Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Very Windy April

After a summery March with plenty of flying, bad weather has kept me grounded in St Andre for all of April (though I did sneak a flight in a visit to the States). April has just been very, very windy. The jetstream has been over France for the last 10 days or so, giving strong, gusty winds. Flying is out, cycling has rarely been feasible and even hiking can be challenging.

April has also brought some cold weather and much needed rain (after a very dry winter). All of this looks very spring-like and scenic, with green fields in the valleys and snow back on the mountains. Some days look great for XC, until you look at the shadows of puffy clouds racing across the landscape.

Normally, I don't mind at all missing a day or two's flying due to bad weather - there are plenty of other things to do and it doesn't last long. But this has gone on far too long. There's a weather system that will move through in the next 2 or 3 days and it might just be flyable after that. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Walking the Dog

I took advantage of my time in the States to walk with my dog, Cleo. We walked in Forest Park (sometimes described as the biggest urban park in the world). It's always a nice place to walk and is especially popular in the heat of the summer, when the trees bring welcome shade. 

Cleo will be 10 this summer and I was a bit worried she would get tired, but we had a nice 4 hour hike and she was still full of energy at the end. Some more cute dog pics.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Going Coastal

I'm on a business trip back to the US of A. Saturday's forecast wasn't stellar, but it looked good enough for some coastal soaring at Cape Look Out. I haven't flown the coast for at least a couple of years and it's a complete contrast to the flying I normally do. Add in CLO's stunning scenery and I was keen for a day at the beach, despite only having old, incomplete gear.

I wasn't the only one with that idea and found myself with 25 other pilots, para-waiting for strong enough conditions. When it eventually became soarable, I found myself at the end of a long queue of wings. CLO's launch is tiny and a little tricky, so it was a long wait. By the time I was in the air, conditions were pretty weak and just staying up was the name of the game. 

It was busy as pilots scratched for lift - and I was unimpressed by a few pilots' lack of knowledge on ridge rules - but eventually enough pilots sunk out to make things easier. I mowed up and down the same bit of ridge, slowing gaining height. The most I got was 100m over launch and then there was a long, slow, flush cycle. I resisted as long as I could and found myself the only pilot in the air until the cycle did for me too.

I didn't have a watch but I reckon I was in the air for a couple of hours, mowing the same bit of ridge. The flying might have been so-so, but the scenery and chance to see my old flying mates more than made up for it. Hope it isn't two years before I fly the coast again!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Being Taunted

When conditions are good at St Andre - especially at this time of year - you often see more sail-planes in the air than paragliders. They certainly eat up the sky and can operate in a much wider range of conditions than paragliders. I've looked on enviously more than once, but this weekend they seemed to be taunting me.

Saturday's forecast looked a little too windy for pleasant flying, but with a great lapse rate. Epic, but too epic for paragliders, at least as I like to fly them. I had a hike in the high mountains - taking advantage of the lack of snow - and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I must have seen at least 15 sailplanes (no paragliders) and they just made it look so easy. Arrive at ridge height, a couple of circles, then onto the next one. All of this in intimidating terrain where I always want a little more height before every transition.

Today was flyable, but not very good. I worked, planning to fly tomorrow. But I sneaked a lunch-time bike ride. I saw a number of paragliders in the air, but just around launch - I didn't see anyone go XC. But I did see around 10 sailplanes over the higher mountains.

Hmmm - I wonder how much they cost?