Every year the balloonfestival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Canada) invites 20 special shapes to participate in their event. Bart’s site about special shape balloons (www.specialshapes.nu) was visited regularly by Marie-Claude of the organisation to keep her informed about new balloons. When she saw we had bought our own special shape she sent us an invitation to cross the ocean and visit Canada. Of course we couldn't refuse this unique offer and we accepted with pleasure.
The first days in Canada were too windy, so only few balloons were inflated. From the third day on the wind calmed and it was fantastic balloonweather. We made five flights and participated at the nightglow. Below a short story and some pictures for each day of the event.
Friday, 11 august 2006
After a fatiguating trip with a break in New York we arrived in Montreal in the late evening. On the airport Mario was waiting for us to welcome us and take us to the organisation. After a short meeting with the organisation we decided to go to bed early to get the rest we needed.
Saturday, 12 august 2006
In the morning we prepared our car to accomodate for the balloon equipment and saw some of our crewmembers. Afterwards we went shopping and explored the region. We met a lot of pilots and apparently many are familiar with our site of special shapes. On the first day I already traded 24 balloonpins.
Just before briefing I spoke with some local pilots and they told me that winddirection and speed was not so good. After the briefing we unpacked the balloon and were standby for launch. The first 8 sponsored balloons took off with a lot of wind. Some balloons could take off very easy, others were having trouble to inflate their balloon. Together with some 15-20 olher pilots we finally decided not to fly. A short flight was not an option because it is forbidden to fly after sunset. The Canadian aviation authorities (transport Canada) is on the site to keep an eye on this. Some specials were only inflated, other took off like the Old Mc Donalds farm and miss Daisy (flower). We packed up our Bunny and enjoyed the view of the remaining balloons on the field. For tomorrow the wind is expected to be calm enough.
Sunday, 13 august 2006
For the morningflights there are several launchfields in different locations in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu. Six ballons took off from a grassfield at our hotel. The new Mr. Peanut made its maidenflight. After breakfast we went to visit Montreal. At 9 am we arrived in old-Montreal where we parked the car. We visited this giant city by foot and were impressed by the big buildings.
At 4 pm we went back to the airport where there was pie filled with chicken, potatoes, … for crews and pilots. After this snack it was time for briefing. For an unknown reason a hat went around for some money raising. More than 150 dollars were collected, and it became clear this was a game of one of the American pilots. At the end of the briefing a dartsgame was played and 3 balloon numbers where indicated. The crew of these teams got a part of the money.
On the field there was again a strong wind, but as predicted it was decreasing. Our balloon came up very easily and the start was very smooth. After a flight of a half hour we landed with a lot of wind on a stubblefield of corn and weeds. I used the smart-vent and dragged several meters. The ballon still stood upright, but it was still gusty, so I decided to deflate it very shortly after the landing. So this was the first sporty landing of our Bunny. Passengers, crew and pilot were very satisfied. After the flight I was in for some pancakes with chocopaste (nutella) and banana. Madam Boutin, the owner of our hotel, gave a barbeque for all pilots and crewmembers. On the menu there was porc (in whole) which was very good.
Monday, 14 august 2006
In the morning we went to a waterpark where we stayed until 1.30 pm. Very nice swimmingrides, but the water was very cold. At the hotel we saw the weatherbulletins on TV: the rain that was planned for tuesday would pass already this evening. Also the wind would decrease only after sunset. But the organisation was confident and everyone was going to the field. When the last weatherbulletins arrived, the flight was cancelled. Balloons who wanted to try to inflate were allowed to do so, but only the duck was inflated. Since we had no flight we had time to visit the public area where Bart as usually wanted a pancake.
Two of our crewmembers have family (grandparents) in Hotton (Belgium). Many people from Canada apparently have already visited Belgium or know Belgium. The owner of our hotel visited Bruges not so long ago and also the people who normally would have made a flight with us today already have been there. Isn’t this a small world?
Tuesday, 15 august 2006
Today, we made a trip by car to see something of the region. A lot of woods and water, and a lot of electricity-wires along the roads. Around 5 pm we had a spot of rain, but the evening would be dry with decreasing windspeed. So we were instructed to prepare for the flight as usual. But no-one wanted to be the first to unpack, and all balloons stay on the car. After several meteobulletins they decide to let 1 balloon go up to see how winds are. Few seconds later the green flag rises, so anyone who wants to fly can do so. But there's still a lot of wind, so not all balloons make a flight.
We saw a lot of American pilots today, and yes, they too already visited Belgium. One American crewmember even has friends in Brussels, which he visits every 2 year. So the Americans know of Belgium too. Even many songs you hear are "made in Belgium".
This evening we had the first candlelight, were balloons are illuminated by the flame of their burners. NO, na pancakes today, but a baked potatoe as you can see on one of the pictures.
Wednesday, 16 august 2006
Today is a day off, and we went to the supermarket. We were surprised to find out they pay you back when you return empty cans and bottles. Before briefing we went to Le Coq Rapide where a main dish including beverage costs only 7.50 EUR, and the pilot even has a free mail every day!
Just like the previous days there's too much wind, but it would decrease during the evening. We had to wait a long time before we could take off. After a nice flight we landed on a grassfield with some 7 knots. The field was manured a couple of days ago, so it smelled a bit... For the morningflight of tomorrow winds are expected to be very calm, so we decide to get up early for the flight.
Thursday, 17 august 2006
This morning Kevin stayed on the ground to take some pictures. The flight itself was very nice: very calm winds, so we didn't come any farther than L'Acadie. It was misty on the other side of the river, and that was a beautiful view. One of the balloonmeisters lives close to the sportsfield we landed on, so he arrived short after landing with his little daughter who was very happy with the sight of a big bunny on her birthday...
In the evening winds were also very calm, so we expected we would start sooner. But no: not enough wind for a safe flight, and after a long time the 7 balloons of the organisation could take off to measure the winds up to 5500ft. Finally the other ballons get premission for take-off. Some of them make a flight of only 5 minutes and land just on the other site of the airport. When all balloons have left the field, we prepare for the nightglow. Around 8.20 the balloon stands for a static show of about 1 hour.
Friday, 18 august 2006
In the morning we had a nice flight with the son of the Mayor and his uncle. Calm groundwind, a lot of wind at 300ft, and much higher again calm with a difference in direction of about 90 degrees. So it wasn't difficult to steer to the river. We landed toghether with some other balloons. The landing site was rather wet, so the balloon will surely be unpacked this evening.
After briefing, the first balloons had to wait again until 6.45 pm before being able to start inflating. The ascent took place in the presence of the prime minister of Quebec, who was excited with the balloonpin of our Bunny. Our Funny Bunny took off last and landed on the Ile Saint-Thérèse, an island in the Richelieu river.
Saturday, 19 august 2006
The day started very nice, but in the evening rain approached as expected, so no flight... After the briefing we drove to Montreal to buy some souvenirs.
Sunday, 20 august 2006
Rain during the whole day. Around noon we were expected at the army barracks for dinner with all balloonteams and the organisation. Eveningflight was cancelled early so we got enough time in the afternoon to pack our ballooning equipment for the transport back to Belgium.
Monday, 21 august 2006
Just enough time to get a breakfast in the hotel, and then back to Belgium...