Heading for the Beach
Today was only our third attempt this season to set a task to the
northeast threading through airspaces and massive rivers and swamps and wildlife
reserve areas. We really haven't attempted this in a good number of years until
Larry set up a task that would thread the needle and take us to Hammock Beach
north of Flagler Beach.
I was pulled up first at 1:15 PM, an hour later than we had been launching the
past week, and climbed quickly at 300 fpm to 4,300'. You need to have a lot of
altitude if you are heading to the northeast from Wilotree Park and want to make
it to the next reasonable landing area. The tail wind was 16 mph out of the
south southwest. There was a cloud street right over me in the correct
I climbed to 4,800' east of the gator airfield and had to rush to the side of
the cu to keep out of the mist.
I was quickly under the 6,000' floor Orlando airspace. I was just riding the
cloud street staying near 4,500' and going up while going straight.
I went on a twelve kilometer glide under the cloud street over the wet
fields on the north side of the lake and got down to 2,300' northeast of Lake
Apopka, over a populated area with few landing options.
I worked 40 fpm just to be able to drift toward friendlier LZ's climbing to
2,700'. Looking to the east I saw what looked to me like a hot spot. Upwind of a
dark cloud, plenty of sunshine on the upwind side (I had been in the shade),
dry, open ground. I headed for it and found 500 fpm (often 700 fpm) to 4,600'. I
had to pull in hard to keep from getting sucked up into the cloud.
I was able to stay high and with the cloud street as I approached the Pine Lake
areas northwest of the Seminole State Forest. I was following highway 44 toward
Deland and our turnpoint at a small airfield north of the St. Johns River. I saw
few landing areas but what looked like hundreds of small lakes. I climbed to
5,200' pushing hard to stay out of the clouds.
An 8 kilometer glide took me to over the St. Johns River, which is truly
massive. Uninhabited swamp lands to the northwest. I was able to climb to 4,400'
over the river. Larry was landing just on the west side of the river in a huge
field. John Simon was about twenty kilometers behind having been down to 900'
north of Lake Apopka.
The wind was 16 mph out of the south west. This next leg was straight north. I
knew that this would be very difficult. The cloud street went off to the
northeast and I had to follow it a bit to get up west of the Deland airfield.
There was a thin strip of civilization and landable fields between the St. Johns
to the west and the Tomoka Wildlife area to the east. I climbed to 4,500'
looking down the gut of the Deland airfield runway hoping that the planes would
be coming in low. The thermal was rough and completely unpleasant as well as
taking me in the wrong direction.
I headed north just west of the Bob Lee airfield and toward open spaces.
Down to 3,200' just south of Lake Dias I worked 100 fpm to 3,500' going cross
wise to the task line.
There was a huge field across the lake north of Caraway Lake and I focused on it
as a good place to land. I didn't see any big fields further north from this
altitude. Also there was a big blue hole to the north.
There was lift over the big field so it took a while to get down, but I had had
it with the turbulence. I wanted to get back on the ground.
After landing I got on the radio with John Simon. He was ten kilometers back but
at 5,000'. He would find lift closer to me and get to the next area with big
open fields about 15 kilometers to the north, but not make it to the next
Our tasks are difficult but a challenge that we accept. We'll see what the day
after tomorrow brings. Tomorrow much stronger west southwest winds. These were