Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 2009 Oceanside Open Fly-In, By John Kraske

It’s January. We’re over the hump. Days are getting longer and it’s time to start thinking about the Annual Oceanside Open Fly-In. This is what I mark as the true beginning of the Northwest flying season. This year’s event is scheduled for the weekend of May 2, 2009, a little later in the spring than previous years.

Last year a lot of my flying compatriots checked the weather forecasts and opted out because of what they saw on the computer weather models as 60% chance of rain. They missed some fine flying.

The northern most seventy miles of Oregon’s coastline are my favorite haunts throughout the year; winter, spring, summer or fall. I absolutely love this area and all it has to offer. From the mouth of the Columbia River to the mouth of Nestucca Bay the scenery is breathtaking. Of course this coastline is longer than seventy miles by road, the seventy miles I refer to are “as the crow flies” - a straight line of longitude from Astoria south, a line of flight. I fly.

Unfortunately I don’t fly as efficiently as that proverbial crow or any other winged creature. Paragliding is my passion and this upper reach of the Oregon Coast offers multitudes of opportunities for the pursuit of my favorite way to dance with mother nature, especially when the weather forecasters predict southwest to northwest winds and, as often as not, somewhere in the range of sixty percent chance of rain. The rain usually arrives in cells known to mariners as squalls. These wind driven clusters of rain often push high winds in front of them. Once on-beach they dump their load, often stilling the effects of wind then move inland leaving behind lighter winds that are flyable. I refer to this as “squall surfing”. Of course, with approaching squalls, it is important to time one’s descent to beach before the squall driven wind arrives. I carry a large garbage bag I can stuff my wing in to keep it dry. If I feel a significant increase in the wind velocity, I know it’s time to “beach and bag”.

In my seventy mile haunt of coastline, Oceanside is roughly three quarters of the way south from the Columbia River. Last year on the first day of the Fly-In the winds were a bit too strong for Oceanside. I booked south to Tierra Del Mar, a seventy foot west facing launch that can access hundred foot high dunes that run about a mile and three-quarters south to Cape Kiwanda.

Soaring Cape Kiwanda. About a half hour drive south of Oceanside. Photo by John Kraske

Steve Forslund flying north towards Oceanside from Cape Lookout. You can see 3 Arches in the distance which is just offshore of Oceanside. Netarts Bay is to the right of the sand spit that separates the bay from the Ocean. The mouth of the bay is to the north. Across the spit is Happy Camp, an out and back destination from Oceanside. Cape Meares lighthouse is about 2 miles north of Oceanside and is also an out and back destination. Last year Joe Evans flew his Hang Glider from Oceanside to Cape Lookout and Back. With strong west winds and the right approach I think it can be done on a bag. The low west facing dunes run from the mouth of Netarts Bay approximately 5 miles to Cape Lookout. That’s a total of 8 miles from Oceanside. Photo by John Kraske

Tierra Del Mar. A half hour drive south of Oceanside. Photo by John Kraske

The winds were too strong there as well. I continued south to Bob Straub State Park where some lower dunes span south for four miles from Cape Kiwanda along Nestucca Spit. We “squall surfed” for several hours before heading back to Oceanside. The westerlies were dialing down and Oceanside was on. Several pilots were soaring high over launch, pushing north to Cape Meares and south to Happy Camp. One hang glider flew south to Cape Lookout, approximately ten miles.

Soaring above the Three Arches at Oceanside. Photo by Debi Hoffman

If the conditions this year are similar to last year, my goal is to cross the mouth of Netarts Bay from north of Happy Camp and scratch the west facing dunes on Netarts Spit to Cape Lookout. There are some significantly larger dunes at Bay Ocean, 5 miles north of Oceanside that are awful inviting on a west wind day as well. Bay Ocean is a 4.5 mile spit of land that makes Tillamook Bay a bay.

To my friends who missed last year at Oceanside: “Don’t let those computer weather models fool you. West winds with sixty and even a higher percentage of predicted rain can still produce some really fine flying on the Oregon Coast. There are lots of options.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Launching Into The New Year. By John Kraske

Other than ending 2008 with a speeding ticket from a Montesano City Cop on my standard route to the North Oregon Coast, last year ended up not too bad. My 2009 started out with some great flying fun on the Oregon Coast on January 2nd, having just sort of vegged away on the 1st, recovering from the mad I had going over being bagged by what I thought was a pretty deceptive way to raise funds for the municipality of Montesano, Washington. Heading down to Oregon to bring in the New Year, I exited highway 12 at Montesano. You come off of the highway 12 off ramp to get on hwy 107 (the Montesano Cut), stop at the stop sign then accelerate across the north bound lane to get in the south bound lane. Turns out the speed limit there is 25 mph, even though it is outside the main part of the town and almost immediately turns into a 55 mph zone. A modern form of highway robbery, sanctioned by the city of Montesano. A word of warning to all of you who might take the 107 cut to destinations south along the coast. Beware of the Montesano Municiple Bandits.

From my perch in a small cabin in Manzanita, January 1st was looking like a rainy, blustery day not fit for flying. Even the pelicans were hunkering down, earth bound. So, rather than chase around for some dry air and less chaotic winds, I chose to stay in and tap into my creative inner resources and produced a cream of watercress and pumpkin seed soup. It turned out pretty good and took the edge off my Montesano Mad-On.

Friday, the Second, looked a little more promising. The weather forecasts called for relatively light northwest winds. Just right for Cape Lookout, (also known as Andersons). I packed my gear and headed south. I drove my little civic thru several areas of high water over the road. At Tillamook I was detoured around a closed portion of highway 101 and got to the launch at Cape Lookout as 3 hang gliders were setting up. The western horizon looked pretty ominous and the wind was coming in a little cross from the southwest. One hang launched and was up and over Netarts Bay to the south and east in no time flat. It looked to me like he had taken a little left wing tip dip on his way off launch which made me a little concerned about cross rotor from the south. I waited with the other two hang pilots. One took off and the third just decided not to. I was hoping one of the local bag pilots would show up and show me the way. Brad and Maren finally arrived and collectively we decided to jam south to Kiwanda. The wind at Kiwanda was a little too light and cross from the west/northwest. We mulled around a bit and Brad set up on the west facing slope just south of the beach access road. Sledder. A definite launch for a west wind though. I had a wild hair to give Tierra Del Mar a chance and scratched my way back up that knarley-
assed-access road in my low riding civic.  

At Tierra I got my wing out and ready just in case. The western horizon was filled with squall lines that seemed to be hovering on the verge of a shoreline assault. I’d guess these ominous looking beasts were at least fifteen to twenty miles off shore. It was much darker to the southwest and you could see some blue, just a little, to the northwest. It looked to me like we would be getting some wind soon. I watched the trees and bushes to the east above the highway and they seemed to be moving in the winds a little more as time ticked on. I got on my phone and called Brad and Maren and suggested they come on back to Tierra. They were picking up Joe, one of the local hang pilots, who had launched from Cape Lookout earlier and had just landed south of Cape Kiwanda at the Pelican Brewery. Joe was just finishing up his first beer. I set up and hooked in just as KC and Dave arrived. I pulled my wing up and kited just to feel what I perceived was an increasing wind and a somewhat solid lift. Brad and Maren arrived so I opted to wind dummy. It felt to me like the lift was just right there on the border of ‘sink to the beach’ and ‘maybe scratch and up’. I got lucky and was soon soaring up and over the road, around the corner to the northwest facing bowl above the wetlands. I scratched around the corner hoping to find enough lift to achieve an altitude equal to the highest houses above in Nantucket-Shores development. I didn’t quite make my goal and swung back around the point and came into land just as everyone else was clipping in. A couple more CPC pilots showed up and pretty soon there were six to eight wings in the air.

Tierra Del Mar is just a mile or so north of Cape Kiwanda with a west facing pine tree shrouded sand cliff that varies in height and direction as it runs south to Cape Kiwanda. This ridge, I’d guess, is anywhere from sixty to a hundred plus feet in height. The launch at TDM is about thirty or forty feet above the beach. Normally TDM works on a west wind, but due to the cold dense air on this day it worked with a Northwest wind.

Soaring south along this ridge there’s a Northwest facing bowl just north of the beach access road to Kiwanda, and a little rock cape that sticks out to the west. Flying from the north I could see the pine trees whipping at the top of the ridge and knew there’d be lift. It was like hitting a brick wall. The lift band stopped my downwind momentum dead and shot me vertical like a rocket. A little decerning but way fun once I got used to it, and a great place to get some altitude. From several hundred feet above the beach I attempted to run south to Kiwanda but kept turning back to check my penetration. A couple of the CPCers flew down to the Cape and back again. Because the wind was fluxuating in velocity and those ever threatening squalls loomed large on the western horizon I didn’t get all the way down to the Cape. I did cross the access road a couple of times but before I got too far away from Tierra I would check my forward penetration back to the north. At one point I just about didn’t make it. I guess I’m getting lazy and didn’t want to hike off the beach. Especially after flipping Brad sh_ _ for sinking out, after he gave me the raspberries about putting my Niviuk wing in a garbage-bag (my technique for protection from rain squalls during squall surfing days). Brad suggesting that Niviuk are garbage wings, I couldn’t help by respond with, “we’ll see.” Brad flies Ozone (to the beach, I might add). Just good fun banter with flying friends. Still I didn’t want to eat any of that stuff I had fed to Brad earlier. I did get some nice photos of Brad on the beach though. Besides, I’d never presume to be a better beach pilot than Brad, so it must be the wing. Or, maybe it was just my lucky garbage bag.

I’d say we had well over an hour of flying time before the winds picked up. Out on the western horizon I’d watched numerous squalls build into what looked suspiciously like forming cyclones. These little virga monsters would dance along the horizon, looking like they were anxious for an attack on any foolish two-leggeds attempting to be flying creatures. Once the wind became too threatening I headed in to land. Dave on his higher performance wing landed after me coming in deep on full speed bar. Tierra Del Mar is a slightly sloped bench that drops vertically about thirty to forty feet to the beach. The horizontal bench that serves as the launch runs from the west/northwest facing cliff face back about a hundred yards and is covered with waist to shoulder deep Scotch Broom. Dave’s approach was a little dicey and he took a pretty large frontal but pulled out of it just as he hit the tangle weeds. Brad suggested that he come in on “ears” instead. A reduced angle of attack in rotor will almost certainly make a wing more vulnerable to a frontal colapse. Obviously.

With the wind amping up everyone decided to head for Kiwanda and some sand soaring. I opted to head north and give Joe the hang pilot a ride back to his rig at Cape Lookout. On our way north there were a bunch of emergency vehicles with lights flashing just north of Tierra Del Mar. Apparently they were responding to a hang glider that had gone down in the woods east of TDM. Joe got on his radio. The downed pilot was okay and was hiking out. Tomorrow was another day, forecast to be southwest winds with a ten to twenty percent less chance of rain than this day. I was thinking Neahkahnie or Ecola.

The morning of January 3 waxed blue with beautifully feathered waves breaking along the beach at Manzanita. My inner surfer wished I had brought along my surfboard or surf shoe. The winds were blowing offshore but were forecast to switch to southwest. I bundled up and walked the beach to the base of Neahkahnie. A beautiful morning. After my hike I touched base by phone with several of the local pilots. It turned out I was the site scout designee. Several Portland pilots were opting for Oceanside. Ancil’s car was in the shop and he wouldn’t be coming. I called Brad and Maren who were possibly going to hit Ecola or maybe Neahkahnie, depending on my reports. Kim Smith had called me earlier and was on his way down with Cathy, but were opting for Oceanside. We’d be in touch. By eleven o’clock I was at Neahkahnie with wind blowing directly into launch, but cranking at over 14 mph. I rushed up to Ecola. The wind was a great direction, but nuking at up to 20 mph. I made my phone reports to everybody. Kim Smith reported light south winds at Oceanside with Reed setting up to launch. I made the hour plus long drive south. The flood waters from the day before had subsided and it was a clean shot all the way to Oceanside. Just as I rounded the curves and came into view of Maxwell Mountain (the launch) two yellow wings were descending to the beach. Too south and maybe too light, I thought. I parked at launch and walked out to watch Sarge launch and lift on his bright orange Airwave. I dashed back to my little civic and pulled my garbaged-bagged Niviuk Artik out and was in hot pursuit of Sarge. Pretty soon there were about ten wings in the air. Sarge got cold and headed for the beach. I came in and top landed which was a piece of cake in the laminar six to ten mph south wind. Cathy Smith was setting up to launch but was feeling a little “new site anxiety” and taking her time. She let me go ahead of her and I was soon soaring once again. What a beautiful day! I cranked out one more top landing and launched again. By now I was the only wing in the air. I soared around for awhile, enjoying the view then decided to head for the beach. I was beginning to feel the catabatic influence setting up. I landed on the beach and bummed a seat with the CPC pilots back up to fetch my little civic. Only about an hour long window of flying on Saturday, but hey, it doesn’t get any better than that on the second and third days of a new year.

Sunday the Cascade Paragliding Club pilots had an hour long window flying at Cliffside on the Columbia River. I had a ten hour road trip adventure in the pounding snow. Driving up the Washington side of the Columbia to Willapa Bay I was turned back at Raymond by the county cops. Highway 101 was closed going north. I opted for State Route 6, a dark and windy stretch between Raymond and Chehalis. I creeped along at 25 mph in the driving snow. Just another adventure to cap off the beginning of 2009. By all accounts, it looks like its going to be a good year.

Photos courtesy of John Kraske
[Pelicans hunkering down]
[Jim Baldo above Nantucket Shores development]
[Neahkahnie from the beach]
[Hang Glider launching at Cape Lookout]

PREZ SEZ Year End – 2008

PREZ SEZ Year End – 2008
By President Tom Allen

It’s been a year of great flights, the loss of two friends and fellow pilots, and many challenges that were met by the help of our members.

We have several members that have put in a tremendous amount of time for the NWPC and/or improving our sites this year.Ashley Guberman is one that put in countless hours on the key initiative, upgrading our website, doing the leg work that allowed the club to vote on issues, standing up for the membership’s financial interests and giving time at most of the events that required volunteers.

Amy Heim has put in hours and money organizing events that helped the club earn the funds that have been spent maintaining and improving Tiger and other several other sites. She isn't even a pilot. We thank Rick Hubbard for the tremendous amount of time involved in finding and installing the expansion of the Astroturf on North launch, and maintaining the Poo Poo Pt. outhouse with some other low life help. Rick is also the one that did the repairs on the trailer when the tongue was broken. Paying for that would have been several hundred dollars. Rick has also done almost every welding job on Mike’s trucks when they start to come apart.

Kevin White has put in time repairing shuttle vehicles, in less than ideal conditions, in a time frame that usually requires lots of cash to be paid out. He did a wonderful job organizing and making the Women's fly-in at Chelan one of the best. Steve Accord’s invaluable help at the Tiger fly-in, his help with the Tiger Shuttle communications and his timely updates from his window at Costco are much appreciated. Chirico gave the club at least $1,500 dollars worth of tandems and also flew all day at our fly-in, as did several other tandem pilots. Marc and Lan also provide power, chairs and shade at the Tiger fly-in, along with many of the tools for the work parties.

Greg Newhall found us at least a $1,000 dollars worth of tires and rims as a donation from Shuttle Express when Mike’s tires where slashed. Bob Hannah has certainly stepped up this year and helped Mike Miller on several occasions and allowed the shuttle to operate. He also helped with maintaining the Tiger logging road. James Bender cleared the Tiger logging road for us during last winter’s wind storms and has provided us with the south launch relief station, much appreciated by many. And I still look at our kiosk as something that could only be a gift - we sure couldn’t have purchased a piece of art like that.

Kurt, Bob, Marc and all the others that drove the shuttle and gave up their flights during Mike’s absence. Sid Lindquist made a tremendous upgrade of parking at Tom Wake’s place or the Blanchard LZ. He not only spearheaded the project, provided the expertise and equipment, performed the work with the help of many of the Boundary Bay pilots, “North Guys”, but also fronted the money for the project. I’m not sure he isn’t still holding the bag on the money issue. Lynn Bentley organized the Baldy Fly-in again this year, building it into a major event with assistance from Bob Bunger, Naomi and Peter Gray, and of course Rich Hass. Lynn has also spent many hours in her continued work trying to secure McDonald as a site.

Rich Hass has spent many hours and dollars representing us at the national level with USHPA. He also has dealt with many of the operational and personality issues in the NW. And he got into this for enjoyment? Special thanks to the Flying Scotsman and Flying Pastor - Iain Frew and David Norwood - for their continued communications and promotion of the sport in such a positive manner.

I know I’ve missed contributors. Please let our community know those that made a difference to you in 2008.

May the thermals be large and the ridge lift abundant for your flights in 2009. I would also ask that you please join us for the NWPC Awards Gala January 23 for memories of flights, friends and a few deserved awards.

Tom Allen for the NWPC