Boat Towing on Lake Minneola

Boat Towing on Lake Minneola, Florida, March 21-22, 2017

Posted on Posted in Adventures, Hang Gliding

After an already epic day aerotowing, flying cross country, and enjoying top of lift at 6000 feet, the Questies adventured to Lake Minneola to boat tow. Jeremy Armstrong brought a Moyes Sonic 165 and his boat with a winch. Jamie Kumlien also took his boat out, so there was plenty of room for everyone!

John Simon preparing to board Jamie's boat for some serious hang gliding bidness. Lake minneola, FL, March 2017. Photo: Sara Weaver.
John Simon preparing to board Jamie's boat for some serious hang gliding bidness. Lake Minneola, FL, March 2017. Photo: Sara Weaver.

Jeremie Hill, Willie the dog, Rich Westmoreland, and I showed up a bit late, so we got to watch Jeff Parrott on his first platform tow while we were waiting at the boat ramp. I had never seen boat towing before, so I was especially fascinated. Jamie picked us up as the sun was getting lower on the horizon, and as we approached Jeremy’s boat, John Simon took off, and we sped behind to watch.

Boat Towing hang gliders on Lake Minneola, Florida, March 2017
Rich Westermoreland and Heather Renihan about to launch, boat towing in the North Wing Freedom on Lake Minneola, Florida, March 2017. Photo: Sara Weaver.

Once John landed it was my turn. I shimmied on the already wet (and freezing cold) harness and prepped for launch as Jeremy gave me the quick and dirty rundown of boat towing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in a hang glider, but I was insanely excited, too!

Hang Gliding at Lake Minneola, FL
Soaring in a tandem hang glider above Lake Minneola, FL, March 2017. Photo: Sara Weaver.

Because the Sonic is so big, I needed to reach wide to grab the base tube. After attaching the tow bridle, Jeremy accelerated, and I released the bar keeping me attached to the boat and rocketed upwards. I had to work to keep the bar pulled in, and the whole way up, my adrenaline was surging. After a few seconds of flying, I got more used to the sensation and finally thought to look around. Lake Minneola was absolutely spectacular, swimming in golden hour sunshine with a red orb sun going down on the horizon. My first thought was, “I can’t freaking believe that people fly hang gliders behind boats!” My second thought was, “I can’t believe that I’m one of the people who gets to fly a hang glider behind a boat!!!” It was truly one of those moments that made me grateful for this life.

Boat Towing hang gliders on Lake Minneola, Florida, March 2017
Rich and Heather swoop our boat on their landing approach. Lake Minneola, Florida, March 2017. Photo: Sara Weaver.

Towing itself is extremely easy, and I didn’t have to try to stay behind the boat. Since Lake Minneola is so big, we simply towed in one long, straight line, and we didn’t need to turn. I think I released from the boat around 2000 feet, by pressing a lever that was holding the tow bridle to the chest of my harness. I didn’t apply enough pressure at first, so finally I karate chopped it open, bruising my hand in the process (worth it!). The glider righted itself, and it was wingovers, cruising, and sightseeing until landing, facing the beautiful big sun exactly upwind. Landing isn’t difficult either: you just pretend the water is solid ground and plop in feet first. I didn’t even notice how the cold the water was until I’d been paddling around for a couple minutes waiting for the boat to pick me up (hypothermia? Worth it!).

Boat Towing never looked so good. Hang gliding on Lake Minneola, March 2017. Left to Right: Jeremy Armstrong, Michelle Haag, Jeff Parrott, Rich Westmoreland, Heather Renihan. Photo: Sara Weaver.
Boat Towing never looked so good. Hang gliding on Lake Minneola, March 2017. Left to Right: Jeremy Armstrong, Michelle Haag, Jeff Parrott, Rich Westmoreland, Heather Renihan. Photo: Sara Weaver.

For the next couple hours, I couldn’t stop chattering like an excited four year old. Boat towing was so new. New wing, being in water, different towing method, different location, and one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I’d ever felt combined and made my heart race for the rest of the evening. Jamie took the day’s last flight, and after dropping the glider off onshore, we took the boats to the Clermont Tiki Bar for drinks and dinner. There was no better way to cap an amazing day of hang gliding and learning new things. We even returned the next day for more fun on the tandem North Wing Freedom! Cold water isn’t so bad when you just add altitude...

After a day of boat towing on Lake Minneola, we visited the Clermont Tiki Bar. March 2017. Photo: Waitress.
After a day of boat towing on Lake Minneola, we visited the Clermont Tiki Bar. March 2017. Left to Right: Jeremy Armstrong, Jamie Kumlien, Michelle Haag, Jeremie Hill, John Simon, Rich Westmoreland, Heather Renihan, Jeff Parrott, Sara Weaver. Photo: Waitress.

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