Log

Jeff Hamann Adventure 2011 Log

Follow adventure flyer Jeff Hamann and Crew as the make a final trek


Go here for the most recent entry.

Here is a Google earth map of Jeff's complete Mexico Adventures.

Here are the pilots (xls spreadsheet) of those who have participated with him. I'm thrilled to have been on one that was part of the basis for the movie "Why We Fly"

This log is normally my (Jeff Goin's) goings on but, as a former adventurer with Jeff Hamann (Jefe), am happy to live vicariously through his latest adventure. Jefe (he's quite fluent in Spanish) and company are working to complete one of Jeff's life-long dreams--to fly the entire Baja Coastline. From my experience with Jeff, he dreams big, and he accomplishes big.

Sat 05-28-2011: Sonora Trip update from Jeff Hamann

This motley crew will join with Terry Flint and his son Rocky to drive to the the State of Sonora Mexico, Saturday Morning. Eventually there will be 12-14 of us including 8 PPG pilots. The plan is to fly the coastline from Puerto Penasco to Bahia Kino. Today is packing and shopping day. I hope to be able to send you daily progress reports. 

  • Jeff Hamann, Casey Cadwell, & Matt Jones
  • Juanjo Thomas, Mayo Obregon, & Javier Medina
  • Jesús “Chuy” Obregón, Terry Flint, & Rocky-Flint Driver
  • Cliff Stone, Reginald Moore, &Bob Walker
  • Phil Russman, Greg Brown, & Quinlan Hamann.

Puerto Penasco to Kino Bay

Sat 05-28-2011 Puerto Penasco to Kino Bay

I basically spent all day Friday preparing for the trip. I finally got home from grocery shopping at 9pm and crashed. I fueled up the Red Hummer at 5 am this morning and packed the coolers.

The forecast is not good for tonight. Looks like there is one last blast from the north blowing through before summer officially begins on Monday. Memorial Day is the first day of beach season and the last day of desert season here in southern California. And the window for good weather in Sonora is almost that small. So the good news is that it won't be too hot but the bad news is that we will be fighting strong wind.

Well, Casey just called. Terry blew a radiator hose on the way to my house. They are trying to find an automotive shop open early. Shoot, we haven't even left home yet! Better here than Mexico, I guess. Looks like we are headed for a late start.

Sat 5-28-2011 10pm

Well we made it to Santa Clara but not without a few challenges. When we realized there was a good chance that it would be at least noon before Terry and Rocky would be ready to leave, we decided to get a headstart in the Hummers. We stopped in Calexico for lunch and then bought tourist cards at the border. We are always worried about customs giving us trouble with our paramotors but they hardly gave them a second look.

The wind was blowing hard the whole morning but it really started cranking after noon. Dust was blowing across the road as we turned east to San Luis. Terry and Rocky did get going finally around 11am and were gaining on us when we had a blow out on a rear tire. The loose tread took out our tail lights and fuel tank filler hose before Bobby got the Hummer stopped. Terry was only an hour behind us by the time we got the spare on. But then they were stopped by a policeman and when Terry could not produce a drivers license he saw dollar signs. They negotiated a payoff but word must have spread because he was stopped again in less that five miles by another cop who insisted he should have a front license plate. Another payoff. They were tempted to just turn around and go home.

We met up the Mexican contingent near San Luis and while they ate a late lunch we worked on the Hummer. Phil found a muffler shop willing to work on our fuel filler and I called Matt back home to arrange for him to bring us another spare tire. It was 5:30 when the last bolt was put in our fuel filler and 5:45 when we left the AutoZone with a new cap. Terry and Rocky were now with us and we were back on the road. All four cars rolled into Santa Clara about 9pm. Exhausted but happy to have a crummy hotel room on a busy Memorial Day weekend.

More fun and games tomorrow.

Mon 5-30-2011

Well, no blown out tires Sunday but we did have at least two forced landings, fortunately in tolerable locations. I say at least because both Juanjo and Reginald turned around on the first leg for a mixture of reasons. One 5 miles stretch over water. Some very rough air in two places. Only Phil and I made the whole 90 miles. Javier seized his engine 15 miles from our final destination or he would have made all three legs. I lost both exhaust manifold nuts and chipped my propeller. Terry got his pickup stuck in the sand twice. Eight pilots got in the air for at least a local flight. Juanjo won the elevation award for climbing to 4,500 feet crossing over the point south of Santa Clara and it was still turbulent even that high. The weather followed the Buoy Weather forecast almost to the hour. All in all it was a stressful but successful day.

We have rented a home on the beach east of Puerto Penasco for the next three nights. 9 bedrooms, pool, putting green, and most important, a wide beach.

If you would like to follow our progress on the web. Go to the FindMeSpot website here, SpotTracker password "ppgmexico". Make sure you type "no" when it asks if you only want to view secure content.

Roughing it.

Tue 5-31-2011

Seven of us miraculously launched between 9 and 9:15 but only two of us actually reached our destination. Cliff launched with a broken wing line which Casey quickly fixed but in the rush his chest strap was left undone on his second launch. That he could deal with but when his GoPro slipped out and dropped to the beach he elected to retrieve it instead of continuing on.

Reginald stayed behind as his buddy. Phil was the next to drop out with an engine problem. He turned back but did not make it to our bailout at the Mayan Palace. Soon after that Javier and Juanjo turned back because of low fuel. That left just Terry and I to complete the leg. Sad because the scenery was spectacular. One more night here at the Sand Castle. Then tomorrow we move on 50 miles to Desemboque.

Wed 6-01-2011

We were almost ready to leave by 7:30 but we wasted 15 minutes taking group pictures in our new shirts. Our concern with the Aduana checkpoint was unfounded. We let Mayo do the talking and the agent only looked in one vehicle. We were through in less than 15 minutes.

San Jorge was only a few miles further and we found the salt flats that I identified from the air. Hard enough to launch from but not hard enough to drive on. All seven of us got off the ground by executing forwards. Juanjo almost got left behind but he managed to pull off his 5th try. There were workers tending to oyster beds in the lagoon. At low tide they can drive trucks right out to the crates.

The San Jorge islands in the distance were stark white with guano. The green arteries of the lagoon wound their way through the white salt flats and green salt bush. Juanjo caught up with us before we reached the end of the lagoon. There were a few nice houses at Santo Tomas but they were a testament to how hard it is the maintain a home in a salty remote area. Punta Jaguay also had some nice homes but one had sand piled up against the walls higher than the windows.

The 2-3 mph wind at launch was a good 10 mph from the southwest when we landed. Cliff discovered a hole in his muffler that had burned a hole in the back of his seat so he Hummered out the second leg with Bob. We all launched with lots of fuel anticipating a head wind but it died just around Punta Jaguey. The sky was partly overcast and a glassy ocean made for some stunning reflections. The horizon was almost indiscernible at times. We got a good look at a Vaquita in the shallows. They are a very small dolphin that is endemic to the northern gulf of California. The tide was high by the time we reached Desemboque and we all landed in the parking lot. Juanjo was able to reach the ground crews on the radio by climbing high. We all had lunch ordered before the Hummers arrived. And Mayo did not arrive before we started eating.

The town appeared to be centered around harvesting Callo de arbol, a type of clam. More than 50 people, men women and children, were all at work. Men go out in boats each morning with hookah rigs and collect the clams in about 30 feet of water. The shucking was the first operation on the beach followed by a sand bath to help remove the intestines. Then they washed and bagged the meat.

I think someone was in the air most of the afternoon. Phil coached on forward launches. Cliff worked on his motor. Terry hooked a piece of rebar with his wing and tore a gaping hole in it which he repaired with a mix of duct tape and ripstop.

later in the afternoon, the town came alive with beach activity for Navy Day celebrations. They had music and dancers and powered paragliders for entertainment. The minister of security from the county was there and he gave us his card in case we ran into anymore trouble with the police. Phil hitched a ride in the back of a pickup to shoot some video of us following him down the beach. Then we capped off the evening with a sunset flight. Well at least for me. I was told later that the guys went to town to join in the festivities and Reginald was dancing with all the girls.

 

Thur 06-02-2011

Seems like we need to alternate between flying days and working on gear days.  Today was a working on gear day.  I changed out my carburetor and sparkplug.  Mayo assembled his new trike.  Cliff and Reginald did some minor tune ups.  And Terry actually rebuilt a 313 with help from Cliff and Reginald.  The hotel had a big covered area that we appropriated and we had gear spread everywhere.  After some morning flights and kiting lessons Phil went in search of a free flight spot.  He must have spent 3 hours playing in the dunes north of town.   The wind was first too north and then too weak to really soar but he had fun anyway.  

The local boats brought in a huge number of Callo again.  One of the divers was from San Blas and he moved here because the fishery was wiped out there.  At this rate it will be wiped out here soon too.  Two different gringos told us that drugs were brought in by boat at night on occasion.  They even knew whose house belonged to the honcho.  The police captain was happy to take a few bucks to be off duty whenever the shipments came in, so the story goes. 

After noon a few more of us made local flights and Mayo finally flew as well.  Javier and Juanjo made the sunset flight.  The hotel is adequate and the beach is huge and hard at low tide but small at high tide.  When the wind is right we can launch from the dirt parking lot below the hotel.  All eight pilots flew today for the first time.   So this was a good place but we are all anxious to move on tomorrow.    

Fri 06-03-2011

What a Day!! Checked out and launched at 9am. Well almost. We missed paying for one room and Casey had to settle up before he could leave. Juanjo struggled again to launch in the very light conditions. I think he finally understands how important an easy launching wing is now. The bonus for forward launches is calm air. The Sea of Cortez was at its best. Glassy and clear. We could see the islands on the other side of the gulf. Dolphins were very common and bait fish were everywhere. The schools made undulating dark forms over the sandy bottom. Larger fish were herding and then darting into the schools. Cliff discovered that his shadow scared the dolphins. If he flew over a school they would dart and dive in all directions. Tanques at 10 miles marked the end of the dirt road. The rest of the 25 miles was all nice beach but without access. So of course Juanjo started experiencing vibration and noise at about 15 miles. He considered just landing but it did not seem to be getting any worse so he just nursed it along. He correctly supposed it was something to do with his muffler. Casey and the rest of the gang arrived in Lobos just ahead of him. Inspection revealed that one more cracked bracket was all that was left holding the muffler on the frame. His safety wire probably saved the day. Phil and I circled high and low around the point before landing. There were schools of different fish everywhere. The shallows around Punta Lobos were beautiful.

The winds in the northern gulf in June don't have the predominant northwest to southeast flow like Mazatlan further south. They can come from the north through west to south. Today the forecast was for light southwest possibly building some in the afternoon. It was still nice at 11am so we elected to take advantage of the favorable conditions to move on. Juanjo and Javier elected to ride in the convoy. Five of us launched for the 28 miles to Punta Tepoca. The first 12 miles was cliffs up to 200 feet high. They would have made for nice soaring if the wind would have been any stronger. Cliff, Phil and I flew low and enjoyed what lift we could find. Reginald and Terry encountered increasing headwinds up higher but we needed some elevation to safely pass the next 10 miles of rugged coastline. We all climbed to at least 1000 feet. The view was exhilarating and the terrain was intimidating. With 1500 of steep rocky mountains on our left and ocean on our right the time passed too slowly. Isla Angel de la Guardia was very clear ?0 miles away. As we approached the beaches north of Tepoca we relaxed. But, we realized that our hope of soaring there would not be realized in these wonderful light conditions. With southwest winds the beach in the next town would be safe to land on so, we elected to continue on the Libertad where we could meet up easily with the ground crew.

Libertad is dominated by a large electric power plant. Not sure what the rest of the dusty town does but fish. There was no visible agriculture in the virgin desert for at least 50 miles around. Terry was having trouble hearing our discussion over the change of plans and his transmissions to us were tinged with anxiety. He settled down once the rest of us caught up and Reginald landed. We set up camp just past the town next to some palapas on the beach. It was nice to have the ground crew right there again. I made sandwiches and we made ourselves comfortable in the shade.

Matt and Quinlan had left San Diego at 5am and we were expecting them to catch us about 2:30. We had progress texts from him from Yuma and Puerto Penasco. The problem was that we were not sure if he was receiving our texts outlining our changing plans. Just as we considered sending Casey back up the road Matt called us on the radio and we directed them to our location. Matt brought us two tires and we loaded the ruined one in the truck before Casey headed home. Neither Matt nor Casey were able to make the whole two weeks but they were both excited about doing half of it so this was our solution.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the shade of the palapas. We were told that Libertad had at least a couple hotels with AC. The vote was to find one for the night. But first we fixed Juanjo's motor with parts off Cliff's broken exhaust. Reginald tweaked his carburetor again trying to smooth out his cruise. And Phil and I flew down to the sand dunes south of town. The large Cardon cactus were tempting photo opps in the evening light so I landed on top of one of the large dunes. Bad idea. The stick and roots left from dead vegetation caught on my wing lines and what little wind was left was not strong or consistent enough to make for an easy departure. First I photographed Phil and then he photographed me. Then I spent 15 minutes trying to relaunch, finally resorting to a forward going down the face of the dunes. I was grateful for Phil's help. Juanjo tested his repair job with Javier successfully.

We cooked up spaghetti for dinner. I had lettuce that we salvaged after 8 days in the cooler to make a Ceasar salad and with a box of red wine we had a nice beach dinner as the sun set. It is never fun to load and strap the paramotors in the trailer but the hotel was downtown. Cliff resorted to the headlight before he was done.

Without question, this has been my favorite day so far. Amazing weather and beautiful surroundings.

Sat 06-04-2011

We all got a good night's sleep in a cheap hotel in downtown Libertad. I was the only one really interested in camping but then I have a nice bed in my camper. There was no premium gas available so we purchased some octane booster and made the best with some Magna.

The leg to Rio Concepcion was the worst leg of the trip for road access, so only, Terry, Phil, Cliff and I decided to go. The forward launches went fine on the hard dirt behind the beach as did the first 10 miles. Then Terry's motor quit.

He'd been flying at 2000 feet and had plenty of time to pick out a good beach to land on. The ground crew was still in libertad getting ice so we had them hold until we figured out what to do. Terry discovered that his spark plug cap had come off. Easy to fix. So he fired it back up and tried to relaunch. Unfortunately, the motor quit again and the wing collapsed on him and he ran over a bunch of lines. When he gave us a 50/50 chance of getting out of there, we hired a boat to come get him and Rocky got under way.

Phil and Cliff went on ahead and I climbed out over Terry  while he worked on his wing and Rocky made his way down the coast. Then Terry somehow keyed his mic on continuously and I lost communication with him. When a local fishing boat came ashore I told Rocky that he now had help and I couldn't communicate with him.

I moved on to catch up with Cliff and Phil. But then Phil's motor started acting up in an even worse area. He went down. Meanwhile, Terry loaded his gear on the panga and headed for Libertad. He met Rocky about 1/4 of the way back. Phil cleaned out his jets again and relaunched before I caught up. The light NW winds made it possible to go a little further and we ended up at another waypoint that I had selected near Mancha beach. Matt was the first to show up in the red Hummer and Bob and Mayo trickled in later. We ate lunch, relaxed and tried to soar the cliffs in too light wind while we waited for Terry and Rocky. They eventually made it just as we had decided to move on in the good conditions.

We needed to get around a big black mountain and the downwind thermals and rotor were a big concern. The flight needed to be made either late in the evening or early in the morning. Conditions were looking good now and it was anybody's guess what tomorrow would bring. So Phil, Cliff and I launched from a very small beach and headed inland behind the mountain. We wanted to be up at least 2500 feet before we got downwind and the climb was threatening to overheat Cliff's motor so he turned back. Phil and I only experienced light turbulence. Once we reached the Tiburon Channel we relaxed. The air was clear and from 2000 feet we could see the Baja peninsula in the distance as well as many other islands.

But 15 minutes after Phil said "you sure wouldn't want to do this on a windy day" we looked down and saw nasty white caps below. We knew we needed to reach the other end of the channel at least before we could land. We experimented with different altitudes to get the best ground speed and took a direct line to Bahia Kino. Chueca was our rendezvous point with the ground crew but we had already experienced the wind there before and we did not want to land there again if we didn't have to. We continuously checked fuel and speed and ultimately decided to try for Kino bay. The beach was 5 miles long so even if we did come up short of our waypoint it would not be a disaster.

Phil made it over 50 miles with just over two gallons of fuel. But of course he was not done for the day. After landing he dumped his reserve 1/2 gallon in the tank and went back up again. I looked for hotel rooms while he climbed to get in radio contact with the vehicles. We both succeeded eventually. The roads were horrible and much of the way the vehicles were limited to less than 15mph. Our preferred hotel was full but we were able to rent a campsite next to a large dune and then get rooms across the street. It was 8pm when Matt and Quinlan pulled in. I heated up some canned chile and we sat out in the evening air while we waited. Everyone eventually arrived tired and frayed but safe.

Sunday 06-06-2011

Matt's four years of bad luck held this morning. We had glassy conditions at 6am. The wind filled in nicely by 9am. But when we went to launch at 10 am the wind was so north that it was rotoring off the buildings and terrain upwind. We made a nasty short flight just to get him some more air time but it was not pleasant. To make matters worse, he had some sort of maladjustment to his harness so he had to apply strong right hand break pressure to maintain straight flight. We landed on the beach in 18mph wind requiring a level of skill well beyond his experience level but he was able to grab the C lines and kill the wind just as he touched down and execute a quick turn without falling. We all assured him that it gets easier.

Terry welded up Cliff's broken muffler bracket and got him back in business. Juanjo, Javier and Cliff all made short flights but gave up due to the turbulent conditions. Because the wind was more north than yesterday, we decided to try San Nicolas again with hope that it would allow us to soar. The hunch paid off and Phil and I got a couple of great flights. The rest of the gang made sled rides down to the beach and kited. Unfortunately Reginald had trouble getting out of his seat on one flight and sprained his ankle landing. It is hard to believe that we were actually wearing jackets in Puerto Penasco only a week ago because it was 107 on the way to San Nicolas and even at the hotel it is still close to 100. The pool still had the winter chill left in it but it felt good.

We set a 6:30 launch time for an evening flight but the wind stayed strong. We were tempted to give up but it finally started to moderate after 6 and by 6:30 it seemed okay. Matt, Cliff and I flew until after sunset. The offshore wind was blowing up high and the onshore wind was blowing down low. The mixing zone was rough at times and the rotor was bad at the north end of the beach but we managed a nice easy flight for Matt finally. He was ecstatic. After two very rough flights he finally got a taste of some relaxing flying. When we told him that even these conditions were a bad day at La Salina, our Baja beach spot he was surprised. Juanjo never made it up and Javier was already packing his gear to go home. Cliff almost didn't make it because his recoil spring broke again. He started his motor by coiling the pull rope by hand and then zip tying it to the frame before taking off. Phil climbed to the roof of one of the buildings and videoed our sunset flight. The wind was already switching offshore by the time we landed so Matt and I landed down on the beach rather than up on the dune. Matt tripped and fell on his landing again but did not hurt himself.

We met the Mexican contingent at the Pargo Rojo for dinner. Phil showed video and we said our goodbyes. Mayo told us that the traditional commemoration for a first flight was to dump crankcase oil on the new pilot and then sign his shirt. Matt got them to sign his shirt but we decided to let him off easy on the oil since our motors are two cycle.

Mon 06-07-2011

We hit the road for home at 8:30am but we decided to change out one tire first.. The edges of the tread were showing cracks on the left front tire and we did not want to risk another blowout. The tire shop charged us $2 and did the job in less than 10 minutes. Mayo and the Mexicans got a 1 hour Jump on us. As chance would have it, the weather looked great for flying now that we were packed up and leaving. Each glimpse we got of the ocean revealed a giant mill pond. Reginald sat in the back and put his foot up over the transmission to keep it elevated.

The conditions renewed hope that I still might be able to fly from Santa Clara to the border. Matt got an evening forecast on his I-Phone for Yuma that looked good. What little wind there was was from the southwest which would be a tailwind. And there were some wispy high clouds that we hoped would knock out the thermals.

We finally reached Santa Clara at about 4:30pm and the wind was a nice 8-10 mph. We hurried to launch by 5. We gave Terry three tries to foot launch with us before Phil and I headed north at 5:15pm. Because we missed flying due to high winds the first day of the trip, we were 65 miles from the border but sunset was not until 7:40. The first five miles were very nice but then the water upwind of us turned to salt flats and then vegetation. The wind and the turbulence increased by the mile.

We tried different elevations up to 2500 feet looking for a smooth spot but nothing was very nice. We saw 48mph on our GPSs at one point. We never had any collapses but we did not feel comfortable letting go of the brakes for miles at a time. Then we started climbing at idle and our speed slowed to as low as 12mph. Phil threatened to just land at least twice but then it would smooth out a little. We flew this leg IFR (I follow roads). The toll road to San Luis went right through the desert so we could bail out any time we wanted.

Two of the support vehicles paced us and Matt ran ahead to give us wind updates. At about the 3/4 point he reported 15mph with 20mph gusts. Not good. We needed to make it before dark and we needed good landing conditions. Fortunately, Matt found nearly calm conditions at the border and we saw smoke that explained our wind conditions. The smoke blew south up to approximately 500 feet and then north above that. As we got farther from the gulf and closer to sunset, the turbulence improved and our speed went back up to a tolerable 19 mph about 8 miles from the border.

Matt found a large graded lot less than a half mile south of the border for us to land on but first Phil and I had to just cross over a few feet into the US. We photographed each other and flew around in circles long enough to attract some unwanted attention on both sides of the border.

A US Border Patrol vehicle turned on their flashing lights below us and by the time we landed south of the border next to our ground crew, there were two Hummer loads of soldiers, three car loads of Federal Police and two motorcycle cops waiting. It was a bit tense but they were more curious than anything. They checked identification, wrote down our itinerary, and confirmed that we did not land in the US. Ultimately they released us to go home and then offered to lead us to the border crossing in one of the Hummers. We all got nailed for secondary inspection going into the US so it was midnight before we reached El Centro. We crashed in a Motel 6 for the night before taking it all home Wednesday morning.

In spite of the challenging weather, I completed all the legs. And, we actually got home a day early. I have now flown from the USA all the way to El Salvador in a paramotor. Thanks to all of you who have traveled and flown legs with me.


It's never easy.

Tue, May 31, only Terry (pictured) and Jeff Hamann made the whole length.

 


© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!