We headed out with the Dowel Box kite since winds had been quite gusty and fresh earlier in the day. Time to give it a real work-out, and let out all the 150 meter (500 feet) line!
On arriving at the reserve, the wind seemed to have moderated a bit, but gusts were still blowing through. Accordingly, we sheltered by one corner of the toilet block in order to rig the kite.
The Dowel Box kite is quite light for a dowel design. Hence, it's a real handful to rig out in the open with the wind trying to bend it inside out!
It was just a short walk across the car park and onto the grassed area. It now seemed the winds were quite light down low, making a hand launch impossible. However, looking up, I saw puffy cumulus clouds moving along steadily. Winds were at least 'moderate' up there! Hopefully we could contact some of that air.
For at least the next 15 minutes, we had a succession of short flights. All ended with gentle landings quite close by. All the line had been wound in, trying to keep the big orange Box kite in the air. I tended to lay out more line on each attempt, doing my 'payout winch' imitation. That is, jogging upwind while letting line slip through my hand to keep a constant tension in the line.
The Dowel Box kite towed up nicely, but there just wasn't enough wind speed even at 50 feet.
Finally, a long tow and a handy period of slightly fresher wind got the Box kite away. I was quite surprised at how little wind it needed, considering no space-age materials were used. The Dowel Box kite seems quite happy in the lower reaches of the 'moderate' wind range.
Soon the kite was flying high and beautifully stable at between 100 and 250 feet.
The flying angle and line tension rose and fell smoothly with small changes in the wind strength. On a couple of occasions, the kite drifted right down close to the ground, forcing me to quick pull in line. Each time this happened, I managed to find faster air before running out of line, and was able to climb the kite back out to 90 meters (300 feet) of line.
Well, so far so good, so it wasn't long before I let the black tag appear on the taut flying line. 120 meters (400 feet). A few minutes on this length passed without any dramas.
The kite seemed to sit at around 40 degrees of line angle most of the time, with small amounts of thermal activity occasionally pushing it up to 50 degrees. Lulls and sinking air let the kite down to around 20 degrees from time to time as well.
Around this time, a funny thing happened. A small bird, a very small bird really, flew past the line at around 50 feet up. For half a minute or so, it hovered and flitted about, checking out the line more closely. Finally, it actually perched on the line! Very carefully, I put the winder under one foot, while trying to get my camera out of a pocket. Unfortunately, the bird must have felt the movement in the line, and flew off. I don't know when that kind of unusual photo op will come up again!
More time passed until finally, what the heck, why not let all the line out? There's no way my traditional Box kite is going to go vertical on 150 meters (500 feet) of line, is there... (The legal altitude limit is 400 feet in Australia)
It was a pleasure sitting on a grassy knoll with 4 year old Aren playing on the nearby play equipment and the Dowel Box kite elegantly doing its thing at around 350 feet of altitude. Picturesque cumulus clouds were all around, which highlighted the kite's every move.
And move it did! Suddenly, the mother of all Autumn thermals caught the Dowel Box kite and sent it soaring higher and higher. With heaps of tension on the line, I watched incredulously as it passed 60 degrees, then 70. Line tension fell off momentarily. Oh, that's it, I thought.
But no, bang, tension came right on again and the kite finally made it to 80+ degrees! (And a technically illegal 500 feet...) Once there, it seemed a little lost and hunted around for a while, trying to figure out which way was 'up'. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING!
From all my reading and research, bog-standard square box kites just didn't do this. Hmmm. Actually, my design is slightly flattened, so the cells are not exactly square. And the dowels are about as thin as possible for a practical design.
Can't wait to go out thermalling again, with my box kite...
We continued flying for at least another half an hour before finally the wind died almost completely, bringing the kite down. It was a great outing with the new Dowel Box kite, which definitely exceeded expectations!