By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Rockets blasted off one, two and three at a time over the course of the weekend in a field just off U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay, as rocketry enthusiasts competed to see who could build the highest-flying, fastest and most accurate model rockets in the Pacific Northwest.
The event was hosted by the Olympic Peninsula Rocketry 4-H Club.
More than 150 rocketeers, young and old, arrived from nearby Port Townsend and Port Hadlock, as well as farther-away Forks, Kent, Auburn and Vancouver, Wash.
Some participants traveled from as far away as Oregon and British Columbia, said club leader John Ludwig of Port Hadlock.
Ludwig, 65, has been sharing the hobby with kids since 2004. The club now includes a half-dozen Jefferson County students.
“Hopefully, some will replace us and carry on with this great hobby,” Ludwig said.
The rockets — which varied from the stubby Mosquito rocket, which was only 3 inches long, to 9-foot-tall towering competition models — were set off from numerous launch pads: 12 pads for low-power, three for medium-power and two for high-powered rockets.
“There may be one smaller,” said Tate Braden, 14, of Port Townsend, who displayed his Mosquito rocket, which despite its miniature size used the same “engine” as some three or four times bigger.
“They call them 'fire and forgets.' They're really hard to find after you shoot them off,” Braden said.
For competition, rockets can weigh as much as 3.3 pounds, including up to 125 grams of propellant, with a maximum altitude of 3,000 feet.
The rockets can be larger and fly higher, but special permits are required for higher, longer flights, said Ludwig.
Most of the rockets landed in the field, but some were blown off-course by coastal winds.
“These trees are climbable,” said Pat Struthers, 47, of Heppner, Ore., as he watched a large rocket land in a tree on a neighboring property.
Some of the rocketeers have been building rockets for decades, while others purchased their first rocket at the event.
Bernard Crawley, 57, of Auburn said he began the hobby in the fifth grade, abandoned it in college and then returned to it in recent years.
“I'm building my dream fleet,” said Crawley, who is a mechanical engineer at Boeing.
Crawley said the precision needed for rocketry is one of the things that drew him to it.
“And now I can afford the stuff I wished I had when I was young,” he said.
For others, the Pasture Blaster was their first experience with model rockets.
Lily Montgomery, 11, of Port Townsend purchased her first rocket kit Sunday at a vendor booth.
Montgomery said that she first heard of the club at an information booth at the Jefferson County Fair and persuaded her father to bring her to the event.
“I like blowing things up,” Montgomery said with an impish smile.
All proceeds from the event are used to support Olympic Peninsula Rocketry 4-H.
Visit www.4hrockets.blogspot.com for more details.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.