In some internet discussion, I had said I was heading down to Florida on April 1, and when I didn’t show up, I guess Tom concluded that it was just an April Fools joke. But I really did, although it was pretty late by the time I got to Quest, and I just pitched my tent without even bothering with the rain fly and crawled in to sleep. Very nice to have it warm enough to be able to sleep outside like that — when I left home, there was still a foot of snow in my yard, and all of the lakes were frozen.
My first order of business when I woke up was to pull my glider out of the storage unit and get it set up, then I went out looking for breakfast. The early morning fog/overcast lifted, and we waited around for the sky to look encouraging. A few people put their gliders on carts, but nobody was psyched enough to ring for a tow pilot for a while. There were a number of fellow pilots from the northeast who had been there for a couple of weeks, so I chatted with them about how things had been going.
It got to the point where I was thinking that I ought to step up for a tow, because it looked good, and I didn’t want to wait until it was too good, such that I’ve have a challenging tow in strong thermal conditions. At the some time, I figured that the collective local wisdom was probably better than my naive judgment. Armand went up in his Swift and headed off XC to the north, but that wasn’t necessarily an encouraging sign, because nobody else had the performance of his wing. For those who may be unfamiliar with the Aeriane Swift (I had never seen one in person before), it’s not exactly a hang glider, but more of a tiny sailplane.
Polka dots — must be Keith B’s glider!
A few pilots started taking tows and not sticking, but when somebody managed to stay up, everybody started getting in line. It was nice and warm, somewhere in the 80s, I’d suppose, and couldn’t face the idea of putting on long pants, it was going to be hot enough in the launch line with a jacket on. I got the pink tow plane, with Jim piloting, and the tow went on for a long time, making me think that he was taking me up extra high. That was partially true, but mostly that tug is just kind of slow. He dropped me off in a reasonable climb, and I gained about 750 feet before I lost it. There weren’t all that many other gliders in the sky to mark the lift, so I headed for the best bet, a cloud to the west that had a couple of wings under it. I was at about 2400′ when I got there, and rather downwind of the field, so I had to consider the possibility that if this didn’t work out, I’d have to land in one of the fields below. Fortunately, they looked pretty good, and I was scoping out which ones were free of things like cattle. But that thermal was good for over 20 turns and 3000 feet of altitude, and I burned out of there when my view started getting a little misty. Now I was about 4 miles downwind of the LZ, but from cloudbase, I had plenty of options. Continuing cross country probably would have worked out fine; Keith B headed out for a 10 mile flight without getting above 4000′, and I was about 1500′ above that, but I instead picked a couple of promising looking clouds closer to home and tried my luck there.
My next climb was a little south of the field, and I got up to the top floor again, this time a couple of hundred feet higher as the clouds gradually rose. Unlike my previous trip to Florida, this was a weekday, so there were fewer other wings in the sky to mark the lift. I headed for a cloud off to the SE, but it wasn’t working, so I headed back to the field and got a climb right over the clubhouse, then joined a couple of other pilots in one a little to the west. I didn’t find anything after that, and worked my way down, spotting Tom ahead of me in the pattern.
I slid in behind him, and not long after that, most of the other pilots landed as well.
flights: 1, airtime: 1:29