Last week, Pete posted a perfect example of this describing his seeing a vulture working a low thermal and going over to see if it would keep him going for a little longer as well. And it did! He was able to work a couple thousand extra feet and more flight time out of that decision (and holding the #2 flight for region 4 on OLC for the day). I had a similar experience today. Scratching to stay aloft in -1/+1 around Scott's Fork to let an incoming Cherokee land and clear the runway, I was bouncing around 1,900' - 2,100'. I had looked for lift that Dave said was working in the area, and I just couldn't find it. I, like any of us, could find all of the thermal marking sink, but the lift was elusive. Knowing the Cherokee was inbound, and knowing that I could maintain in my little area, I stayed put. As the Cherokee cleared the runway, I pulled out of my turn and started making plans to join the pattern when I found some 2kt, that turned into some 3kt. I radioed back that I was going to work the lift and did so - pretty soon passing 3,000'. I worked it over to the diary farm, joined with some hawks and was working 4,500'. (I find for me, I can work thermals or enjoy looking at the birds, but both? Not so much.) Thanks to the inbound Cherokee, and trusting more my ability to hang in the zero, I turned a thirty minute flight into one that lasted a bit over an hour. Not an 'old guard' level effort, but one of those that let's me know it's all a matter of time and practice. Wax on, wax off.
One of the great things about learning to fly at Merlin is the help that each of us, especially Dave's constant lift marking announcements, works to bring the others along. Our post flight conversations, the telling of an aspect of a flight that reminds someone else of how they deal with similar things. There isn't a flight that I take alone. There's always a time where I think 'Eric said...', 'Dave suggested that...', or Pete does this, Stefan does that, I saw Vince do, remember the time Greg... These things bind us as a community of pilots and make us all better and more proficient for it. At Merlin, we desire to have a soaring club - and that means we help each other become soaring pilots. Learning how to scratch around in the zerosphere and playing the odds that it gets better, that's fer real soaring pilot stuff right there. It's the days like today for me, last weekend for Pete, that let you know you're on the right track. It's smiles and congratulations when returning to the field that let you know there's a good group of folks at your back.