The New Rainbear Skydive Corps


Above: Captain Dick and the Rainbear Skydive Corps banner


The Rainbear Skydive Corps is re-equipping for 2016. We have moved to a new kite, the Ultrafoil, and made other modifications in equipment. Pictures of the Ultrafoil kites are below. A link to some background on the reasons for this change is also below. That gets a bit dry unless you're really into kites and/or bear dropping.

Link to Re-Equipping Background and Info on Ultrafoil Kites

The rest of this page and its future postings will feature our adventures and experiences this year as we get used to the new gear and just generallly have fun.

Posting will be from the top. Newest material will appear first as you scroll down.


Pix of Our New Ultrafoil Kites, the UF60, UF30 and UF15

I got pix of the 60 and posted them first, so the pictures are arranged in that order. It's the big spectacular one anyway, so it deserves it. It's considerably bigger than a sheet of plywood and even bigger than a ping pong table!











UF 30, UF60 and UF15 aloft together



Pix of a Beach Fly at Golden Gardens

July 31,2016

Finally! I got a perfect wind day. Wind started at about 8 - 10 mph in the early morning and was up to a nice steady 12 plus by noon. Day was sunny and I decided to fly off the beach, which was pretty clear at 10. By 3 when I left it was quite crowded, lots of spectators, lots of kids to chase bears. This was the first real clear steady medium wind fly I've had with the new kite (and the new heavy 750 lb. test line). Both are terrific. Kite was up like a rock for 4 hours, line was not too heavy weight wise to detract from the lifting power and ran through the pulleys easily. Here are some pix to just give you an impression:



This is Base Camp. You can see the top of the first stake (the little circle in the black line). It has a pulley the line is running through. The second pulley is about 30 feet out of the picture at the bottom. These stakes are 1/2" steel 24" long with the circle opening and a square "pounding boss" welded on top. As you can see, they are driven all the way down into the sand. You can see that I'm on wet sand, pretty close to the water line. I was inattentive and later the tide came in and I had to rescue my stakes and pulleys from salt water.

You can also see John Quincy Bear hanging from the line, ready to ascend. His parachute is slipped into the nylon sleeve you see above him. The white tube is a spring loaded release mechanism.



Another shot of base, with a good view of my beach wagon. Those wheels are 8" wide and make dragging a heavy load over the sand possible.



John Quincy Bear ascending...


Here he is almost up to the dropping point. If your eyes are sharp you can just see where the vee of line coming up from the base pulleys meets. The line runs through the upper pulley of the system at that point. That upper pulley is actually hanging from the kite. If your vision is really sharp you can barely make out a little black speck in the black line where the vee comes together. That's the .pulley.



Here's John coming down on his new red and yellow parachute, made to go with the new Ultrafoil kite.



and here he is about to land. The beachis about 100 yards wide and he's coming down on the other side of it. Again, if you look close just over the top of the log to the right of the lady in the red shirt, you can see the kids waiting to catch him. You can also see the top of some monkey bars behind the lady. That's a playground and every time a bear came down the kids ran out to catch him.

Note also how the people on the log have all turned to observe. The whole beach was like that. I always yell, "Bear in the air!" as I release the bear. This is a leftover from the old days when I had the bears free jumping from much higher with packed chutes. The yell alerted people below, like a golfer calling "Fore!", because there were instances when the chute didn't open and a couple of pound bear falling from 500 or so feet is no joke. Of course, it also alerts everyone so they don't miss the opening and descent. Nowadays I'm dropping from lower heights and with the parachute pre-deployed in the nylon sleeve so it opens right away and every time.



This is just a nice shot of the beach when I first set up. It obviously hasn't filled with people yet. Later there were cabana canopies and families picnicing everywhere. Also young ladies sunbathing in bikinis. Obviously, flying from the beach is hard work. The water is Puget Sound, north of downtown Seattle, a park called Golden Gardens. The opposite side is the other shore of the Sound, the town of Kingston and, under the clouds, the Coast Range mountains. The large green I was flying on in the pictures at the top of this page is part of the same park. Seattle on a clear sunny day is as beautiful as anywhere in the country.


The Rainbear Skydive Corps and the Adventure of the Giant Ultrafoil

A Tale of Misjudgment, Misadventure and Tragedy Averted, as Experienced by Captain Dick and John Quincy Bear

The Rainbear Skydive Corps is spending this summer in a re-equipping mode due to the aging of both our kites and the Commanding Officer. Elsewhere I've described the acquisition of our 30 sq. foot and 15 sq. foot Ultrafoils soft kites (UF's). They both fly and work very well. The 30 footer will be our principal lifter, while the 15 footer will serve primarily as aerial support for our banner, though at times I may use it for extra low drops of tiny bears in very tight quarter dropping situations.

All of that is well and good, but even old men dream and I found myself longing to experience once again the high drops of large bears that we used to do out on the ocean beaches. I don't get out to those beaches any more, but I have found a local beach that offers enough space for high drops on some wind headings. With this in mind, I gave in to the urge to get a bigger UF kite, even though 30 ft. is the largest commercially offered. Consultation with Ray Merry at Cobra kites established that he would custom build me a 60 footer in the Corps' preferred bright red/orange/yellow colors. Who could resist?

There was, of course, a period of waiting involved for a custom job. I do not do waiting well, being naturally short of patience. I came close to correcting this problem not long ago when I saw a late night pitch man on tv selling patience. I was about to order some when I discovered that they did not offer overnight delivery. Ah, well…

My wait finally came to an end and I received the kite. It was folded with extreme neatness into a custom sized envelope that fit it exactly. I should note up front that my lack of neatness is right up there with my lack of patience. I immediately sewed up a larger sausage bag that the kite can be rolled up and stuffed in. This kite is way too big to be folded up neatly while standing on a windy field and if I got down on the ground to try to fold it neatly, I would need help to get up.

If I thought my patience was challenged waiting for the kite to arrive, this was nothing to the wait to actually fly it. The day it arrived a weather dome condition settled over Seattle that produced a week and a half of nothing more than 2 to 4 mph winds. Major bummer! The bears were as anxious as I was and things got rather rowdy in the barracks!

However, my careful watching of the windsurfer club's wind reports paid off when a several hour period of 8 to 9 mph was projected for late afternoon at Golden Gardens. (No, I am not a windsurfer, but they have the best wind reports nationwide.) Golden Gardens is not a high drop location due to trees, but for a first trial of the kite I judged it would be fine in that wind. Like my aged legs, my aged judgment can be a bit shaky…

When we got to the park the wind was clearly gusting more than projected and gaining, but I figured I'd get aloft and try one jump. John Quincy Bear, the Corps first enlistee and now Adjutant, with over 20 years jumping experience, always does our test and development jumps and he was really anxious to get aloft on this kite. Seems his judgment isn't much better than mine.

A word about the rigging… 500 or 1000 pound test line was recommended. Figuring my problem is usually light rather than heavy winds, I opted for 500. The pulleys I use for sending the bears up to the dropping elevation are marine small boat pulleys rated to 1200 lbs. I put together a low drop rig consisting of 75' of line from the kite to the dropping elevation pulley, then a doubled line of 125' each side from that to two more pulleys fastened to the ground stakes. I planted the stakes, fastened the line to one and then laid out the line full length on the ground and attached the kite. There's where I ran into my first problem. Getting this big kite spread open in the wind so that the cells could inflate evenly turned out to be very awkward for one person. Ann (Mrs. Captain) came out to help and between us we got the very long tail deployed and held the front of the kite open to fill. As soon as the kite filled and started to lift, we released it. (Note: I have since gotten used to doing it alone. Takes a little patience [there's that again] and letting the middle cells fill first.)

Remember, the line was already out on the ground. This is always one of my favorite moments of kite flying. Released properly in this manner, the kite lifts itself aloft in one great swooping rise based the limit of the line… 200' in this instance. This is also always a terrific crowd pleaser as well as most folks are used to seeing kite flyers running and struggling to tug a kite aloft. I just release it, turn my back and ignore it while I walk back to the stakes. Seeing that 60 footer soar way up there without any human effort really caused some cheers and waving!

Once back at the stakes I split the doubled line section and fastened the second ground pulley to the second stake, creating the continuous lifting vee I use to raise the bears. I immediately noted that while I had been laying out the line and spreading out the kite, the wind had continued picking up. The lines were really taut! However, there was that beautiful new kite, up there, ready to support a drop. The wind was probably gusting at 12 to 15 mph now, at ground level. The lifting power of the kite was awesome, no question that when I was ready to, it would lift 8 lb. or better bears. The immediate issue though, was to get one jump off with John Quincy.

Normally, in this situation, with a north wind, there is a slight eastward effect that helps the bears avoid falling in the narrow belt of woods that separates the park green from the beach. However, there can also be a swooping effect off of the hills along the east side of the park that can sometimes push the bears toward the trees. There have been some critical "tree caught bear" situations in the past. The wind looked a little dicey right then, but I checked with John Quincy and he wanted to give it a go, so up he went. I immediately discovered that while the breaking strength of my pulleys might be 1200 lbs., the optimal working rating must be much less. There was enough pressure on the pulleys to make running the line through them very stiff. They were definitely overworking. However, up John went.

Because the line was so stiff going through the pulleys, it took longer than usual to raise John to the dropping point. The wind was continuing to rise and was definitely getting problematic. Also, the Ultrafoil was flying at a really extreme angle, darn close to dead vertical! This put the drop point considerably higher than I was used to. When John reached the drop point and jumped, his chute deployed immediately and with that extra height he had further to fall, while the wind was blowing him toward and then over the trees!. He drifted out over the tree belt. Potential disaster! My immediate hope was that he would clear the trees and land in the brushy beach area on the other side. Alas, this was not to be.

Ann and I and some assorted spectators went out through the trees and spread out in the brush area looking for a bear with a large red and yellow parachute. No such luck, so we started studying the tree tops. Sure enough, there was John, well and truly hung up on a high limb in a pine tree.

By now, a front was clearly moving in. It was getting darker, the temperature was dropping and the wind was still rising. My normal procedure when I have a bear up a tree is to look around for a fit young guy enjoying the park with his girlfriend. They are usually more than willing to flex some muscles and show off for the girl by climbing the tree to save the bear. However, spectators were clearing out and suddenly, there were no such specimens available. I had one of my bears stuck up a tree and I would have to do something. I decided my best bet was to go back to base and get the hammer I use to drive the stakes and a line and try to throw the hammer up and catch the parachute lines. However, upon leaving the trees and going out on the open field again, I immediately saw that the wind was now a real potential problem. That kite had to come down right now, so I hurried on over to the base.

I bring my rig down by starting at the base and walking the line down hand over hand, in effect reversing the kite's self lifting flight. Since I was at the base, where our equipment was, and lowering the kite would take me back out across the field to where John was hung in the tree, I put the hammer in one pocket, a full wooden line winder in another (to provide line for throwing the hammer up to get the parachute) plus an empty wooden line winder in a third pocked for winding the kite's rig line back up once it was down. I then released one pulley from its stake to bring the open vee closed so the doubled line was together again and started really putting my weight into hand to hand walking out the kite line and pressuring the kite down. The pressure on the line was terrific and I could only go a fairly short ways before I would have to pause and rest. Ann came out and got behind me to help retain the line I would gain. Thus we went, slowly marching our way across the field, gradually bringing the kite down. About two-thirds of the way I noticed some difficulty. I was having trouble walking, kind of like I was tangled in the kite line. Remember, I'm hanging onto that line for dear life because Ann is behind me and if I let go, I'm not sure she can hold it.

I stopped walking and maneuvered the line under one arm so that my weight was holding it down and looked down to see how I was tangled up. OOOPS! I wasn't tangled in line. I am of a somewhat spherical shape, and the weight of the hammer and two wooden line winders plus the motion of my exertions had caused my pants to work past my not terribly noticeable hips and fall down! There I was, standing in the middle of the field in my plaid boxers, clinging to a kite I couldn't let go of. Now, of course, there were suddenly a few more spectators! I'm sure I created some new dance moves while trying to hang onto the kite line while pulling my pants back up one side at a time with one hand. I finally got things under control and finished getting the kite down. We rolled the kite up and bagged it, then I walked the line back again while winding it back onto its winder. (The pulleys and swivels stay on the line and are wound up with it.)

That got the kite situation under control, but we still had a bear rescue problem to deal with. We went back into the trees and I tried throwing the hammer up but it became apparent that while it might eventually work, it would involve a lot of luck. John was high up and in quite a cluster of branches. Three teen aged boys came by, but with no girlfriends to provide motivation for them to brave the tree. I was beginning to think John might be goner. (Note: The Rainbear Skydive Corps has only ever lost one bear. Poor Angelo hung himself on a high tension cable on an extreme height drop down in Florida about ten years ago.)

It was at this point that the normal good luck of the Corps suddenly reasserted itself. Walking through the trees came a large, muscular, young man accompanied by his girlfriend. We're talking football team linebacker here. They both appeared to be of Pacific Islander background. He evaluated the situation and said that getting John wasn't a problem. He walked up to the tree, put his arms around it, made a kind of hopping motion that ended with his bare feet up on the rough pine tree trunk, and walked his way up the tree to John, just like it was a coconut tree! Except that this was a rough barked pine tree with branches everywhere. He didn't climb the branches, but went up the tree trunk, going around the branches so fast he that was up, got John and was back down while my jaw was still on the ground when he handed the bear and parachute to me with a big smile! I'm still shaking my head in amazement as I write this… and he did it in his bare feet.

Thus, our day was turned from a really rather foolish misjudgment that could have ended with the loss of a valuable kite and an old friend, the first teddy bear I ever made, into a mini-adventure that we will enjoy recalling, even though it was a bit more physical than we usually look for these days.

Reported by Captain Dick, Commanding

Rainbear Skydive Corps
John Quince Bear, Adjutant

July 22, 2016

PS: RSC has already obtained larger sailboat blocks (pulleys) and ordered 1000 lb. line.


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