Tuesday, February 07, 2012

North Shore Birthday Adventure

I found myself parawaiting on the Kahuku Motocross launch on Sunday, with Duck, Jorge, and Gaza. The frontal passage was creating the perfect wind direction for this famously rare and fickle flying site, but it was blowing way too strong, so we were waiting to see if it might back off a bit. When Jorge heard me say it was Dorothy's birthday, he was quite impressed, and he advised me to write a self-help book for pilots about how to successfully manage the expectations of our spouses. Not gonna touch that one, actually. I know I'm the luckiest guy in the world and I sure don't want to jinx it now.

After what must have been a couple of hours up there, drinking sacrificial refreshments, telling tall tales, watching whales breach, and saying hello to several very nice motocross riders, we realized the wind seemed to be backing off. In fact, it seemed to be almost gone. Oh no! Did we miss it? We scrambled like madmen to hook in and huck off as quickly as possible. Jorge got off first, but he wasn't making it look good. He was barely getting above launch. I was next, and Duck followed right after.

The three of us worked a very tight pattern along the launch ridge, flying through each other's wake turbulence and trying to figure out how to get up in the light flow. It was not only light but quite cross, from the north. It was coming in nicely on the Kahuku end of the ridge, but that side doesn't have a good bowl to produce lift. We worked our way almost to the Opana radar site but it just wasn't the right shape to collect the lift.

As soon as I had a thousand feet or so in a nice thermal, I got the heck out of that traffic, and bailed downwind to the Comsat ridge. Jorge started to follow me, but turned back because he didn't like his line. I milked a bit of lift at Comsat and then continued downwind to the hill behind Sunset Beach. I stopped briefly to tank up and then from there I crossed the next gap to Pupukea, and stopped to work my way up as high as I could on the north facing side.

The flow was as north as I'd ever seen here. There was no way I was going to make it back. From here I was high enough to head downwind to Waimea Bay, or even a bit past it, but there were no great LZ options over there. So instead I put down at Shark's Cove across from Foodland, in front of zillions of beachgoers there, for a nice little five mile downwind run.

No one was on the ground available for retrieve, so I folded up and started to walk back, trying to hitch a ride or hoping a bus would come by. But somehow I have terrible luck hitching rides. I'm afraid I look like a serial killer or something. I know they always cast creepy bald guys in those roles on TV. And the bus never showed up.

In the meantime, I could hear on the radio that things were getting spicy back at launch. The guys in the air were getting rained on and there were gust fronts kicking things up a notch. Suddenly Duck appeared overhead looking for a place to elevator down. It was blowing pretty hard. I watched as he slowly came down on the beach at Rockpiles, hanging on his C lines to kill his wing in the strong flow. He folded up at the lifeguard property across the way and we walked to Pipeline where Joey picked us up.

Joey and Laurel had driven up and taken a very circuitous route to the launch area, but the conditions were too crazy to consider launching by the time they found it. Gaza and Dave had already launched, and Dave ended up sinking out in his little wing, to the field below. Gaza got blown downwind in the gust front and ended up landing at Sunset Beach. Jorge made it to the normal landing zone at Velzyland, but it was howling when he got there, and he ended up getting dragged on his face through the sand. He still had sand in his beard when we all met up at Ted's Bakery for a quick debriefing.

Thanks to Joey for the retrieve, to Gaza for the ride back to launch to grab the truck, and to Duck for the carpool and for buying the refreshments for Richard, the bombout caretaker, and for the flower idea. You should write that book, dude! But most of all, thanks to Dorothy for her forbearance and for her love of cooking. She was at home making a feast for her birthday barbecue, and many of the pilots ended up there celebrating late into the night.


Thom said...

Happy Birthday Dorothy.

I finally had a second to read this little log. Again awesome flights and I can't wait to read that book Alex.

Duck said...

Great recap and story Alex! There have been better days put there, but I had the narrowest of windows...I am happy to have caught a flight in such good company!

Duck said...

Happy Birthday Dorothy! Great little celebration!