Sky Hill to Knockaloe 23rd July 2007

My compatriots in Ward 11 had other reasons to be there with broken bones. Quad bike accident, car accident, falling out of a tree to retrieve his kids ball, a lead weight falling off a shelf onto his foot, walking out onto his garden patio and tripping over a foot high retaining wall. Mine was at least a bit more exciting and memorable.

The forecast for Ballaugh was good at 16mph but due to increase. It was 5pm and there was no time to waste as seemed evident already by the biggish white horses now clearly visible. My tail was definitely securely screwed on but I was still a little unsure whether it had been that factor that spoilt my last flight on Beinn-y-Phott. I was therefore a bit apprehensive as I took off into surprisingly light but lifty air. In the first hour I ventured out three times to between 1.5 and 2 miles out front and returned safely still at hill height, topping out at first 1000 ft and later 1600 ft Above Take Off.

Later whilst in hospital Watty lent me Judy’s book “Flying with Condors” in which she says that one of her ambitions had always been to fly with either Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons or Condors. At one point for about 15 minutes I was at 1200 ft ATO ridge soaring with a Peregrine Falcon sitting beneath me at 1100 ft ATO. Everytime our paths crossed he would turn his head up to look straight up at me to reveal the white underside of his head. That was something to remember.

After two hours I thought it was time to head out towards Andreas but changed my mind over Sulby when I didn’t seem to be penetrating that fast and fell back instead to take the easy ridge run to Sky Hill where I topped out at 1700 ft ATO in even smoother air than I had had at Ballaugh for some photos of Ramsey. There was about 50% orographic cloud cover a few hundred feet beneath me and stretching back in patches to North Barrule. Above North Barrule about 500 feet above me there was a slightly ominous separate blackish cloud which I assumed would be a wave cloud with associated mega-lift. I didn’t have the bottle to put myself back there amongst that combination of dual layer clouds.

Instead and for the first time ever for me I returned with ease out over Sulby, the Curraghs and back onto Ballaugh arriving still with 900 ft ATO. Now there was 75% orographic cloud on the hills beneath me. Behind Ballaugh over Mount Karrin / Slieu Dhoo, the top of this orographic cloud was being shaped into a classic low smooth curved broad wave cloud. I started to fly back towards this but chickened out just over the back when I started to sink. Now the wave had really started to kick in which got me to 2100 ft ATO (2900 ft Above Sea Level). In retrospect I think I should have stuck with it as the wave was getting better all the time and I just may have got really high.

Three hours is normally plenty long enough for me but obviously I couldn’t just wind it all off, so I set off for the highest point of the cliffs at Orrisdale Head. I seemed to be losing a bit more height than was warranted by any meagre lift I just might get on the cliffs, so I steered a bit more south to join the cliffs at Kirk Michael still 2300 ft ASL. I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible to get some useable lift a couple of hundred metres out in front of the the 100 ft cliffs whilst still flying at height. This was something I thought I had discovered last August on a similar but somewhat lower flight to Peel but my vario / flight recorder hadn’t recorded it so I could replay it. Later I had mentioned this high level cliff lift at Andreas Gliding Club but I don’t think anyone believed it was possible.

I mentioned at our Creg Ny Baa meeting on Thursday that I thought I had been getting light wave over the flatland between the coast and the hills. From closer analysis of my height loss over time I find that I was wrong and that the ups shown on my vario were cancelled by the downs! Nevertheless the lift on Ballaugh to 2900 ft ASL was surely wave assisted. Also I did most certainly get high level lift off the cliffs which I reckon was most likely wave assisted. I flew the 6 miles of cliffs from Kirk Michael to Peel Head in 13 minutes starting at 2300 ft ASL and finishing at 1300 ft ASL at the start of Peel Head.

Allowing for the theoretical best sink rate of my glider of 140 feet/ minute (almost certainly optimistic due to the age and condition of glider, not to mention the lousy pilot) means that, although I was sinking, I was actually being assisted by an average of 63 feet / minute lift. Some of this stretch was well out of wind but in the best lift. For five minutes just past Kirk Michael, I was getting a steady 125 feet / minute lift (almost as much as the 140 ft needed for me to stay up) while still at 2300 ft ASL at over twenty times the height of the cliffs!

From out in front of the Stack I set out in a nervous but deternmined manner straight across Peel Bay for St Patricks Isle with half a kilometre of sea and all of Peel between myself and any kind of landing option. This was very “stimulating” but with no lift greater than my sink rate until after passing Corrins Tower I finally found marginal lift at Contary Head at the south end where the hill kinks NNW. Still not good enough so with 1200 ft ASL it was time to go and crash land!

The straight line distance Sky Hill to Knockaloe was just over 14 miles – my furthest flight so far on the Island. It was just a pity that I screwed up big time at the end! In the hospital I kept looking at a table mat in the TV room showing the view with the Castle in the foreground and looking North across Peel Bay towards Kirk Michael. I felt like I was still up there in the middle of the picture at 1300 ft and that was always going to be just one part of a very memorable flight. Anyway at least I think my compatriots were mildly impressed by what this kamikazee old geezer with the bus pass had been up to.

Kamiikazee Martin Visits Knockaloe

Monday 23rd July

Peel Hill is a 400 foot high camels back ridge and the wind is forming big white horses on the sea side, so I am wondering why I am coming in to land a mere one kilometre downwind in lee rotor behind it at Knockaloe?? Was it really worth the memorable view as I crossed out to sea across Peel Bay and the Castle to soar Peel Hill and is this going to hurt?

The field I had picked out on my recce following last August’s flight to Peel was much bigger but it was also a couple of hundred metres nearer to Peel Hill, in full length Barley waiting to be cut and also had a line of sturdy little trees on the upwind side—. More rotor? I didn’t need that. What about this nice smaller grassy field? Yep that will do. Now then think rotor – need extra speed and better only put half flaps on for more control. Bound to get thrown all over the place.

All this thinking is tiring and the field is only 70 metres by 150 metres and runs WNW and not NNW. I later find it runs downhill 25 feet. Determined to get it in, possibly lifted another 20 feet as I came in, I soon run out of field but not enough to get over the bank / hedge to the other side. FLARE NOW!!

Oh dear now I’ve gone and done it and after all these years without breaking anything!

I am very grateful to you all for looking after me and with especial thanks to Watty and Amanda who really did a magnificent job of collecting my car and de-rigging / retrieving my glider. Its almost worth a bit of pain and inconvenience to find that you have somehow acquired such fantastic mates. Its all part of this incredible flying experience we tend to take for granted and which we are all so very lucky to share.

In the event the wind was nowhere as strong as the white horses showed, it was only 12 to 15mph and if I had used full flaps I would probably have been OK. Rotor was not a significant problem. I would also have been OK if I had aborted the first field half way across and veered into the adjoining huge barley field!


Sartfell to Close Lake Airfield 23/5/07

Things are looking up- two flights over 1000 ft in my first week back. Forecasts and DOT Peel said SW but sky said WSW. Tookoff from Sl Curn South at  6.40pm beneath multiple layers of cloud, the lowest being about 500 feet ATO, rain shower out to west. Real masochist stuff but it was WSW 19mph. Bit choppy low down but wave smooth at 700 ft ATO. After half an hour crossed to spend most time on Froggy where it was lovely at 1240 ATO up front of the clouds. But cloud base was descending so had a quick hop across to sinky Sartfell, then back home to Curn. Surprised to get no rotor at all over back of Curn on way to Ballaugh where I thought I might just get a bit of lift at Bulrenny (immediatel south of Ballaugh takeoff). Only sink so shot off out front of Ballaugh towards Ramsey to land at Close Lake the old airfield between ST Judes and Ramsey. 7.5 miles and spitting with rain as I landed.


Bulgham Bay Tuesday 16th January

Only the second time this year it looked as if there would be a short interlude between the almost constant gales. Starting the day light north and increasing to ESE 30mph plus associated heavy rain. Plenty of time as tide not out til late in day for emergency Laxey landing. Got talking to Steve a prospective member who has in past done HG course and hopes to do a para course this year. Still loads of time til I find:-

a) I have refitted my sail incorrectly after repairs by Mike Pollard, so have to take off and refit.  Probably just as well as out falls a bloody great fat hardback book in the sail!!!! (so I had a flat surface to apply a couple of further tiny stick on patches).

b) Cant get a mobile signal so have to walk all the way up to the water tower while glider rocks in the increasing wind.

Continue reading Bulgham Bay Tuesday 16th January

Slieau Curn Saturday 6th January 2007

Happy New Year all.

Did anyone fly Staarvey as it should have been well paraglidable there.

First day for ages wind looked as if it would drop to 20mph! As usual base reasonable height both morning and evening but down on the hill when I flew at 1pm!  As usual, Slieau Curn south. WSW measuring 6-8mph at the gate. I knew that was wrong but at least it shouldn’t be blown out on top.

On top I managed to put a nasty little rip in the sail, so wasted time returning to the car and patching the sail with duct tape. (Anybody know if there is anyone doing sail repairs on the Island)??

Having wasted valuable time, base had descended from top of Freoghane to take off height and measured wind at take off somewhere around 25 mph!! However take off no problem and it felt much lighter. In the air my vario showed the wind speed varying 10 to 18 mph. ie say only 14 mph. That was confirmed by being able to fly really fast into wind and with the lift coming and going but not rough at all.

Cloudbase was only zero to 200 feet max. So it was just a case of staying OUT of the best lift away from the hill, until being in danger of losing out altogether, then back in beneath take off to top up. Towards the end the cloud cleared enough to allow me to 400 ft ATO.

Not the best flying but interesting and I got nearly 1 hour before landing for my first time at Kirk Michael School after getting a snippet of lift over the north side of the Glen Wyllin valley where the seagulls were soaring quite happily. I was lucky to be noticed by Simon who kindly retrieved me.

Hang Gliding News

Fair weekends flying by all on different sites, mainly Staarvy. Mine as follows:

On Saturday with the wind forecast to pick up later Northy was on top of Curn before 9.00am; followed very shortly after by myself, Giles and Simon. It was 19mph due west. Simon saw straight away it was too strong but valliantly helped me carry up and threw me off the south takeoff. 1.5 hours with max 1060ft ATO flying Sl Curn and Froghane. For the relatively "light" wind it was not at all smooth despite the ideal strength and direction. Not surprising due to some big clouds about and here and there bits of wave cloud.

Sunday was same direction but with the initial 15mph set to die it was again an earlyish start. For me on Big Bowl (just north of Froghane). But this time with a progressively lowering cloudbase, initially right down on Froghane and at times right down on takeoff.  So by mid day time to go before I may have to carry down. 

Only half an hour but the nicest smoothest flight I have had from here, (or come to think of it for some time generally) bouyant light constant lift out in front of the orographic cloud all over the valley, no problem at all. I have recently been downgrading the suitability of this site but today my confidence in it has been restored! 

But the cloud did worry me, exacerbated by my phone call with Dan a few minutes ago who said he thought the base would lower even more. So at only 400ft ATO pressed forward up the front edge of the cloud to see if could get onto Froggy. No problem nor was Sartfell so just kept going to land at Cronk Y Voddy to be kindly retreived by Phil. Thanks mate, hope you did OK on Sl Curn after me delaying you. Needless to say cloudbase lifted considerably after I landed!!!


December flying

Just to let you know I managed a quickie today.  As usual just a small window between gales and heavy rain.  I was confident the sunny forecast looked right for a 9.30am flight with WSW at Sl Curn.  As I drove up past the first windmill it even looked just a touch more WNW; even better, by the time I get rigged it will have come spot on.  When I got to the second windmill it was reading very wrong.  Went back down and realised I had read the first one back to front and it was actually blowing SE!!!! Thats confidence for you.

At Brandywell met Giles on way to work and it looked good for Ben y Phot. I thought it would be fairly lifty, with the wind forecast to increase.  Took off into SSE  19mph, just right and nice.  I thought the flying would be fine but wasn’t sure about:

a) How easy it would be to ground handle after a top landing in an hour or so given that wind was to pick up steadily.

b) If I left it too late would I be able to penetrate to get as far south as St Lukes Church for a safer bottom landing (in less wind lower down).

Had 40 mins and 850ft ATO and landed fine at St Lukes.  Pleasant 1 hour walk back up by which time the cloudbase had descended 1000ft to sit right down on the hill and wind had increased to over 30mph.

Pleased to have got the best out of the day, to have had my best flight on Ben y Phot so far and soared Carraghan.

Doubt there will be anything between now and the meeting but hope to see you all Thursday.

November flying

Don’t know if anyone else flew the windy weekend but Watty and Martin got 5.5 hours between us so not a bad start to November.

On Saturday west or slightly south of 18-20mph on Slieu Curn South takeoff. Watty and me had checked out Curn and Staarvy. Watty obviously opting for Staarvy but I was more worried about the smallish slopy landing than the excess of windspeed on Sl Curn, so we went our separate ways. Watty did really well both days with over 3 hours and got an imprewssive 140 metres on Sunday, (twice the height of the hill). On both days we suspected there may have been a wave effect which seemed borne out by the silky smooth lift, despite at higher level at Sl Curn around 20mph wind.

Both days I had to contend with low level orographic cloud, on Saturday 300/400 ft ATO. I got to 660 ft but was able to stay out front weaving in and out of cloud and along to Sartfell and back in very smooth pleasant air. Landed normal Orrisdale field and Watty very kindly retrieved me after his 2 hour Staarvy flight.

Continue reading November flying

Slieu Curn 1300 ft/min sink

Dont know if anyone else was desperate enough to fly today. Stiff WSW winds dying to South by evening. Base 50ft below top of Sartfell.

Wasn’t sure if it may have been too SW for Sl Curn (South side). But nice take off into SW 18mph strangely dying to 10-15mph at 230ft max at cloudbase.  Although cloud no problem here as very thin and patchy, unlike at Sartfell where more solid looking.  Well stayupable and very pleasant.

Thought that I would fly over onto SW spur to South which would be more into wind. I lost a bit of valuable height getting across but it was soon regained there on one beat (to one third the length of the ridge running into the westerly "Big Bowl").  However on the second beat into the bowl I must have lost my marbles!  Flying in nice bouyant lift slightly downwind I got "mesmerized" by this bit of hill in front which faced more into wind thinking that should lift better and flying further along than I intended.

Then I suddenly realised, you IDIOT you shouldn’t be this far along, you are probably in the rotor from the spur of Froghane. TURN NOW!!!

Continue reading Slieu Curn 1300 ft/min sink

Bulgham Bay

Monday 16th October 06

Flew yesterday (Sunday) at Bulgham Bay. Today wind at Ramsey again the same fresh SE with biggish white horses, but at Bulgham again much more East. 15 degrees south of East 17-19 mph, similar strength to yesterday but much smoother. The forecast said it would be murky and it certainly was and completely overcast. It was an orrible unfriendly looking hang gliding day. But– the the wind was on the hill so had to go—straight up to just under a grand in 10 minutes in magic silky smooth lift. Yesterday I got higher and although not rough it had been a bit choppy. However now I was scared that I wouldn’t have much of a chance if there should be any traffic flying down the coast. I would see/ hear him but he would be unlikely to see me in time. But no worries, this fitted into my little plan to try to fly the Dog Mills as well as Bulgham on the same day! Should be fairly straightforward with my trusty old Atos.

Continue reading Bulgham Bay