Friday, May 22, 2009

First Kite Day of 2009

Wednesday afternoon was the first time I was able to go kite-flying since the chill of last fall through the thunderstorms of nearly the last three weeks.

With the ground still muddy in spots, I carefully picked my way through the park to select where to place my stakes after launching each kite. I usually like to fly two or three kites at a time, anchoring them with light tent stakes, because they look so much better when flown in small groups, keeping each other company.

The first and third kites are favorite deltas of mine, Flip Flops #33195 and Warm Checkerboard #33123, both by Premier. They were doing well, so I launched my Parafoil 5 Rainbow Tecmo, Premier item #12035, between them for variety. The color-blocked tube tail proved to be too heavy for the existing wind, so I exchanged it after a while for the streamers that came with the kite.

There's something about kites. At the same time, they are both calming and uplifting, their bright colors cheering the soul while the fresh air and sunshine clear away the stresses of modern life.

The parafoil rode low above the horizon as sleds and parafoils usually do, and was easy to watch while the deltas surfed the vagaries of the wind. At times, they soared directly overhead and I felt like I was bending over backwards to view them from under the brim of my hat. When I was too lazy to check overhead, I searched for their shadows flitting along the grass.

After a while, I brought down the parafoil by walking it down with my hand on the line to lower the kite. Replacing it with a ladybug kite I bought last week at Walmart, I launched the ladybug only to have it crash almost immediately.


Launching it again, I kept a suspicious eye on it until it got up to altitude having never flown that type of kite before and having had trouble with a previous kite by that company. The ladybug is a 25" wide modified diamond kite in that the top is a diamond while the lower section is rounded like the shape of a ladybug.

In addition to a center spine with cross spars to be inserted by the customer like a standard diamond kite, the top edges of the LadyBug also have fiberglass rods sewn in. The tail consists of a 3/8" wide length of nylon with nine small ladybugs stitched on at intervals.

After the relaunch, it flew nicely for a while, the loose legs wiggling realistically as if the ladybug was crawling across the sky. Oddly enough, this kite was flying west, directly into the descending sun while my other kites were flying toward the north. While I pondered why this might be, considering the wind was from the southeast, the ladybug headed downward as though it was going to do a gentle loop then accelerated to... CRASH!


Relaunching it made me review how other kites behaved. My deltas, diamonds, birds, and butterflies, usually make loops or simply drift downwards like sleds and parafoils when the wind goes away. I have a seagull kite, Go Fly A Kite item #15200, that consists mostly of outstretched wings that settles to the ground when the wind dies and has been known to relaunch itself when the wind picks up again, if I'm patient and leave it alone.

This ladybug?

There it goes again. CRASH! Now, I'm annoyed. How does X Kites test their kites, anyway? The other kite I had problems with was their SpinBox Spectrum, #82402, that I returned to the store I bought it from when I was in California. I tried that one out at Tecolate Shores in San Diego, and while it looked great while flying and drew compliments, it wasn't long before the fins came off of the cross spars which then popped out of the clips causing the section to collapse and the entire kite to drop out of the sky.

I relaunched the LadyBug, recalling that I haven't had problems with the delta or CloudBuster diamond kites made by X Kites that I own. Maybe it's only their kites with unique construction that have problems. Since too much wind causes kites to spin while too little wind causes kites to drift down tail first, maybe there's something about the wind conditions that this kite, rated for 5-18 MPH/8-29 KPH wind speeds, doesn't like.

I recalled the afternoon in 2007 when I was flying two kites at Mission Bay, San Diego. A family of three arrived and tried to launch a fairy princess kite unsuccessfully many times with frequent looks at mine flying successfully. The father got bored and wandered off to check the water.

Moved with pity, I went over and asked if I might help. The mother agreed, saying they bought the kite from Target, manufacturer unknown, for their daughter's eighth birthday and it was the first time they were trying to fly it.

Well, I tried and had the same crashing results. Turning it over, I found that there was a huge, heavy, sprocket in the center of the fairy's chest that I was sure was the reason the kite wouldn't fly.

Pulling down one of my butterfly kites that was made by New Tech, because the shape was similar to the fairy princess, I showed it to the mother, pointing out the differences in construction between it and their fairy, that there was no good reason for the heavy sprocket, and recommending that they return their daughter's birthday kite and go to a kite store to buy another that was sure to fly in the lighter wind conditions that prevail during the San Diego summers.

CRASH! The LadyBug, X Kites item #80472, came down again, breaking my reverie. No wonder people get discouraged about flying kites; some are really persnickety about the wind conditions in which they fly. The worst part was that I had also purchased the TurTle kite for a relative of mine, X Kites item #80476. Since it's the same as the LadyBug except for being a green turtle instead of a red ladybug, I have no reason to expect it to fly any better and plan to return it rather than subject the intended recipient to its crashing in variable conditions.

I launched a cellular kite, the eo6 Fire by Prism, in the place of the LadyBug and watched it soar, tumble, and dart up again while my deltas continued to dance until it was time for me to leave. Except for the experience with the LadyBug, it was a wonderful few hours spent flying kites on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Highly recommended.

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