Saturday, June 11, 2016

Helmetless to Hairball

This is going to be a poorly written stream of consciousness, because it’s past my bedtime, but I’m in a mood to trot out the day’s tale. 

John and I have been off-island for a few weeks, so we haven’t been flying in quite some time.  I didn’t even realize today was a holiday until late last evening so I wasn’t fully prepared for the thought of flying today, and I certainly didn’t have all my gear together.  The weather looked pretty crummy in the morning anyway with rain hitting all parts of the island.  I stopped checking the weather for a while but then finally noticed around noon that it was looking pretty dry though from the infrared I predicted increasing moisture after 5 pm .... 

Makapu’u looked too windy so I opted for Kahana and got John rolling with me.  Due to the long hiatus, I stopped to kite first, but then noticed I didn’t have my helmet.  So far from home, I decided to take my chances on finding someone with a spare helmet or just kite.  John asked me to drop him off at the trailhead.  As we approached Kahana, I could see Alex skied out high above Ka’a’awa, and Mark skied out high above Kahana.  Soon I get a text from Alex saying Amelia might be able to dig up an old helmet for me.  Yay!  With a quick trip by the Punalu’u ranch I was soon headed up the hill to join John with the hope that maybe this magic old helmet might be able to impart some of the wisdom gained over its thousands of flights.

Once on launch the winds were a bit stronger than initially reported.  Though there were some reasonable (though short) lulls, John wisely wanted to wait to see if it would back off.  We waited and waited.  A tiny squall came through.  We waited some more and finally the winds were lighter.  John launched a very nice launch only to find it difficult to stay up.  I quickly set up and just as I was ready to go the winds started picking up to the 15 mph range again.  I didn’t want them to get up to the 18 mph range again so I hucked off somewhat ungracefully with twisted risers.  Whew, plenty of lift now.  I easily soared ridge lift until cloud suck took over as the dominant power.  I was tooling around at about 1700+ feet waiting for more clouds to come along to pull me higher when I noticed a small squall headed directly for rhino horn from a bit offshore.  I wish I had a camera because it was a very lovely squall with a nice rainbow underneath, but it did put quite a crimp in my flying plans as it seemed prudent to land.

There was now a good cloud street leading over to crouching lion.  I opted to give it a try thinking I might be able to hide from the squall over there -- IF I could make it in time.  I got to crouching lion’s little peak with 800 feet.  Alex was at home, but I knew he was on radio so I asked if he had felt lift at the crouching lion today – silly me—he said he hadn’t been there that low!  Haha of course not! Hearing no beeps I left when I hit 700 feet.  While I was crossing the bay the rainbow went away and as I studied where the squall had been I gleefully decided it must have dissipated.  Instead of heading to the LZ, I slid back to the hill and went up for more.

I again quickly got up to about 1,750 feet in ridge lift and a little bit of cloud suck but then there was a nice big blue hole, and Pu’u Piei beckoned standing majestically in the colorful slanting late day light.  I made my way up to about 2,000 feet but knew I did not want to go too high so as not to find myself in the clouds approaching from offshore.  As I left, I could see I would easily make it under the next bank of clouds. But the next set behind that was a lot lower.  Halfway between the Pu’u and the rhino horn I could see I would not make it below those clouds and I was also continuing to rise.  I put on big ears and speedbar racing to get lower and to the rhino horn before the low clouds did.  My forward progression slowed to less than a mile per hour as I got to the east launch ridge and hit the lower part of the low clouds.  I was able to maintain visual contact with the ground and also confirm heading with my GPS compass, but there were some big cold wet drops in that cloud, some even felt a little frozen.  My legs were shaking from holding the speedbar so long or perhaps from nerves.  Fortunately the air was clear to the right of the cloud and I was able to crab toward the bay.  I soon was able to fly with just speedbar as I was getting away from the clouds.

Having had enough fun for one day I opted to quickly land and count my blessings.  An Iwa glided by as I made my descent.  It was a  beautiful day for flying Kahana and I'm glad I had the chance.  

Many thanks to Alex and Amelia for the helmet.  Luckily I had two balaclavas with me that helped ensure a good fit, but maybe they insulated me from any good flying brain cells Alex may have left inside.   

Best wishes for getting well to any convalescing editors-in-chief, out there.  :-)


Thom said...

Thank you and I am getting better every day.

Alex said...

Thanks for trotting out that tale. Somebody's got to feed the blog troll! And it's always interesting to get a glimpse into another pilot's bird brain as they recount the day's adventures! I'm glad I could help out with the loan of an old retired helmet. I hate to think what's left in there but I don't think it's brain cells! Great to see you and John out chasing it two days in a row. Let's do it again soon!