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|Favorite option: If you want this item to be marked as a favorite, click on the black heart. Dan's trip to Maine (Part 4) |
|Jon Ladd - Mar 8, 2005 Viewers | Reply
| ||The Maine Mission - End Run|
Having completed my primary mission, it was still necessary to get N50JB to
its new home in Maine. The outlook was threatening. The Weather Channel
showed showers moving in from the west, with a threat of thunderstorms along
the route during the afternoon.
The Colonel graciously assisted with pre-flight duties, including the
ferrying of auto fuel for the airplane. He even provided a roll of film to
document any unusual aircraft that might be found up in down east Maine.
At launch time the sky had already filled with a deepening overcast. At
least the cool temperatures and light winds made for a quick climb out to
As I flew north to get around the Boston Class B space the ceiling lowered.
After passing over the top of the control zone at Hanscom, I dropped down to
1800' to shoot the narrow VFR corridor to the coast at Salem.
A light rain started as I crossed the coastline. Visibility was still good,
however, and I was over water to boot. I had an almost automatic out.
The real problem with the rain was that I had to close the canopy. The
gasoline fumes were once again making their presence known. Making the
situation even more uncomfortable was the steady drip of rainfall leaking in
around the windshield. I solved this design defect on my airplane by
extending the windshield by an inch so that the sliding canopy was covered.
Another leak appeared. This time there were twin streams of water coming in
where the instrument panel meets the windshield. I didn't mind getting damp,
but I was worried about all of the electronic gear in the airplane.
I do know Col. Gracy won't complain to Progressive Aerodyne about this
problem. He told me he was very familiar with the concept from his C-47
days. Apparently the Douglas Company had a similar design problem with the
windows on one of the world's best all around airplanes.
After getting to the coast I was able to distract myself from the cold and
damp fume-laden air by staring at the passing scenery. The Salem Harbor was
full of boats safely at anchor.
Islands in the harbor did not lend themselves to Searey operations on this
day. Rocks rose steeply from the white crested waves. Under fairer
conditions some of the small sandy beaches would be irresistibly attractive.
Gloucester and Rockport received low ratings as attractions from my local
sources. It would have been shorter to go due north from Manchester. I just
couldn't bear the thought, though, of missing any of the picturesque coast.
I took the long route.
The detour proved to be worth touring. Homes in the classic New England
style were perched above the churning water on sheer cliffs. The gloom of
the dark gray clouds and drizzle gave the coast a ghostly feel.
The dark feeling had to have been shared by the owner of a hapless sailboat.
The forty-foot boat severely listed against the gray rocks exposed by low
tide. It's still raised sail luffed in the wind having broken free from its
'On it's deck I could see the terrorized crew hanging from the rails. There
was nothing to do but come to their aid: Sea-SkyKing to the rescue. Braving
the roiling waves and howling wind I hurled my able craft through the
treacherous boulders. Left and right I kicked the rudder to wind my way
through the needle. The hull groaned as we hit the first wave, then again
and again. Only a last second application of full flaps saved us from being
smashed apart. Nearing the shore I flung out an anchor, playing just enough
rope to approach the broken vessel. Standing in the cockpit I yelled to her
captain, 'do you have any Gray Poupon?''
Continuing around Cape Ann I gradually turned back on a northerly course
along the shore. The shoreline became more hospitable with long sandy
beaches at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. It was secluded and
unpopulated today, with only a few brave Kayakers on its waters. Although
much of the Refuge would be off limits to seaplanes, the fringes offer many
Searey play places.
The beaches were hundreds of feet wide due to the low tide. They might make
a good emergency runway for a wheeled landing. I decided, however, that I
would leave the gear up if I had to land because of the prospect of soft
areas tripping up the landing gear.
A picture book coastal town passed underneath at Seabrook Beach. It
contrasted starkly with the ominous looking concrete mausoleum housing a
nuclear reactor on the other side of the town's sheltered cove.
This stretch of coast was well populated with mansions and estates. It was
obvious that the American economy had been very good for more than a few
By the time I reached Portsmouth the skies showed occasional patches of white
and blue. The steady rain became intermittent, then stopped. As the rain
streaks disappeared I could see hills rising up on the distant horizon to the
A national wildlife refuge north of Portland was dedicated to Rachael Carson.
It seemed a fitting tribute to the scientist who reminded our industrial
society that there are balances in nature which are disrupted at our peril.
A Prohibited Area encircled a small section of the coast around
Kennebunkport. A quick review of the chart panel showed it only extended
from the surface to 1000'. It was not hard to circumnavigate in any case. I
supposed it was to keep the news helicopters and other flying paparazzi away
from a Presidential Playground.
I knew I was in Maine as I flew under the Portland Class C airspace. Just to
the north small islands were liberally scattered across the water. Their
rock cliffs were mottled tan and black. Shockingly white bands of sea froth
separated them for the surrounding cold clear waters.
The wind had picked up again, and with it came the turbulence. Some gusts
were so strong they seemed to throw the airplane over on its side. The image
of the wrecked sailboat was forcefully brought back to mind. A quick
throttle reduction was required to keep the airspeed out of the yellow arc.
Some fancy footwork brought the Searey back to a level flight attitude.
At 1500' I settled on a power setting giving 4700 rpm and 30' of manifold
pressure. This kept the airspeed at an indicated 90 mph.
The islands were all strikingly aligned. They formed lines like a fleet of
ships heading out to sea in a narrow channel. White spray curled from their
seaward pointed bows. Rays of sunlight played across their green hills,
moving like a searchlight with the racing clouds. The effect was
transfixing. It would take a great artist to capture such a scene. It must
be the everyday fare of the pilots flying this shoreline.
There was one last stretch of open water to cross at Penobscot Bay. I was
down to 700'. To minimize the distance to land I overflew the islands about
three miles off the Knox County Regional Airport.
Even though the airport was an uncontrolled field, I monitored the local
Unicom frequency on 122.8. I knew from listening to the automated weather
that the wind was out of the northwest at 18 with gusts to 24 knots. I
watched for traffic that might be landing on the north runway.
Sure enough, a commuter called in that he was approaching for landing. 'Knox
County traffic, Bar Harbor Express is a Beech 1900 in bound from the east,
descending for landing. Any other traffic, please advise.'
'Searey 50 Juliet Bravo is 3 south of the airport, east bound.'
'Traffic south of the airport, what is your altitude?'
'I'm at your 12 o'clock and three hundred feet below you. We have a rapid
'I'm stopping my descent. I still don't have you in sight.'
'I'm passing under you now. No factor.'
There was a brief silence. The Beech pilot then got back on the radio,
'Airplane flying south of the airport, suggest you avoid the approach end of
the active runway in the future.'
I replied, 'Suggest that you, sir, practice 'see and avoid' techniques in the
You could almost feel the righteous indignation in his reply: 'I take my
responsibilities very seriously because I've got twenty people behind me.'
I didn't bother to reply. Looking out the window was part of that
responsibility. Flying a standard pattern was another. At three miles out
and 700' I was nowhere near a 'responsible' pattern. I was just glad I
wasn't one of the twenty people in the back of his airplane.
I derived some sadistic amusement out of the further confusion the indignant
Professional Pilot made trying to enter a standard pattern. I had obviously
caused him to abandon his nonstandard right base entry. He cut off a Cessna
Stationaire ahead of him on the left downwind.
There was too much to see to get aggravated with a flagrant Captain of the
Airways. So many possible landing sites were now in plain view. Sandy
beaches on the lee side of islands were cradled in the massive arms of
protective boulders. It required some discipline to remind myself that I was
only minutes away from delivering the airplane to its rightful owner.
Deer Isle loomed large in the windscreen. There was a GPS waypoint that I
assumed to be Jeff's house. I announced my arrival by circling the waypoint
and looking for eager spectators. There were none to be seen, however, and
the fuel gauge said it was time to get on the ground.
There was one final challenge: the Stonington airport (93B). I knew the best
runway (25) would provide more crosswind landing experience. Seeing the
airport lying within a deep canyon of trees made it appear even more
At least there were other options available. Several nearby airports were
more aligned with the wind. I decided to try my luck one last time against
The ride down the chute was wild. The narrow path through the trees made any
crabbing approach too scary looking. I aimed the airplane right down the
runway and corrected by keeping the wing low.
Experience at more open airports earlier in the trip helped. It still turned
into a three-squealer landing. It was such a relief to turn the key off for
the last time with an intact airplane.
The Hobbs meter showed a flight time of 3.2 hours from Hopedale. That made a
total flight time over three days of less than twenty hours (19.7, actually).
The trip from Orlando to Maine was approximately 1200 miles as the crow
flies. You may recall that the way I flew it would be an insult to a crow.
Jeff soon arrived with others in an admiring entourage. My circling maneuver
had alerted the island's efficient communication network to the arrival of a
strange new resident.
After securing the airplane, Jeff took me to my guest quarters. 'Here's the
house. It's all yours for as long as you want it,' he said. I didn't know
what to say.
He had dropped me off at a beautiful three level classic New England house.
It was all mine. It sat on a hill next to the thick woods, looking out over
a large field, down into a wide cove. The interior was warm, natural wood,
with wide windows framing the postcard scene outside.
More pleasant surprises remained. In addition to being a true artist with a
camera, Jeff is also a culinary wizard. I arrived at his house after a short
walk through the woods for a dinner of blackened tenderloin. Life just
couldn't get much better.
I'm not sure who was more excited about our late afternoon flight the next
day. It was impossible not to join Jeff in his enthusiasm over flying his
airplane for the first time in his home territory. We both grinned
What a grand territory it is! The islands, hills, coves and ocean all
combined to overload the eyes.
As we overflew his house you could see Jeff's young son and daughter dancing
up and down on the lawn, waving wildly. The Searey joy was spreading even to
the temporarily ground bound.
I was honored to be with Jeff when he made his first Searey landing in the
cove off his house. As befitting the occasion he brought the airplane in for
a perfect landing. He did an excellent job outmaneuvering the crap trap
buoys. He pointed out that these would make great visual reference points
for glassy water landings.
Jeff continued his tour-de-force by visiting his parent's home. After
another excellent water landing, he pulled near the shore and shut down the
engine. His parents waived from the beach. There was little time for
pleasant conversation, however, as there was more flying to be done.
I was with Jeff for his first landing in the Searey at the Blue Mountain
airport. It is a lovely grass strip owned by Jeff's family. Here Jeff
proved that his grass field landings were as good as his water work.
There was still more to do. There was a nearby fresh water lake we flew to
where we rinsed off some of the salt water.
The final landing of the day at Southport was a non-event. I was a bit
envious after my debacle the previous day.
Weather closed in on Sunday limiting our flying fun. There were passing rain
showers and low clouds. Sitting in the guesthouse watching the changing
scenes in the cove as the tide dropped 9' was excellent entertainment for me.
Finally the weather broke. Jeff told me there were only two objectives he
wanted to accomplish before I left: a beaching, and a landing at Lily Pond.
Jeff was intimately familiar with the local waters from his sailing. He
cruised their intricate coves in the Searey pointing out all the sights.
Arcadia National Park was just a few minutes flight to the east.
Jeff spotted a long sand spit and flew over the area. It looked perfect.
The water was protected from the waves and the beach was long with a gradual
I was somewhat intimidated by the boulders visible in the emerald colored
waters near the shore. Jeff planned his approach well and we arrived at the
beach without a bump.
At first we attempted a direct assault perpendicular to the beach. Gear down
we taxied to the edge only to be stymied. The gradient was steeper than it
looked due to a rapid underwater drop off.
At lest we got a closer look at the beach. It was covered with fine broken
shells and sand. We just had to get up there.
Jeff's next approach was successful. He took the beach at an angle and drove
right up. He shut down the engine and I got out to record the accomplishment
Jeff pointed out that the left tire had dug into the sand. 'No problem,' I
said. 'I'll just clear out in front of it.' I scooped away some of the
pushed up sand and was surprised to find a thick blue-gray mud under the
wheel. I wasn't worried, though, as the surface was fine to walk on. I got
back into the cockpit.
I got in and went through the routine of fastening seat belts and donning the
headset, all in anticipation of our launch. Jeff fired the engine and
advanced the throttle. In a roar that startled more than a few gulls, we
rolled forward about a foot.
I still wasn't worried. I got out again and cleared the wheels. That helped
us move another foot forward.
'Time for a more radical approach,' I announced. We both got out and,
lifting the tail, pointed the airplane directly towards the water. 'We'll
get out this time for sure. Guaranteed,' I boasted.
The following attempt got us only a foot closer. 'Hmmm,' I thought, 'this is
not as impressive a showing as I had hoped.' Jeff was sure that the
fishermen were making note of our floundering about.
Eventually we got both tires in the water. We were still stuck, however.
'There's only one thing to do. We'll have to get wet,' I solemnly pronounced.
I had no idea the water was that cold! With both of us lifting and pulling
we eventually got the airplane into the water. The only casualty, other than
turning my white skin blue, was a lost sock.
After we were safely back in the air, Jeff offered some local trivia. There
were some beaches he knew of with 'mire pots.' Mire pots are sand covered
mud holes. Clammers sometimes run afoul of these, sinking unexpectedly up to
their knees in the gooey mess.
Although mire pots are rare, we had found one on our first attempt. A clue
might have been that the sandbar we picked was normally under water at high
tide. At least Jeff was good-natured about the newfound mud plastering his
tires. I called it his baptism as a real seaplane pilot.
Landing at Lily Pond was anticlimactic. It was narrow, but with a generously
long landing lane. I was getting a little irritated at the ease with which
Jeff was making his landings. I had to earn those after many, many hours
(not to mention I hadn't had any good ones recently). At least he had a one
squealer of a landing back at Stonington.
It was such a pleasure to see a man having achieved his dream. Despite the
year long battles associated with getting the airplane built and training,
Jeff had arrived. You could see it in his face.
I was sure that my aviation adventures were over for the week when Jeff
dropped me off at the passenger terminal. Not so. Weather delayed the
airlines and I was left to spend the night at the Bangor Airport Hotel. I
made it home the next day in seven hours stuffed in an aluminum tube.
There were a few lessons learned from this experience:
1. watch out for deceiving beaches lest you find yourself knee-deep in a mire
2. every experimental airplane is different - you can't assume you can safely
fly all Seareys just because you have experience in one;
3. the Maine coast must be explored by Searey; and,
4. the Arkansas exhaust system sucks (I know it has nothing to do with the
trip, but I just couldn't resist).
Copyright 2000 Dan Nickens
| || |
|James Michael Timoney - Mar 22, 2005 Viewers | Reply|
| ||Okay,, so I live in Maine, but the searey isn't quite done yet. And I don't think my Cherokee looks good in the water.|
| || |
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