It took a physician and an engineer two hours, twenty tries, and one lost kite before we succeeded. 

It was a prime beach day here in Kennebunkport, Maine. Goose Rocks Beach at low tide, a vast expanse of sparsely populated hard- pack sand, sunny and yet ocean breezy…. Perfect for kite- flying. 

But the two hawk- shaped kites required assembly, and as is often the case, lacked instructions. 

No problem. My uncle’s an engineer, and I’m a doctor. Surely we can figure this out in a jiffy…

The first few flyings, the pink hawk kite nose- dove repeatedly. Despite tweaking the angle of the string attachment and adding a tail, it persisted in attempting suicide.

Finally Uncle figured out that the wings needed to be tied in a “V” shape, with the smooth side facing down. And finally the wind pulled the pink hawk up with a triumphant and powerful lift… So powerful, the handle ripped out of his hand and the hawk flew down the beach. 

We sprinted after that thing for a half mile, until we saw it go down in the dunes. But a concerted search over coal- hot dry sand yielded nothing. The pink kite was gone. The kids cried. 

We applied our lessons learned to the green kite. After much cutting and reattaching of strings, we got the angles right,  and the green hawk lifted off! 

But the string hadn’t been anchored to the handle in the factory, and just as we achieved maximum height, this kite also went flying down the beach, right into someone’s multimillion- dollar beachfront home, lodging itself in a second- story balcony. 

We ran after it, of course, only to hesitate shyly on the perimeter of the fine landscaping. Dare we enter the yard and attempt to salvage the subject of all our efforts? 

Finally, we agreed that if the kids came along, our trespassing would be forgiven. We told them to look really sad if anyone yelled at us. 

The darn thing was caught between the railings pretty tight, so I ended up yanking the string and snapping it, so the kite fell to the ground. 

We grabbed it and ran, then tied the broken ends together. And, we flew it again. 

The green hawk kite remained in the air, happily floating and flapping, for at least an hour and a half. Everyone got to hold the handle. People strolling by complimented it and stopped to chat. We shared the whole saga over and over. 

We ended up having to reel it in and pack it up when we left. 

McGyver would have been proud.