29 May. There are many, many cars and trucks overflowing the parking lot...
A few people have e-mailed to ask what a "boogie" is. From the 'rec.skydiving' FAQ glossary:
A gathering of jumpers for the purposes of jumping and socializing. Typically, boogies will have large aircraft, unusual aircraft (balloons, helicopters), special events (record attempts), or some sort of competition as a focal point to attract jumpers from widely diverse regions.
My "usual" parking spot is taken. Well, of all the nerve.
Lots of jump suits... all of 'em filled with jumpers more experienced than me.
This is more intimidating than I'd expected. Since I'm not up to competing yet, and the wind is iffy...
Lining up to get in the Otter from Skydive Monterey, I notice my hand is empty. No helmet.
See, helmets are required for students. But I'm a novice skydiver... who would definitely get yelled at if one of the poobahs saw what I was contemplating. Even worse, I'm still expected wear an audio altimeter, which is stuck on the back of the helmet and beeps in my right ear at the preset altitude. But it doesn't look like I have time to run over to the tandem hangar and get the blue ProTec I know so well.
Screw it. One jump, what's it gonna hurt. My altitude awareness is good. I doubt I'll be the only one on the load.
Except, it turns out everybody else does have a helmet, or at least one of those leather aviator caps...
I don't especially like the extra noise, or the way my hair's flyin' around. Get in some 360's, tracking... Buffeting more than I'd like. All that extra weight missing from the cranial area, maybe? Nah, more like a weak arch.
I pull right at 4,000, and there's nobody around. Coming up next, the time I'm most likely to need a helmet - landing. Alright, don't go nuts here, play it really safe, good thing the wind's low...
I make my last turn right about at 300, which is a little later than I'd like. Chalk it up to distraction. Today is not a good day to get dragged along the ground. Okay.
Overshooting my target by an addled 35 meters, I manage to land on my feet, gather up my chute and sneak into the tandem hangar. To get the helmet. So it'll look like I've had it with me all day.
Next jump, waiting while our Otter is fueled - guess what poobah Mike's first words are?
"Where's your helmet?"
Yeeeikes. This time, I can wave it at him. He nods. 'Nuff said. He's never asked me anything like this before... I tell ya, there's gotta be four hundred people at the DZ, and I still can't get away with squat. They probably know what I shoe I put on first this morning.
No tandems this load. The formation divers take a while to get out, and the pilot's sorta new to the scenic grandeur of Acampo... so I'm last out and way south.
Flip, backflip, turns, and track like a mad dog. My arch is better this time. I make it back over the airport, do that final turn at the last moment again, rrrrrr...
And an old error crops up again. Fixated on my target spot, I watch it go by under me - and then realize I'm not facing into the wind. Why, I wonder to myself, am I not facing into the wind? Like I was taught? How can this be? I still have a fair bit of speed, too -
Ow. Left foot. Took it harder on the left side, another error. This is the hardest landing I've had. So far. My legs buckle, and I roll onto my knees. Ow ow. Well, of course, I was facing north.
I sit there a second. Left ankle is okay, but man that's gonna hurt tomorrow. "Eat the carrot." I know this. You land into the narrow end of the wind sock. Against the wind. Hello.
Overshot by 30 meters, too. I limp in. Ow. Well, it could've been worse. It's a lesson I won't forget real soon. Good thing I had the helmet this time, just in case...
There's a bigger lesson that sinks in later. Not paying attention is dangerous. I look for Rick and M__, his girlfriend, to tell on myself before somebody else does.
I stretch it out a lot, walk all around. It feels like I slammed my ankle on concrete, the inner side of the big round knobby part... Except I didn't even touch the ground with it. Didn't even know there were muscles criss-crossing over that bone - but I know now. The heel could be bruised. Don't wanna look.
Aussie Re-Pete [Wylie], tireless packer and this year's local tracking champ-runner-up, says when he bruised a heel it hurt for a long time.
To my surprise and embarrassment, I meet someone who has decided not to pursue the sport, after reading these web pages. It's someone close to a poobah, who had some doubts anyway... and they read my accounts here, thought about it and decided the risk wasn't worth it.
This is a result I never anticipated...
Hopping around carefully, I figure I'll be able to land. If I pay attention and flare / brake in time.
Flips, and tracking - and, accidentially, I stand up for a couple seconds. Huh.
There's a few line twists to kick out, but they yield readily enough. Okay. Set up the landing... don't think about the sore heel don't think about it concentrate on where you're gonna land oh crap what if I break my ankle the rest of the way or something okay okay it's okay pay attention -
Down, more gently, whew. (In my logbook, all I end up writing is "better landing." - just a little understatement, which might help me save face anywhere other than here.) The wind's picked up a little since last jump, and I overcompensate, ending up 67 meters short.
I need more Advil.
It seems best to lay off for the rest of the day, in order to be up for tomorrow. Absolutely outclassed, I keep remembering yet another prediction from Rick: "Don't mind the days when you feel you can't skydive your way out of a paper bag... We all have 'em..." And lo, here comes said poobah, driving up with the beer trailer.
There's barbecue, and the presentation of the KDFC plaque we all signed - to KD, of course - about which more appears elsewhere on the web. Music, a bonfire... but what I mostly wanna do is to go and soak this heel.
30 May. I get there after church, a scandalously late start compared to the revellers. The wind is brisk and annoying.
I get manifested and head out to our Otter, and see Carl. He proposes a 2-way. I stammer okay...
Now, I need relative work for my license, but getting an eager invite is a surprise. Knowing next to nothing about freefall manuevers with other folks, I wonder if the secret society network is partly responsible, or if another netizen is looking for electronic immortalization...
But I decide not to question this (uh) windfall. He lays out a plan. Uh... okay.
"Ready - set - go!"
We bob down, and back up. Stabilize - alright. And we start to spin... Later, I find out my left leg was lazy again, and wasn't out far enough. This will spin two people hust as easily as one...
We stop the spin, but start to tumble. A flip. Wisely, Carl detaches, and I start to track to him. But gravity has its way with Carl, more than it does with me. He's getting farther away than I know how to track to - and we exited pretty far west. Time to head for the airport.
Nice easy landing, but it's 57 meters past my mark. Tail between my legs, I truck over to Carl. Oh, well. He's kind. Point your toes, he says.
Training my legs to behave is going to take a while. That's how it is.
And then the wind gets feisty, so I wait around for a break. Listening in on 50-way formations, "dirt-diving" what they're gonna do in the air and when. It's inconcievable that I can ever learn enough control to participate in something like that...
Nope, the wind doesn't let up. Might as well take some photos.
I go eat, and come back to the bonfire. It's cold enough that the contrast, bright side / dark side, is great. I meet a few more characters from the newsgroup. One guy has gotten in nine jumps today. Nine. Today. Boggling.
In order to get an early start, I brought a bedroll... but get shy about opening that creaky hangar door after midnight. Go home, check on the rats, catch some sleep...
31 May. And too windy, for me. My early start doesn't pay off today...
We manage to drain the airport of 1-A fuel. So they crank up another plane. After a while, the windsocks sag a little, down to about ten MPH, and I get the nod.
The DC-3 seems like a building, a hangar. No stooping. Dozens of jumpers (well, a few dozen). Stickers all over the ceiling, reading material to occupy the longer climb to altitude. There's so much room in this thing, they could add a shelf, or a bunch of hooks. Pack in even more lunatics.
There's so many of us, half of us exit in one pass, and we circle around to dump the rest. I'm in that second group. Nice tall doorway to fling myself out of...
Track, turn, backflip. It's taking me a while to stabilize in between, so I set my mind on arching harder, pointing my toes. That leg is a reluctant bugger - but soon I'm at 3,500 and it's time to pull.
Touching down 18 meters before my target, I relax a little more. That'll show 'em.
Rick tells me to grab a loaner jump suit - one of the ripstop nylon ones. I ask Kathy where the rack is, confirming it's okay to borrom 'em in the process. There's several to choose from, all "well-loved" - but the first one I pull out fits really well...
Next load, I'm to go out with the first pass, just before the tandems. Our Safety and Training Advisor, George, is messing with another guy, so Rick takes up the riff on me.
"Hey. This your first time on a DC-3?"
A glimmer of hope grabs me. "Nope," I shoot back. "It's my second time." But they know my first time had to have been within the last couple hours.
"Case of beer!," Rick crows.
"Case of beer!," echoes George.
I roll my eyes. There goes almost enough buckage to buy another jump.
Way far west again, but no problem. I turn this way and that way, do backflips, arching hard in-between. Keeping those wayward legs out. It does seem like I'm flying more smoothly, not taking as long to stabilize. Feels weird, though.
And with some hard tracking, I'm over the grapes - the usual expression for landing off the drop zone is "in the peas", but we have the staked vines to avoid - and then the practice field. Whew.
And, somehow, landing only seven meters shy of the windsock I aim for.
Back up again.
Turns, flips, tracking. I notice another guy in free-fall, below and off to my right. And there's somebody else way down there...
I like this, and I'm nowhere near "good" at these basic manuevers. But there's a little restlessness too. I've got enough landings within twenty meters for the 'A' license, and definitely need more work in that department. It's surprising to feel anything like... boredom!?
Under canopy, I see a whole bunch of other chutes. Hello. Well, of course, there are a lot of us on each pass. Big plane.
I land eight meters off my mark, despite the wind being down to about six. Doesn't take much distance to set up that final turn.
Try a barrel roll, Rick says. Go ahead. I hit him up for info about flight suits, get my log book signed, hang out a while longer. No sunset load today - people are heading back home, with emptier wallets, getting ready for work tomorrow.
This is my first three-day stretch with a jump each day. Sure, only one on Sunday, and I'd expected to get in more than seven during the boogie. But I'll take what I can get. And the DC-3 was an unexpected bonus...
...Even if I have to pay for it. A humble note on the newsgroup brought the expected responses. And none of 'em from home - those who'd directly benefit - gotta admire such restraint. One jumper referred me to the beer rules...
Yep, I'm out another case.
Jump number one (tandem at Sebastian) -
Jump number two (tandem at Lodi) -
3 - 7 (starting static line) -
8 - 11 (finishing static line) -
12 - 14 - 15 - 17 - 18 - 22 - 23 - 29 - 30 - 34 - 35 - 40 - 41 - 48 - 49 - 58
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