Springtime, end of the beach season


It looked like there might be various flying options for the weekend.  Sunday was looking like a W-NW day, which provides a lot of opportunities, and Saturday didn’t look very promising until late afternoon, when the wind at the beach was supposed to clock around quickly and be E-NE for a while.  Initially it seemed like that might be the case all afternoon, but it didn’t matter for early on because there was a high tide at 1:45, and we’d have to wait until there was enough beach to land on.  There was also initially some rain or snow on tap, but that dissipated, and it looked good for the evening.  Nobody seemed interested in trying except me — some were waiting for the mountains on Sunday, and others were driving south for WW Demo Days.

I had most of the day to get things done at home, then hit the road and arrived at White Crest Beach at 4 PM, which seemed weird.  We can fly at Wellfleet only in the winter, and with the season closing this coming week, this is about the latest sunset we ever get there; this is a site where it’s more common to arrive before dawn, set up in the dark, and launch as soon as it’s light.  There was a whole flock of paragliders in the air and in the parking lot when I arrived, but I checked the wind speed, and it was pretty wimpy for my needs.  I took my time setting up, and was pleased to be joined again by my old friend George, who came by to take pictures and keep me company.

About an hour and a half after I arrived, I noted that some of the paragliders were having some difficulty launching, which was exactly what I wanted to see: when it’s getting too strong for them, it’s getting good for me.  George provided guidance as I carried my glider across the road and out to launch.  There wasn’t quite enough wind to really do a tight-strap launch; although I could get the glider to lift off my shoulders, it was just barely.  Taking that into account, I started from back closer to the parking lot to give myself enough runway to get up some speed.  Telling George that there was about a 50% chance that I’d just be making a two-minute glide to the beach, I hollered “Clear” and charged forward.  It was enough, and I got myself up over the bluff into the lift band.

I headed up to Doane’s Bog Pond to get a sense of whether the lift was consistent, and decided that I’d be able to stay up reliably enough.  Turning around, I radioed to George that I was heading south, to Marconi or Nauset, depending on conditions. The radios weren’t working too well, so he heard me as far as Marconi, but then I was on my own. I felt comfortable with the amount of lift, so I made a run for the lighthouse.

The erosion of the bluff is inexorable, and when you’ve been away for a few years, you really notice how much it recedes. I could swear that there used to be an abandoned section of paved road on the edge of the bluff down near Nauset, but I couldn’t see any trace of it, other than maybe this telephone pole:

Up at White Crest, there was a big berm of sand on the edge of the parking lot, evidence that they truck it in to keep the parking lot from falling into the ocean. But it looks like they’re going to have to repair the stairs at Nauset Beach before the summer arrives:

When I got back to launch, the PGs were pretty much packing it up and the sky cleared out for just me. I made a trip up to Newcomb Hollow, then back to launch, where I did a few passes back and forth so that George could take some pictures. I decided to make one more trip up to Newcomb, then come back and call it a day. I was too casual when crossing Doane’s Bog Pond, though, and when I got to the other side, I realized I was too low. It’s easier at that point to keep going up to Newcomb, rather than to try and head back to the Beachcomber, so I stretched the glide out as long as I could, and then I was down. There was enough breeze that I was able to kite the rest of the way up the beach, then I carried it up to the parking lot, and started breaking down while I tried to reach George on either the phone or the radio, but with no luck. Fortunately for me, a couple of guys who happen to be kitesurfers were coming back from a walk on the beach, and offered me a ride back to my car. When they dropped me off, I quickly changed my jacket and put on a hat, then crossed the street and walked up behind George, who was wondering where I had gone. He came up with me in the car to fetch my glider, which was a big help because by that point it was getting pretty dark.

The flying window ended a few days later, and although at least one PG pilot got out there again, I was the last HG pilot to fly Wellfleet for the 2015-2016 season.

Flights: 1, airtime: 0:58

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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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