PERIPATETICS: Flight by Moonlight

"The idea," explained Joseph van der Straeten, mine host at La Paix tavern in Belgium's seaside city of Knocke, "was to float slowly over the beach so that everyone could see me, then drop a trail rope to a waiting launch which would tow me back to shore. Generally speaking, it is a good idea. I've done it more than 60 times before. But this time it was not a good idea."

Last week, by the time Joseph's balloon had cleared Knocke beach, the wind had freshened. The balloon was 1,000 feet up and...

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