Saturday, March 25th offered me the opportunity to share a glider with Ramy Yanetz as my personal mentor/coach on a cross country soaring flight in the DG1000 1CH.  Due to extra moisture moving into the weather system between the departing and the approaching fronts what greeted us at6 the airport upon arriving were cloud bases around 2,000’ MSL.  On the ground preparing their gliders were Peter Dean in 2T, Thomas Greenhill in 5T, Harry Fox in FH, Ramy Yanetz and I in 1CH and Matt Gillis and guest in 5KM and Kurt Thames (TOR) who has been slumming and launching from South County airport lately.  We took out time preparing for the day and let the sun lift the clouds just a bit.  By 12:30 nerves were raw and off we went in quick succession.  Today a 2,000’ tow got you into the good stuff but the ceilings were still around 2,500’.  Peter and Thomas headed directly toward the East to mull around the three sisters waiting for the sky to lift enough to go somewhere and Ramy and I stayed West and South to explore the valley and found a good lift near the skydive drop zone, but soon joined Peter and Thomas and a couple of Golden Eagles over the Three Sisters. 

 Thomas Cutting Left into a Good One

Thomas Cutting Left into a Good One

From there the clouds led us across Pacheko Pass along a strong street, actually a highway because of all the diverting routes it offered.  None of us had any idea where Matt had gotten off to but knowing him he was likely halfway to Oregon by then.  And yes, Matt landed last so you will have to ask him where he went.  Ramy’s two favorite comments while we were flying together were, “after flying my 27 this thing drives like a truck” and every time I cored an 8 knot thermal out would come a “Yee Haw!”.

 Us taking aim on Peter: Too Close for Missiles, Switching to Guns

Us taking aim on Peter: Too Close for Missiles, Switching to Guns

After taking our shot and missing, Peter went West and up toward Lexington while Ramy and I took off North with our goal being Lick observatory.  I was a bit challenging at times with low cloud bases and a very narrow working band.  But the good thing about low clouds is they are more frequent and closer together.  We did make it to see all the observatories at the top of Mount Hamilton.  Our arrival height at the 4,400’ MSL observatories was, you guessed it, 4,400’ MSL.

We gave the locals a photo op with a few circles just adjacent to the main buildings but I think everyone was inside watching some silly March Madness basketball tournament.  So we were the ones who got the best pictures. Our safety airport at this point was Reid Hillview.

By this time Peter Dean and Harry Fox were up at Lexington reservoir, probably hanging out a fishing line from their gliders hoping to land a big rainbow trout.  As the afternoon progressed the bases rose and there were shelves in the cloud bases on each side of the valley.  Peter crossed to the East and Ramy and I crossed to the West.  We made in up to the high towers at Loma Prieta but couldn’t quite get enough height to safely cross over the peak to the next lift that would take us to Lexington.  So we mulled around for a while with the entire Monterey Bay coastline in view from the old Santa Cruz lighthouse to Lovers Point at Monterey. 

 Flying Around Jellyfish Clouds over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Flying Around Jellyfish Clouds over the Santa Cruz Mountains

Our safety airports at this point were alternating between Watsonville and South County and I told Ramy that Travis would be very pleased if we landed out at Watsonville so he could run training from there for a while.  As tempting as it sounded to make Travis’ dream come true, it was getting late and the lift was softening, so we opted to head back East and explore the Gilroy convergence. 

 

Ramy pointed it out and I was able to climb almost 3,000’ in two clouds.  The lift was now higher in the valley than on the hills and brought Hollister back within easy glide.  Finally after four hours in the air we called it a day, thoroughly satisfied that we had made the most of what Mother Nature offered us.

We touched down just around 5pm, thanked the glider for giving us such a good ride, washed the bugs off the wings and put the glider away.  There were lots of stories shared that afternoon/evening and in postings on social media the following day.  It was truly a special day and a great start to the Spring soaring season.