Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sailplanes and Sea Mist

Anyone who has flown on Oahu for a few seasons will have learned not to confuse sea breezes with real wind. Wind blows; sea breezes suck. Wind behaves predictably, but sea breezes are a crap shoot, varying with background flow, cloud cover, heating patterns, and moisture. Today’s sea breeze sucked a handful of Dillingham fanatics out to the remote northwest corner of the island, and after holding off a brief bout of overdevelopment, the sea breeze carried us aloft to soar long and far over the island’s most scenic peninsula.

We heard the usual rumors of epic cross country conditions at Makapuu this morning. But an unimpressive morning cloud base and a quick sensor victory of town side numbers over windward numbers made that fabled downrange mission seem unlikely. On the other hand, the Mokuleia numbers looked good for a rare tour of the northwest peninsula. But when we arrived, we were crestfallen to find the skies gloomy and grey with overdevelopment. The Achilles heel of sea breezes!

We raced up the hill, but it started drizzling after we’d only made it halfway. Woody and Allegra continued to the top, while I hiked down with Becca and Cade. I sent them off to try their luck at Makapuu, while waiting for Woody, with whom I’d carpooled. He finally launched during a lull in the drizzle, and zoomed straight down to land. But just as he landed, the dark sky started to lighten, and the sun poked through in a few places. The sea breeze started to power back up. But Woody was not interested in rolling the dice again. He rushed off in Allegra’s car, leaving her to carpool with me.

I rushed up the hill with Drew, and by the time we got up there, the sky was clearing all over, and we were feeling consistent but light cycles. Allegra did a great job launching in those light cycles, and she started to climb right away. I got lots of help from Drew to get my wing up and out of there next. Thanks, Drew! And Drew did a great job getting out all by himself soon after.

The three of us soared together for quite a while, each pursuing our own agenda. Allegra mapped out the lift away from the hill. Drew zoomed around the pasture making top landing approaches. I headed down to the point for a glimpse around the other side, before turning back to make my way a few ridges past the airfield, at one point thermaling with a sailplane out behind the drop zone. I love flying with those guys!

To make the day even more interesting, the surf is massive right now on the north shore. The crashing waves were throwing huge clouds of sea mist onshore to waft up and over the mountains. It was an especially gorgeous day to be flying over this remote and wild corner of the island, with the sun illuminating the sea mist in the canyons.

After Drew and Allegra landed, visitor Jay Z from Portland showed up. He and I had hiked down together on Monday, and that memory was fresh in his mind as he hiked up to join us. He struggled for a long time to get himself launched, but he finally made it up just as I was setting up my landing below. Allegra and I met Brian down there, before he ran up to join Jay for an after work flight.

What a fun day. My first flight at Dillingham in almost two months. Here’s hoping I don’t have to wait that long for the next one!

1 comment:

Thom said...

You had to mention the Achilles heel. Thanks as I sit and read this one with my foot in a brace wishing I could hike to even try the knob.

Glad you got a good one. MPU was fun but as stated the xc routes got shut down by clouds and weak, infrequent snotty thermals. Paul and I tried and then the dark bottoms chased us out of Waimanalo.

Fireman showed up a little later put his wing wipers on and headed that anyway, only to report its not that good back there.

The tandem crews launched in super light conditions for an extended sledder and some wild landings. Laddie being the winner of wild landings.

Becca an Cade flew staying local. Becca's camera went on the fritz so anyone knowing a good camera tech would be appreciated.

Roll: Motorhead, Frank, TommyRD, ShawnC,Sidehill, Thai,Flash,B-ray, Jorge, MauiDoug,Garret, Fireman Dave,Stalker.