My Terrible Tree Recovery

smapdiage9

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After six years of high power I finally treed a rocket, and it was an all-day nightmare to retrieve. Hopefully this will help some others learn about different techniques:

The perp:
FqZ4yhUl.jpg


This is the last picture taken of my Vertical Assault at its original launch length, pad-ready with a J425R about to take it to ~4500'. The rocket launched nice and fast with a little steering and over-correction on the way up due to it's long/overstable form factor. All deployment events happened perfectly and within sight, and it was coming down into a nice recovery spot until the last few hundred feet. In that time the main chute caught a crosswind and she started flying right into the nearby patch of oak trees.

It laid nicely across the top of them, about 40-50 feet farther away than I can reach:

3IwjCMFl.jpg


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Returning the next morning I was determined to recover this rocket, not only because of the expensive stuff (raven, gps, etc) it contained but also because I refuse to be beaten by an ent. The winds overnight knocked parts of it about 5-10 feet closer to the ground but it was still quite out of reach.

After some recovery advice the previous day I'd gone to WalMart and purchased the following:
A wrist rocket slingshot (about $9)
A bag of 2oz lead fishing sinkers ($5)

I added to this a cheap fishing reel and 150' of paracord that I already owned, but you could get those together for another 10-20 at WalMart. The recovery strategy was to launch a weight connected to fishing line up and over a branch that was near a hanging portion of the rocket. When the sinker hit ground on the other side, I'd walk over there and tie the end of the paracord in the sinker's place. From the original side, I'd reel in the fishing line, brining the paracord up and over the branch. Once I had strong cord draped over the tree at rocket height, I could walk the dangling cord around my hanging nose cone in a circular pattern to wrap it around the laundry and cone. These wraps create a friction bite on the rocket, and then all I need to do is yank.

Here is my wrist rocket with reel taped on its side:

vOkXk3Ul.jpg


Within 30 minutes of assembling this tool I had placed a sinker right through the hanging shroud lines of the main chute and was reeling some paracord up to the rocket. "This will be easier than I thought" I foolishly said out loud.

After another hour of cajoling the cord around branches I had it reeled all the way up to the chute but couldn't get it through. There was a hang-up somewhere along the fishing line that would let me reel no more, and I snapped the line.

The next hour was spent trying to get another sinker back up and over the branches around the rocket. The problem with this, I found, is that there is a high likelihood of losing the sinker on a bad shot because it will crash and wind through so many branches that you won't be able to reel it back to you without snapping the line. Accuracy is key and I was down to my last round of ammo.

At this point I bumped into another pair of tree victims at the Tripoli Tampa launch site who were unable to recover their own rocket from the day prior using ladders and poles. They graciously lent me their tools and I borrowed the club's 32' ladder then went back at it:

GZjJAOGl.jpg


This is over 40 feet of aluminum pole and wood stakes duct taped together using the ladder for stability. Did I mention I was by myself at this point? It was nearly impossible to control a pole and hook this long, and very exhausting. After another 90 minutes or so of trying this by myself a couple of other club members came out to help me and we got the chute snagged enough to lower the rocket another 5-10 feet. Getting better! They helped me play with this method for another hour or so before we went back to the slingshot.

With my last round of lead sinker ammo I took a few more shots up and over the tree, one of which was just right. I reeled some paracord back over and we successfully gripped the heck out of the nose cone and laundry with the winding method but the rocket was just plain stuck. The booster tube had settled in the crotch of two thick branches, and the next two hours were spent doing everything possible to get it up and over, or to bend the branches to release it with no luck.

At this point the sun was getting low and I'd been at this for about six hours. I actually had hopes of launching stuff today, boy was that ambitious! Thankfully a few more club members came out to see why I had not emerged from the woods yet and decided to help. We all tugged like hell on this thing but there was no amount of human power that would release the snagged booster; it was held completely immobile by the tree branches that it was wedged between, and those branches were too thick to break. It was time for the nuclear option.

We tied up some longer rope to the end of the paracord and hooked it to the hitch of my truck, and I started driving. I had tried this earlier but the thin paracord snapped easily around the bend points on my bumper, and it was from a different angle. This time, with a nice slow crawl in the right direction that damn rocket was finally released and it fell to the ground.

After several hours of exhausting and dehydrating work I packed the truck up and started to drive back to the launch site. Crossing a very tiny stream to exit the trees, I chose a bad angle and simultaneously high centered the front while sinking the back tires into wet sand. Cue another 30-40 minutes of exhausting work before I was rescued by some passers-by in offroad vehicles who pulled me out. I downloaded the ladder at the launch site and drove the few miles off the ranch before being told to turn around because I'd forgotten my canopy and rocket gear that I'd unloaded in the morning. :facepalm:

I have to hand it to the Acme fin can- this rocket has taken a beating for six years and those fins are still perfect even if the paintjob might need a refresh. No damage here:

z1xfLhKl.jpg


The booster tube is another story unfortunately. This science experiment determined that between kevlar shock cord, tree branches, and Giant Leap tubing the tubing is definitely the weak link. Had the shock cord snapped instead the entire booster might still be up there, it was that well wedged, so I guess this is better than nothing:

TVILrDPl.jpg


That damned fireball didn't work as advertised. I mean it was only a half ton truck, come on! :lol: Despite the damage here and a couple of repairable chute tears from the hook tugging the rocket is fine and will fly again. I'm going to chop off the top half of the booster tube and fly it shorty style. From now on, she will be called Tree Hugger.

Lessons Learned:
-Keep the fishing reel / wrist rocket setup handy. The technique works! If my rocket had been any less stuck I would've had that sucker down from 50 feet in no time.
-Bring three times as many sinker weights and feet of fishing line/paracord as you think you need
-Don't do poles or ladders by yourself. I travel to launches alone and I was stupid to not just find some help before starting. If I had hurt myself out there I'd be screwed.
-If you're walking out to recover a rocket you should bring a water source, but also have enough back at the vehicle to last your entire day. Being dehydrated with a stuck rocket is terrible.
 

TRFfan

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I once got a LPR rocket stuck in a tree but I never got it back.
 

djs

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-Don't do poles or ladders by yourself. I travel to launches alone and I was stupid to not just find some help before starting. If I had hurt myself out there I'd be screwed.

This is critical- I've had a few "difficult" recoveries in the past few weeks, and in every time, there were at least two of us recovering the rocket. I've been up to my waist in a swamp pond, in weeds and grass over my head, and in thickets so thick, I'm going to carry a machete the next time. Your personal safety is much more important than retrieving a stupid rocket :)

On the other hand, glad to see you got it back!
 

rstaff3

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Excellent report. I have been wondering about whether I should try a slingshot. I recently built an arrow-based tool based on a USWaterRockets video. I have used it once and that was successful. It took me a mere 3 shots to snag the proper branch. There was a goodly amount of luck involved! Based on my 100' of paracord, I estimate the rocket was 43' up. I attached a photo of the rig and here is a more lengthy report. https://rocketdungeon.blogspot.com/2015/09/launch-report-2015-9-narhams.html

Well, the forum isn't letting me attach a photo today, so here's another link to the rig. https://rocketdungeon.blogspot.com/2015/08/rocket-recovery-rig.html
 

pyrobob

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I dig the recovery "contraption." That's some imagination man!
 

smapdiage9

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Thanks for the replies, I definitely recommend everyone think about putting together a weight or arrow based tool before it happens. It's too cheap not to, and when someone else's rocket gets stuck you can be the hero. :)
 

HHaase

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Could be worse. Could have used a 20ga shotgun to blast the branch...... in the middle of a 4th of July BBQ.
 

Buckeye

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Well done. Yes, the slingshot and bow and arrow methods work. Just remember to tie on stronger rope when your projectile is successful (I learned this the hard way).

I once went through this sequence of methods to retrieve a rocket in a tree:

poles, more poles, sling shot, called a tree climber (he refused, too dangerous), bow and arrow, pellet gun, shotgun, muzzle loader with slug.

The land owner was very cool about the last two. My friend who is a crack shot put a slug through the PML piston, separating the shock cord, and freeing the booster to the ground. The nose, chute, and payload remain in the tree.
 

AKVP

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Man what a recovery---I have to admit I have done a number of these epic tree recoveries by myself. I have often had this little voice in my head that says...."you know...should you be 30' off the ground holding a pole...in a tree...by yourself...with storm clouds way off in the distance...". I am glad you got it back. It is a sick feeling getting a high power rocket stuck in a tree.

I also like your line slingshot. I did want to pass on some info.....My old club purchased an Arbor slingshot. It is used by tree removal professionals and guys who climb trees (to trim) for a living. It is a long pole with a slingshot on the end. It lofts a 2lb sand bag with a very strong line to any height you may need. The sand bag arcs over your shock cord and then you attach a strong rope to the line and pull it back to you. Then you can pull, swear, pull some more....swear...then pray...then hopefully get your rocket back. I have used it many times and it has worked great.
 

AKVP

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Well....Here is another way to get a rocket our of a tree!!!!

It was great having Amish neighbors!! (Really...my old neighbor is a great guy and I owe him a lot for this recovery...along with the land owner!!!!). As you can see in the end, I was ale to come home from work (I am a painter) and help get my rocket..

Watch the epic journey! The link: [video=youtube;j6W2QpVkET0]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6W2QpVkET0[/video]
 
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AlfaBrewer

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Is that the same nephew that waded bare foot to recover the ballistic Patriot in the reservoir at Gunter? Good guy to have!

That's the one. He made $40 that day, since while he was in the reservoir recovering the Patriot, Robert's Dominator fouled the main and had a splashdown as well.
 

CzTeacherMan

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This is critical- I've had a few "difficult" recoveries in the past few weeks, and in every time, there were at least two of us recovering the rocket. I've been up to my waist in a swamp pond, in weeds and grass over my head, and in thickets so thick, I'm going to carry a machete the next time. Your personal safety is much more important than retrieving a stupid rocket :)

On the other hand, glad to see you got it back!

We should bring two machetes next time...
 
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