Friday, January 28, 2011

Playing at the Beach

I had my last flight of 2010 on November 14 at the outer shores of Cape Cod.  Randy and I shared the 3 hour early-morning drive.  We could have joined Jeff C, but he was on a mission set a new personal best for airtime and leaving in the middle of the night with him to launch at sunrise just didn't sound like fun.  It turned out that the winds were light and Jeff was still waiting to launch when we arrived.  With a little encouragement from us, Jeff was soon racking up airtime.

We knew it was going to be a busy day so we quickly rigged in the wind-shadow behind the bathrooms and my car on the other side of the road.  We waddled over to launch behind Johnny while Jeff and two paraglider pilots worked to stay up just north of us.  I launched into the buttery smooth coastal air from the base bar and floated to the top of the ridge.  I was immediately reminded that although it was soar-able, it wasn't foolproof.

 I was careful and climbed to a comfortable altitude where I could relax.

I flew north across a some minor gaps but didn't push beyond a large gap because I wasn't ready to land yet.  I turned back south and played with the ever growing crowd of pilots.  I liked chasing other pilots' shadows.  They would inevitably get nervous when my shadow merged with theirs.

I chased Johnny and Randy as well.

I was getting ready to cross the large gap and fly onto Highland Light before I watched Keith successfully cross the gap, turn around, and unsuccessfully try to make it back.

I decided to return south and dodge gliders instead.

Launch was still busy.

I finally had enough play time and crossed the large gap and flew further north.  I returned and repeated the trip to Highland Light with Randy.  Allen greeted us on the radio when we returned.  He offered to give us a ride if we wanted to land just north of launch where the beach was wider.  It was an offer too good to turn down so I buzzed spectators at the parking lot and a family walking on the beach before landing.

Allen was very patient as I packed up using, at least to him, a ridiculous amount of care to keep the glider and harness clean.  We made it back to launch in time to watch Randy land below in the quickly vanishing beach.

After hiking Randy's stuff up the dune, I hoped into Jeff's car and drove to the northern most extent of the soar-able dunes to pick up Jeff in the dark.  Jeff did snag a new personal best for airtime and the rest of us got a fun day playing at the beach.

Many pilots later posted pictures and videos taken that afternoon.  Some of those videos are available here, here, and here.

Flights: 1, Duration: 4:00, Distance: 18 miles (30 km)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leaf Sledding

Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts is one of my favorite sites, but this year the mountain has been stingy.  On September 26th of last year I had my second sledder there but at least it was over brilliant leaves.

I was also lucky to get off the hill before it started tailing.  The entire flight was less than 10 minutes.

I had plenty of time to kill waiting for a ride, so I took a walk to the waterfalls.

There was color everywhere.

I posted some footage from the flight on YouTube.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:09

Monday, January 17, 2011


On September 11th of last year I spent a sunny afternoon flying around Morningside, which is nestled on the east side of the Connecticut river valley south of Claremont NH.  I didn't know it at the time, but it would be the last time I would fly at Morningside with Jeff Nicolay as the owner and operator.

The weather continued its atypical late summer pattern by offering up good climbs to unusual heights.   With Rodger's help I rolled out behind Rhett.

 Rhett dropped me off over the house thermal cooking at the factories.

After a quick "thank-you" wave it was time to start circling up.

I kept climbing to 6500 feet (2000m) as Rhett towed the next pilot into the air.

Rhett and next pilot are the white specs to the upper left of my helmet.

I flew around the valley for the most of the afternoon playing with other pilots, birds, and debris sucked into the sky.  The best climbs were over the high ground to the east of Morningside.

I also did some sightseeing over the town of Claremont.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:57

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Friends keep reminding me that I missed several flights late last year.  Sorry.  The details about those flights are quickly fading away, but I do have flight logs and video to jolt my memory.

The forecast for August 27 looked almost too good for a day so late in the season.  I also remember nearly passing on the day due to family issues.  Somehow I ended up at Ascutney with Greg, Peter, Randy, and Ryan.  I launched first and started climbing. The others followed and we bounced around the mountain until Randy marked a stout climb over the towers.  I arrived at base first and quickly skirted the edge of clouds to the east.

Greg, who was a behind me, pointed out the blue sky further to the east and strongly suggested heading south along the Connecticut river instead.  I wanted to keep cruising at base but he did have a good point.  I aborted my joy ride and dove south into the blue.

I marked a broken climb as Greg and Randy came in underneath.  I lead out again to another area of broken lift south of the Claremont airport.  Greg arrived high enough to catch the tail-end of my climb, but Randy was served up the broken remnants.

Since I was higher, I offered to plow upwind to a small cloud to the west.  If I didn't find anything, we could meet up further south which would save them the detour and probably put us all at the same altitude.

I didn't find much under the dissipating cloud so I turned around and flew back downwind and to the south.  I didn't immediately see Greg or Randy, but headed for a section of the river that was shimmering with thermal-induced swirls and gusts.

I wrestled with a rough climb and waited for the rest of the team to show up.  Instead they were rapidly drifting away in a slow climb over Morningside, almost due east of where we split up.  Sigh.  I was at least two climbs away and unjustly upset that we didn't stick together.  I reversed course and flew back upwind to re-group.

I did join up with Greg, but Randy flew further and further into "dinosaur" country.  (Notice it isn't spelled "dino-soar".  There are few LZs and we generally avoid the area after landing back there once or twice.  I guess it was Randy's time to check it out.  ;-) )

Given my unusual state of mind, I finally told the group I was not "feeling it" and would land at Morningside after I had enough airtime.  I later watched Greg fight to get his glider onto the deck in very active conditions and watched Randy make close calculated glides to useable fields.  I bounced around from base to base over the high ground downwind of Morningside until I had enough and then took a long glide around the valley before landing at Morningside.

I remember this flight as one of only a handful of flights where my mood interfered with flying.  Luckily I have good friends that tolerate my foolishness quite well.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:18, Distance: 25.3