Today was a hard choice; it looked as though several places could work but, equally, they could all be too wet or too weak. In the end Dan and I headed to the north Oregon coast, partly because the forecast looked best there but also because Brad and Maren (local instructors) are based there. It was time for the spring-time reserve repacking ritual! My hope is that this is a bit like carrying an umbrella; by having a well packed reserve and practicing throwing it, you’ll avoid having to use it.
Reserves suitably repacked, we all headed to Area B to fly. This is a 30-40 ft high sand dune ridge at the mouth of the Columbia that can be soared when conditions are right. It’s a pretty specialized place to fly - strong winds and low altitudes are the order of the day. I’d never flown there, but there are pilots that do almost all their flying there.
We got there just as some precipitation was moving on. Launching from the top of the dune normally doesn’t work - you get dragged back before you know it. So the general approach is to inflate the wing from the beach or low on the dune and kite it up before launching. Needless to say, this all puts a premium on ground handling in strong winds. I’d like to say I passed this with flying colors, but that would be an overstatement.
The wind was quite cross from the North. The slow leg felt pretty relaxing but zipping along at 30+ mph on the fast leg, just 5 feet from the ground, felt a little spooky. Passing another wing was a little tricky; if the ridge is to your left, you needed to fly ‘around’ the other wing. If the ridge is to your right, things are easier - except (due to the very close wing tips) you got strongly waked by the other wing.
The flying looks pretty constant - just fly along the perfectly straight ridge. But you need to make lots of little adjustments - things change a lot with the height or steepness of the ridge. You want one foot on the speedbar but also to be ready to land at a moments notice. Turning on the downwind leg feels spooky compared with the upwind leg.
Later in the day more pilots arrived and it really became too busy to be fun. The flying feels non-serious, but it’s still easy to get hurt. Dan and I packed it in around 6 pm and headed home.