Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Flying Makarska

With the weather looking iffy, Nick hurried us to Makarska to catch the best looking day for flying. The timing was perfect as it turned out we had only one suitable flying day during our 5-day tour of Slovenia and Croatia. 

We were supposed to get permits from the local club in order to fly in the Nature Park Biokovo where the launch area is. Nick had texted Basho the night before but in the morning couldn't get hold of him. We headed up anyway and of course got stopped by a Park Ranger just as we were getting our gliders out of the van. The Ranger phoned Basho (whose cell phone had broken that morning), Nick talked to Basho and arranged for us to get the permits later in the day and Basho gave us the go-ahead to fly. 

At over 4000 ft (1300m), the road up to launch was again very steep and winding with lots of switchbacks. The higher we went, the narrower the road got! It was definitely a challenge when meeting other vehicles. I was very impressed that Sherri (the only non-pilot on the trip) was willing to drive the van down so that we could all fly. Very brave and very generous of her! 

Nick launched first to check conditions and to be in the landing area to help guide us in if required. It was a relatively small beach area to begin with; add in nude sunbathers, a long row of beach chairs, a crane and various other obstacles, it certainly wasn't the easiest LZ of the trip! 
In the air, looking south from the LZ.
Checking out the LZ. No nude sunbathers yet but the beach chairs were in the process of being set up, thereby making our landing area a bit smaller.
On the 20 minute hike from the road to the launch area.
The launch area was more than 4000ft above LZ so lots of height!! Beware the rocks though!
View of Makarska Harbour from the launch area.
The LZ is the small spit of beach with the crane at the end.
Nick launched first in order to check conditions and to guide us in to the LZ if needed.
You can see Nick's glider, a small lighter blue speck against the water, just to the left of the crane.

Steven flying below me and nearing the LZ.
Most of us went along the ridge and then came out to land. You didn't want to get too far north as the wind was strong enough that there was concern getting back if you went too far. Andrew scratched back and forth along the ridge area and after quite some time, managed to get above the ridge. He landed with freezing cold hands!
Andrew setting up for landing.
Dan coming in to the LZ.
After the first flight, and after lunch, we met with Basho to get our permits. We were hoping for a second flight but Basho was definitely a talker and we all felt it rude to try to hurry him along. In the end, it was too late by the time we finished.
Meeting with Basho, the head of the local club, to get our permits.
There was still hope for the next day though. It rained overnight but was forecast to clear up in the afternoon. Nick, Guti and Steven went to Dubrovnik for the morning and wandered in the rain there.

Andrew and I hiked around the peninsula by the Makarska harbour and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The sun came out but the clouds were definitely teasing us! At 10am it was mostly blue skies with just a bit of cloud left near the launch area. We thought for sure it was going to clear up just fine. By 11 there were dark black clouds covering the entire ridge! The clouds came and went in various directions. The group that went to Dubrovnik got back about 2 and it was clear enough to at least give it a try.

Hoping those clouds get higher!
As we got closer to the official launch area, the clouds quickly came lower so we decided to try to find another spot. I pretty much immediately decided I wasn't willing to risk the rock tripping hazards or the question of actually getting to the official LZ. Other landing options were limited. The nearby soccer field had a game going on. About the only other option was an even smaller patch of beach that we hadn't checked out beforehand. 

Dan got his gear ready (if any of us could nail questionable launch and landing areas, it would be him and Nick) but in the end, with clouds gathering on either side of us, no wind at first and then wind coming over the back, he also decided to pack it in. 

Sadly, due to rain and high winds (and snow as we headed back into Austria), the flight in Makarska was the last one of the trip. Andrew and I both have 99 flights (not counting the 80+ at the training hill at Elings Park in Santa Barbara) so we're definitely looking forward to the next one! 
An alternate launch area? Even rockier than the first one.
Steven explaining his thoughts. Clouds covering the real launch area.
Andrew looking discouraged by a no-fly day.
Dan thinking positively.
Watching it get cloudier . . . 
. . . and cloudier.
The sun barely peeking through the clouds and reflecting on the water.
On the way back to Salzburg, we again stopped at Lijack, the flying site near Kobarid, Slovenia. It was amazingly clear skies but the wind was very strong and coming the wrong direction. We tried!
Beside the LZ at Lijack. The launch is the patch of grass just below the red stripe in the flag.

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