My Week at the Beach
Three Arches from Maxwell Launch,
I’ve been attending the Annual Oceanside Fly-In for years and have always had a lot of fun flying every years, so this year I decided to take a week off and fly my butt off. Instead, I got my butt kicked.
A good day for hangs off Maxwell. But none here. Just one bag pilot; me. It’s Thursday, April 26th, two days before the 2012 Annual Oceanside Fly-In and the wind is too strong for me to launch from Maxwell. Go figure.
Yesterday was gray and miserably wet; depressing.
This morning when I awoke the weather looked promising; onshore flow and blue sky. Not exactly what I’d expected after checking the weather forecasts; ninety percent chance of rain.
I puttered around making breakfast and checking my emails then booked on down to the vacant lot between Rosanna’s and the
. It was about when I broke out my extra small Ozone Addict. Its
rated for pilots 55 to 70 kg. I scale
in, buck naked, at about 84 kg. Needless
to say, “I’m over the top.” Fast
too. Not hang glider fast, but fast for
a bag. I acquired it from one of my
light weight flying friends, for high wind beach flying. I’m at the beach. And, the wind at Rosanna’s is southwest about
18 to 20 mph, or 40 to 44 kph, for those of you who prefer metric. Oceanside Community Center
Ross Jacobson glides by at Rosanna’s
I pulled up and kited to the southwest corner directly in front of Rosanna’s. Up I went, scratching along tight to the bank, decks and house fronts. I boated along to the south and back to the north for a few passes, testing the air; smooth, strong and cross from the southwest. I landed where I’d launched a few times before I became more adventurous. I flew to the north, out in front and over the beach parking lot where I attempted to bench up the southern face of Maxwell Head. The lift band was narrow, almost non-existent in front so I probed my way west to the southwest facing, salal shrouded slope at the point of the head and found some broader lift; fat low lift that you’d expect on a more horizontal slope. I didn’t want to get too high for fear of being blown to the north, so I flew to the west, out over the water toward the three arches, until I achieved a more manageable altitude, banked back to the east and the low sand bank and landed next to Rosanna’s; nice and easy on the vacant lot front.
While out over the water I recalled the pilot who had to be plucked from the frigid waters off
by the Coast Guard a few years ago. One
of her harness leg buckles would not open and as a result she became tangled in
her lines as she battled the pounding surge and her tenacious tentacled glider.
The Coast Guard Rescue swimmer had to cut her leg strap to free her. Recalling that close call I was glad I had
recently used graphite on all my carabineers and buckles in the event I might
end up in the water. It is the beach,
afterall. I’m thinking this is something
that should be done every few months, especially if flying near salt water and
sand; the beach. I’ve had trouble with
sticky buckles and carabineers in the past, fortunately not in an aquatic
My next launch from Rosanna’s I worked south, benched up above the new sewage treatment plant on the southwest facing, pine shrouded cliff face. From there I banked west to keep low and out front, eventually working my way to Happy Camp, Netarts and then to the Netarts boat harbor. The tide was really low, the channel into
narrow, surrounded by wet, dry and drying sand bars. The hues, colors, and
textures against the crystal clear waters of the bay, the blue pacific back
drop and Netarts Bay Cape Lookout four miles to the south,
were awe-inspiring. I considered jumping
the channel but figured the wind had too much south in it for the four miles of
dunes to be soarable. For years I’ve
been jonesing to catch a strong westerly and do just that; soar all the way to Cape Lookout and back again. As far as I know it’s only been done by hang
From above the boat harbor I turned back towards
Oceanside. My return trip was quick with the southwest
wind pushing from my port quarter. I had
to work to stay low, but not as hard as I did on my south bound route. Back at Oceanside
I buzzed the vacant lot, played the lift band, landed on the beach, kited to
the base of the cliff face and lifted back into flight again.
By the wind was picking up. I landed and had a cold one in Rosanna’s. A huge squall was forming on the distant horizon, heading my way, pushing wind in front of it. I opted to return to Kathy’s cabin for some lunch and to empty sand from the wings we’d kited with at Kiwanda last Sunday. Kathy’s cabin’s west facing yard is the perfect place for such tasks. I bundled the now sandless wings on the lawn and sat down for some nourishment and kept my eye on the conditions. The rain had started; big slow drops at first. I rushed to move the balled up wings indoors. As I closed the door the winds cranked, then the sky opened up and rain pounded down on
I watched as the horizon brightened up. By I was back in the air, out front of Rosanna’s. The wind had clocked around to the west and was now blowing straight in. I have to say that I much prefer a southwest direction over west when the conditions are strong. This time the lift band was much wider than it was when the wind was cross from the southwest. I found it much easier to escape the lift, earlier, when the wind was southwest. All I had to do was bank around to the north and would quickly loose altitude. With a strong west blowing the lift band was pretty wide and I didn’t have that same option. To bank 180 degrees from into the wind to down wind would put one in the town that is mostly power wires and buildings. Cross wind escapes help, but not nearly as much as down wind. I landed on the beach.
The west wind seemed to be fairly gusty when I next attempted to launch from Rosanna’s. I took a break and headed to the cabin to check for phone messages, make a few calls and add to my flight log.
Spring time at the beach can be very interesting and conditions do change fast. When I returned to Rosanna’s at about I hooked into my xs wing again, pulled it overhead and had a quickie to the beach. The wind had switched back to southwest and had backed down significantly. I hiked back up to the vacant lot and switched to my medium Niviuk Artik. The western horizon was clear out front with some squalls farther to the south that looked like they’d hit land south of
Cape Lookout. How quickly spring conditions change. I attempted to get down and land in the
vacant lot as it was obvious the wind had switched to west again and was
quickly picking up velocity. As I put my
left foot on grass I was hit with a gust and lauched up and back, and found
myself looking directly down the chimney of Rosanna’s, two stories above my
intended landing spot. I engaged full
speed bar and still was heading in the wrong direction. Looking behind me at the approaching rotor
zone down wind of Rosanna’s I noticed a tight triangle of space with not quite
enough space for my glider. I reached up
my outside A-lines as far as I could and pulled way big ears and was smacked
down between the power wires just south of and between Rosanna’s and the
Brewing In The Wind/Three Arch Inn. I only just barely managed to avoid all the
various power lines, and got rotored and spun into the concrete hard and
fast. I walked away. Actually, I limped. My wing tip hooked the corner of the front of
the building I’d crashed in front of. I
may or may not have a cracked rib, I definitely have a sore shoulder, a swollen
and bruised wrist, a small tear in my wing tip and two broken lines. A lesson I’d learned from my whitewater
kayak mentor years ago came in handy. “There’s always a door out; when you quit
looking for that door is when you’re in trouble.” That sage advice saved me from going in the
wires and taking out the power for Oceanside. Electric power, that is.
Friday, other pilots began to arrive. The wind again was too strong for bags to launch from Maxwell, and too cross for flying at Rosanna’s. As the day wore on a few pilots began flying. Hangs and one bag from Maxwell. Several bag pilots attempted Rosanna’s in a light mist. It worked a little, but could have been better if the wind would have only clocked around a little more to the west. It didn’t. I was pretty sore and, as a result, not very sociable.
Pete White flies away from Maxwell Launch. Three Arches in the background, offshore.
By the time Linda, Pete and I arrived on launch, it was packed with pilots, CPC event volunteers, tandem students, tourists; the curious. Lots of tandems were flown, most of them extended sled rides. It was a glorious day, with bright blue skies and light wind. I flew a tandem for the club and got in several passes south of launch before heading in for the beach. The winds were light. On the way back to launch Kathy, Lisa and Wendy were hoofing it up the road. At launch I contracted a couple CPC pilots, John Sargent and Dave Cantrell to fly Kathy’s friends and I flew Kathy. Again, these were short flights, but fun never-the-less. That’s pretty much how Saturday went.
Gannon Launch at
Sunday looked good and was forecast to be more of the same, only with NW wind. We’d be flying
Lookout. By the time we had
all eaten and cleaned up our breakfast dishes, Gannon Launch at Cape Lookout was packed, with cars parked along the road
for about a mile in each direction.
Those who arrived early were rewarded by nice soaring flights, some into
the marine cloud layer. Jeff Smith flew
out to the tip of Cape Lookout and set a
course to the south and landed on the beach south of Cape
Lookout. As I set up my
tandem the winds backed down. I did get
in line to launch a couple of times, but the conditions seemed too light and I
didn’t want another short sled ride.
Besides, I was pretty stiff and sore from my impact with the road
Thursday. Later in the afternoon,
several pilots headed south for and were rewarded
with some good dune soaring and kiting.
Kathy and I did one tandem flight at Cape Lookout and was having a good
time of scratching to stay in the lift
before a relatively new pilot launched without
checking the traffic in front of launch, forcing us to fly out of the limited
lift. Oh well. We went to a late lunch. Or was that an early
The rains moved in Sunday night. It’s Monday and the winds at
Oceanside are straight in from the west. It’d be perfect for Hangs from Maxwell and
for Bags at Rosanna’s. Too bad it’s
Two Weeks Post
: I’m still sore and it doesn’t help that I
keep kicking myself in the ass for attempting to top land in the vacant lot two
Thursday’s ago. I should have just
bailed out on the beach. My prognosis,
in hind sight, is: 1. I don’t bounce
as well as I did in the days of my youth, 2. Spring conditions at the beach are
extremely unpredictable. I misjudged the
instability. Just because there’s an absence of squalls on the horizon
apparently doesn’t equate to no gusts coming.
3. It’s best to have cross winds when the wind
is strong to fly when a down wind bail out doesn’t exist, as is the case at
Rosanna’s. 4. Smacking down on concrete hurts. 5. Flying is always a lot more fun when you have friends to share
the air with. 6. My enthusiasm about
the 2012 Oceanside Fly-In was dampened because of my injury from Thursday. It seems that everyone I talked with who had
attended the event had a lot of fun. In retrospect I did too and I’ll no doubt
be attending next year; one year wiser and a whole lot more cautious. 7. I’m left with the delusion of ‘youth
envy’; not a delusion? Maybe. Oceanside