Let’s see what this year’s season has to offer. Today is the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Respected forecasters Klotzbach & Gray indicate that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will have significantly more activity than the average 1950-2000 season. They estimate that 2010 will have about 8 hurricanes (average is 5.9), 15 named storms (average is 9.6), 75 named storm days (average is 49.1), 35 hurricane days (average is 24.5), 4 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and 10 major hurricane days (average is 5.0).
September is statistically the month with the strongest hurricane incidence in Jamaica. This is how an old Jamaican saying goes:
June too soon
July stand by
August look out you must
October all over
Nevertheless, we will still be able to fly our ultralight crafts - just not during a hurricane of course.
In the dry season (February / March) when conditions tend to be too strong at midday, afternoon flights from Skyline can be wonderful, relaxing and mellow. Last weekend on both afternoons a group of five pilots (AnnaK, Conall, Dale, Neil from UK and Jurgs) met at Skyline to launch into buoyant ridge lift. We were riding that anabatic flow generated by the hot sun over Kingston for hours. The sky felt unusually crowded and sometimes you really had to look out for space to turn, hoping the other pilots would respect the ridge rules.
Conall, AnnaK and Dale
Animal-loving AnnaK said she could see the eyes of a couple of mating John Crows when they were flying really close to her. Pilot in training, Vivian who was giving us a hand at the launch, reckoned that he ‘felt no pain in his knee’ when we were all floating effortless in the air a few hundred feet above him.
Let’s face it, paragliding is a real treat for us who fly, as much as for spectators on the ground.
The weather forecast for Saturday called for a southerly breeze - quite an unusual phenomenon for Jamaica. A cold front was pushing through from the N earlier this week providing for 15″ of snow up in New York.
The regular Skyline suspects meet at the launch after midday (thanks Reva & Ricardo for the shuttle). They launch into S ridge lift mixed with choppy thermals. Veteran Jurgs seems to have the least ‘bump tolerance’ and leads the pack to go down for a lunch break.
At 3 pm conditions are much smoother and Conall, Dale & Jurgs launch again. Soaring along the ridge for over half an hour they provide for great entertainment to a wedding party waiting for the ceremony to start and having drinks at the pool.
Nyi Nyi / Bhoorasingh wedding party on Skyline
Later in the afternoon, rain clouds are threatening from the NW and we decide to go down and call it a day. We are content we were able to once again make paragliding more visible in Jamaica as a lot of people were witnessing our flying session today.
Saturday had plenty of wind and we only met at 4pm for a sunset cruise: special guest from France - Francois, Dale, Conall & Jurgs. On his second flight Conall almost had to turn on the head lights to find the LZ as the sun was already setting when he finally landed.
On Sunday the wind was still providing for strong lift and sink. Francois, Dale & Jurgs had two flights each with good lift up to 3,000 ft, while Conall dedicated his day to math research and Jeremy took time to detox However, the bumpy air kind of spoiled the fun a bit.
Special thanks to Vivian for his logistical support! We hope you soon will enjoy airtime yourself.
Dale heading towards LZ
As of midday a cold front started to move in and after our late lunch the sky was 100% overcast. After weeks of drought, Kingston actually got a cm of well needed rain in the evening.
After a Sunday sledride we went home around midday as drizzle was threatening to spoil the day. Dale went back to the flying site in the afternoon when conditions had improved and did a short flight around 3 pm. His phone call and nice cu above Skyline made me rush back to the LZ, pick-up Dale and drive-up to launch. Conditions at 4 pm were light but shortly after forward launching and almost losing my cockpit I caught a nice thermal which got me all the way up to cloud base at 3,800 ft. Blissful! Dale could not stand it and decided to launch as well. We spent about an hour thermaling and soaring together along the Skyline ridge all the way to IVOR and could have easily gone to Constant Spring. Trade winds on the windward side of Dallas and Long Mountain were blowing at 20-25 mls/h and sometimes made it a bit rough and uncomfortable when breaking through.
We both landed in the UTECH front field in plenty head wind, left our bags with the security at the gate and walked/hitch hiked back to Skyline for our cars. When we finally reached Skyline the sun was setting and we drove home with a big smile on our faces. What a marvellous way to spend a Sunday afternoon in January while Northern Europe and America are covered in snow! Seems like the dry season is upon us already.
Sorry Jeremy, Conall and AnnaK you missed this opportunity.
NW view of mountain ridge from 2,500 ft (click on photo to see video)
The launch site is wide and deep - a pilot’s dream! We practised forward and reverse launches and were able to climb to >3000 ft asl. This side is also suitable for beginner training, provided that the weather co-operates. Trade winds could be a problem.
1600 ft below launch there is ample landing space. Village folks approach the pilots after landing and are not shy to be photographed.
On Christmas Eve when ‘normal’ people finish wrapping their gifts to put under the tree, three obsessed paragliding pilots went out on a site finding mission to Mandeville and Malvern.
The Kirkvine Hill, NE of Mandeville, has a clear patch (2700 ft asl) on the SE face which would allow launching. However, access is a little difficult even with a 4WD.
View from John Crow Hill launch S (with Treasure Beach in the background)
A much more promising site is what the locals call ‘John Crow Hill’ (1800 ft asl) of New Malvern / Mountainside. It is a drive-up and overlooks the plains N of Treasure Beach. Even though the ridge is in SE-NW direction, the grassy launch is heading S.
Over Christmas, Dale successfully tested the site for a short flight, where he decided to stay in the valley on top rather than flying out into the plains. The vertical of approx. 1800 ft is very inviting and the only negative is the direction of the trade winds which may create some rotor. Dale, Conall and Jurgen are going to test the new site again on the first weekend in 2010. Until then, Happy New year and safe landings.
Bwoy, those pre-frontal conditions on Sat, Dec 19th were lovely. Conall launched at 12:30, Dale at 12:40 and Jurgen joined them ten minutes later. All three of them were soaring up to 2′500 ft where the ceiling seemed to be that day and wisps of clouds greeted them.
At 14:00 they decided to head towards the landing at UTECH into 15 - 20 kmh of southerly breeze. My guys were in awe to be in the air for such an extended time! (This year’s northerly conditions due to El Nino had not offered easy soaring conditions very often.)
The following night we had 2.5″ of rain while North America got stuck in 10-20″ of snow.