Thanks to micah for asking the question and propellanttech for the kite link.
I had been turning the notion of a kite camera over in my mind for a few years now.
When I went half-shares on a cruising yacht as a teenager, my co-owner brought a kite along on one trip and we used to fly it while sailing occasionally, it was therapeutic somehow and 'got our heads out of the boat'.
But not our eyes, and it occurred to me even back then that it might be a fine thing to rectify that...
One of the hardest situations I know in coastal cruising is surveying a river bar, preparatory to entering it. Places I sail are liberally supplied with these, they are often exposed to significant swell, and the channels sometimes shift so quickly that even local knowledge can be a false friend.
I've tried anchoring
off and going swimming with flippers and a sounding pole, and that works very well, but it's not an attractive option if I don't have competent crew, or solo.
Going up the mast
is a big help, but doesn't always do wonders for the digestion in a rolly scenario, and it's still not high enough (or feasible to spend enough time up there) to really scope
out the situation ...
ideally IME you want to see it through the whole tidal cycle.
This can help reveal the channel position, which can telegraph itself to the surface(albeit subtly) through differences between the size and shape of waves with current
, vs waves against current.
This requires a high viewpoint - in extreme cases I've been tempted to swim ashore and climb a headland - but once again it would be a test of character to stay ashore through an entire cycle.
High as a kite sounds good to me, less fun but more dignified.
Having been assisted off a bar grounding once by a rescue
vessel, self rescued after mis-identifying the channel through a bar another time, and on other occasions assisted friends and strangers whose entire life's work lay at the mercy of the next onshore gale ... it's not something I take lightly.
I wouldn't usually chance a dodgy entrance in a calm, because that would leave me solely reliant on motor
, and I don't enjoy the way sailing yachts handle (or fail to handle) steep following seas in a calm .... so the blimp I think I'll pass on (even though it would be fun setting up a hydrogen plant - perhaps by electrolysis
of salt water
I think the Hindenberg scenario, while dramatic, is not a serious deterrent... (methinks micah jests).
I have a bit of philosophical problem with the recreational use of helium. Once it's extracted from wherever it's extracted from, it's effectively lost
from the planet, for all time. It's a strictly inelastic, finite resource, AFAIK.
If you like, it's effectively an endangered element, as far as we are concerned.