Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Woody, Maui Doug, Maui Tim and I had chased the sea breeze out to Dillingham last week. The numbers were looking good, but when we got there it was clear that the clouds were streaming offshore from the Makua side. And then we heard from speed flyer Brandon that there was no wind on launch, except for the occasional backwind cycle. So at least we saved ourselves a hike.
Today, none of my regular Dillingham wingmen were available: neither Woody nor Maui Doug nor Duck. And I assumed Gaza was working. Brian had flown earlier in the morning (like he does every morning) and he said it was good. So it seemed worth investigating. Apparently I am determined to figure that place out even if I have to go by myself! I never thought I'd want to go alone, especially to a launch as sketchy as the one at Kealia, but I found myself up there, after my fastest hike time of a half hour, brimming with confidence and extremely focused.
To my great relief, there were onshore cycles flowing on launch, but the cycles were infrequent and cross. I waited a very long time for one that seemed to flow straight in, and when I felt it, I pulled my wing up clean and loaded in a smooth motion. I turned and ran, off the cliff and up into the air, shooting upward in what turned out to be an amazing thermal. Whew, I'd survived that launch, and with style! Only then did I start to think that perhaps I'd made the right call. I started turning right away and gained five hundred feet over launch. Wow, that felt good. It didn't look like the sailplanes had enough lift to stay up long, but for a paraglider it was perfect.
Mount Ka'ala was enshrouded in a low cloud base, so I knew I wasn't going that way today. Instead I worked the thermals down to the sunny pasture launch. I was tempted to try a top landing at the pasture but it seemed a bit too cross to be safe. Also I didn't go further toward the point because I wasn't sure I'd get back in the cross flow. So I headed back to launch and then continued upwind to the ridge behind the drop zone, finding nice thermals under the fat gray cloud bank extending from Ka'ala, watching the skydivers and the sailplanes.
I thermaled back to the pasture launch one more time, and then worked my way back to think about landing. I came back to the launch ridge low, and scored a sweet low save in a spicy thermal all the way back up above launch. But I really was ready to land, so I headed out to lose altitude and aim for the grassy triangle behind the tower. It took forever to battle my way down through an endless round of thermals that just wouldn't stop firing off. I kept getting low saves that I didn't want! But I am writing this story so you know I did finally make it down.
I guess it was just another crazy day flying a wintertime site in the springtime. I just can't believe I had to do it by myself! And I can't believe I was brave enough to do it by myself! I love the sailplanes and skydivers but it would be nice to have some wingmen next time!
Posted by Alex at 2:02 AM