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Saturday, 3/19/2022 [Weather] and [Flight Articles] by [??] & [Sundowner]
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Sundowner's Flight Report, see also [Weather Archive]

Skyport to Cathedral to Fillmore

Reference: [IGC Text Data File] and [Google Earth KMZ File] or [Ayvri Solo Web Animation] and [JPG Overview]

Saturday, 3/19/2022
Leg 1 ~ 1.9 miles / Skyport to Cathedral
Leg 2 ~ 44.8 miles / Cathedral to the West side of Fillmore
total distance around 1 turn point ~ 46.7 miles (SLOFD)
~ 3 hr 31 min airtime, takeoff at 11:47:55 PDT, Land at 3:18:31 PDT
UP Trango

click on image for full size

Not a record breaking flight, but the longest foot launched flight in California on Saturday.

No takers, so out the door solo, a little late-ish due to low cloudbase in Carpinteria early.  Waved at Jay and then Willy who were driving down from Flores Flats.  Considered backtracking to Parma to carpool up, but I liked my timing and didn't want to burn another half hour plus.  It was cycling in nice at the Rock.  Would have launched from there if it weren't for the new-ish (now old?) fence blocking launch.  With E to SE wind along the coast and the ridgeline reporting stations, I thought the Bypass would be cross from the East, but it was coming up (from the SW) so I knew it was convection and not simply wind.  The Skyport was cycling in solid, but I took my time setting up due to low but rising cloudbase out front and off toward the east. 

Launch at 11:48 and climbed easily to more than 300 over launch in a big smooth thermal.  Opted to pull out after only 2 turns.  Cloudbase was lower out front so I didn't want to get whited out in the back.  Morning flow had been from the east, so I went SW, angling for a gap in the clouds.  Bounced up over Tunnel Tit, but only to 3K because cloudbase was lower over the Tit than at the RnR.  Despite the early wind from the ESE, I seemed to be pressing into an increasing headwind from the West, maybe 10 MPH as I approached Cathedral.  Kept looking over my shoulder keeping an eye on the glide angle back to the Holly Hills.  Sort of got to Cathedral but low out front.  Hit a small bullet, but it seemed lee side so I dolphined around the corner and into the gap.  Probably could have gotten up if I was more committal, but my glide back to the Holly Hills looked marginal so I fell off and fished out over the front point with no joy and turned back toward the west spine of the Holly Hills with 2100, a little low, but it was downwind.

I like a low save early in a flight because it helps set the tone.  Came in low on the west Holly Hills spine (1732 Ft) but it was aligned with the SW wind and I'd been willing to launch from the Rock, which was 200 feet lower.  Got back over 3K, cloudbase limited again.  I debated on what to do.  Cloudbase was 500 feet higher at the Thermal Factory and it looked low off toward the east.  I considered stepping back, but was concerned the west might build so I opted to stay out front and took a skip off the antenna farm before climbing back to base at 3K over Parkers, still drifting from the west.

Turned north to fish up the west Spine of Montecito.  Flew low over some waving hikers but didn't want to let go to wave back.  The spine had a little draw, but not enough so I peeled off toward the right and across the back of the bowl to the east spine.  The low clouds out front were evaporating.  I was ahead of the west wind with a little drift from the ESE.  I sensed I needed to slow down and bench up before continuing east.  Made a lot up spaghetti, up and down but eventually back up over 3K for a higher probability crossing to the west end of Ramero (Layer Cake?).  Worked up and then over to the Road Cut for a slow but mostly steady climb to 38, still ahead for the west wind.

The day was getting better. Drying out front, but there was a lower level haze and some low stratus.  Castle Ridge worked good enough that I could skip over a few points.  Started getting a little tailwind from the west about mid-way along Castle Ridge.  Debated about heading out toward the Rincon Coast, which had been my initial pre-flight intention, but cloudbase over Casitas Pass was a 500 over the peaks and I was skeptical the Rincon route would be productive.  Didn't seem like a lot of west wind, less than the forecast, so I opted to keep going toward the good looking clouds over Casitas Pass.

Snowball's Daddy was good to over 4K with drift from the west, then 44 at the Power Lines in drift from the South.  Went for the back of  Noon, but had to limp out along the spine southbound toward the Trapezoid, which bounced me up enough to make a better play uphill where I got to 4600 over Noon Peak.  The back route looked like it would work, but the altitude was not so good so I cut across and spooned into the West Divide Saddle.  The Saddle thermal was weak and smooth without much drift.  Picked up 300 plus, enough to bench back toward the Peak behind the saddle.  I like to get to 45 or more at Noon and West Divide and prefer 5K or better (depending on the wind and glides).  I got to 46 plus at Noon, but Divide was ODing with lowering cloudbase, now below the peak.  Started picking up some drift from the west.  I could boat downwind along the faces and gain a little but the lift was weak and I'd mostly loose the bubbles when I tried turning back for upwind passes.  There was still good sun over White Ledge.  After gaining a little to almost 44 on the east finger of West Divide, I opted to reach for East Divide (didn't really have a choice as it was shutting down at West Divide).

Initially angled back a little on an aggressive line toward higher terrain, but realized I could come up short and get trapped between the Divide spines, so changed course a bit toward the ESE and intercepted the East Divide Spine as high as I could.  I was now perceiving more wind from the west, being down in the venturi flow through the pass.  There was a good cloud over the higher ground to the south of a low saddle in the spine, so I dolphined toward it but was not willing to go all in and would turn east and reach for the SW bump below White Ledge if it didn't work.  I hooked a productive core in the saddle, still a little downwind of the bump ahead, but it had significant drift from the SW.  It got me from 39 back up to 42.  Pressing upwind toward the dark cloud might have worked, but I was almost to cloudbase anyway (it was lower out front) so I fell off for the glide eastbound and came in on the SW bump of White Ledge with 35, the published OK "in the game" altitude.

White Ledge was in the sun with a nice cloud overhead.  Coring the strong bubbles close to the impressive terrain can be intimidating mid-day,  but I needed it, so worked up the spine half way before peeling off toward the corner (SE of White Ledge) with 4200 (White Ledge Peak is 4566).  Followed a draw in (to the left) and up one of the finger spines then surfed the ridgeline up to the peak for a climb to over 55, my best altitude of the day so far.  Ojai looked really good with high cloudbase, but I suspected it would be Oding by the time I could get there?

After crossing Hwy 33, there was some west wind picking up once I got away from the Hwy 33 gap which was drawing into the gap from the SE (typical).  Went off the east end of Nordhoff  a little low because I sensed it was ODing down range and I didn't like the wind gnawed punchy thermals at Nordhoff.  Significant west wind at Stooges.  Picked up a few hundred on west face with figure 8s, climbing from 29 to 3200.  A little low to reach for Twin Peaks, but I figured I could come in low and count on getting up in the ridge lift, which I did before tracking a thermal up the spine toward Chiefs.  Got to 46 and could have gone higher, but there was drift from the SSW, and I was running out of time before it completely ODed, so I pulled out and headed east down the front points.

Coulda shoulda... It was really dark ahead.  There was a big fat cloud over upper Ojai that angled toward the mountains completely shading the Repeater Points and Boyd's, but the front points of Puckers (below the SE spine of the Topa Bluffs) was getting some sun.  My academic side was telling me to play directly for the Upper Ojai flats, but if I could reach the sun on a buoyant glide it would be more direct and faster.  No joy over West Repeater, East Repeater, or Boyd's.  I had a lot of tailwind (from the west) across the Repeater front points and was getting a good glide, but didn't leave the Chiefs spine with a lot of altitude and I was going to run out.  Started encountering increasing headwind from the east at Boyd's.  Got to Boyd's east spine a little above the power line.  The Koenigstein Road Plateau (below Puckers) was in sun, and is an easy LZ, but miles from the main road with no Uber potential.  If I had a tailwind I would have crossed to the low points below Puckers but with a headwind the odds seemed unlikely.  I turned right and angled south.  Found some scraps for a couple hundred part way out, but it wasn't going to base so I continued on and fell off, angling back toward the SW with the east wind.  The south side of the valley wasn't in full sun, but it was lighter and not as dark as the north side of the valley.  Down to 900 AGL, but the upper Ojai Convergence has delivered countless times in the past so I was hopeful.

Love the changing fortunes in our sport (at least the positive changes).  After 2 turns in a weak smooth core I knew I was going to base.  It was dark, so the thermal was weak but smooth.  I shifted gears Colombia style (when we transitioned from the mountains to the flats in Colombia this past February) and enjoyed the ride and the improving view.  Base was in the low 4s but I took it has high as I could and topped a little over 58.  My run to the convergence thermal was downwind from the east, but the thermal drifted from the SW.

I had a pretty good tailwind at altitude and was getting a nice glide.  I wanted to get to a bus stop.  Passing south of Saint Thomas College I considered angling east and running for Santa Paula Ridge, but cloudbase was now below the top, and there was a another lower layer of clouds down in the haze.  If I could climb near Santa Paula Peak I'd make the bus stop in Fillmore, but I had the glide to somewhere along Hwy 126 and didn't want to give that up.  If I detoured to Santa Paula Ridge and it didn't work, I might not make it out to the main road.  Initially angled for Santa Paula (the town) thinking I could get the 126 bus there, but I sensed some upriver drift so fell off progressively more to the east toward Fillmore.  Ran out of altitude east of the Sespe on the west side of town.  Did a penetration check with multiple big open fields to choose from and was mostly parked out off bar but could move forward on bar.  Landed next to E Street and Hwy 126.

I was about a mile and a half from the Fillmore bus stop.  A couple of independent spectators had seen me land and drove over to chat.  One was a power PG pilot.  Would have asked for a ride to the bus stop but I needed to get packed up first.  My plan was to Uber to the Community Center (the Hwy 126 bus stop), but during my walking to the Hwy, the bus came by going toward Fillmore.  I knew I wouldn't be able to Uber to the Fillmore bus stop in time, so I requested an Uber to Santa Paula, figuring if I was ahead of the bus I could catch it in Santa Paula.  I've never tired to get an Uber in Fillmore, but have experience with "No Drivers Available" between Fillmore and Interstate 5.  Initially got the dreaded "No Drivers Available" message multiple times, so I thought I might try changing my destination from Santa Paula to Fillmore thinking I might have better success with an "in town" trip?  Fortunately after about 10 minutes Uber did connect me with a driver to Santa Paula so I confirmed by phone and kept the bird in hand rather than changing destinations.  Gabby was coming from Moorpark with an ETA of 22 minutes, not soon enough to stay ahead of the 4 PM bus out of Fillmore.  The 5:15 PM 126 bus out of Fillmore gets to Ventura a few minutes too late to connect with the last Coastal Express bus of the day to Carpinteria.  I tried to flag the 126 bus as it drove by but the driver didn't acknowledge my presence.  When my Uber arrived I negotiated with Gabby about taking me beyond Santa Paula to Ventura so I could get there in time to catch the last bus of the day to Carpinteria, but her compensation expectation was favorable, and Gabby preferred to take me all the way to my front door for only a little more.

A hang glider was still up as we passed Bates a little after 5 PM.


I like flying on weekends because it is more social.  I passed on Friday to fly Saturday, but ended up solo and not so social.  I was elated to simply get off the hill on a day that looked iffy on paper (or perhaps I'm too pessimistic in reading the tea leaves?).  A look at XCfind suggest I had the longest flight in California on Saturday by an order of magnitude (10 times further than 2nd place).  I'm a big fan of flying the day rather than a pre-defined task.  I like the choices of were to go and what to try based on how the day evolves, especially on colorful days that have a lot of variation.  There are numerous local pilots who are "better" than me.  I can't keep up with the likes of Carter or Logan (and others) on the upwind legs, and can no longer shake them on the downwind legs, but I've likely had the "best" flight of the day in California on 5 of my last 7 flights from Santa Barbara (as evaluated by some metric like Straight Line Over-Flown Distance "SLOFD" around x turn-points). As my testosterone fades, I do it for fun, and Saturday was fun.  Would have been more fun and rewarding with other pilots to share the elevated endorphin.


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