Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lanikai Misadventures

Here is a little story about my misadventures yesterday, resulting in some very sore feet (and one broken). I had never flown at Lanikai before, so I called Alex to get a site intro. He told me where the LZ was, and how to get to the trail, and to go to the LZ and wait for a call from either Dave or Thom for a detailed introduction, and possibly a flying buddy. The wind on the LZ was coming straight from the two islands (the Mokes) at about 8 mph.

'Hard-headed me' decided to just head to the trail after checking out the LZ. (mistake #1: not being patient or following directions.) While walking up the road to the trail, I spotted what seemed to be the "only" place to launch, because everywhere else that I could see looked way too steep. So, when I got up there, the wind felt quite a bit stronger than on the beach, but it didn't occur to me that it could be wrapping around the point to the right. (Mistake #2: not looking at a satellite view [google maps or something] to see the entire picture, so that I could make accurate predictions of what the wind is doing).

I launched way below (see x above) the first pillbox, into 12-15 mph wind, which felt like it was coming straight from the Mokes. I quickly discovered that my lift band was extremely small, and once I got away from the hill, I quickly sunk out and was unable to get back to launch. Then I started looking for places to land... I had no good options. When I sunk into the wind shadow, and possibly some rotor, my ground speed really picked up, and my mind was racing to keep up. I knew that if I landed on a roof I would probably hit with enough force to do some damage... no one has much of a yard up there... I was already below the power-lines; I just picked a driveway and swung into it (see photo for flight path). That final turn really caused me to pick up speed, plus now I was going downwind.

I impacted a pile of rocks, going approximately 25-30 mph (see photo). I kind of "spaced" the last second, and instead of taking a wrap and flaring as hard as I could, I just pumped my brakes pretty aggressively, picked out a spot on the pile and braced for impact... from the turn to impact was probably less than half a second. ...not the best LZ!!!

Immediately after the crash, I didn't feel much pain, probably due the amount of adrenaline in my system, and because my tissues hadn't started swelling yet. The neighbors and the homeowner were asking if I was okay, and I assured them that I was... I didn't even limp while anyone was watching. I quickly pulled my wing out of an areca palm and folded it up and started down the hill...

At the end of the driveway, I could really tell that something was quite possibly broken. I asked a neighbor across the street for a ride to my truck, then drove to the Emergency Room. X-rays showed that I have two fractured Metatarsals in the middle of my right foot. Both feet feel broken. I am doing everything I can think of to expedite the healing process, including eating lots of plant based proteins and "super-foods", taking anti-inflammatory vitamins, and essential mineral supplements, and no pain medicine... Actually I am starting to re-think the "no pain medicine" part. I am also using a poultice of Russian Comfrey which has been used for centuries to heal broken bones. As I have never had a broken bone before, this should be a good time for testing the effectiveness of Comfrey.

Sometimes I learn lessons the hard way, unfortunately. I wish that I would have done what I have seen plenty of you guys do on launch... wait for someone else to show up and show me the way. It is no fun being the "wind-dummy" when it ends badly.

While at the ER, I learned that if I would have only waited another 30 minutes, Bonnie and Claude would have shown up to give me a proper site introduction. I am just so thankful that I didn't get hurt any worse than I did... It could have been a lot worse. I'll see you guys in the air soon!



sandy said...

Wow Lake, thanks for the recap and great analysis; really nice pics too. I'm sure it must have been hard to work on with your feet screaming at you all day. From my experience, Caipirinha's are a great organic painkiller, maybe BRay can give you the recipe :-).

If it's any consolation, I believe I once helped FireDave launch from near where you launched, although I think the conditions were quite a bit different that day, and so not good for the regular launch; and of course, it was FireDave with his amazing skills and knowledge of the site. But still, it's not a totally crazy place to launch from.

Hang in there! Heal fast!

Doug said...

Lake sorry to hear of your disappointing flight. We have all ended up on the wrong side of some bad decisions at one time or another. Most of us appreciate your candid write up.

Food for thought for all....it is often better to side hill in the scrub and halekoa than to try to get to to a better LZ and end up in the housing.


firedave2 said...

What a thorough write up, you will probably cringe in a couple of years when you re-read this story of your early days.

Alex asked me to call you with some tips for lanikai, I called what I thought was your number, and it went to message immediately. I meant to call Alex and check the number, but we got busy at work.

Alex called me an told me you had a hard landing in a driveway. Oops! That was fast. I knew immediately what must have happened.

That low north launch that you went from is usually for moderate northish days. Too light and you risk a quick bomb out, too strong and it is a wild venturi, hard to get your glider to sit still long enough to launch with a margin of safety.

Yesterday was fairly light and east, which meant the wind on launch was kind of a local Venturi wind wrapping around the corner but providing little lift.

Sorry this information is a day late, but others might use it in the future. Sorry to hear about the injury, you are a hard charger and skilled, but moving fast. All in all it seems you got off kind of easy, that landing situation must have been hairy and fast, good keeping it together.

See you up there, Dave

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lake! So sorry to read of your painful landing ! Hawaiian Health Ohana from Kauai uses the best local herb " Noni" which is from the right source, the 'painkiller tree' as the caribbean natives tongue called it . Ask Bonnie where on Kualoa Ranch we are selling it . My wife stocks and sells it up here at the 'Dole Plantion'. Noni , from my own use, has great none messy lotion & wonderful relief . Again sorry to hear of your mishap . Mark 'thebeeman'

Thom said...

Well these are never the coffee reads I hope for. But your detail and pictures are very good.

We have all been cringing at the fact of how fast you are charging and how lucky you have been. I am sure you have heard about the bag of luck and bag of skill. It seems to always take an accident to wake you up. Thankfully it was minor this time and you haven't even been flying long enough to get intermediate syndrome.

I was one of the worst ones and kinda still am about listening to these older monkeys. Its hard because alot of them are wind bags but their experience and knowledge goes along way.

Lake you have become a valuable asset to this barrel of monkeys so hopefully this will serve as your wake up call. Heal well, see you in the air.


Waianae Jim said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Lake. Heal fast, we all want to see you back in the air with us soon.

Maui Doug said...

Sorry to hear about the rough landing. Injuries seem to be a part of our sports learning curve. Ive learned alot from mine and it sounds like you are learning lots from yours. I fly with a photo of my family in my cockpit always looking at me and reminding me to fly smart and safe!(a great tip I learned from Doug Hoffman, thanks Doug!)
Heal fast Lake and hope to see you flying again soon!
Much aloha Mdoug

Brent said...

Lake...I am sorry you got hurt. Thank you for your detailed article about your accident. It takes courage and a humble spirit to admit ones mistakes. Your progression in this sport has been amazing. With this incident you have gained some valuable and insightful experience. When you come back you will be an even better pilot because of this experience. I will look forward to flying with you again.

Aloha Brent

Allegra said...

Lake - get well soon! I got 4 copies of my car key made since now you won't be around to sprint up the trail and save the last one in existence. I hope you feel better ASAP!