Even orgasmic paragliding weekends can
get off to a slow start. Friday afternoon, July 15, 1994, it drizzled on
Cape Cod. Graham and I checked out east facing launch sites in Wellfleet at
public beaches in dense fog and stopped for a beer at the Beachcomber on
Cahoon Hollow Beach. What a place for a paragliding party in soarable east
winds! Flights up to 15 miles are possible there!
Saturday morning at 6:30 am it was
soarable at the Seascape. Graham and I were in the air in a flash, racking
up 15 to 20 minute flights soaring 20 to 30 feet above the embankment.
Graham learned to control the glider in strong winds and practiced tight 180
degree turns at each end of his flyby. Our students arrived at 8:00 am and
began viewing the video while Graham got in an additional hour of air time
floating by the window of our room where we were viewing tapes. The students
loved it and that got them psyched for flying.
We went to Great Island for a
west-southwest launch and conditions got much lighter. I lost the keys to
the Cherokee and spent the rest of the weekend hitching rides with poor
Graham. Somehow I don't think he minded. Our students for Saturday afternoon
got very light winds and although a few of them got in the air, most were
disappointed with conditions. Three students wisely decided to stay on the
Cape and come out with us on Sunday. The wind was strong southeast and we
headed out to a pair of southeast facing sand cliffs on Great Island. The
winds were 14 to 15 mph with a peak of 18 mph at the top of the 70 foot
cliff. I pulled the A4 up overhead and got off the ground before I had
turned around. I flew one test flight without the speed bar and landed on
the beach after 15 minutes. I walked back up, rigged the speed bar to get
another two mph into the wind if I needed it, and then relaunched for a 45
At times I was over 200 feet above the
ocean, three times the height of the cliff. I soared with ease up and back
about three-quarters of a mile, taking in an excellent view of Wellfleet bay
and harbor. Several boats came over to investigate this strange phenomenon.
By the time I landed, the wind was
gusting to 20 mph at about 1:00 pm, too strong for Graham and the others. We
walked across the mud flats to a lower sand dune with no trees on top and
practiced inflations in very strong conditions until everyone could spin and
launch off the beach. Graham then got ambitious and climbed the dune. With
my assistance at launch, he spent the next hour soaring the dune while I
launched the others into semi-soaring winds. After they each got five
flights, I joined Graham for an additional half-hour soaring over the sand
cliff while several boats came by to view us.
Monday it rained and the wind was
lights, but Tuesday morning it blew 5 to 10 mph from the southwest. We
showed videos and did inflations with students at the Seascape and then
proceeded to a sand cliff north of Great Island for the afternoon. One
student got two flights in and then it became too strong. Graham launched
and got a 15 minute flight. I got 20 minutes demonstrating the stepped
blowback downwind slide. Then Cari arrived.
She came upon this unlikely encampment
like Ardita from F. Scott Fitzgerald's Offshore Pirate. She was the
daughter of the Ecuadorian Ambassador to Canada. At 50 kilograms, 108
pounds, she was extremely light for these conditions. She immediately
devoured my instructions for launching and proceeded to fly at the very edge
of her gliders capability in the strongest winds she had ever launched into.
She had guts and I told her so.
She displayed no nerves prior to her
first assisted launch into the torrent before her, only blind ambition to
aggressively conquer the air. Her feet were off the ground ten feet from the
edge and I had to fling her into the venturi. She shot upward like a cork
and got blown back several times before mastering a successful launch. She
was a bit shaky at first, but in the end, she tamed her glider with skill
and determination rarely exhibited in a 19 year old woman.
She soared for a short time in her
first flight and gradually extended her range and duration over several
additional flights in soarable conditions. We all flew in turn, Cari, Graham
and I, in a paragliding feeding frenzy, until conditions lightened in the
early evening, and Graham and I bid Cari and her sister, Susi, goodbye.
I had forgotten the VCR-TV back at the
Seascape, so I returned there after selling the A4 to Graham and bidding him
farewell at Wellfleet harbor. It was soarable at the Seascape and before
long Graham showed up and begged me for one more assisted launch at about
6:30 pm. I had a long drive ahead of me, but couldn't resist joining Graham
in the air.
The wind was very strong and I could
barely maintain my position in front of the sand cliff at the Seascape with
the brakes in the full off position on the Wills Wing 125. I edged southward
into the wind and got plenty of altitude over a smaller sand dune south of
the Seascape. I flew on southward in front of houses lined up along the low
dunes, over staircases to the beach, receiving greetings from people below
me as I flew over them. As the dunes curved southward the angle of the wind
made it impossible to return to the Seascape. I ended up landing on the
beach more than a mile and a half from the Seascape - the longest distance
I've ever flown from this site.
In all, I got over five hours of air
time on the Cape over four days; Graham got over seven hours. It was better
than a go with the orgasmatron in Woody Allen's Sleeper.