Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Chronicological Order

So in case anyone hasn't noticed: our consistent trade wind flying season is really and truly underway. All those other times I announced that the season was upon us, in May, June, July, etc: in hindsight it's clear I was wrong. This is the real thing. Of course every year is different, but I do have a dim recollection of a similar timeframe last year, when we started flying every day sometime in August, and continued for months. The stories, pictures and logs are out there if anyone cares to go back and check!

Yesterday was our umpteenth straight day of flying since sometime in mid August, and as usual for this trade wind season, conditions were great for flying at all our windward sites. At Kahana, Woody's student Steve soared for the first time, after slowly scratching his way up in marginal light east conditions. Meanwhile the poor guy endured an extended tirade of expletives and instructions, but that's an hour of cursing and climbing and soaring he'll never forget! Congrats, Steve!

I found it to be the lightest and most easterly day I can remember in a long time. Not to mention the loneliest, with no wing men to accompany me! I scratched my way up just in time to watch a huge line of clouds roll in and crank the base down to around 1,600 feet. But thankfully there were plenty of gaps between clouds, and in fact I found myself soaring high above the layers of clouds forming below me.

And despite the low clouds, I knew I should be able to go somewhere. And despite the super easterly conditions, for some reason I was determined to cross the bay. I tried to cross the bay into the weak but sinky headwind, not once, but three times. On the third try I went so wide I thought I might not make it back to landfall. But thankfully going wide turned out to be the ticket, and I came in low at Hidden Valley to scratch my way slowly up in an almost offshore flow at Kaaawa, and then crossed low again to scrape my way up at Kualoa.

I blazed back in a light tailwind to Kahana and then continued on to Punaluu, thinking I might not be coming back. But one lucky thermal got me high enough to try, and I squeaked back into town at launch height. Whew! Low clouds and weak super easterly flow made this the most challenging out and back flight ever. So after four hours and fifteen miles of that, I was ready to land!

But my adventure wasn't over. The landing turned out to be quite interesting as well! Woody had his students kiting at the Kahana LZ for the first time since the flood took the sand away, and they were struggling to keep their wings up in conditions that were rapidly turning to poop down there, where frequent doldrums alternated with swirling gusts. Woody advised Steve to abandon his plans for a second flight and hike down.

Meanwhile I halfheartedly tried to cross the bay again, and I actually thought I might be able to make it to Swanzys, but then I changed my mind for some reason and turned back to head in to the keyhole. Man, there was some really strange air over the bay and the trees. I felt it out for a few passes, before gritting my teeth and setting up an approach. A massive sink hole almost derailed my plans but I squeaked my glider in there during a normal moment between the extreme lulls and gusts. Don't try that at home!

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