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Bates to Ventura Harbor via The Avenue
Longest straight line leg: 16 miles
2 hours 25 minutes airtime, Launch at 11:40, Land at 1:55 PST
Niviuk Icepeak 6
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Sundowner's Flight Report
Hadn't been getting out much but couldn't help notice a bunch of good Bates days from my desk window. Was fabricating justification so I was considering a tandem. Looked like it might be a tad windy, so I texted a 180 pound friend Mark but he wasn't available. Then tried to drag our roommate Dawn away from her barn chores, but as I was loading the gear I suspected it would be too much wind for a lightly loaded tandem. Since I was already in the go mode I continued out the door solo.
Arriving at Bates Willy (HG) was airborne about 3 hundred over launch pointed into pretty cross wind from the west. Cort Flinchbaugh and Carl Cameron where at launch watching the huge surf. Cort reported that he had recently landed. The direction was getting better but the wind seemed to be picking up. I had checked the mid channel buoy from home, which was only gusting to 20, and the forecast was for the wind to slacken in the afternoon before it went prefrontal from the SE prior to the next wave of rain scheduled for Saturday night. Pondered on the edge for about 5 minutes watching Willy who was getting higher and now up at go altitude about 600 over the beach. Seemed a little stiff but not too much so I quickly setup and got off in a lull from the flat in laminar flow with help from Cort and Carl (alternate option was going over the edge to pull up in vertical flow).
Going up in front of launch the lift band was big and fat and I was penetrating easily without speed bar. The direction seemed to have improved and I suspect I could have plugged upwind to the ball fields but opted to patiently go for altitude straight away. I always feel more secure with better options once connected behind La Conchita. "Parked Out" trying to milk the weak climb my Flytec vario auto switched off due to no motion, so had to stitch multiple IGC files into one.
Got into the upper 5s west of launch. Willy had gotten to a thousand but got a bad glide across the freeway going out and around. Was expecting to get higher over the main cliff to the west, but no luck, so turned to run up the spine with about 560. Got a good glide, only loosing about 75 feet. Climbed up to a thousand behind the gas plant while Willy was getting into the upper teens behind La Conchita.
Poked around and tested various strategies. Seemed to be some wind out front, but ducking back in away from the beach the wind was less and I could penetrate westbound. Seemed to be thermally, so I tried some with 360s but consistently fell out the back, so mostly did figure 8s in the lift. I am reluctant to give up an upwind position without testing various tactics on a windy day because you can easily go downwind but not upwind, however, Willy was doing better behind town so I abandoned my upwind exploration and went downwind to the sweet zone. Worked up into the mid teens behind town and eventually into the upper teens drifting back with a pulse.
Got a good glide over to Pitas (Faria) staying back in a bit hoping for thermal. Cloudbase over the Rincon coastal mountains was only about 2K with most of the development over the peaks with only a few scrappy clouds occasionally forming out front near the beach. No luck over the normal re-boost zone at Faria so went around the corner about a hundred lower than arrival with twelve, which is little on the low side,but got an ok glide through the lee side sink. Arrived below Solimar Peak with enough to easily wiggle back up, getting my best altitude so far, about 1900. Tried looking out front over the beach on my way to Taylor Ranch, but lost 400 and opted to duck back in because the wind was lighter than normal, especially away from the beach.
With the lightish wind and so-so altitude I considered the Ventura Avenue options. I rarely dive back in to the Avenue ridge because you can get trapped in the wind (it typically blows harder at the river mouth venturi compared to Bates), but it seemed like a good play today, so I went around the corner with arrival altitude (14 hundred) and let myself drift in on glide toward the point. The Avenue worked ok. A lot of thermal jiggle with mixed wind from various directions. Sometimes circling worked but at other times there was more wind and figure 8s were the better tactic. The overall flow was from the west, but at times I had drift downriver (toward the beach), and other times the drift was upriver (onshore).
Might have considered making a play inland, but cloudbase was only in the low 2s out front and I wasn't up for a windy landing in a canyon. Cloudbase was higher on the Santa Barbara / Ojai range. Perhaps in the low to mid 3s behind Carp, and maybe 4K in Ojai, but the clouds I might be able to reach along Sulfur Mountain were only in the mid 2s.
Getting home was a concern. My PDN (Laura, my Private Duty Nurse) had reluctantly offered to collect me when I suggested I might go for a quick hop to Ventura, but she wasn't game for an all day chase to Fillmore. My plan was to call her when I landed. I left her at the house with a radio on 146.46 (old PG frequency?), but the only pilot at Bates with a radio was Willy on 44.25. Once I got to La Conchita I reached into my shirt pocket for my phone and realized I left in on the charger topping off as I rushed out the door. I was also in too much of a hurry to deal with the inReach satellite tracker. I made a few broadcast on 46 but kept going back to 25 so I cold monitor Willy. If Willy flew to the harbor I might be able to get a ride back with him, but he opted to stay local and landed at Bates. I also considered landing near the bus stop, but opted to go for the harbor figuring it was more predictable and I could borrow a phone from a spectator. Turns out Laura heard some of my broadcast reports on 46 and chased me to Ventura. She had eyes on me over the Avenue, but I hung out too long and didn't respond to her transmissions because I was mostly on 25, so she went home. She then did drive back after I called, but not a happy camper.
Wasn't sure how much wind there would be on landing. The surf was huge, but not many white caps. Did a penetration check and the GPS read zero groundspeed. Unbuckled and did the step out technique. Ran at the glider holding one of the break lines as the harness ran up the lines to kill the canopy. Thought I avoided a sharp tug, but the dental floss upper lines snapped anyway, so I was left holding a limp break handle no longer attached to the canopy. Laura arrived shortly after I finished packing up on the grass.
The conditions at Bates looked good when we stopped to get my car about 3 pm. The velocity was in 10-13ish from a good direction. One full size PG was flying around penetrating easily.
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