Lessons Learned

Had an epiphany? Stepped in a metaphorical cow pie? Share the experience here.

Lost at Sea

edited September 2013 in Lessons Learned
The 150 lbs woven Dacron line parted and my loved and trial tested Dopero kite flew off across the Atlantic Ocean….with my BBKK AuRiCo Auto KAP rig and Canon S100 still taking pictures….hanging underneath.

While gathering a few close shots of my Levitation Light delta kite with a new dynamic spreader….the wind suddenly shifted and the two kite lines crossed…..the Levitation Light delta was flying off my heavy beach kite line (250 lbs. test)…..The Dopero was tied off with my 150 lbs woven Dacron attached to my WW Stratospool.

It took all of 3 seconds. I knew the risks. It still hurts.

A few of my family members and friends were with me….

We watched as the Dopero drifted out over the Atlantic Ocean (land breeze) blowing a steady 15 mph straight out over the Ocean.

I contemplated chasing the kite down in my Kayak ….but my Dopero had other ideas….it kept on flying….the weight of the rig and camera provided just enough drag to keep the kite in the air…flying free. I followed the kite for as long as I could with a pair of binoculars that I always carry. The kite would flatten out and loose altitude….then pick up some drag and lift back up. I was glad that I had several thousand miles of a safety box. I suspect the first lull in the wind the kite will quickly descend, hit the water and sink….. or maybe…..drift over North Africa and float into the hands of a new KAPer….3,500 miles away!

We watched for close to 15 minutes till the kite was out of site….heading due East over the Atlantic Ocean.

Lost at Sea:
- Bit of pride
- One well used (500+ flight) Dopero Kite
- Lots of SkyShark tubing in the Dopero
- Custom modifications in the Dopero
- One well used BBKK Auto KAP rig
- One AuRiCo controller
- One Gentles IR trigger (for Sony NEX-5)
- One Canon S100….still taking pictures
- About $1000 worth of KAP gear….

I am planning on taking a few days to map out replacement strategies…
- New kite….looking for 1-2 Doperos
- Replacement KAP rig…..Auto KAP….or take the dive for a fancier approach
- New camera…..different directions….or stay with tried and true….CHDK SDM capable cameras
- The small stuff – new IR trigger….
- The big stuff – convincing my wife to spend (invest) in some new gear
- Getting to know my legacy cameras again….Canon G9, Canon S95….
- Getting to know my nano KAP rig (Go Pro Hero 3 on a string) ….currently my only flight capable camera.

Lesson learned….be careful crossing kite lines…..risk we take. I have lost cameras, kites, rigs in the past…but not the whole lot in one go….with no recovery.

I invite my fellow KAPers to comment on the above…..and to recommend some replacement gear:
- KAP cameras
- KAP rigs
- Kites

Feeling the pain….


KAP Vibration Testing Over Wind Watcher Proving Grounds

3 Eyes

Levitation Light - Dynamic Spreader Testing - Avalon NJ
Avalon 2013


  • That's tragic, Jim. I hope you waste no time getting re-equipped.
  • edited September 2013
    So sorry to hear about this. I definitely feel your pain and can understand the sick feeling you must have felt (and probably still are feeling). The pictures of your Levi that you were able to capture were so cool. The Dopero obviously picked up some of your determination and love for flying and went out in classic Wind Watcher fashion. It would be interesting to know what the wind patterns are doing out over the ocean... the thing could still be flying! I wouldn't be surprised if they find it in 6 months and it has pictures of Atlantis on the memory card :)

    Have you considered upgrading to a brushless gimbal system? Not sure how available they are but that would be a nice technology upgrade. It's hard to beat the S100 for compactness and quality, but some of the new lightweight mirror-less cameras are awful tempting.

  • edited September 2013
    Jim, I feel pain just by reading your story! Your wife will probably understand that this is a part of your life that can not be missed :-)

    You probably can buy a 2nd hand nex-5 body + new sigma 19mm prime for about 250 euro (that's what I fly most of the time)
  • Ouch, ouch, ouch... OUCH! Crashing is another thing, but just watching your gear slip away, out of reach, that must suck big time. :(

    I heard a local kite story that someone would have flown a kite at the south coast of Finland when his line cut loose, and the kite kept going across the sea all the way to Estonia, some 60km. Kite kept descending and when the line hit the water enough, the drag helped the kite to lift up again. I didn't know if that's true, but since your's kept going with the gear attached, I'd say it's possible. :)
  • The wound WILL heal. But what a lesson learned. Crossed lines...2 kites in the same sky always has the potential for this to happen. I have lost a fine kite like this. It seems the line under the greatest tension (yep the one with the £££ load) is the one that fails.

    Chin up!

  • Sad story Jim. Pity it is you lose your favorite dopero, it was a piece of KAP history. :o(

  • edited September 2013
    Sad to lose it all so completely. Though at least it was doing what it enjoyed most as it left you. A fitting end indeed, like letting a caged bird fly free. I'm sure it owed you nothing more, that thousand dollars is well paid back. In stories on here and memories, and photos.

    I managed to put a favourite Dan Leigh XFS in a tall tree at home a few years ago. I was convinced it would blow out the tree over a day or two. I spent a winter watching that kite grow ragged and torn, then the spars came down, until all that was left was a ragged purple cloth flapping at the top. Then one day we went for a walk and I noticed a familiar colour in the hedgerow. The sorry scraps had finally come down to me. I'd have much preferred it to have gone like yours, flying free.

  • I'll keep an eye out for your Dopero, Jim. Not sure how long it would take to travel the Atlantic - a few months??!!

    Maybe it will meet up with my big HQ Flow Form that I lost 3 years ago, last seen drifting towards the English Channel shipping lane!

    Your gear had an exciting life. Time to raise the game and invest in a super compact like one of those 20MP Sony RX cameras I'd say. In terms of the rig, your AutoKAP set up seemed to do a magnificent job so why change?

    Look forward to the next WW KAP story....
  • Very tragic, sorry about your loss.
    I've had a similar story but with a happier ending as my winder still attached to the kite, made it back on land on the other side of the bay and got caught on a picket fence. Since I was on the East coast of Newfoundland, Greenland was the closest land mass. No fishing boat would have been fast enough to catch up to it.
  • Bad luck Jim. Just a couple of months ago I smashed my s95 and r/c rig not long after breaking a connection in my r/c TX I've had to buy and rebuild quite a bit too. But once I got over the loss it's been fun rebuilding stuff for KAPiFrance next month (photos of my newly chopped Spektrum and a rig based on a simplified version of skysnaps99 terrific bit of engineering coming soon).

    10 years ago I too had to watch a kite (my first FF16) drift slowly out to see in an offshore wind with no boats in sight to call for help.
  • edited September 2013
    Very, very sad. After all the adventures you have had with this gear, it seems a very commonplace way to lose it, but the loss is still the same. Losing a kite is bad enough - losing everything like that is a tragedy. Nice to read that "A few of my family members and friends were with me…" so at least you had some comfort in your bereavement! Maybe you need an outboard motor on the kayak in case it happens again.
  • My goodness, even when he loses his gear, WW does it in a big way!

    No crash in a tall tree for you... no, you send it out for some seriously long range untethered KAP. Why do I have a feeling in a few months we're going to see pictures of a giant squid or leviathan or something posted to your Flikr photostream, pulled off a camera miraculously recovered by some shipping freighter in the middle of the ocean.

    I for one look forward to the second half of this story in the coming months.
  • My condolences on the loss of your gear. But...

    I wonder if there is actually a world record for the longest untethered kite flight. I mean, if one were to deliberately try to set up a kite and a weight that would just keep going in a wide range of wind conditions, perhaps with a GPS recorder/transmitter on board, it would be interesting to see how far it might go. I guess the biggest challenge would be nighttime, but maybe if it's over ocean all the way the wind would keep blowing enough.

    But maybe the aviation authorities would object to having an uncontrolled object flying around. Yeah, they probably would.
  • Oh No!!! Not something that any of us want to hear at any time. But look on the bright side, new improved rig opportunity, new kite opportunity and a new camera opportunity.

    You never know, with the Gulf Stream heading to the UK, one day the remains may turn up on a beach near me!
  • This is turning into 'I did that too....except....you've done it in a big way.
    My immediate thought was "are you insured?" I wonder if they would pay out on 'self inflicted injuries'
    My cameras are covered on my house insurance. They've paid out a few times. Mine were dropped but not from a kite.
    You must be devastated to lose your well loved gear and kite. I hope you're back in the air again soon.
    Anyway...I've done that too. I was out with Jean-Daniel near Strasbourg flying over the R Rhine. I brought the rig down and took it off the line as it didn't seem to be turning properly. I knelt lightly on the home made reel while it sorted out the rig. There was a gust of wind which pulled the reel out from under my knee and into the Rhine. There were some steps down the bank next to me and I went down a few into the water but saw the reel was sinking into reeds. Then as it came to the end of the line, the reel started surfing across the water keeping the kite aloft. We watched it get smaller and further away, then it started to go downwards and we realised that a sailing boat skipper had captured it and then started coming to the nearby marina. After a long wait while he tidied up the boat I got my kite and reel back. I was more concerned about the reel as Eric and I had made it.
    It made for an exciting time for JDC's family.

    Fly High

  • My condolences, Jim. This is sad news, indeed.

    But I hesitate to advise you in any way on kites, cameras, or rigs. You've taught me more about the Dopero than I can recount here, and you have a methodology all your own when it comes to field technique.

    That being said, I'd say stick with CHDK or SDM capable Canon cameras since it's territory you know so well (having blazed a lot of it!) Given the wind range you've modified your Doperos to fly in, I don't know if you'd be satisfied with any other kite. And for the rig? Something tough. Tough with a lot of holes in it and Velcro on it for attaching multiple cameras.


    Pick a new camera based off of weight and image quality. There are some new ones out these days that blow my socks off. And yeah, maybe take the leap into a non-autoKAP rig. Both offer the opportunity to grow your technical skills, which is never a bad thing.

    I've been playing with the newer RC radios a lot recently, specifically the ones that can run openTX. I haven't done it, but I'm pretty sure it's possible to set up an RCKAP rig with one of these, and at the flick of a switch have the rig go into as complicated and autoKAP routine as you could want. Best of both worlds. (But you'd have to carry more stuff.)

    It's a blank page, and you're the one holding the pen. A sad day, but a day to look forward.

  • Jim,
    Talk about lessons learned. Many years ago my first FF 16 escaped the split-rail fence it
    had been ( not-well ) tied to while I was in the truck with the rig, reviewing the
    I was at the dunes in South Wellfleet, Cape Cod, when a traveller from
    Ireland began yelling about the runaway. I hopped-to and he and I began
    to chase the kite, halo and 500’ of line along the dunes. Funny sight,
    in a way. Wind was from the north and that kite flew parallel to the dunes
    in a way that I never would have been able to convince it. Realised the
    the folly and got in the truck to go back to the cottage camp where surely
    one of the ladies would recognize it and collar it. No such luck.
    Citty, an old and dear from camp saw it fly by as she was at the window
    doing dishes. “ Oh, there goes Paul’s kite....I wonder where he is...”
    He was off moaning his mistake and wondering if it might end up in
    Wellfleet, England.
    Funny how we can wax sentimental about a tried-and-true tool that has served
    us well. I agree with all the sympathies offered here, but suggest that
    Simon says it best.
    Get re-rigging....I’m sure any of us here would lend you a spare something
    or other to tide you over.
  • That's a sad story. Sorry for your lost. I'll keep an eye in the sky over here (new brunswick, canada) :-)

    Do you have your name on your kite or rig? If it's been flying at sea, there's a good chance that a passing by boat could see it since it's high in the sky, visible from pretty far. I hope you'll get it back.

  • Ouch !!! it hurt.... Feel so sorry.

    I was planing to send my 2 kites (PLK and Rokkaku) up in the sky to try some nice shot.... but after reading your post, i don't know :(
  • Ouch... Sad news indeed but what a beautiful (and expensive) farewell from this beloved kite of yours which is taking away everything : rig, camera, aurico, pride but not your passion...
    Having recently lost a camera and lens in Aitutaki, I can imagine the feeling ... the worst must be to witness that farewell, knowing there is nothing to do except to share the experience in an other great story with the KAP community.
  • Something I always do is write my phone number on my kites with a permanent marker pen, just in case such a thing happens to me. But in this case, I doubt that would have helped with a recovery of the lost kit.
  • So sorry to read this sad tale, Jim! Best to simply learn from the misfortune and replace your gear ASAP. Wind Watcher must not be without the necessary KAP gear for more than a few days!!

    You might consider CAMremote with 8-button remote as a replacement controller. It is very compact and powerful. You can launch in autoKAP mode, then switch on the fly to manual RC or an alternative autoKAP pan/tilt sequence. Linnar may have some other exciting new gear close to a release date too.
  • All,

    Thanks for the kind words and ideas for the future.

    I spent most of my free week kayak sailing in the Atlantic Ocean swells of Avalon NJ nursing my damaged ego.

    Funny... looking back....my first KAP shots were on the same beach as this eventful send off.

    I did get to fly my Hero3 nano rig a fair bit and got over 40 hours of flying time with my two Levitation Deltas (both experimenting with Dynamic Spreader).

    Looking forward....
    - cameras - looking at replacement S100 (like the CHDK, SDM, light weight and GPS) and the Canon EOS M (like the light weight, sensor size and Magic Lantern option).
    - Kites - still like the Doperos - exploring a few options
    - KAP rigs - looking at replacement auto KAP rig and RC controlled rigs - was looking at the DuneCAM but it is no longer available.
    - Controllers - looking at replacement AuRiCo or other options (ClickPan and CAMremote).
    - The other stuff - servos, SD cards, Brooks hangups, mylar ribbon.

    As for the free flying kite / KAP rig....figure it is at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean....but if still flying....my calculations...7 days out....traveling at a mean ground speed of 15 mph.....I place the kite somewhere near 40N 30W heading for northern Spain....

    Appreciate comments / options for the forward looking replacements!


    Ocean Passage

  • Brief update on the recovery process.

    - KAP Rig: New KAP rig built. Bit of background....back late last year when I heard Brooks was getting out of the KAP business...I placed an order for parts to build a replacement KAP rig. I put them in box for safe keeping (Open only in case of an emergency....) Well I opened the box! (see photo below). Auto KAP rig fully ground tested and after a bit of tweaking...and a bit of airport checked bag damage...should be ready for it's first flight!

    - Camera: New camera purchased and received.....decided to go for a replacement Canon S100 ....main reasons....light, decent image quality for point and shoot, built in GPS, CHDK / SDM ready. Ran multiple tools to confirm the firmware build = 101b. CHDK / SDM are available.

    - SD Card: Bit of a tussle getting my new 16 Gb SD card configured. Took several days playing with different options to get Card Tricks, ACID and ASSIST to first see, then write to the SD card to make it bootable and load SDM. Now complete. Many thanks to fellow KAPer David Mitchel for help with this. Still need to update a few of my WW KAP scripts....over the next few days.

    - Kites: for now my BKT 8 foot Rokkaku is filling in for my lost Dopero. Travel kites now include: BKT 8' Rokkaku and Levitation Light with modified Dynamic Spreader (design #4) from Mike LeDuc. Currently collaborating with Piotr (BKT) on a couple of replacement Doperos....

    - Still to go: need to place order for replacement IR trigger for my Sony NEX-5

    Did some KAPing in the mean time with my GoPro3 nano rig (GoPro on a string) with mixed results in Avalon NJ and Gent Belgium.....

    Enjoy a few pictures below.


    open in case of emergecy.   ;-)
    Emergency Backup
    New Arrival
    Kite Above Avalon NJ
  • I still hold out hope that someday WW's camera may resurface, full of pictures from its untethered KAP run...

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