The Lost and Found Rokkaku Kite!
by Craig E.
(Lebanon, OR, USA)
The Rok at 100 feet overhead.
I haven't been able to do much kite flying lately due to the stresses of moving. Yesterday was an exception! It was the first clear day all week, but it was very windy outside until about 5pm. It was still pretty strong, not really gusty, but there were lots of surges up to 12-15 mph.
Needless to say, I had my doubts about the Rok's ability to cope with this wind. This time out, I wore my motorcycle gloves to protect from line burns. If they have protected me from road burn, I'm sure they will work for kite string.
This time I rigged it with a 1/4" spar for the front, and a 5/16" spar for the back. A few days ago, I managed to break one of my 1/4" spars while stuffing the Rok into the back of our car. Rather than spending another 67c on a new one, I just used a 5/16" spar in place of it.
I remember the Rok trying to go off to the left several times during the last outing, so I went ahead and hooked a 20 foot crepe paper tail on the back of it to give it some stability. This worked, but it still had a left pull to it. I also changed the tow point for higher winds.
At 50 feet, the kite was fairly stable but pulling very hard for a Rok. For a few minutes, it flew past 90 degrees but fell about 20 feet before getting back in flying attitude.
While the Rok was straight up, I took advantage of the moment and snapped a few shots. Unfortunately, it fell pretty close to the eye of the wind and had some trouble getting back up.
I'm sure that part of the reason for my low line angle was the heavy frame and double layered sail. The Rok weighed in at 5.2 oz. with 1/4" spars. I would say that this version was around 6oz.
Speaking of spars, I didn't notice much difference between 1/4" and 5/16" spars. The lighter spars may be the way to go even in heavier winds if you can keep your kite flying more overhead. Either way, these were heavy winds that threatened to implode my kite on several occasions.
About 15 minutes into the flight, I felt a very strong gust blow by my me hitting the kite about three seconds later. I was cringing because I just knew that my kite was seconds from crackling down to earth. Unlike the other trips with this kite, it stayed in one piece.
Flying in high winds is a bit of a paradox; once I get up to the wind, I always feel compelled to let out more line. Letting out every foot of line only gets the kite up into even higher winds with no more slack to give. Yesterday's outing was very much the same.
This time the I made the mistake of not fully closing the swivel latch where the line joins with the bridle on my kite which is a bad idea especially in high winds. As embarrassing as it is, this isn't the first time I have lost a kite that way. The other one is up in a tree to this day.
The kite was OK so I hooked it up again and tossed it up for one more flight. This time, I let all the line out just to see what the wind was like at 500 feet. WOW! It was at least 20 mph at 500 feet, but it sat at a very low line angle of 45 degrees. I'm guessing the wind was so high that it was just pulling the kite away.
By this point the line was howling very loudly. It only lasted about three minutes before it got into a slow loop that pulled it right into the eye of the wind.
I was shocked at the durability of the frame by this point. But all good things must end. By the time the kite was about 150 feet up, the line snapped. The kite breathed a sigh of relief and blew away like a falling maple leaf.
After the initial shock of losing the kite, I grabbed my camera and started snapping pics of the kite as it went down, down, down... out of sight. My co-pilot, Brennan uttered something like "The kite went bye-bye?"
So, we packed our gear and walked home. I kept an eye out for my kite, but did not expect to find it. Maybe I could advertise on CraigsList? No, it's not worth it, besides who would give away such an awesome kite? We walked hone solemnly.
But wait! As we turned a corner I saw the line! It was laying across the street and draped over the roof of a house not 100 feet from our house. I was excited.
I was not about to knock on the door, so I started pulling in the line hand over hand. I was trying to keep the kite, but I really wanted the 300 feet of line that was hooked onto it.
Fortunately, I was able to pull more and more line until I saw the kite peeking over the back of this house. One more good pull and it was free. After sliding by the chimney and over the front of the house, it flew again from their yard.
This was super-fantastic! What are the odds that the MBK Rok would get lost, flutter away, miss a hundred foot fir tree by a matter of feet, get dragged across the roof, and fly again.
It reminds me of one of the B-17s that came back home during WWII with unimaginable damage. This was by far "My Best Kite" outing to date!
So, here I sit with my tangled mess of kite line waiting to be untangled. I had better get to work...
I hope this is not too long, but there was a lot of stuff in this one!