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A Raft and Night Jump Extraordinaire

A superb day in the history of our jumps together. What a way to kick off the weekend! slaDE and I made our way to Parachute School of Toronto for an evening visit with our friend Minna. PST happened to be holding night jumps this evening. Although slaDE was extremely excited at the prospect of landing his new tiny 99 Velo in the dark of night, I was less than intrigued at the prospect of skydiving in darkness at this unfamiliar drop zone. My previous 2 night jumps were far from ordinary and the last night jump experience (both nerve-wracking and stressfully chaotic) had made me wary with trepidation. About 14 years ago on a no-moon night at the old Skydive Chicago DZ, I became confused by the spontaneous unplanned for night jump that had me landing 2 miles off the dz between a forest and a quarry (read zero glow-sticks or strobe-lights to mark my presence or aid my limited vision at a then unfamiliar airport). In all of my jumping career, I had never been so grateful to have my two feet safely on the ground. With the area and dark of night being unlit and ominous, I was extremely lucky to walk away unscathed. I literally kissed the freshly ploughed field (the size of a postage stamp) upon landing. Two hours later, I had found my way back to airport.

Fast-forward to the present moment, and imagine the thoughts going through my head when slaDE mentioned that he wanted to jump together on this beautifully clear, well-lit summer’s night. slaDE was sweetly intent on making this night skydive together, so with fear in my heart, I approached the jump a tad stressed but ready to conquer another challenge. Immediate thoughts of an off-dz landing at an unfamiliar dz were at the forefront of my imagination, but I wanted to make that leap into the unknown. Sometimes, it’s good to RELLY push ones fear envelope (calculated risks and all).

I admit, I stressed out a bit prior, feeling rushed with getting the glo-sticks ready for our jump on Load 2 out of the Skyvan (yes, I said Skyvan, from 13,000 feet :)). My night vision wasn’t nearly as adjusted as I had hoped come exit time from altitude, but in the end, there was no difficulty with seeing either my canopy or other parachute traffic mid-air. In fact, the scene was so surreal and sparkling clear, I savoured the shared experience, so beautiful and gloriously momentous  (out of a Skyvan no less!). It’s hard to explain the sensation of freefalling with the twinkling stars as the backdrop to a seemingly innocent abyss. The bubble-like cocoon I found myself in was a completely different world and experience, skydiving into the edge of darkness, slipping into a a sea of quiet sparkling solitude. Dazzling and memorable beyond words! But here are a few thoughts that might describe the experience:

A raft dive, with Kat in front, me secured behind her in a tight space meant for 1 (not 2 with rigs :)). During the skydive, Mark reached for Kat’s gripper instead of holding on to my main lateral lift web. I was cautiously paranoid about all 3 of my handles. As I was so secure in the raft, my hackie sac was wedged. Because of this, I was overtly cautious about premature deployment. What an amazing fun jump. Rolling out of the raft was like a slow-motion movie, moving through molasses, wedged so tightly that the only way of geting out was to rock and roll our way out. In tumbling to left, the Hackey Sack attached to my pilot chute would have less a chance of ‘catching’ on something.

Here’s the amazing raft skydiving video from that day!! Raft Jump over PST

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