The great hostage drama!
Chris Brent, Ben Deacon, and I have just had 2 wonderful weeks in Canada and the USA.
For the first week we were at the St Honore kite festival in Northern Quebec, then went down to the Great Lakes area for 8 days kitesailing. St Honore has a wonderful site for kiteflying; an airfield, naturally. A centre for pilot training, it is, by landings and takeoffs, the busiest in Canada. Just to scotch any rumour to the contrary that might filter south, the only airplane crash that happened while we were there (a heavy landing following an engine failure from what I could tell), was nothing at all to do with us, I hope.
The weather conditions for kiteflying were as interesting as I’ve encountered at an event for some time- 6 days of too much wind, then, not enough to keep any kite up for more than a minute at a time on the final Sunday- but there was a well organised perfect wind on Saturday afternoon when it really mattered! We had eight maxi-size single line kites with us and were able to fly every day though- and the enthusiasm and hospitality of the organisers and public more than compensated for the sometimes difficult wind.
While not engaged with the single line kites we joined a large contingent of local buggiers and mountain boarders on the runways- which were partially closed to airplane use for the event.
Oh, and Richard (Dutton), Chris says, sorry he broke your buggy and we all hope that effects of the tumble you took off the Ray line (during a strong wind re-launch) soon fade.
Quebec traction kiting is of a high order. Chris, and especially Ben- who kiteskied across Greenland last year and has the Antarctic firmly in his sights now- are entertaining thoughts of returning there during the snow season. Joined by Eric and Christine Brackenbury after St Honore, we then based ourselves with Meg and Bill Albers in Buffalo for 8 days kitesailing at various Great Lakes locations.
What an area- it’s, well, it’s just great. Only Sunday at Toronto (Lake Ontario) was a wipe out – no wind, though I did get one very short run in using a NASA derivative super light wind kite - and at Youngstown Yacht Club (old Fort Niagara) the launching site was so challenging that only Chris made it out onto the lake- or attempted to- but every other day’s sailing was as good as I can ever remember. Winds were unremittingly smooth and useable- and must generally be so, judging by complaints as to how turbulent it was from the local kiteboarders who joined us one day - comments that left Chris and I shaking our heads in envious disbelief.
The really exciting insight for me ( I’m slow on the uptake, everyone else knew this years ago) is that the entire Great Lakes area – in fact most of the northern USA and all of Canada- is a wintertime kite traction paradise. Unlike NZ, wintertime is wind time there, and there are thousands, probably tens of thousands of accessible and desirable locations. It’s the global market all in one continent.
Oh, and the hostage drama?
One day we headed over the so called "Peace" bridge from Buffalo to sail at Crystal Beach (also on Lake Erie, but just the other side of the Niagara river intake). US Customs are at one end of the bridge, Canadian Customs at the other. The US fella’s aren’t at all interested in people departing, won’t even say goodbye- so it wasn’t ‘till after we’d passed them that Meg (driving) casually requested our passports for entry into Canada. Chris and Ben, being Australian, don’t generally believe that going to the beach for the day should require passports, so had left theirs back at the house. Having already formally exited the USA, Meg pulled a ‘creative’ U turn in front of Canadian Customs, dropping our illegals at the no-mans-land duty free shop and we headed back to pick up their documents. Unfortunately this unorthodox behaviour had been noticed by about a thousand surveillance cameras and all the customs staff on both sides- so we were immediately rounded up and taken away for, err, interrogation. Possibly we didn’t help our case a lot by talking loudly about radioactivity, explosives and ethnic profiling while being held, but finally Meg was released to retrieve their passports. On asking if I could leave also they said, "no way, we’re keeping you hostage until this is all sorted" which they did, eventually with a smile. As I said last year when the police ‘stole’ my KiteCat at Seaside, America is a strange place; I thought the war-on- terror initiative was suppoded to stop hostage taking, but there you go.
Ashburton, July 2nd, ’05
There are lots of things in the pipeline- and with Chris and I on the bounce from an inspirational trip, we have so many ideas. I just can’t wait to get through all the usual paperwork that banks up while I’m away so I can get to the sewing machine - and it’s a new one, raring to go.
For KiteCats, there is now a frame system that allows folding to keep them within the vehicle width for roof rack carrying in countries that restrict side overhangs. The first one of these- pictured on our rental car’s roof during the recent Great Lakes peregrinations- will be refined a little more so as to be spannerless and to lock at the required width.
Another new thing is that we did our first comparative testing with a 15sq.m NASA kite derivative for light wind kitesailing. VERY interesting!: I had expected that as soon as there was enough wind to be able to use a 19m Venom, it would be faster, especially upwind- but this proved not to be so. The cross over was at 5 to 6 kn true wind- well above the Venom’s minimum flying wind. Although the NASA has an L/D (efficiency) of no more than half that of the Venom, even from 2 kn or so it stays up easily - and pulls like a train. All it’s meagre L/D was therefore immediately available for upwind sailing, whereas to stay up in lighter winds, the Venom required figure eighting- thereby losing so much of it’s L/D potential as to drop it below the actual performance of the NASA- which was also the faster kite downwind.
I can see a real niche for kites of this type in very light wind sailing, and we will definitely be carrying this development further now. Of course as soon as the wind rose above the about 6kn crossover, the Venom powered KiteCat disappeared rapidly over any horizon you cared to point it at- but it is surprising how often we sail in lighter winds.