Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Week at the Beach Oceanside, Oregon Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Week at the Beach
Oceanside, Oregon
Thursday, April 26, 2012

John Kraske

Three Arches from Maxwell Launch, Oceanside, OR

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 Oceanside Community Center.  It was about 10:30 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.

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 Cape Lookout 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 situation.

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 Netarts Bay 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 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 gliders.
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 1 o’clock 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 Oceanside.

I watched as the horizon brightened up.  By 3 o’clock 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 6:30 p.m. 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.

Saturday dawned with a light onshore flow and a promise of blue sky and sunshine. Kathy and her girlfriends would arrive at some point and that lifted my attitude. The forecast was for SW wind most of the day then turning NW later in the afternoon. I got up to the rental house and got the coffee on at about 7:30 and started prepping for breakfast.  Linda and Pete White helped me with breakfast and by the time Rob, Russel, Marius and Lucia were up scrambled eggs and fresh salmon steaks were ready to be devoured.

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 Cape Lookout Sunday Morning

Sunday looked good and was forecast to be more of the same, only with NW wind.  We’d be flying Cape 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 Cape Kiwanda 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 dinner?

The rains moved in Sunday night.  It’s noon 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 raining.

Two Weeks Post Oceanside: 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.

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