The marginal weather days are the worst. The mornings when it’s obvious that flying is on or, when it’s blowing a gale or belting rain, definitely off, are easy. The problem is when you know you will have to get up and troop out to the launch site only to cancel and come home, that are a pain. This morning was just such a day.
Once out on the launch field the local commercial pilots predicted (some more confidently than others) that there would be a narrow window of opportunity to fly. However, this did rely on a few meteorological things lining up just so. First a light wind from the north west in conjunction with the rising sun would clear the fog, mostly. Then, the same wind, becoming free of the cloud base above it would ease off (what we call the Bradley squeeze) just enough to allow a quick inflation and a scenic flight for the punters. What they didn’t articulate or particularly look forward to, was the fact that they would all have to work very, very hard to pull it off.
We however, unrestricted by commercial obligations, had the luxury of saying ‘Sod that for a game of soldiers.’ Unless the weather came good it would be all a bit academic anyway. So, in the time honoured fashion of weather dependent sports, we stood around in the dark, on the side of a road, staring into the fog. Waiting.
To break the tedium, Gretta gave Clayton (one of the commercial pilots) a bubble gun. This was no offhand gift. The day before Clayton and his passengers had been mesmerized by a wall of bubbles which Gretta and Dan had created as they flew along with the pack. As the sun’s rays hit the surface of the bubbles they shone and dazzled against a backdrop iridescent blue sky. It was a bit of a hit with those who saw it, including Clayton. Armed with his new toy he marched up and down the road verge with eyes scanning the horizon, interrogating every wisp of fog while a trail of bubbles followed in his wake.
However unlikely it seemed, the weather did exactly as foretold and there was a sudden burst of activity to get seven balloons aloft. Gretta and I watched from the side lines with mixed parts envy and relief that we had opted not to go. The envy grew as each balloon glided past us until we were left kicking ourselves for being so conservative in our thinking and not trusting enough in the judgement of the locals.
Which is why the days with marginal weather conditions are the worst to judge. No one likes missing a slot. But working hard is no fun either and those that flew today certainly earned their keep. According to Clayton there wasn’t time to relax let alone blow bubbles during the flight. On days like this it can go either way. Hopefully tomorrow is fog free and easier to call.