Friday, April 24, 2009

Flying again in Parrsboro April 20-24

After a weekend with the parents it was back to Parrsboro to visit with the gang and get some more flying in.

We started off by detouring to High Head on Monday, on the way to Parrsboro, which is an inland thermic site just north of the Mount Wentworth ski hill. Launch is about 1000' and faces north, so you need a light north wind to make things work. When we got there it was too west on the ground (there is a windmill nearby) and we thought it would be too cross to launch safely, and it tends to get windy there. So onwards to Parrsboro where we met up with Trevor (pilot from Moncton) at Hidden Falls. It was NW there but we decided to go up anyways and take a look-see.

Hidden Falls is really SW so a NW wind is kinda over the back, and the wind ribbons we erected were certainly showing that. After a while of watching it looked like the cycles were switching around so Alex laid out and launched, and we watched him attempt a few turns before landing on the road below next to the blueberry fields. He reported it wasn't really that nice flying so Trevor and I went back down.

Well, onwards to the Golf course and it was crossing from the south as Alex got his glider out, so we tried a site east of there, where it was nil wind. OK, back to the golf course where it was now SW so we figured it was just turning around so we went to good old Fox River, which works well in a SW.

At Fox River it was really light, and Alex (whose glider was just piled in the back seat of the car by now, so of course he was launching first with his glider already ready to go!) and Trevor were only able to do one upwind pass before sinking out on the downwind pass, landing on the beach below. At this point it was getting late and not likely to pick up, so we finally packed up Alex's glider and headed back to the cabin.

The forecast for the next morning was for SE, so we were anxious to fly West Bay before it blew out as the storm moved in. Up the next morning and it was indeed easterly already, so we called Brian and Michael and arranged to meet at West Bay. At launch by 9am (which is a lawn!) and launching soon thereafter into nice smooth east winds.

Usually at West Bay it's SE, which means you can soar the big cliffs to the south in addition to Cape Sharp to the east. But today it was too east for that which meant flying Cape Sharp only, which is pretty spectacular in itself. It's a jutting cliff out into the Bay of Fundy, about 100m high, and has no LZ's except for the beach back at the West Bay beach. If you get blown over the back at the Cape it's not fun as there is nothing but cold Atlantic seawater for 20 km and you reach the other side of the Bay of Fundy. So you have to keep an eye on your ground speed and the changing wind and tide conditions!

We all had a fun time flying, top-landing, warming up (the neighbour that lives on the launch was home and made us tea), and relaunching. Michael, Brian, and Kevin all showed up so it was nice to fly with others. Eventually we noticed the air was changing, the sea was changing, and it looked like the blown-out conditions that had been forecasted were showing up. So we landed on the beach rather than top-land and chilled out on the beach, watching the front move in.

When we eventually climbed back up to the launch it was clearly blown out and the trees were waving around in a nice 50-60 kph wind. No more flying for today and we went back to the cabin for a late breakfast and storm watching. (The cabin is great for that, right on the beach with our own SE launch on the front lawn, and Partridge Island across the bay to funnel the winds in).

Spent the rest of that trip to Parrsboro storm-watching, hiking on the beaches, and exploring all the Capes in the area. There's lots to do when it's not flyable, especially if you are into geology or paleontology. Given the winds that usually manifest around the Parrsboro area, having a speed glider would definitely be an asset for around here!

We are now back in Halifax and fly back to Vancouver on Sunday. The temps have really gotten nice here but we are looking forward to some XC flying in the Fraser Valley. Big thanks to Brian for lending us his spare cabin while we were in Parrsboro!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nova Scotia flying April 15-17




After spending a couple of days with the folks we decided it was time to pay Parrsboro a visit. Parrsboro is the main flying spot in Nova Scotia due to the Bay of Fundy, which has huge cliff faces for pretty much every wind direction. Most of the launches are thus coastal beach sites, ridge soaring only, and accessible by car or a 5 minute walk. South winds are best here, as that means there are endless possibilities for launches along the entire northern Fundy Shore, just pick a section of cliffs you are interested in flying, set up, and launch. No landowner issues. However the LZ is another story. Since the highest tides in the world occur here (54' is the record, 40-50' is more common) you can lose your beach LZ depending on the tide cycle. It's best to check the tides ahead of time.

The winds for Wednesday were northerly which meant flying at Joggins, which is about a 50 minute drive from Parrsboro (which is itself about 2 hours from my parent's house...usually when I go to Parrboro I stay for at least 2 days). Joggins is famous for it's fossil cliffs which anybody can visit and find fossils in (and also coal just laying around to be picked up from the rock faces when they erode), and is also very paraglider-friendly. Cliff faces from WNW-NNW and a combination of low and high cliffs depending on how strong the wind is.

Wednesday the wind was pretty due north so we headed to a spot where you can lay out next to the highway, launch, and bench up to the higher fossil cliffs downwind. The winds on launch were rather light which meant you had to launch and head downwind right away, low, to the high cliffs and get up before sinking out. Once on the high stuff though you were golden. Alex launched first and sped away downwind to the high cliffs and got up no problem, and Brian and I lay out next (there was still snow and ice on the ground in spots so I wanted to lay out in a relatively dry spot).

It did the same as Alex and was able to get up on the high cliffs no problem and then it was nice flying along the high fossil cliffs. It wasn't totally smooth though, as it was crossing a bit and cycles would come through which would cause my groundspeed to lower to the mid-single digits. Still OK but worth keeping an eye on.

After a while I noticed it getting lighter so I opted to top-land next to the car and talk to Brian, which hadn't launched due to him not being sure about being able to get to the high stuff before sinking out. Alex had already top-landed and relaunched and was flying around when Brian and I noticed the wind ribbon going limp for a few minutes, and then all of a sudden switching to an offshore flow. Alex of course was sinking out as the lift shut off, and fortunately the new wind direction was light enough that it wasn't too rotory for him. But he didn't make it back to launch, beach-landed, and had to hike back. Flying over for the day.

Brian had very generously loaned us his "spare" cabin on the beach at Partridge Island for the duration, complete with our own flying site with a launch right on the front lawn (for south winds), and a view of Partridge Island and Cape Blomidon in the distance.

The next day was NW so Alex and I returned to Joggins but it was too strong for flying, so after digging for fossils for a bit and collecting some coal for the fireplace that evening, we headed to Advocate just to see was going on. This flying site is situated at Cape Chignecto and takes a S-SW wind so we weren't expecting to fly, but when we arrived we were astonished to find it was actually SW and fairly strong. The local residents confirmed that it had been SW all day so we headed up to the launch, which is about a 5 minute walk inside the Provincial Park boundary (and the Park folks are very enthusiastic about us flying there, you just have to sign in). But up on launch it was not strong enough due to the winds actually being WSW we figured, and not coming ashore on that stretch of cliffs and only on the more exposed sections.

So we headed back to Parrsboro and stopped at the primary flying site, Fox River, on the way. We had outdriven the SW winds at Advocate and they hadn't yet arrived at Fox River, but we could see it coming. Since Fox River is a SW site we decided to stay, especially since we ran into Randy (another local pilot) who was there limbing some trees behind launch.

It was quite amazing to watch the wind switch from light N to strong SW in about 15 minutes, so we waited a bit to make sure it wasn't going to blow out or do anything weird. Randy assured us it was going to stay SW until dusk, about 1 hour away, so we both set up and launched in perfect 25 kph winds.

Fox River is a straight ridge, not that long, and only about 30' high. Perfect for students and mellow flying, with lots of blow-back room into blueberry fields if the winds got too strong. We flew for about 1 hour until dusk, just as Randy said, and then top-landed as the winds got too light to stay up in. A perfect end to a day where we thought we were going to be shut down for flying, and it was so weird to know it was strong N at one flying site and strong SW not too far away.

Today dawned with strong west winds and lots of lenticular clouds, not nice for flying, although we visited a few west sites that we could have flown had the winds been 10-15 kph less. One site is right on the Parrsboro golf course (you can launch from the green, although Brian usually launches just off the golf course out of courtesy). Another site is right next to town and is only about 15' high but perfectly flyable in west winds, although not as strong as they were today.

The forecast was calling for possible rain tonight and NW winds again for the weekend so we have returned to Halifax for a bit. It'll probably be flyable at Joggins all weekend but we're going to do some non-PG things for a couple days before returning to Parrsboro.

For pics go here. I'll be updating them as we have more adventures!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Woodside April 9

It was quite overcast but with some sunny skies around. The reports around 11:30am were of people getting above launch and staying up for up to an hour, but by the time we arrived at 1pm it had overdeveloped again and was sled rides only.

While Alex and Rob worked on the hiking trail up, the rest of us waited at Eagle Ranch to see if it would a)get sunny, or b)get windy. Around 4pm we started to get spit on with rain in the LZ but decided to head up anyways as we were already out and may as well.

The road up was clear of snow due to the very warm temps we'd had over the past few days so we were able to get right into launch. Nice cycles but not quite ridge soarable, and there was so much moisture in the air we couldn't see Sumas or anything much past Chilliwack. It spat on us a bit but not too bad, and after watching Tom on a tandem launch and disappear around the corner to Harvest West Robin launched.

He stayed up around launch height which gave us the impetus to also launch while the flying was good. Pretty soon Robin, Alex, Alex W., and myself were playing around the south knob in the light thermic lift. Not quite as light conditions as GV Brazil, but pretty close!

Cloudbase lowered and we found ourselves at cloudbase at a mighty 730 m! It wasn't that sucky though so it was nice and easy to fly in and out for a while until the lift died in that spot and we were back to launch height over the cutblocks and the south knob.

Kent, Miguel, et al had showed up just as I launched and were starting to get ready, and there was a sunny spot headed towards us. But we were sinking out in the meantime and it was a bit of a push to get out to the peninsula, as the pilots who had flown out that way earlier had experienced a fairly significant SSW headwind.

Robin and I took the SSW line over the new subdivision while Alex took the middle route over the swamp. Our line was a bit better, getting us to Eagle Ranch at a much higher altitude than Alex, which was nice as it was definitely windy closer to the water and starting to get bumpy down low. Total airtime was about 40 minutes.

It was a nice treat to get such a nice little flight. When we were driving out we were very excited, then showed up and were somewhat disappointed at the conditions, went up to launch expecting a sledride, and were rewarded with a nice thermic flight. So even though it didn't turn out as nice as we initially thought, it was still nice to get out and play around. Our last flight in the Fraser Valley for a while as we are now off to Nova Scotia for 2 weeks. Hopefully upon our return the Bridal road will be cleared up a bit more and it'll be warmer too!