Lost Rockets. A classified advertisement in the Gazette recently described how a group of Cub Scouts had shot off 12-inch rockets and many of the small spacecraft went missing in windy conditions. The advertisement sought help in finding the missing recyclable rockets.
The advertisement may have fallen short of helping the youths get what they wanted (one rocket was recovered as a direct result of the ad), but it did raise the word that Cub Scouts can have a lot of fun on a windy afternoon in Chilmark.
Jim Feiner, a Cub Scout parent and a real estate broker in Chilmark, said this week he got a lot of response to the advertisement.
On Tuesday, June 19 — the last school day in June — the Island’s Cub Scouts and their leadership held a Rocket Day afternoon cookout at the Grey Barn Farm in Chilmark. Twenty-four youths from around the Island, from packs 90 and 93, brought hand-assembled and painted rockets together, and emulated the launch pads of Cape Canaveral. There were hot dogs and hamburgers cooking on the grill, provided by the hosts Eric and Molly Glasgow of the Grey Barn Farm. It was a wonderful event with which to end the school year.
“We launched in excess of 22 rockets,” Mr. Feiner said. The rocket of choice was an Estes Alpha Rocket, a beginner model measuring a little more than 12 inches and costing under $20.
Mr. Feiner said each of the Vineyard scouts was given a rocket model kit two weeks prior. Some dens did the assembly together, while other dens urged the children to do it on their own. “The younger kids did the assembly as a den,” Mr. Feiner said. Each rocket was loaded with a parachute that would deploy right after the engine burned out.
Plans were pretty similar to a Rocket Day held a year ago. But what made this event different was the wind. Last year, the rockets drifted to the ground pretty close to where they were launched. This time, most of the rockets launched were never seen again.
Mr. Feiner said at 2 p.m. on the day of the launch, hours before everyone gathered, his eight-year-old son, Elijah Dunn-Feiner deployed his brand new rocket as a test. “It was a beautiful rocket. It was high performance, with a feathered tail. It went beautifully high.
“It never came down,” Mr. Feiner said. “It sailed away towards Vineyard Haven. We realized there was a problem.”
Mr. Feiner said Joe Kershaw, a Vineyard Haven father, came up with an idea to tie the parachutes so that the rockets would drop more quickly back to Earth. “So, we retrofitted all the rockets and launched them,” Mr. Feiner said.
Still, most of the rockets drifted off towards Vineyard Haven. “We lost about 15 rockets,” Mr. Feiner said.
There has been a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking since the event. Mr. Feiner said they could have used rocket motors that were less powerful, rated to go 500 feet high instead of 1,000 feet.
Pointing the rockets into the wind was helpful, he said. If done correctly, he said the rocket would drift right back to where it was launched.
Still the emphasis in the event was the launching, far more important than the recovery. “We did a countdown with the launching of each rocket,” Mr. Feiner pointed out. There were seven launch pads.
Mr. Feiner said he hunted down a rocket that landed not far away in an open field, and was chased by a cow after he found it.
But the best part of the whole experience, Mr. Feiner said, was that “it was fun.” Rocket Day is now a treasured memory for all these youngsters, with a mystery. Where did their rockets go?
Mr. Feiner said there is already talk about the third annual Rocket Day for next June.
“The message is that we had a lot of fun,” Mr. Feiner said.