Crosswinds

Wednesday looked like good conditions at Wellfleet — except for the rain. Thursday was going to be dry, but the wind would start out cross and maybe a bit strong. Fortunately, the tide would be low mid-day, and we could wait for it to get good. Several people were interested, but nobody who I could easily carpool with, so I headed out by myself. Matt M called when I was on the road and said it was blowing straight in at 17-22 mph. Awesome. When I got there, further observation had indicated that it was crossing from the north some of the time, but the waves were coming straight in, and they were pretty big (note the tiny person down by the water in this picture for comparison).

Keith B was already in the air, but Matt had been taking his time setting up in order to be sure there was enough room on the beach to land comfortably. I started putting my glider together right away, and around the time I was done, Matt was ready to go, so a couple of PG pilots (who were hanging around waiting for the wind to abate) helped me wire him off. The two of them were doing fine, so I finished getting preparing, and Nick C and Rodger F showed up just as I was ready to go. I hadn’t done this in a while, but it was a straightforward launch. I let the strap go tight and moved to the control bar before moving, then took a single step and just hovered there for a moment, before pulling in and moving very slowly forward.

The wind was maybe as much as 45 degrees cross, and I was heading into it and making very little forward progress. Since I had the Falcon, flying faster wasn’t too productive (when you pull it on a Falcon, it doesn’t really move faster forward, it just sinks faster). I mulled over the option of just landing right away in order to avoid getting myself into trouble, but there wasn’t any risk of getting pushed back over the ridge, it was just a matter of not being able to penetrate northward. I pushed on, got a feel for where the lift band was, and stuck with it, going as far upwind as the little pond, then ran downwind (fast!) to Marconi Station. Turning northward again, it was very tough going, and I thought I was about to sink out a couple of times. A couple of PGs were flying, but they were launching from the beach and staying low, flying just a few feet above the sand.

Nick and Rodger joined us in the air, and I did a few more laps of the central part of the ridge, once making the jump at the pond and turning back at Newcomb Hollow. When everybody headed north (maybe trying for the lighthouse?), I joined them for a while, but stopped to wave to a pedestrian on the beach who spread her arms and walked in joyful circles, emulating the fliers above. After that, I tried jumping the pond again, but I didn’t start with enough altitude, and when I got to the far side of the gap, I was a hair too low to grab the lift, and sank out to the beach after almost 90 minutes in the air.

I tried relaunching a couple of times, backing the glider up to the low ridge in front of the pond, and hoping I could get just enough lift to bootstrap myself to the bigger ridge, but I wasn’t able to exercise enough skill to pull off that trick. Instead, I resigned myself to the situation, packed up the glider, and carried everything back about 1500 yards down the beach to Cahoon Hollow, where I left the gear in the restaurant parking lot and jogged back to get my car. The others landed not too long afterward, mostly back near launch, except for Matt, who sank out up at Ballston Beach and hitched a ride back.

The wind had backed off enough by then that the PGs were soaring above the ridge (except for the inexperienced ones on the beach who appeared to be wrestling with their gliders under supervision). Just before I left, I met Alan S, who was coming back after a three-year break. We hucked him off and helped him back up the bluff a couple of times — he said that he just wanted to do some sledders to get the feel of things, and because the wind was lighter by then, that’s what he got.

Well, I’m back.

flights: 1, airtime: 1:26, XC distance: 2.5 km

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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