A couple days ago the forecasted winds for today looked too light. However, the wind speed kept increasing with every update until it looked good enough to go this morning. The direction was predicted to be too north until around noon, which was also the time of high tide, which meant I didn't have to leave home at a stupid early hour.
I arrived to find unusually snow-covered dunes, Mark already soaring, and John and Matt pacing about. Matt reported wind speeds at the top-end of "marginally safe" and Mark's lack of groundspeed seemed to confirm that. After putting on all my warm clothes and a check of the wind speed, I decided to fly. As I got my flying gear ready Matt tried to launch his mini-wing from the top and quickly decided to move down lower. Matt launched, flew about a little, and was walking up the dune as I was finally ready to play.
It was good to hear that the wind was too light to sustain Matt's mini-wing. However, after a quick launch from below, it became apparent to me the wind was still strong ... until it wasn't. There were well defined thermals coming off the warmer ocean. The thermals would block the wind, lulling unaware pilots too close to the dune, and then blow through and blowing back anyone that was too close to the accelerated air at the top of the dune. It was fun flying towards the water climbing but barely moving forward until the thermal passed and then diving back closer to the dunes to stay airborne until the next thermal blew through.
The snow on the dunes and beach, the lack of birds, bitter cold and strong wind created an atypical atmosphere. I played this silly game of dancing with blowy thermals for 30 minutes with John, Mark, Matt, and Paulo while Carl struggled trying to launch from the lower pathway (which isn't easy and requires a technique different than most launches). I decided to land and offer to help. Unfortunately, we found a rip in his glider so he had to pack his full size wing away.
I launched again without even leaving the beach. JoeR and Zoe arrived with their mini-wings about the time I was being blown backwards during the gusts. It was an easy decision to land and wait for better conditions.
Mini-wings ruled the sky for the next hour or so. Steve showed up and left without flying. Most pilots with full size wings left, but Matt, Paulo, and I stayed for some more fun later in the afternoon. I hadn't really planned to fly, but was kiting along the dune on the beach and started skimming along a few feet off the beach. I was soon back up into the strong wind and had to spend most of my time staying out over the water. I finally decided I had enough "dancing with the devil" and packed my gear away for the day.
I was glad that only "regulars" showed up. It was a technical day and a good day to be cautious, which we all did. I'm starting to enjoy launching from the beach and know those skills will allow me to move north and south along the outer cape with less fear of sinking out.