Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pull the Plug

Davis, Richard, and I originally planned to fly to Arcadia.  However, as the day progressed we changed the task to Fantasy of Flight and back.

I was the first off and Mark dropped me into a strong climb that I rode to base.  Malcolm, Richard, and Davis weren't so lucky and had to piece together several weaker climbs to get up.  I waited around so we could leave together.

We started south but Davis pointed out several large cells to the east that were dumping copious amounts of rain.  The cells were building to the west, but, as we found out later, were mostly moving to the south.  We had to make a quick call and decided to return to the field before things got potentially messy.

I had a good landing and had my glider mostly packed up before the gust front swept across the field.

(No pictures today since I am preparing for the upcoming competition.)

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:11

Monday, May 04, 2015

Too Good to Pass Up

Everyone at Wallaby Ranch was waiting for the cloud field to the east to move overhead.  We waited and waited.  The edge of the cloud field slowly built west.  We waited longer.  Occasionally a cloud would appear overhead quickly evaporate.  We waited longer.  Finally a few clouds briefly appeared overhead just as a couple pilots got tired of waiting and pushed out to launch.  The crowd, including me, followed.

Everyone else seemed to be doing well, but I kept topping out low while others seemed twice as high at cloud base.  I would climb while drifting downwind, plow upwind and arrive low to do the whole thing again.


Still blue to the west

Going back upwind with Jason

Wallaby Ranch


I heard Mike and Jim leave from base to the north only to hear them quickly struggling down low.  That didn't help my confidence in the day.  Although higher, Jason and Felipe, were on the same discouraging program as me.

I was thinking I was on my last upwind slog, when Jason found a strong rowdy climb low to the east of the field.  I dove in and we climbed back-to-back nearly to cloudbase.

It was then that I noticed that the cloud field was directly overhead and looking insanely good.  I couldn't let such a line of clouds go untapped.  Jason followed while Felipe stayed to spend time with family.

Once I cruised off the line, I noticed the wind was now quite brisk (18 mph / 29 k/h).  Jason and I worked some short climbs and decided to move on.

We talked with Jim on the ground along Route 33.  Mike, fighting the headwind along Deen Still was ready to pull the plug.  We decided to end our flight at QuestAir since the wind was getting strong and we didn't have a retrieve.  I found a strong climb that put me into a position where I could then push upwind to a cloud that could get me into QuestAir.  If it didn't pay off, I would land along Route 33 below.  The cloud was working and I easily made it in with plenty of altitude.

One last climb?

Mark greeted me

Jason climbed in the same thermal and also made it in.  Leigh drove my car over to bring us back.  (Thanks Leigh!)

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:17, Distance: 22 miles

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Although I flew cross-country a lot during the Green Swamp Sports Klassic, I kept seeing the same locations (turn points) over and over.  I had hoped to do some sightseeing before the next competition, but the weather hasn't cooperated.  Although some knowledgeable pilots decided to pass, I was ready to go somewhere, even if I had to work for it.

The National Weather Service forecasted a moderate northeast wind that might become light north the further southwest we went.  I called a task from Wallaby Ranch, crosswind to the airfield at Lake Whales, then crossing downwind to Arcadia.  Jason offered his truck for retrieve and Paula offered to drive.  Aric, Jason, Fabiano, and I were ready to go.

Aric launched first in the group and was quickly established at cloudbase and left on course.  Meanwhile, I was dropped off in a solid, but weak climb, that very quickly left me downwind of course line and far from cloud base.  Fabiano flew over the join me, while Jason climbed over the ranch along course line.

Fabiano and I slowly climbed and drifted south.  We finally got high enough to make a tentative glide further south where we climbed enough to push back upwind and finally reach cloudbase and course line.

Wallaby Ranch (lower left)


Fabiano left along the course while I pushed upwind to a better cloud.  That move payed off well, setting up a string of cloud base hops that allowed me to catch up with Aric just north of Lake Whales.  We both watched sailplanes circle Bok Tower as a turn point.

Fabiano and Jason where approaching our position as the group floundered decision-wise.  There were no clouds due south, so no one liked that option.

Not promising (distance right)
There were only one or maybe two clouds on the original course to the southwest.  Aric meekly suggested going back, Jason didn't care, and everyone was to indecisive to make a bold commitment.  I finally said, I'm going with the original plan; we already have a driver rolling below us, the conditions might improve in front of us, and I was eager to explore some new terrain!

The first glide southwest after Lake Whales was long and smooth.  I finally found a climb after turning hard downwind to the west.  Aric and I climbed out, while Jason landed below us and Fabiano drifted further west.

Aric and I connected a few more climbs before I headed out into the blue near Wauchula.  It looked like Aric and I would land somewhere south of Wauchula when I stumbled into a weak low climb and decided to stay with it.  A late day convergence line was kicking off and we climbed back to newly forming clouds and began moving again.  We needed to follow the roads south, and, as expected, we had long smooth glides to the ground after leaving the line of clouds curving to the west.

I picked a nice large open field across from a house and committed to land there even though I was at 2500 feet (700 m).  There was no wind, no bumps, nothing.  It was like landing at 7:00am on a still morning (although it was almost 7:30pm).

I waved to the family across the road and started breaking down as the sun set and the moon rose.  The crew picked me up after dark and we stopped for food in town before heading back to the ranch.

Its days like this that keeps me flying hang gliders.

Flights: 1, Duration: 4:50, Distance: 77 miles