Well, it was a good plan.
I was going to fly up the coast, land at the beach and find a geocache.
The weather was perfect - a SE breeze at 18 knots. This produces enough lift off the coastal ridge to soar to over 1,000 ft above sea level for as long as you like.
Stanwell Park, just over an hour's drive south of Sydney is one of the best coastal soaring sites in Australia. From the takeoff at Bald Hill which is 600 ft above sea level, you can fly either south or north along the coast.
Flying south you need a little bit of height to cross the village of Stanwell Park where you pick up the lift again from Mount Mitchell, part of cliff-line that rises to about 1,100 ft above the sea below. This escarpment then continues south to Wollongong. Hang Glider pilots regularly make the trip when the conditions are right and have been know to get up to 3,000 ft above the hamlets below and fly about 15 - 20km southwards and return to where they take off.
It's a spectacularly scenic trip.
Flying north from takeoff, you will pass over the southern parts of the Royal National Park, the oldest National Park in the world. (Yellowstone was established as a Nature Preserve a couple of years before, and then became a National Park later).
In the video below you'll see the flight north over the National Park climbing to an altitude of about 1,300 ft.
It's always beautiful but especially so at sunset.
Coming back to land you need to lose height over Stanwell Park before flying over the houses, making a U-turn and landing on the sand beside the lagoon.
Because I hadn't flown for quite some time, I had lost some of the judgement you need when planning a landing approach. I came in a bit high then may have got hit by some turbulence coming off the headland. The glider climbed and went off course a little. Also, at this stage I should have had my legs out of the harness which increases drag and dampens any oscillation because of a greater pendulum effect.
A high performance glider will get into what is called Pilot Induced Oscillation (PIO). In other words it is caused by over-controlling the glider. The remedy is to simply release pressure from the controls and the glider immediately goes into trim. However as you can see in the video, it lost so much altitude that one wing scraped the ground and the glider spun in. The frame of a hang glider will often take the impact of a "sub-optimal landing" and sacrifice itself for you. This combined with soft sand allowed me to walk away without any injuries at all.
I was not in a frame of mind to go looking for the the geocache, so that will have to wait for another time.
Check out the video below:
If the video is not visible click on this link.
A friend got inspired by the high quality geoaches he saw on Progeocaching and put together one which is an
example of how to make an excellent creative geocache. He suggested that I might like to check it out and put it up on Progeocaching. It's located in some bush in the south of Sydney, Australia.
The cache was placed on 11 November 2011 (11/11/11), so the co-ordinates and numbers used to solve the final co-ordinates are based around that.
I know that he went to some trouble to make this as high quality as possible.
So what is it that makes this a high quality geocache?
- Adventure. It's a great walk/ride in to areas that few people visit.
- Physically challenging. It involved mountain biking, some bush-bashing and rock climbing - but nothing exhausting;
- Mentally challenging. It required doing some research, solving a puzzle and following some instructions on how to operate the equipment - but you didn't need to be Einstein;
- Educational. Because of the research involved I learnt things that I didn't know before.
- Nice location. It's in the middle of a nice piece of bush and is somewhere that I wouldn't have visited if not for this.
- Overall good experience. I came away with a sense of achievement and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Isn't that what's it's all about?
There is no comparison to some dodgy micro located in a non-descript location.
I rated this very highly. It's an example of a high quality geocache and is what we all should be aspiring to.
Well done mate!
Check out the video.
If you can't see the video, click here.
** DON'T FORGET TO CHECK THE VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM**
Do you get tired of finding poor quality geocaches with containers that don't keep out the moisture? Often these are sheltered locations as well.
You end up with stinking, sodden logbook and contents. YUCK!! Not a pleasant experience.
To to see if it's possible to create a waterproof geocache that stays dry in the most extreme environments, I created a Floating Geocache Buoy that is placed in open water. It is constantly being pounded by wind, waves and every passing storm.
The cache is called "Buoy Oh Boy" and the GC code is: GC33XG0
OK, to you Americans, that name doesn't sound very good (Boo-ee Oh Boy). However here in Australia, it's pronounced "Boy Oh Boy"!
The video below shows how the geocache was created and placed.
Also because of all the quality geocaches that have been shown on Progeocaching I was inspired to create a high quality one of my own. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration as well.
How to make a geocache buoy
So how do you make a geocache buoy? In essence it's a waterproof container inside a waterproof container.
The outside container is made from a 5 inch plastic drainpipe cut to 450 mm (~18 inches) in length. It is sealed at one end with a plug and a screw top at the other end. The inside container is a 4 inch plastic drainpipe that is sealed in the same manner. The overall length is about 500 mm (~20 inches)
To float vertically a buoy needs to be weighted in the bottom. To determine how much weight was needed, I kept adding sand (in ziplock bags) until the buoy floated at the right height in a water tank. It took about 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) of sand to achieve that. I then took a short length of 5 inch drainpipe, sealed it at the bottom with sticky tape and measured out 2.5 kg of Quickset concrete. This was mixed with water in the tube and allowed to set overnight.
Surprisingly, after setting hard, it still weighed 2.5 kg.
Because concrete expands slightly, I needed to use an angle grinder to take off some of the concrete from the circumference of the block so that it fitted inside the geocache.
Once that was in place, the cavity above the block was filled with expanding foam (Space Invader), up to the bottom of the inside container. This is so that even if water does manage to get in, the buoy will still float.
Some expanding foam was also put inside the screw-top lid to give flotation, just in case it's dropped into the water. The thread of the lid was masked with sticky tape and given enough room around the foam to be able screw the lid on.
The buoy needs to be anchored, so it needs an attachment point. How do you attach a rope to the geocache without breaking the waterproof integrity of the container?
To do this, a stainless steel screw clamp was attached to the bottom of the buoy. A couple of brackets from a bike rack were used as the attachment points. A screw was inserted into each one, then the brackets were slid under the clamp, and the clamp was tightened.
2 Nylon cable ties were used on each bracket to attach a loop of chain.
2 carabineers (for redundancy) were used to attach the rope to the chain. This is to allow finders to remove the buoy from the rope and bring it into their boat so that they don't drag the anchor. A slice of pool noodle was attached to the carabineers as flotation when they are removed from the cache.
An 11kg (24 lb) concrete garden block was used as the anchor. A hole was drilled through the middle and a long bolt inserted. An old pulley from a sailing dinghy was attached to the bolt and secured with a couple of nuts that were locked together. This setup allows the pulley to swivel around the bolt as the buoy drifts with wind and tide.
Waterproof Geocache Logbook
OK, so if it all goes to water (ha ha), then the last line of defence is to have a waterproof logbook. I found one at the local Office Depot. The pages are made from some sort of polymer and shouldn't mind getting wet. It was cut down to size to fit inside the inner container. I inserted 3 different writing implements - a normal ballpoint pen, a retractable ballpoint pen and a mechanical pencil. The purpose is to see which one survives the best in such a salty environment.
Placing the buoy geocache
Finding a secluded location
Because it will be in plain site, the most important thing is to find a location that doesn't get a lot of passing traffic. We found a spot in the backwaters of a bay near some old oyster leases. Not many boats come here because there are so many submerged posts from the oyster farm. Even if you know the GPS co-ordinates, it's not easy spot until you are about 30 metres (100 ft) away.
The other benefit of this location is that the water is fairly shallow, so it doesn't need a lot of rope. However the anchor block was still lowered over the side very carefully in case it disappeared into the depths and took the buoy with it. It turned out that there was plenty of rope - even taking into account the highest tide of the year.
In this location, maximum tide height variation during the year is about 1.5 metres (5 ft). Average variation is about 1 metre (3ft). So it was important to check the tide tables for maximum height throughout the year to make sure there was enough rope, otherwise there was a risk that the buoy would be completely submerged at some times.
GPS co-ordinates were marked at the anchor point. This is because the buoy will move around with wind and currents. It was difficult to keep the boat located in one spot long enough to average the co-ordinates. However they don't need to be that accurate because the cache is easy to spot when you get near GZ.
Cache finders need to be careful not to drag the anchor. There is enough weight in the block to hold the buoy, but any sort of boat will pull the block along the bottom. Talk about a bad case of cache creep!
This is why it is recommended that people remove the cache from the rope when they sign the log. There is an instruction in the cache description for this purpose. If they do drag the anchor they will need to bring it back to the original co-ordinates.
I'll check back in a few weeks or months to see how it's faring in the environment. Hopefully it's still there!
The cache page for "Buoy Oh Boy" is here.
My thanks to Usat31 for helping me to place it. It was quite windy and choppy on the water that day which made it difficult to place it by myself.
Check out the video. If you aren't interested in the construction details, skip to 10:45 on the video to see where and how we placed it.