Lost at Sea .... Again...

edited April 2020 in Lessons Learned
Lost at Sea….Again….

A sudden lost…hits you hard….

Without any warning….my kite line parted….
Kite Line Failure

One of my favorite kites the Levitation Lite delta kite fitted with a Dynamic Spreader faithfully continued to fly….dragging my dual camera KAP rig fitted out with my Sony A6000 and GoPro Hero3 camera out over the Gulf of Mexico….skipping across every 10th wave or so…as it headed out to sea…
Updated KAP rig.

I lost everything…
WWKW 2018 - Wind Watcher Proving Grounds - Kites that Travel

A sad day. I have had other sad days such as this… read “Lost at Sea” story here on a similar incident over the Atlantic Ocean…. http://research-benton.ced.berkeley.edu/discuss2//index.php?p=/discussion/4706/lost-at-sea

I was on the beach of Fr. De Soto in early March facing Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico….. The purpose of my visit was to participate in the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge 2020 which is a 300 mile adventure kayak / small sail boat race from Ft. De Soto / Tampa Bay to Key Largo (Florida Keys).

The Levitation Lite delta kite, KAP rig and Stratospool were working perfectly flying about 200 feet above the beach taking pictures from above of about 200 sailboats and kayaks that were pulled up on the beach for inspection the day before the race. I was taking my time and inspecting each sailboat and kayak. I was informally filming the boats with my hand held Go Pro Hero 7 black shoot 4 K video.

Walking between the sailboats with masts sticking up high above I had to carefully weave between the masts and spreaders with one hand holding the Hero 7 camera and the other loosely holding the Stratospool or letting it dangle from the waist strap. This approach was working fine….at least I thought it was…..

As I walked between two sailboats….my line suddenly parted….with the Levitation Lite delta kite pulling my KAP rig across the Gulf of Mexico. The KAP rig and kite slowly dropped in altitude till the KAP rig hit the waves….but the delta kite kept flying pulling the KAP rig back into the air only to fall back again about 10 seconds later. This pattern repeated numerous times as the kite continued to fly off across the Gulf of Mexico till the kite was out of site……

The whole affair was captured on my Hero 7 camera that was rolling as I walked along the beach before, during and after the line parted….. The moment of separation is at 37:40 in this YouTube video (note main subject of the video is my sailing kayak and various repairs and not KAP but you do get a few glimpse of my plight). If the YouTube video does not launch for you, right click, copy url to your web browser.

I contemplated chasing down the kite in my kayak but it would take too long to launch the kayak (it was actually on a trailer attached to my car and I was not certain the speed of the kayak could catch up with the fast moving kite.

So…how did this happen with new line and a freshly built Stratospool? I spent a few days studying the evidence (video, line, Stratospool)…. Based on where the line was cut I have concluded the kite line found a sharp edge on the stainless steel rectangular tube that I use on the “Nose” part of the Stratospool. This was not the only factor but it is the most probable root cause.
Kite line failure.
Kite line failure.

Other contributing factors included that I was not holding my Stratospool in the normal position which enabled the kite line to reach un expected sharp edges. A third contributing factor was the quality of the kite line. The line was brand new 8 Strand Braided dyneema Fishing Line 150 lbs. …. So I thought…. I have done some preliminary testing that indicates this line breaks well below 150 lbs…. closer to 50 lbs….. I have had good experience with Dyneema kite line….but this batch is suspect. A check on-line showed other reviewers had similar feedback…. https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B075V2SV3S/ref=acr_dpx_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

Kite line failure.

So – all three factors (sharp edge on the Stratospool, holding the Stratospool in a not normal position that enabled the line to reach the sharp edge and weaker defective line) contributed to this failure.

Losses at Sea:
- Bit of pride
- One well used (400+ flight) Levitation Lite delta kite fitted with a Dynamic Spreader
- One well used BBKK Auto KAP rig – well over 1000 flights
- One CAMremote-2 controller
- One Gentles IR trigger (for Sony A6000)
- One Sony A6000 camera …. taking pictures as it drifted away
- One GoPro Hero 3 black camera….taking pictures as it drifted away
- About $1300 worth of kite, camera and KAP gear lost.

Looking ahead – I have initiated the replacing of the lost equipment
- New kite…. Levitation delta fitted with a Dynamic Spread (just received 3 new Dynamic Spreaders from Mike LeDuc!)
- Replacement KAP rig….. Auto KAP….placed order and I have received replacement parts to start the build of a new KAP rig from Ken Conrad (Brooxes.com)
- Replacement CAMremote from VP Systems
- Replacement cameras….. I have a backup Sony A6000 and I am planning on using my existing Hero 5 and Hero 7 for KAP duty
- The small stuff – new IR trigger….
- Switch to spare Stratospool with proven kite line.
- The big stuff – convincing my wife to spend (invest) in some new gear

Short term – I have reverted to my emergency KAP gear….Hero 7 on a string! With good results.Kite Over Marco Island Caxambas Pass
Camera on a string.

Lessons learned….many…..Check for hidden sharp edges that put kite line at risk with your KAP gear. Avoid using KAP gear in risky ways (improper holding of the Stratospool) and do actual testing of your kite line to confirm strength and abrasion resistance. Risks we take. I have lost cameras, kites, rigs in the past…tough to repeat this complete lost again…with no recovery of any gear.

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

Feeling the pain….but thankful that the KAP rig and camera survived many KAP flights over approximately 6 years!



  • My condolences Jim. It is tough to lose a rig. Still, you can have the comforts that your lost equipment was well amortized having produced a substantial body of work and that your replacements will form a kit that is even more refined than the last one. Forward!
  • Wow, tough story. Nothing makes my heart sink like a suddenly slack line. I don't fly nearly as much as you and have only lost one Levitation. I use a pendulum and believe something sharp on it frayed the line. The kite disappeared over Smith Rock in Oregon, but the rig dropped 400' into a grassy area. The cheap Nikon Coolpix didn't survive, but the SD card did. The first pic on my memory card is always my name and email, in case some kind soul finds it when I don't.
  • oh, my ... :-(

    I like your attitude: "now I need to get new gear and start flying ASAP!" :-)
  • I feel for you Jim. It's been a while since I lost any equipment but I had a line break 10 years ago where the line wore through rubbing on a sharp edge of one of the 'hangups' .

    Hope you get a replacement dynamic spreader - I'm awaiting delivery of the one I ordered from Mike a couple of weeks ago.

    PS still no official cancellation of Fanø, but it doesn't look hopeful.
  • Jim-

    I know the feeling well. Virtually the same thing happened to me a year ago in Rincon, Puerto Rico.
    The entire rig, kite and camera sailed West over the Mona Strait. Flying perfectly level, just at the top
    of the waves. I believe it went a mile, maybe two, as I watched , 'til it dropped.

    I felt awful. For losing, as you did, over a grand of gear to Davy Jones' Locker. And for " littering ".
    I felt badly for leaving so much "stuff" in the ocean for all the poor fishies to deal with ! And a couple
    hundred feet of line....

    Last month, when we returned, I half expected a now-found kite, hanging from a tree, with a note from
    the local surfers, that they found my rig, and wished I would quit crapping-up their favorite surf spot.
    No such note was found.

    First lesson: my loss was quite clearly a case of operator error, and poor housekeeping. I had hastily
    wound-up a session the day before, and had forgotten that I had wound a large " bird's nest " of snarled
    line, back on to my reel, and buried it with a couple hundred feet of final winding.

    The next day I had forgotten about the bird's nest - until it began to unreel. I had time to half-think
    that the snarls would slip themselves loose. Boy, did they !

    Post-mortem- turned out as one snarl slipped through another, enough heat was generated so that
    the line parted in 2 places, evidently where one part of it "slipped through " another. So I ended
    up with 3 burnt ends. The fourth burnt end, went to sea.

    They say it's not so much about learning to ride a horse,
    It's more about getting back on, after you've been thrown off !

    You know how to do it Jim !
    If you need some parts or pieces to tide you over let me know.


  • Jim,

    I can feel your pain as it happened to me some years back with my NEX5 and rig bouncing from wave top to wave top as my Levi Light flew out from the Australian coast heading ever westwards towards Madagascar.

    In my case is was a simple break in a part of the line I had not used before, about 600 feet in. These days whenever I load a new line on to my reel I put my low flying Flowform 16 up in a strong steady wind and let the whole length of line out. While not foolproof it gives me confidence that a line imperfection will not cause the loss of camera and rig at some time in the future.

    I use this type of line-guide to make sure that there are no sharp edges to snag the line.


    imageKite Reel Close-Up

  • edited April 2020
    We are also desappointed with the lost of your kap equipment .
    As you know, the choice of the cable is the key to protect our kap equipment.
    At the beginning I was using the polyester cable but the string doesnt give good results, as you know it.
    We do not use it .
    Light cable as dyneema is interesting too but giving no result with frictions during the flight.
    Kevlar is not good too, we can cut the others lines ....
    Adding a dacron protection give to the cable the best ability to give safety .
    The best combination is certaintly dyneema inside with dacron outside .
    One of my fellow friend Peter van Erkel from Holland use it for many years too .
    I choose this one for giving very good results since many years .
    We wish you to find quickly the best combination for hanging you kap rig to your kite.
    Dieppe will be the next kite festival but confinement doesnt help us but Berck is coming next year with good opportunities . .
    José from Calais
  • FWIW, I've always used dacron. No breakages since 2008. I only use hoop-style winders.

    I have no doubt that an unlucky snag on your home-built stratospool was the cause. For us, that means we probably get to see another WW stratospool refinement project!!
  • One of my fellow Christian Bécot had the same problem during the kite festival of Dieppe.
    You met us on this famous kite festival.
    The wind was coming from the sea and it pushed the kite with the rig on the opposite side directly on the buildings .
    we never found it despite of searching by taking aerial pictures of the roofs without any positive result !
    A kite flying can carry a load on a big distance..
    We wish to every body not to see such problem on kite fields.
  • Bad luck there Jim, for someone such as yourself who is one the most continuously active Kappers I'm aware of! A timely lesson to us all to keep checking out kit and sort any issues there and then and not leave to chance.
    I liked the Kayak video with the outriggers.... awesome.

  • The rebuild process has been slow!

    No KAP rig for 3+ months....

    I have been flying kites almost every day....but no KAP....almost moved to the dark side and bought a drone.... ;-)

    Parts for beginning the KAP rig are almost in place.

    Took almost 3 months for my Cam-Remote-2 controller to arrive....stuck in shipment from Finland....I almost gave up hope...but the small package that just arrived put a smile on my face.

    I am in the final process of swapping out steel components for stainless steel or nylon to reduce corrosion and weight. Good progress on both fronts.

    I have picked up a replacement Sony A6000 and plan to fly my Hero 7 Black in place of the lost Hero 3.

    Work should ease up a bit in July. Hoping to compete the KAP rig then and get back in the air!


    KAP Rig Build 2020
  • Good to see, Jim.

    I have a new autoKAP rig and bits on order. It will fly my Sony A5000 and a Canon PowerShot S100 (not at the same time!). I've been watching the Ebay market for the last month and the S100s are selling for around GBP 45-50 which is an absolute bargain I think.
  • Progress has been made on restoring my lost KAP rig....should be in the air taking pictures in a few days weather permitting.
    - It has been a long slog with Covid-19 delays is sourcing replacement parts (took almost 3 months!)
    - Decided to replicate my simple auto KAP rig with a few minor improvements for durability and saving weight.
    - Durability - swapped out most iron parts for stainless steel or nylon (given my frequent flights above salt water!)
    - Weight - got the KAP rig down to 264 grams (minus cameras).
    - Cameras - decided to stay with my dual camera approach with the Sony A6000 (love the sensor, image quality and high MP). Lost the Hero 3. Still working out how best to mount the Go Pro Hero 7 (better camera, but much bigger and more mass than the Hero 3).

    Remaining work:
    - Waiting for replacement 20mm Sony lens (to replace the one lost at sea....). Should arrive tomorrow from B&H photo.
    - Adjust the center of gravity to match the final camera placements
    - Test flights over WW proving grounds!

    See a few photos of the progress below.

    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.</<a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wind-watcher/50092553646/in/photostream/" title="Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.">Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
    Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) rig use to hold camera.
  • JIM,
    The new rig is on the way for kaping next.
    We are very happy to see it .
  • Hey! Wind Watcher, as a fellow Hobie AI sailor and hopeful 2021 EC-er, have you ever tried to do KAP from the boat itself? I'm going out to the Outer Banks this weekend and it ocurred to me late monday night that strapping a gopro onto a kite would be a cool perspective for photos... Wish I'd seen all this KAP stuff before I'd done that.

    Anyway, I've got a basic set up (Bora 7, currently printing a picavet, 120lb dacron on a spool), and I was wondering if you had any tips/advice for someone trying to fly a kite from the AI? (Is it "don't"?)
  • tomcfitz,

    Yes - sailing and kiting go together. I have flown kites and KAPed off both my AI (sold) and my current TI. Lots of fun.

    - Use a light weight simple KAP rig and waterproof camera - I recommend a GoPro on a string. (reason: your KAP rig and camera will take a dunk almost every time while combining KAP with sailing the Islands).
    - Attach the GoPro to the kite line about 100 feet below the kite (not on the kite) as for just about all KAP.
    - Use a simple kite that that is easy to launch from the Island - recommend simple delta (Levitaiton) or soft kite (Flow Form).
    - Note if the kite hits the water, it can start to "fly" underwater with extreme force which will snap spars and lines. Especially in tidal areas with lots of current. Some folks attach small light weight balloons to the back spare for this reason. The PFK night hawk delta uses wood spar spreader designed to snap if this happens,.
    - Ferrell the sail then put the kite up followed by the KAP rig. (the TI is a busy boat and it hard to launch the kite while under sail.
    - After the kite and camera are up - pop out the sail and have some fun.
    - Careful of sailing down wind in weak to moderate wind....kite and camera may drop.
    - Avoid sailing under bridges or high tension lines with the kite up!
    - I also use a stratospool to manage and tie off the line.
    - I do KAP while under sail, but most of my KAP with the TI is for the TI to get me to interesting locations and then beach or anchor and put the kite up for some KAP.

    Enjoy the Outer Banks - Lots of places to KAP!

    See a few photos below.


    Stone Harbor Point to Sea Isle Hobie TI - Kite Aerial Photography

    Camera on a string.

    Kite Over Kitty Hawk

    AKA 2014 Annual Convention - KAP Sessions

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