for the retrieve! Happy birthday Bonnie and Ginny!

Duck said...

Uh, Hi! My name is Bon Bon and I'm a paraholic...

Congrats on the great flight on your new wing!

Thom said...

Wow, I forgot to hit refresh on my computer so I did not know this story was here for my coffee read.

Thanks Bon for the great write. It lightened my bleak day of doing tax prep.

Congrats on your record tree flight. I don't think anyone could stay in one place like that for 2 hours except for maybe Flash.

Heard your B-Day was good too from what you remember of it. I heard you were now legally old enough to buy beer......well this was a First wasn't it???!!!

Congrats and it sure is nice to see some new Quills scratching in this Blog. I guess your HOOKed on flying too!

Gravity said...

I think breaking a world record is worthy of a case of beer. And now, I hear she broke another record or was that her XC Cherry I heard popping? Pounders 1st time?
Anyway more beer is always good!!!


What a difference a new wing makes!
Almost as good as a Pod!

Thom said...

Pods are awesome, I am sure Bonnie will be in one soon if we can find one that small.