It took all week to get this flight, three rainy days and two mornings at the field. Yesterday was a washout. The sky’s were blue except for one little cell parked over The Meadows. It was calm and the air would have been butter, except that every time I found a dry spot to set-up, the sky would open and start sprinkling.
Like yesterday, I woke up before the alarm and was at the LZ by first light. Yesterday it was rain, today the challenge was wind. I knew it was going to be iffy this morning because last night, the apps were forecasting a breeze between 6 and 10. I was betting on less than more.
At 6:00 it was blowing 7, gusting to 12. I set-up hoping to launch between the gusts. Previously I’d attached the chase cam three feet in from the tip, on a “D” line, so that it wouldn’t crash into the rig during landing. The GoPro mounts, as configured, only allows for straight forward positioning. So…. I attached to the center right, “C” line and then, positioned the cam for launch, in front of the wing, it was right in the middle with the line flaked out to run. I envisioned it would begin loading the line just before the wing was fully overhead.
The video corroborates this and the cam goes to its flying station quickly. On the other hand, videos of the arrow cam show it swinging wildly before it settles down.
The launch was interesting. I’d noticed that the wing was turning 20 degrees to the right after inflation. But I didn’t “get it”. My wall was consistently forming straight down the runway and that was my intention. When I started the launch it came up fast and turned 20 degrees to the right. Go Figure? Then, when I applied some brake to dampen the surge, I felt the rig jerk back and the front wheel pop up a few inches So … we turned 20 degrees to the right. I rolled through the cul de sac and onto the field. The breeze was a big help, I was up shortly after applying power.
It was twitchy and bumpy up to 700 feet and even then, it was bumpy. I took a few laps to test the camera but there wasn’t a lot of incentive to keep flying. The sky had lost all the color from its earlier glory and there was a very serious possibility of rain so I turned back to the LZ.
The landing was great except that the wing decided to keep flying despite what I though was a wing dropping flare. It floated happily overhead in the breeze while the cam swung forward lightly tapping the cage. When the wing is flying the camera is hanging straight down it is almost exactly in the thrust line.
Reviewing the video; the new cam works fine . It doesn’t seem to fly much different than my old arrow cam. It does have more drag which makes it fly higher and farther back. I remember looking over my shoulder and being able to see the arrow flying off to my side like a tiny wingman, this one is out of view. I’m going to review older videos for comparison. I don’t think the drag is a problem. I do, remember the time I picked up my big wind indicator complete with gallon jug and lots of colored tape. I didn’t even notice it was there, so the asymmetric drag shouldn’t be a problem.
I think it was a more interesting perspective with the cam off to the side. Several viewers assumed the video was being shot by a second pilot. Next flight I’ll move the attachment point out a little farther from center and find a way to point the camera in toward the rig.
Probably the best thing was getting off a high wind launch. I’ll get a lot more airtime if I can get past being freaked out by a little breeze. It would take a lot to turtle the rig.
Two offshore Regattas and a kick ass Dive in Key West
The Bone Island Regatta is actually 2 races. The first race is A southern sprint from either Naples or Sarasota to Key West. The second is called the Return to Reality Regatta and it goes north back to our respective starts.
Playmobil, was a C&C 110 out of Punta Gorda. On the Tuesday prior to the race, the owner,( Jay Nadelson), and I, delivered the boat to the Naples Yacht Club. We left his house Tuesday morning shortly after 7:00am and mostly motor sailed. We arrived about 5:30 that evening. Don MacAlpine kindly provided us a shuttle home. During the delivery I had time to explore the boat and spend a few minutes on the wheel. Playmobil features V-Pro sails and a carbon rig. It is a serious racing boat with a beautiful cabin and lots of amenities. We made the Naples Jetty about 5:00p. The canal has a 30 mph speed limit and it seemed like every other boat was wake-ing us. I was reminded of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddy Shack, wrecking havoc while cranking and banking around the Yacht Club, The difference was…. we were the ones, getting, “No Respect”.
During the start I watched our competitors, Fancy Free and Southern Cross. Southern Cross is a Mereck designed 46′, it sported a tall rig , and a center mounted grinder? Fancy Free is about the same size as us with an expensive suite of Carbon Sails. Both are faster boats that owe us handicap time. Southern Cross owes 1 1/2 hours and Fancy Free 15 minutes for the first leg.
The skipper of the Southern Cross is a big boxy guy with a mop of blond hair, I decided, for no good reason other than from what I cold see from 200 feet. That he was might try to bully us. No good reason, except that it seemed to fit and as the race progressed my initial impression proved correct. The start was clean, with Playmobil getting off first, Fancy Free second and Southern Cross not far behind. No question about it, Southern Cross was a fast boat and it passed both of us shortly after the start. Fancy Free on the other hand is a pretty good match and we paced each other until nightfall.
That evening a beautiful full moon came up and the winds came down. We struggled through the night to keep the boat moving. Jay and Bob had the first watch from 8 till 11. Don and I went below to rest before it was our turn. I was awakened about 10:30 when Jay lost course and spun the boat. We all joked about losing situational awareness and sure enough, I made the same error a couple of hours later. One minute we were drifting along counting our speed in yards per minute and the next I was pointing 180 off course in irons. Looking back, I should have called for some help and set the whisker pole to maximize the little air we had. I don’t think it would have won us the race but it would have made driving the boat a little easer.
When the sun came up, so did the winds. At Sunrise, we were closing on the entrance to the North West Approach. It’s a tricky narrow course and it was hard to see the marks. Against an 11 knot wind, we made 17 tacks, with the big Genoa, to reach the finish. This was the best sailing of the trip. The four of us were in good sync and every tack was a little better than the one before. The finish line consisted of three people standing at the sea wall with a flag, I smiled when Bob Sween calmly announced that he could hear the screaming of the crowds.
We lowered the sails and made our slip at the Galleon Marina. After putting the boat away the four of us shared a dockside breakfast. The big question on everybody’s mind was how we placed. What had happened after dark? Were the others caught in the same black hole as us? There was no sign of Fancy Free or the Southern Cross, we assumed that they had finished before us, But…….by how much? We broke as a crew to pursue our own devices, but not before making plans to meet at the Regatta Party later that evening. After a little housekeeping, I rented a scooter and cruised Duval Street. Key West seemed so different to me compared to the last time I was here. The streets seem smaller and I could barely recognize some of the more popular clubs and bars. I’m sure they were exactly the same as before. A lot of water under the bridge. So many issues have run their course and resolved. Not to say everything is perfect, but my head is in a much better place than my visit in 2010. Its all good.
On a whim I stopped at a couple of dive shops and ended up booking a dive for the next morning.
That evening we had cocktails at the Galleon Tiki Bar and dinner at the Commodore Restaurant. We were entertained by a table of Irish Gents in their cups. After most excellent lobster dinner I motored my scooter around and enjoyed the energy on Duval St. Its like no other. The walkways were as dense with visitors as Vegas or Bourban St. in New Orleans and there were a few drunks stumbling around but Key West has a flavor all it’s own. I like it.
Awake at 6:30, I quickly pulled together my stuff and walked down the dock enjoying the dawn and sniffing the air for fresh coffee. I found a seat by the walk where I could watch some sport fishermen preparing for the day. At 8:00 I checked in at the dive shop and picked up my dive computer. The first person I saw was an elderly guy in short shorts and bandanna. I guessed he must be OK, because even though he was moving slow you could tell, he knew, what he was doing and where he was going. A few minutes later the skipper arrived and we selected my gear. Its all good!
During the dive briefing, I discovered that this wasn’t just a small wreck in 30 feet of water. The Vandenberg is a 10,000 ton troop transport 522 feet long and 72 feet wide and 100 feet tall with a 25 foot draft. During its last deployments it was configured as an Advanced Range Instrumentation Ship (ARIS) with three large antennas topside. It was sunk in 2009 to create an artificial reef in 120 feet of water.
We were lucky, there were only 6 divers booked and the boat could hold 30 plus. The older gent mentioned above, turned out be Denny, an 82 year old with many hundreds of dives. He is a legend around here, and Franco Piacibello, also a Key West legend, a master photographer and well known saxophonist. The other divers were Claudia and her husband Ray who were from the D.C. area and two other gents I didn’t get to know. Franco asked and I planned to dive with him but shortly after getting into the water the master tugged on my fins and indicated we should Buddy up.
We descended to 30 feet and picked up a line that would take us to midship. I let some air out of my BC and holding the GoPro in one hand and the decent line in the other I began to glide down toward the ship. Wow! There it was. Visibility was good but not good enough to see the entire ship. We arrived slighty aft of midship and headed toward the Kingpost that was the highest point. Descending toward the balloon launch deck I flew over the massive radar discs. The outer skin was gone and what remained was the skeleton of disk, it was covered with growth, and looked like the product of a giant, obsessive compulsive sea spider. I followed the master diver along what might otherwise be called the lido deck, to an open bulkhead a third of the way to the stern. We entered a large open space that spanned the width of the ship. I think it was the Balloon hanger. At one end there was a second level and half of it was open to the sea overhead. On the port side there was a 80-100 pound grouper hanging out, he slowly exited the ship as we approached. From there we passed through the Balloon Hanger to the gym space. Then we reentered the ship and followed the corridor and stairs down to the carpenter and paint shop. It had been stripped of everything except a bench bolted to the center space. I hunkered down and spent a little time using the flashlight examining the area. There were the beginnings of stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. Right now, it was just pliable sea growth, but I could imagine, if left undisturbed, it could grow into something to behold. There was a workbench bolted to the floor and I envision the sailor standing there working on a project. The master diver beckoned and I followed him to the far side opening. Once outside we followed a flight of stairs up a deck to another space where I could see light from several large openings. We slowly worked our way down and through the ship traveling toward the stern. After crossing several frames we emerged below the fantail through an opening by the transom. From there we moved back to midship where we picked up the mooring and made for the surface. Bottom time was 17 minutes at 102 feet with a 10 minute decompression stop.
The video is mine….
Music by Lannie Garrett
the stills were shot by Franco.
I got the Sketchy…He got the Beauty.
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The second dive was much like the first except that we explored the forward areas of the boat. Some penetrations were surprisingly tight, with narrow corridors and lots of 90 degree turns. At one point the master handed me his light, I didn’t know why but was happy to have it and kept it mostly on the master as he led me through the labyrinth. I remembered reading of deaths in sunken ships. How divers got tangled in fallen wires or wedged into a space they couldn’t extract themselves from. I was breathing like a steam engine on the first dive thinking about all the ways I could kill myself but by the middle of the second I was back to sipping air and enjoying myself. This ship was safer than most wrecks, before she was sunk the Vandenberg was completely stripped of moving hardware, all the bulkhead doors were removed and the wires had been pulled. There was no glass to debris to complicate our dive. One diver called it an underwater “Jungle Jim”, and while I think I’m beyond playground equipment I certainly enjoyed this one!
GoPro footage is mine. The stills were by……Franco Piacibello, Key West Legend, Musician and Photographer extraordinaire.
Beautiful calm morning
1hour 36 minutes
avg altitude 1000 ft.
Great Flight! My definition of a cross-country is launching at one place and landing at another. It is usually a longer flight. Well this wasn’t officially a cross country but it did cover some miles.
After the blowout at Lake Wales it was a pleasure to get in a nice long flight. I followed a triangle course from Shell Creek to Arcadia Airport and back via Red Neck Yacht Club and Tracks and trails.
The most interesting feature was Carlstrom Field. It was built in the early part of the last century to train pilots for WWI and later WWII. Back in the day it sported a circular runway for the old bi-planes. Imagine that?
Over the years it was a juvenile detention facility and insane asylum. After being abandoned for several years it was sold for 2 million dollars to a motor sports company who were going to use it for a rally car track. I did see one video on YouTube of a little rice burner, tearing around the abandoned buildings. The asphalt roads are in poor shape, too narrow and not laid out for good racing. From the air it looked much better. Maybe they are going to spend some money and do it up. I’ll bet the old runway would be fun for a few laps.
This morning at 4:47am, my darling bride woke up smelling gasoline. Fearing for our safety, she prudently woke me up so we could search out the toxic fumes that would snuff our lives if not discovered.
No obvious culprits presented themselves. I opened the sliders and we moved to the garage thinking perhaps a fuel can had spilled. I had my doubts but Dawn was sure the cause of the odor was coming from the bed of my truck.
Well… There was nothing else to do, I opened the garage and rolled the truck under a clear, calm pre-dawn Sky. With the offending vehicle out of the house the danger was past, so, Dawn went back inside, and hopefully…..back to bed.
I climbed up into the back of the truck and checked for a gas spill. After all, I had a brand new wing and I’d hate to damage it.
An exhaustive search turned up nothing. No gas …. No oil … Just my Paramotor and me under the Stars. Did I mention that the air was calm and that the sun would be rising soon?
Total flight time 105 minutes.
The flight was great. Unlike yesterday, I had my lucky camera ready to go and even though the wind was out of the East, there was enough of a southerthly element for me to set-up for a crosswind launch on the runway. I flew East 9 miles with the trim out and came back crabbing 45 degrees off the wind.
Damn that was nice of her. Looking out for our safety like that…..
All the way home I thought about rigging something that would emit a strong gas smell about 90 minutes prior to sunrise. You know….. Something Wireless.
I packed the truck with everything except the perishables on Monday. Tuesday was easy, Dawn and I loaded the coolers and were on our way by noon. We took old Highway 6 instead of I-70 to enjoy the fall colors and avoid the heavy traffic leaving Denver and arrived in Glenwood Springs around twilight. It was abnormally quiet, there was very little traffic and hardly anyone on the streets. I thought that there might be a big event that had emptied the town, but it turned out that it was just the slack time between summer tourist season and hunting season. Slack is good because I had no trouble finding a parking place right in front of The Historic Colorado Hotel and they kindly gave us a room overlooking the truck. Perfect because I had the paramotor locked but it wouldn’t be hard for someone to help themselves to our gear. The Colorado is a special place with memories going back 4 generations. I remember photos of my great grandfather standing outside in the garden with my then, teenage grandfather, on one of their piano business trips. The hotel has seen good times and bad. At the turn of the Century it was the choice of wealthy Europeans who would take the train up from Denver to soak in the hot springs and enjoy the clear dry air. It was the favorite of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft and for awhile became known as the White House of the West. During WWII it was commissioned by the United States Navy as a convalescent home and served over 6500 patients. Not wanting to leave the dog alone we decided to order room service and hope for the best. Wow! It was the same meal we would have had in the main dining room, beautiful presentation and excellent food. The new owners are working hard to bring the old place back to it’s glory and I wish them success, because the Hotel Colorado deserves to be preserved for future generations.
The next morning we bathed in the famous Glennwood Hot Springs. Usually there are crowds of laughing children but in October the hot springs are populated mostly by visiting octogenarians, many from Europe. I’m approaching 60 and changing into my swimming suit, I felt like the young buck hanging out with the grown-ups. After a good hot soak we went for breakfast at a favorite hangout, the 19th St Diner. In the 80’s when I was selling bicycle parts it was a great place to have breakfast with friends before heading up to Aspen or sometimes I just stopped to load up on caffeine before the long drive to Salt Lake City. After breakfast, we took the dog for a walk and loaded up for the long haul to Monument Valley. The weather was beautiful but predicted to turn bad and… right on schedule, it started to blow. By the time we hit Moab, dark clouds were developing, the barometer was dropping and the wind was gusting past 30 mph. Hoping to keep the gear dry, I powered on and we arrived at Gouldings Trading Post at 9:00 pm. I hurried to unload the truck and just missed getting drenched. Thursday it was cold and rainy. Dawn lounged in the condo while I made the rounds and checked with the campground, restaurant and lodge making sure everybody was ready for us. The big disappointment of the day was that the restaurant had double booked our banquet with a wedding. There was nothing to do, there were no other restaurants within 20 miles so the plan was changed to have a pot luck up at the campground. Late in the afternoon, we were treated to a tremendous hail storm. It came down hard and heavy for about 20 minutes and for about the same time afterward the mesas were coated with a sheen of ice. I was on the IPad checking the weather forecast every 20 minutes. The low pressure cold front was suppose to pass through that evening, with high pressure and light breezes for the next 5 days. I hoped so, because looking across the flats at Sentinel Mesa all I could see was a huge ice covered rock. The last 5 years had been lucky, occasionally the wind came up and spoiled a session, but for the most part, every gathering had been warm and flyable.
Rain and Hail the day before The Gathering
This year the, “Officers Quarters” were in a different condo. It wasn’t as easy to see from the road so I put out the wind sock out at the turn off and by 6:30 guys started showing up for the Kick-off spaghetti dinner. Dawn was great, she made 8 batches of Pasta and sauce and served it up cheerfully as the different groups arrived. First came the Salt Lake contingent with Russ Bateman and his family, then Paul Anthem showed up with the Indy Airhogs followed by Bob Hannah and the Seattle gang. About 8 o’clock Jeff Goin showed up to claim his room and Chad and Lee Anne arrived in time for a special plate of gluten Free pasta. By 9 the place was full of pilots swapping stories and sharing food and drink. We broke up at 11:00 to prepare for the next morning flights.
Kick off Dinner
Friday….Beautiful morning. A bit chilly…. The briefing was well attended and the message was short. Respect the Terran … Respect the Residents … Use your head and know where the wind is coming from. Once again Dawn was a trooper overseeing omelets in a bag. We went through 90 eggs and thanks to Donna at the restaurant, buckets of coffee, while the guys flew and wandered up and down the flight line. The Moment was saved by Byron who flew his quad copter all over the flight line.
About 10 o’clock, Scott Laws, the new manager of Gouldings came down to welcome us. He started at Gouldings shortly after last years event and has done a great job upgrading the property, they have remodeled the lodge and shops and upgraded the campground. The whole attitude of the place has improved along with the accommodations. This year we were welcomed rather than tolerated and it made a huge difference. When it was time to fly the wind was nil from the South. I set up at the very top of the runway and did a down wind launch taking advantage of the smooth asphalt and the downhill grade. It was smooth but chilly. It felt good to be heading east across the flats. I stayed up for about 40 minutes and only landed to visit with my friends. Later that morning, Tom Spears, an instructor from from Glenwood Springs, took me up in his delta wst. It was a little bumpy and without a flight suit, damn cold but it was a great flight and I enjoyed every minute. Thanks Tom!
The View Hotel at Navajo Tribal Park
That afternoon while Dawn was sleeping, Jeff and I hung in the officers quarters and chatted about the USPPA, Obama Care and his new Air Space Video. He and Tim are moving away from the cold of Chicago and relocating somewhere in Florida. They have made an offer on a house in an air-park with room for the business and all the toys. It’s an exciting time and I wish him well. Around 4:00pm we headed down to the airstrip for the afternoon flights. It was my best flight of the trip. 90 minutes with great sunset colors. Here is the video…
Late in the day Ryan Southwell and his friend Scot launched to camp on the top of Eagle Rock. As far as I know, this was a first. Several years ago John Fetz did a top landing but he only stayed a few minutes. These guys landed and camped out. I await the video and photos from Shane and the Team Halo crew.
Ryan Southwell on top og Eagle Rock
Dinner was in the condo followed by a session of paramotor troubleshooting with Jeff, Chad and Lance Marzec, who was rousted out of bed someplace many time zones away.Before it was over we had a brand new mini plane apart and Jeff was polishing a piston with a pot scrubber, nail file and toothbrush.
Jeremy Langejans right side down
Saturday … The winds were blowing steadily from the direction of the Tribal Park . It was a little too strong to attempt flying close to the monuments, so we stayed close to the patch and were treated to an air show out in the flats, East of the airstrip. The highlight for me was when Ryan Shaw, fresh from the international Slalom competition in Europe, flew his new comp wing the Dudek snake. Going at least 40 mph he caught and passed a Cessna as it rolled in from landing. By 11:00 it was getting cold and windy so a bunch of us retreated to the condo for a pot luck lunch. Spirits were high and it was hard to get a word in edgewise while everybody shared the mornings events. John and Mary invited several of us to go up in their Cessna after lunch.. Dawn and I were on the second flight with Jeff Goin. It was wonderful to be back in the park and it was the first time Dawn and I had flown it together. I expect that one of these days we will own a PPC and fly together all the time but until that day it was a rare treat.
Dawn’s photos from the Cessna
When we landed the French group were packing for the next leg of their tour. The group leader, Dieter Debaque, had discovered us a few years earlier and put The Gathering into this years tour. They added 17 pilots and an international touch that was fun. It looked like the altitude was a bit higher than they were accustomed to. There were a lot of aborted launches and some extremely long runs, but the did just fine and since they bought a lot of t-shirts I think a good time was had by all.
The French Connection
The afternoon was too windy for most of us but several did get up and found it very flyable.. I stayed on the field and enjoyed the show while Dawn hung in the officer’s quarters and rested. There were several aborts and more than a few exciting launches. Russ Bateman took his son for a tandem flight and not to be outdone, Mo Sheldon took his dog Rosa up in his specially modified and “dog legal” , trike. The evenings flights were capped off when Paul Anthem did a wonderfully benign turtle on landing.
Paul Anthem joins the “Order of the Desert Turtle”
The Banquet was less than ideal. Instead of fancy food and speeches in a private dinning room, we had a Pot Luck BBQ at the campground. Plan B was a poor substitute but we made the best of it and enjoyed the company. Jeff Goin was planning to leave early and drive to Phoenix but opted to stay for the campfire and I cannot thank him enough for being so generous with his time. Thanks Jeff, you serve the USPPA well.
Sunday is was blowing 5 and gusting to 10. Those foot launching were reporting steady winds with moderate bumps. It was chilly and less than perfect but it was also the last opportunity to fly for perhaps several months so I decided to go for it. I timed the cycles and launched when the breeze had dropped. Once up, I enjoyed the clear cold air and when I’d had enough of the bumps, I turned back and approached the LZ from the North West for landing. About 200 yards out I flew into sinking air and dropped 100 feet quickly. I stayed on the power to maintain my glide so that I would clear the trailers. and spectators. The wind started picking up but I adjusted and knew that I would still able land safely. The approach was a little bumpy but the landing was going fine, right up until I tried to killl the engine. Stupidly, my gloves were too thick to reach the recessed kill switch and I had to let go of one of the the toggles to shut down the motor. I Iost control of the wing and the trike was pulled and threatened to roll. By the time I was back in control, the trike had been spun180 degrees back toward the direction of the landing. By putting down a boot and sliding while turning the nose wheel against the direction of the tip I kept the trike from rolling but it was very close. The wing fell in front of the trike and I slid right up to it’s tip, wrapping lines in the front wheel. Facing the spectators, I made the cross hands sweep signal that baseball umps use to signify, “runner is safe”. I don’t know if anybody else got it,…. but, … I enjoyed the moment. Kurt Mozer got the whole thing on video and I can’t wait to combine it with the video from my helmet cam to see exactly what happened.. No harm no foul.
The wind continued to rise and everybody began packing up for the ride home. No injuries … plenty of airtime and good company. I can hardly wait for next year.
If you cannot see yourself… You are probably flying
This year I did a sprint. Drove down on Friday and drove home on Saturday….
It was too windy to fly Friday night (at least for me) but Jim King went for a quick spin in the sunset. Sue had stopped by the tent announcing that the wind was coming down and that she was thinking of going up. So….. While Jim and I walked back to our trucks we debated the value of rigging up for such a short window of flyable air. Jim was saying it was hardly worth the effort and I said yea , but it might be real good. Jim looked at me and said , Ya know, You might be right. Five minutes later Jim is setting up. AND… It was spectacular! Jim took off with a beautiful full moon behind him and rode toward the Sunset. After he had tasted the air, he found it not so sweet, so… he turned back to land. and, “stuck it”, like a gymnast going for the gold. Jim Doyle and I stood there in awe of Sky King, one of the unsung heroes of PPG history.
A personal highlight was sleeping in the bed of my truck under the stars. It brought me back to the summers when I “slept out” 6 days a week. That night we were experiencing what is called the “Super Moon”, the brightest moon in 75 years. About 11:00 somebody foot launched and flew around the field for about 20 minutes. Very cool. His wing wasn’t light enough to video but it did reflect the moonlight on the turns. I’m going to have to try it someday. Tonight was the perfect night and all I can say was good for him. One of these days …. It’s officially on my Bucket List. Maybe at Lake Jean or Apex in Nevada. But one of these days I’m going to do a moonlight flight. Saturday morning I got up at 5:00 and launched with Jim Doyle who was leading the cross country to Wild Horse Canyon. Great flight …. good air all the way.
After the flight we enjoyed the traditional omelets in a bag breakfast. My jalapeño bacon was a huge hit, they ate all 5 pounds! The Route 66 crowd is family and it was so great to see my friends. Thanks Michelle for having us back.
I’ve done some bone headed things but this is the worst.
In 2009 I traded my beautiful little two stroke Trike for one of Terry ’s machines.
I should have known that first day. On the maiden flight, I parablended my favorite cap right there in front of everybody. The 4 stroke was so quiet I didn’t think to put on my helmet and plugs. Imagine….A machine so quiet you don’t notice your not wearing ear protection… until your cap goes through the prop. That’s a dangerous machine! Yeah, I did go to idle the other day to use the cell phone… but so what?
Every day I find another flaw in this crappy machine. I used to love driving out to the Airport for AV Gas. They let me drive on to the tarmac with the GA guys so I could fill my two 5 gallon gas jugs. I’d drive to the back of the line and wait my turn. Sometimes it took awhile to fill those big birds but it gave me some time ro read the latest issue of Powered Sport Flying. I used to get a lot of good thinking done sitting in the truck waiting for gas. Now, I don’t even need the jugs, I just stop at the gas station on the way to the field and fill the buggy right there in the truck. Where is the romance in that? And that reminds me of another thing. What am I going to do with those cases of TTS 2 stroke oil in my garage?
And speaking of the garage….my ” Man Cave “… I haven’t had a good night working on the machine in months. Yeah sure, I can re-rig the foot steering or mount a strobe but mostly I just sit there and gaze at the machine. No changing tension springs on the exhaust or rebuilding the carb. Heck, I’m having a hard time finding a place that needs a little safety wire. It just isn’t the same I come in after 3 hours in the garage and I don’t even need to wash my hands. It just sucks!
And the flying is different too. Gone is that element of uncertainty, I sit down, buckle the seat belt and turn the key. There is no sense of accomplishment in that. No fooling with the carb or pulling on the starter till I’m bathed in sweat. The other day I flew 15 miles from the LZ and didn’t think once about what a drag it would be if I had to land out. Sure, I still keep an eye out for emergency landing sites but it’s really just an exercise anymore. I can still remember the thrill of an engine out,… what a rush those were!
So take my advice, if you love the 2 stroke lifestyle, don’t by a Falcon 4 stroke.
Seriously, almost 200 flights on Terry ’s machines without a single problem related to the Paramotor or trike. Footlaunch is King, but once you decide to make the transition to wheels, 4 stroke is the only way to go. The Falcon is the most reliable and affordable PPG on the market
On the second morning of flying at Monument Valley in southern Utah four of us planned on flying together out to the monoliths and mesas so that professional paramotor photographer Franck Simmonet could get some photos. “You don’t need to get close to the mesas” he said, “just stay close to me so that you are big in the frame”. We launched into almost no wind. It could have been because we were in the wind shadow of the huge mesa beside the LZ. Whatever it was, as I flew out to the mountainous monuments, I was doomed to misjudge the winds. The day before I had flown out to the large horse-shoe shaped area of monoliths and felt a few mild bumps when I was right in the middle and below the top of the mesas, some of which reach almost 1000 ft. Just about everyone was flying fairly close to the towering structures– but the wind was mild then. Apparently, this day, the winds were much stronger AND I had completely misjudged the wind direction. I always stay away and above of the leeward side of any large obstruction but, as I slowly descended towards the largest mesa, I mistakenly thought I was on the windward side. That’s when I heard Franck over the radio, “Go heighter, go heighter!” (Yes, I know it’s “higher” but he was saying “heighter”). By the time he radioed that warning I realized that I was NOT climbing very fast– in fact, I think I was sinking at full throttle. Then, maybe 20 or 30 seconds later I felt my wing start to vibrate. This is not a very happy wing, I’m thinking. I can feel that I’m loosing brake pressure on the right side (the monolith was to my left several hundred feet). Franck and Matt are a few hundred feet above and behind me. My wing was deforming in such odd and obvious ways that it prompted Matt Witchlinski to radio his concern, “Paul, are you in some bad air ! ?” I didn’t even try to answer. SOMETHING is going to happen soon, I thought. He had barely finished his sentence when my wing was smacked out of the air. Now, I often play around with my wing and induce asymmetric collapses but the wing is STILL flying. This was nothing like that. My wing was batted down and folded up and I was falling instantly. It happened so fast all I had time to do was let off of the throttle and hope I didn’t fall into the wing. The wing recovered with a few violent jerks as I checked the surge. I later learned that after seeing my predicament Franck and Matt instantly turned around to avoid the same fate– they didn’t get to see what happened next. I’m pretty sure that Matt radioed back about ten seconds later to ask if I was alright. I didn’t answer. I was too busy concentrating and trying to control a wing that was dancing around and vibrating like I was on a drum. You know that feeling you get when you’ve vomited and you can feel it coming on again… I was waiting for it but nothing could have prepared me for the violent collapse that came next. My wing was hit in the center and thrown back behind me and to the side. For a second I was laying back looking up at the sky. Then the balled up wing swung over to the other side and I was sideways. I dropped down and the wing swung me to the other side and on my back again. Then, next thing I know, it’s in front of me, below the horizon and smooshed up into a ball I could probably fit into my stuff sack. Well at least I can see the wing now. I drop under it again as I tense my arms in a braking position. The wing re-inflates with some rocking and surges, but thankfully, I’m flying again. I look down and see that I still have several hundred feet of altitude. If I get hit again I might have to throw my reserve. I don’t want to do that while caught in a rotor with only jagged rocks and a cliff face below. I don’t know if I can take another thrashing like that, I thought. I was lucky that I didn’t fall through the lines or get a major cravat… and I’m still being rocked. I could feel that I was caught in the huge rotor- it was like a vortex. I couldn’t climb and I couldn’t get away from the monolith. The other guys had got away, maybe they can look back and see some way out. I pressed the radio button on my helmet,” I can’t get out! I’m stuck in the rotor! What should I do ?” “Climb out”, they said. “I can’t, it’s pushing me down!” For a second, I considered going low but then decided that if I had another collapse like the last one that I wouldn’t recover in time. I thought about heading TOWARDS the mesa but decided that although it might get me under the down rotor, it might also suck me up and put me through the wringer again. So I just kept at full throttle, heading away from the mesa, hands clenched on the brakes trying to keep the wing as stable as possible with every twitch and twist. Finally, after what must have been 15 minutes, I felt the air smooth out and I started to climb again. I headed straight back to the airport. I had had my excitement for the day.
This morning, after a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, Bill and I had to decide if we should backtrack to Ragged Island or reach for the channel. Bill set up the ham radio and we tuned into the cruiser net. Captains were calling in from all over the Caribbean getting information on the weather and waves. The “No Rush” did not subscribe to this service but we were patient and after listening to 8 or 10 briefings we were able to discern that the N.N.E. winds were going to be with us for awhile.
So… if we went to Ragged Island we would lose at least two days and I would miss my flight home. That was no problem, since there was no one waiting for me to return. About the only thing we would gain by going to Ragged Island would be a day of trailing seas and a break from the pounding we were getting on anchor. There just aren’t many options, we can’t go north and make the “Great Circle” over the Bahama Bank to Marathon, because the wind is all wrong for that. We can’t go south because Cuba is in the way. The only thing to do is, stay the course, sail to the narrows and hope we get lifted by a clocking wind. I would have loved to set foot on Bahamian soil again but that’s the breaks.
There is a commercial fishing boat a couple of miles to the west. They have deployed about ten small 2 man boats that are scattering around the bank. I’m not sure what they are fishing for but the process is interesting. They are using a diver who is being fed O2 through a compressor and hose system. The equipment looks old and beat. One boat came up to meet us but we were not able to communicate very well. I was too shy to try out my Spanish … just not feeling very extroverted today.
I’m starting to get into the rhythm. When it gets smooth and quiet… hang on… The bow will have finished it’s climb to the top of the wave and begin to drop. Then BANG, into the foot of the next wave… and it starts all over again.We will cross 5 or 6 waves between crashes and every third one is a bone shaker.
1420 hours Still working it. Course 279 degrees, steering by the wind and hoping it will turn by the time we get to the narrows. Right now it looks like we might be pinned. The seas are 6 – 8 feet and the wind is 22 kts. Outside the cabin house is loud, wet and windy. This boat is singing an anthem.
So far, we have traveled 766 nm.
2200 hours Just finished tonight’s movie Rolling Thunder. Bill predicted that the winds would start to turn shortly after dark and he was spot on. We are in the channel and have just enough lift to navigate. It’s going to be a saw tooth with the starboard tack favoring by a long shot.
I really enjoy these night watches, it is a different world and the boat takes on a new character.
Its pitch black , the clouds have obscured the moon and stars, the only visible objects are the instruments and the reflection of waves rolling away from the stern light. Its an illusion, but other senses seem heightened. A squeaking sheave in the boom that was hardly noticeable this afternoon sounds like a giant pissed off parrot. Voices on the marine radio are crystal clear and the wind in the rigging is singing a dirge. Every couple of minutes a wave breaks over the bow sending a bathtub full of water to crash against the front of the cabin house. Sounds are coming from everywhere..wood noise, fiberglass noise, water noise, mechanical and organic, without pause, not getting louder or softer, just going on and on. Below deck, the smells are stronger, ripening fruit, clothing that has been worn for too many days, wet bedding, they all combine into one big boat smell, that I perversely, really like.
0000 hours Bill is back on deck, time to go below and sleep. I wonder what tonight’s dream is going to be… should be good.
“Hold On”, Bill hollers… 5 seconds later the boat rolled 30 degrees to starboard. If the No Rush were a monohull instead of a catamaran it would be business as usual, but on this boat … not so much. Still, it wasn’t a big deal , just the biggest roll so far. Cruising cats don’t heel like a keel boat, but they do roll with the sea. So, when Bill hollered, I braced and as soon as the wave had passed I went on with what I was doing. Everything on deck and below stayed pretty much in place and there was no crashing or cursing from the galley. The big wave was more of a surprise, at worst an inconvenience, nothing more. Bill did catch a face full of seawater but we were used to that, it happened two or three times a night when we poked our heads above the pilot house to scan the horizon for other ships.
0600 hours We are reaching hard for the banks around Ragged Island. The front came in full force about 4:30. I had gone below about 0000 hours and Bill let me sleep until I woke at 0430. When I came up on deck the boat was hove to and losing ground at about 1.5 kts. Bill was stretched out on the port settee and I did the same on the starboard side until dawn.
0800 hours As soon as it was light enough to see without flashlights we put in the third reef and hauled in for a close reach to the narrows. We were overtaken by a big commercial freighter also heading for the mouth of the Old Bahama Channel and as he crossed our bow, plowing through the 8 foot seas…Bill and I looked at each other and knew it was going to be a long hard pull. Big wind and high seas, right on our nose.
1100 hours Three hours later and we had gained only 3 nm on the point where Bill had originally hove to. So… we changed tactics and turned the boat downwind toward Ragged Island. We held that course for about an hour and checked the chartplotter and the paper chart. The island was appealing, there is a small settlement that would be fun to explore. Unfortunately all the anchorages would be off the windward shore, not a good place to drop a hook. We didn’t know what the holding ground was and the wind wasn’t going to let up soon. So… we changed tactics and headed back into the wind. We steered toward a tongue of deep water that leads into the shallow banks above Ragged. The idea was that the banks to windward would calm the seas enough to give us safe passage, entering the shallows from the lea side. Had we tried to enter the banks directly from the windward side, the seas piling up on the shallow water would have been treacherous.
Right now…I’m in my nest, curled up with pillows. I just finished the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on the laptop. Bill calls me up when it’s time to tack, otherwise I’m content listening to The Beatles White album on the IPod or the “mystery music” coming from the boat. Both of us have been hearing music when no music is being played. It’s weird… Bill says he hears Opera and I hear everything from heavy metal to slow ballads. Just now I could swear that I heard a steel drum playing “Stand By Your Man”. There is huge variety of sounds coming from the boat… swishing water along the hulls, bangs and thumps from the waves, the generator humming… all mixing together making a grey noise that my mind is turning into something familiar. I kind of like the playlist my brain is creating from chaos.
1245 hours Bill must not be happy with the progress that we are making because he just started the motor.
1400 hours Still on motor the seas are pounding us.
1730 hoursAt anchor somewhere on the banks west of Ragged Island. It didn’t get as shallow as the charts promised but what can you expect from a chart that is based on a survey from the British Admiralty in 1845. (No lie… it says so right on the legend!)
2000 hours On the Banks I put out a fishing hook … just because… We lounged around reading and watching the sky. The winds are still high (18kts) but the seas are down thanks to the shallows. We are still bouncing around and it’s far from an ideal anchorage but it beats the hell out of the big rollers of deep water. We are in 35 feet of water which is a bit deep for the scope and the anchor did drag a little but seems to be holding fine now. It’s comfortable for us even if it is a bit blowy forward. Thank God there are no wives aboard or we would be in the endless anchor debate.
Time to watch “The Big Labowsky”
North of the Cuban coast and a long way from anywhere