Wind direction at Apollo Bay generally moves in a constant cycle around the compass rose in an anti-clockwise direction. It can stay from one direction for days, and sometimes pass through various points on the compass with no pause at all.
Last Friday morning the pressure patterns were configured and moving such that forecasters predicted a light WSW wind around dawn, backing to the SE for a short time, then backing further to the E where it was forecast to stay for at least the rest of the day. The south-easterly wind strength was forecast to be 10-12 knots – strong enough for a hang glider to climb in the rising air flowing up and over the coastal hills (ridge lift).
The coastal hills at Apollo Bay provide ideal ridge soaring conditions for hang gliding when the wind is blowing from the south-east at 12-20 knots. High performance hang gliders can take off in stronger winds. But for hang gliders such as mine, a south-easterly of around 15 knots is ideal.
I drove up the winding road to the launch site not long after dawn. The wind was very light, which was mildly surprising as it was blowing 10 knots on the sea in the bay (and wind speed typically increases with elevation). We watched the wind indicators carefully for some time. Useful information was provided by the direction the clouds were blowing, the direction the boats in the harbour on single moorings were pointing (an excellent indicator of wind at the harbour), variations in surface patterns and texture on the water reservoir, movement in the wind in the trees behind and the bushes and grass beside and in front of us and the state of the surface of the sea (noting in particular, waves, wind lanes and the absence/presence/nature of whitecaps). Over a 90 minute period the wind had short periods of backing from the SW to the SSE and SE with occasional gusts around 10 knots. Eventually it settled in the SE (suitable for launching) and I launched with some optimism of at least maintaining height, and hopefully climbing a little. I turned left after takeoff, flew east down the range of hills and just as I had hoped, climbed gently in smooth rising air. I soared around for half an hour, reaching a maximum height of just over 1000 feet above sea level (200 feet above launch height). The wind then backed around to a more easterly direction, and became a little lighter. Because the ridge lift (and accordingly my altitude) were now reducing, I flew to the beach and landed.
This was a brief and straightforward flight in a basic model hang glider in good conditions with excellent launch and landing sites. The technical details of the flight are included for any readers unfamiliar with this form of flying who wish to understand a little more about how hang gliders fly. For others, enjoy the photos of a short early morning flight in this beautiful part of the world.
Soaring the Coastal Hills
Approach for Landing on the Beach
A Convenient Destination
With Bruce waiting for me at this beach (we were in touch by UHF radio), the two of us were able to carry the assembled glider over a fence and across the Great Ocean Road to this lovely area of mown lawn. Perfect spot to pack up the glider – much better than doing it on the sand. Also, my house is only 300m up the street from this corner.
The Flight Data
The GPS plot of my flight path on final approach and landing. The 3D town view looks straight up the street in which I live. The slight dog leg I used to lose a bit of height on approach can clearly be seen in the lower right image. Note: the satellite image used was taken before the speed humps (groynes) were put on my sandy runway.
Solid Easterly Blow
Apollo Bay Pedestrian
The eucalypts along Milford Creek beside our house are home to many resident and passing koalas. Seeing and hearing koalas in the trees, on the ground, on the fences and in our garden or on our lawn are all common experiences. This koala is known to us, and he was on his way to cross the road and head half a block south to the trees in his territory.
The lawn art (bottom right) appears occasionally in a Cawood St back yard.