I'm writing this from my Micro-Castle parked at the beautiful Seminole Gliderport, watching the sun come up over the runway. I don't know if I'm having a great dream, or waking up from a winter-long sleep, but either way it feels pretty good.
Team-flying partner John Mittell (BZ) and I got down here on Thursday, and got to air our gliders out a bit yesterday (Friday). Soaring conditions were marginal to say the least, with 17-20kt winds, poor visibility, and broken-up thermals, but hey - it was flying! We didn't go anywhere, but did get to practice formation flying and communications a bit. Have to say that the first thought into my head when we pulled up in to that first thermal side-by-side was "Hey, this looks just like Condor!" ;-).
The gliderport is better prepared this year than I have ever seen it in the 8 years or so I have been attending the Seniors. Mihai Tanjala and his wife Nina, along with Contest Manager Rich Owens and Virginia Thompson have been working tirelessly to make this the best Seniors ever. The place looks spotless, and new power & water outlets were being installed along the rope west of the office as I arrived. A couple of wi-fi range extenders have also been installed in the office, so wi-fi signal strength is much better this year than last (although there are still bandwidth issues - not much to be done about that). Rumor has it that Scott Alexander, Jet Blue pilot recently transplanted from Mississippi to Florida has also had a hand in local improvements. Any concerns I might have had about the Seniors due to the departure of Andreea and Florin have been laid to rest - looks to me like Mihai and Nina are here to stay!
Spent the day puttering around with my glider brake. I noticed yesterday on rollout that my brake was poor-to-nonexistent - yikes! My V2bx hydraulic disk brake is usually excellent, and I normally can put the glider up on its nose if necessary. So, today I went through the process of pulling the seat pan to access the hydraulic cylinder and cable connection to check everything out. Turned out that the cable connecting the hand lever to the master cylinder had failed right at the hand lever - sure glad that happened while landing at Seminole - one of the largest and longest glider runways known to man, and not while trying to shoehorn my glider into a small landout field! Anyway, ace mechanic Russel Brown was able to attach a new length of cable to my brake lever fitting (which looks suspiciously like a bicycle brake lever arrangement) and I was able to restring the new cable to the master cylinder. This took a while, but I wasn't in much of a hurry either, as the winds were howling at 20 kt on the ground, and over 30kt at altitude.
Paul Remde of Cumulus Soaring has decided to become a dealer for the Delorme InReach tracker, and he graciously loaned me a unit to play with down here at Seminole. I got to play with it for the first time yesterday, and it seems to work very well. It is considerably larger and thicker than even the 'old' SPOT units, but has *much* better performance - it provides altitude, speed/bearing, and position every 1 or 2 minutes (selectable). The bad news is that it also costs considerably more to purchase initially and monthly tracking costs can be significant - DeLorme essentially charges on a bytes-used basis, and with 1 or 2-minute tracking and at 13 bytes/track hit, that can add up. One of the things Paul and I hope to get out of my flying here is some actual data on which we can base some ongoing cost estimates. I also understand that Sean Fidler (F2) will be flying with an InReach unit in the Seniors, so we can get two different data points on the cost issue. To see the tracking information as displayed on the DeLorme website for Paul's tracker, go to https://share.delorme.com/PaulRemde.
Tomorrow's weather should be slightly less windy, but probably blue - oh boy! ;-).