What was learned on Saturday was instrumental in putting together a flight we have talked about for years, a x-c flight with a north wind to Big Sur from Byron and back the hard part. There were flights out of Byron and Hollister on Saturday that helped mark some critical wave locations , starting with northwest of Wav1 down wind of Mtn Diablo, second was near Mission peak over Milpitas and third was on the Santa Cruz range near Loma Prieta. Connecting these dots was going to get you to Big Sur, missing was where to find the wave at Big Sur and how high would it go. This type of x-c wave flying is all about makingdown and up wind transitions and not cross wind runs where really high speed and long distance wave flights are accomplished parallel to the mtn, like Jim Payne and others have shown using the Sierras
I launched just after 9:30 am and now wish I launched earlier, on wave days the lift is actually better at the beginning and end of the day, you don't want thermals to break up the laminar flow over the terrain. What makes wave flying difficult at times is when there are no markers like rotor clouds and linticulars, you have to know the wind direction and imagine the wind flowing over the terrain, making your best guess where it might be found, when you are close you use your experience to move in the best zones, it always helps to fly with other and to do your homework using OLC to find other flights in similar conditions. The lift is fixed to the terrain like ripple in a stream and therefore staying the lift in 40-50 knot winds can be tricky using S turns, crabbing and hovering with straight into the wind at minimum , GPS can help and so can looking for land marks and your drift.
So here is my blow by blow experience...
Leg1 Diablo to Mission Peak
Mtn Diablo to Mission Peak was a piece of cake, going directly down wind with a 40+ knot tail wind was giving me a average glide ratio in the hundreds. Lift at Diablo was 1-3 knots nearly in the same place as the day before and similar reported by others including Mike V. It was close to Wav1 if you fly with moving map PDA with something like MSeeYou to help with navigation. Actually a little more west and north with the winds out of the NNE down low shifting to more N as you got higher and even a little NNW at times. At 14k I decided it was time to make the jump to the south. With a indicated airspeed of 60 knots I was showing a ground speed around 110 with a glide ratio of 250:1 at times. The joys of going down wind...yahoo...but coming back is a different story.
Leg2 Mission Peak to Santa Cruz Loma Prieta
At Mission Peak I found the wave right where EP and TG had found it the day before. It stronger than Diablo with 3-4 knots consistent starting at 12.5k, I stayed with this until I was over 16k. The exact location was between the Peak and highway 880 over Milpitas. This was a new place to be, looking down on San Jose intnl and getting a panoramic view of the entire Bay was amazing. Next stop would be over the Santa Cruz mountains where the Hollister pilots ICH and TG found good lift the day before. Down wind of Loma Prieta was were I found 2-3 knots to near 17.4k. The whole time climbing I was thinking about the next leg to Monterey. should I go? would I find lift? what were my landing options if things didn't work out, etc.
Leg 3 Santa Cruz to Big Sur
From 17k my glide computer saying I would get there at 11k, plenty high to search the area, I keyed the mike and made a radio announcement I was going for it....There was no doubt about getting there, but would I find lift where the RASP said it would be and could I get back. The ride was smooth and fast and found some down wind wavelets that gave zero sink, I was maybe 5-8 miles offshore at times and the experience of being over a open ocean is something you won't forget. Last place I had this experience was flying between islands in Hawaii a few years back when I lived there owning a ASW 17. All went well with me arriving over Monterrey looking down on Pebble Beach at 13k, another first for me.. Moving further south to Big Sur I found weak 1-2 knot wave at 11k and proceeded searched for the best lift. Anxious to get high and think about the glide back into a 40+ knot wind filling my thoughts. I needed to get back to the Santa Cruz range with enough altitude to get back into the wave. The climb was really slow and around 16k and Watsonville in glide at a estimated arrival altitude at 7k I headed back. I actually got there at 6k.
Leg 4 Big Sur to Santa Cruz Loma Prieta
On the way north I met and passed TG headed south at the same altitude, it some where around 13k over The Monterey Airport. Penetrating into a strong head wind is filled with anxious moments, your ground speed really low like around 30 knots or so, your glide ratio is in the upper teens even in my 50:1 DG 800 and when you hit heavy sink it takes forever to get through it. As Jim Payne summed it up what x-c wave flying is all about, the wave giveth and taketh very quickly. Having a very good glider is really appreciated at a time like this and you wish you had your ballast tanks full to the brim. I could hear two other gliders from Hollister ER and U2 working very weak wave around Watsonville as I flew north, not getting much over 6-7k...not good report as it would take 16-17k to get back to Byron from there in the strong head winds. I got there just about the same altitude as they were, we worked and worked the area exploring here and there looking for the elevator. Here is where I made the biggest mistake of the day, not being satisfied in the 1 knot lift I continued to search till I lost and lost, now down to 2800 ft and being threshed around in a super turbulent rotor was not fun. Meanwhile ER was going through 8.5k with the lift was getting better. TG then appeared from the south, he had gotten a 1k higher before leaving Big Sur and found another 1k feet on the way back arriving at 8k he quickly joined the others for the slow climb back up. Timing is everything and my time was running out as the sun was getting lower and lower with still a long glide back to Byron into that stiff head wind. I climbed back up in some really gnarly rotor until I was back into wave at around 4k. Best I could find was 2-3 knots and about a good as the others found down low. Looking at my watch, estimating my gnd speed at 40-60 knots best case to Byron that was 54 miles away the math was looking clear, sunset was at 4:56pm and time was running out. By the time I climbed to 6.5k and knew it had run out, so I started the engine and headed back. Oh well...still a great flight
Leg 5 Santa Cruz Loma Prieta to Byron
TG and I got back to Byron with in minutes of each other, me motoring up to over 13k over San Jose Airport and TG setting out from Loma Prieta at 17.5k. We made it, we had done something new and different and was talked about for years, like big wave surfer finding a new unexplored place!! I was disappointed to say the least, but wouldn't have missed the chance to share this level of adventure with others for anything. Patience can be a virtue as we all know, even in a moment when we are feeling anxious about wanting things to happen, but need to realize what is actually happening so we can then do the right things. I got back to Byron minutes before the sun set and feel good about how things came together. Worse that could have happen if the engine didn't do its job was to land at Watsonville and depend on some help to work through the logistics. I never felt alone and knew friends were near by to help. That goes a long way to raise your level of confidence....a piece of cake....
Thanks to all who helped make this possible even the ground crew at Byron who stuck around until we were safely on the ground right a sunset..
Attached a ffew pictures, if the look similar to Ramy's, well they should:)