Thursday August 03, 2006
Beware of wet chutes!
Left McMinnville early, accompanied by Darrell Mazzoline. We picked up a 15 mpg tailwind, which meant that he had to turn back after 20 minutes or he'd risk not having enough fuel to make it back.
The tailwind soon increased to 20 mph, and life was looking good. Collegedale (3M3) would be under the tires in no time. Then nature stepped in.
A cumulus column quickly popped up in the direction I was flying. It's amazing how quickly they can form. That in itself didn't worry me too much as long as its base was way overhead. But then there was a series of lighting strikes, and I decided to land and see what developed. I chose a nice looking field in top of a ridge, and landed in what I found out was Dunlap.
After packing the chute I waited around, and the farm tenant arrived and we chatted a while. After an hour it appeared the storm was moving off, and that I'd have a clear shot to Collegedale. I took off and after a half hour a very fast moving heavy rain storm caught me, and I decided to land again. The landing was uneventful (in Bakewell), but the chute was soaked by the time I'd put it in the bag.
A few hours later the sky cleared again, there was no surface wind, and I thought I'd knock off the last 25 miles. I'll admit I was a bit nervous, never having tried to kite a wet chute before. I took extra care to make sure it was laid out symmetrically, so as to maximize the probability of a balanced inflation.
Alas, it was not to be. The chute was quite unbalanced from the water, oscillated terribly, and unfortunately pulled Voyager off the line of travel I was trying to maintain during the take-off roll, and over a fairly wide and deep drainage ditch on the right. The intense jarring bent some of the prop ring tubing and some debris punched a hole in the chute. Bummer.....
Maybe this was the way the Powers That Be used to force us to take a short rest. It's been almost 3 months non-stop since the USS Midway, and we only have 6 more stops. Hard to believe the trip is almost over. So while the replacement tubing is being prepared (not a major task) and the chute repaired, we'll be taking a well deserved rest for the next 4 or 5 days. Then, rested, we'll charge into the last few legs of the trip, and arrive at the Yorktown.