Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bay Crawl

Finally!!! A flyable day for regular wings. This has been the winter of discontent for me. Not owning or qualified to fly a mini-wing as of yet, my flight log has been dismally empty for the first quarter. But Alex and Woody had been chirping that Tuesday afternoon might give us a window at Kahana. Well, the window opened all right, but it was rattling hard.

We gathered at the north trailhead, and contemplated whether to hike or not in the face of an incoming squall line. I said "Heck, I need the exercise!" That was all Alex needed to hear, and he soon passed me on the trail. By the time I dropped my bag at low launch, Alex had laid out and was soon soaring over our heads. Shortly after that he top landed, and then it got gusty, so we waited for a bit.

Finally, Alex fluffed as it puffed and off he went with me close behind. Woody was on high launch and his wing had wrapped itself around a rubber tree while he was trying to buckle in, so he was delayed. I looked out to see a rainbow forming on the horizon, and Alex told me to head out front for a picture. Wait a minute, rainbows mean rain, right? Should we land, Alex? "No, dude just cross the bay, and we'll outrun it!"

Alex was already high and made the first dash across. I was below and going up, but Duck had just launched, and he was worried that we were gonna ditch him. Duck did not get up as high as I was, but he started to cross the bay first. I figured he was just going to go as far as he could, and then burn to the beach. I followed him, and as we crossed, we found we were going up. Alex radioed from Swanzy, "Take an outside line if you can, because I am getting hammered on the inside."

Duck and I were just crawling across, not losing any altitude but definitely going slower than a Prius. Alex flew back under us, so we were not counting on making it either. We got there and stayed high on the outside -- Alex had called it. We were getting higher, and inching away from the ridge. Penetration was minimal, so we were on caution mode, speed bars ready or on.

It was cold, too! Duck was in a pod, but complaining of a runny nose and an occasional draft sneaking into the pod. I had brought long pants up to launch, but figured, I am not going to get high or go anywhere so I don't need them. Now I was shivering. We crawled like frozen crabs across Kaaawa Valley. I radioed to Duck, "This is a one-way trip for me -- I am landing at Kualoa!" I was cold, and the Kahana LZ is now a postage stamp, with the tide rising, so the big green field at Kualoa Park was very inviting.

I checked penetration up high over Kualoa and it was okay. Not great, but okay. I set up over the trees just to the beach side of the bathroom, and as I got lower, my penetration was diminished. I was just hovering straight down, looking like I was going to perch on top of a palm tree. I touched the bar slightly to eke my way forward, and touched down safe, with Duck right behind me but more out front.

Duck and I agreed: that was the slowest, strongest bay crossing ever. We high-fived, kissed the ground, and then vowed not to get too excited in front of Alex -- you know how he gets when he's left behind. [Editor's note: no, how do I get??!!] Then we heard his voice on the radio, "I made it across! Hang on, guys, I'm coming!" Alex crawled into view nice and high over the ranch, and Duck and I breathed a sigh of relief. We knew he'd been trying to cross again, but we'd heard over the radio that it had gotten gustier back there.

Alex was trundling along the Kualoa ridge when he noticed a huge blob of a plane coming right at him, or actually coming at the whole mountain. It was a C17. Alex was in a slight panic, knowing all too well what kind of wake turbulence this jumbo would send his way. The plane made a slow lumbering banking turn just upwind of Alex, and he started his countdown, with one hand on his reserve. The wake never came, but Alex's reserve hand was still clenched when he landed next to us.

We heard Woody and Phil Green (of the Green Acro Clan) had landed uneventfully and safe at the Kahana postage stamp. Then Bonnie pulled off a landing going in backwards on speed bar. Harvey got his feet wet but kept his gear dry. Frosty, after watching all the close calls, went for the boat ramp. We are not allowed to land there, but he didn't know that. He pulled it off, but not without getting dragged a bit trying to set his wing down.

It was great to get a shot of Sky-alis today. We all needed it. Duck, Alex and I tempted the fate of the window by crawling across the bay, but all ended well. Thanks to Ginger for the pickup, and to Dorothy for hosting a bunch of happy monkeys with wine and pizza.

Roll Call: Alex, Duck, Woody, Sidehill, BonBon, Phil Green, Harvey and Frosty.


Thom said...

Thanks for the edits Alex, always enjoy my stories after your sprinkles. Oh, you know how you get!!! Mr. Competitive

sandy said...

Slower than a Prius - OUCH! And even getting better gas mileage, too!

Nice story ... grrr.