Armed with what I thought was permission to sail from the head of the Loring Development Authority and a forecast of 10-15 SSE I set out for the second round of exploring the old B-52 air base. The plan to hold a land sailing regatta there in September required careful scouting and course planning, which I was more than willing to do.
The last time sailing I stayed off the main runway, but now, embolden with official backing I headed right for it. It lay two runways over and to windward, connected at the top end by a patch of blacktop the size of a small mall parking lot. With the wind blowing right down the length of the runway this connector was a very fast reach, and then with a hike in the peel off there it was: endless, smooth asphalt. The black ice of landsailing. No sand, no dust. 12,000′ of smooth deep gybes. There’s magic, mystery, drama and champagne sailing.
But back to the sailing: when you needed a G-force fix it was simple enough to harden up a bit, hang on to your teeth and shoot across a connector to the next runway, bearing away there and continuing down wind. Up and down, side to side. The place was deserted, except what appeared to be a big guy walking his dogs in the grass alongside the small runway. As I got closer and could see the massive fur coat the guy was wearing on this hot summer day, it became clear that it was a family of bears picking berries. They must have liked the tarberries. The cubs were the size of large dogs and weren’t bothered a bit by the whizzing sail.
Also in the department of misconceptions, out of nowhere there appeared a police car. I waved, he waved back with the universal police wave which means “pull over”. I couldn’t outrun him upwind, so we had a nice chat, the upshot of which was that in spite of my vague permission slip the only way there can be land sailing at Loring is by participating in an organized event.
My arms and hands were pretty much shot by then anyway, so breaking down and heading for home was fine with me. There was a deep satisfaction, a sense of awe and pure joy at having sailed this place, with a perfect wind and a sun just hot enough. Partly it was the sense of discovery in the detritus of the past that can be used for deep play today.
Now it just sits there, big, empty and alone. The only way anyone will get the opportunity to sail there is to take part in a regatta. It’s planned tentatively for September 11-13. That leaves less than three months to rig up and test something with sails and wheels. It’s a long way from everywhere, but so is Montana, and look at the fun we had there! Regatta details to follow.
Forgive the poor formatting of the video. The filmmaker has now learned to hold the phone horizontally while sheeting with one hand and teeth.