Splash and Dash Searey Seaplane Delights
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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)         Next ThreadNext Item - Seaplane Fighters

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Jon Ladd - Mar 08,2005   Viewers  | Reply
    The Maine Mission - End Run<br /><br />Having completed my primary mission, it was still necessary to get N50JB to <br />its new home in Maine. The outlook was threatening. The Weather Channel <br />showed showers moving in from the west, with a threat of thunderstorms along <br />the route during the afternoon.<br /><br />The Colonel graciously assisted with pre-flight duties, including the <br />ferrying of auto fuel for the airplane. He even provided a roll of film to <br />document any unusual aircraft that might be found up in down east Maine.<br /><br />At launch time the sky had already filled with a deepening overcast. At <br />least the cool temperatures and light winds made for a quick climb out to <br />2800'.<br /><br />As I flew north to get around the Boston Class B space the ceiling lowered. <br />After passing over the top of the control zone at Hanscom, I dropped down to <br />1800' to shoot the narrow VFR corridor to the coast at Salem.<br /><br />A light rain started as I crossed the coastline. Visibility was still good, <br />however, and I was over water to boot. I had an almost automatic out.<br /><br />The real problem with the rain was that I had to close the canopy. The <br />gasoline fumes were once again making their presence known. Making the <br />situation even more uncomfortable was the steady drip of rainfall leaking in <br />around the windshield. I solved this design defect on my airplane by <br />extending the windshield by an inch so that the sliding canopy was covered.<br /><br />Another leak appeared. This time there were twin streams of water coming in <br />where the instrument panel meets the windshield. I didn't mind getting damp, <br />but I was worried about all of the electronic gear in the airplane.<br /><br />I do know Col. Gracy won't complain to Progressive Aerodyne about this <br />problem. He told me he was very familiar with the concept from his C-47 <br />days. Apparently the Douglas Company had a similar design problem with the <br />windows on one of the world's best all around airplanes.<br /><br />After getting to the coast I was able to distract myself from the cold and <br />damp fume-laden air by staring at the passing scenery. The Salem Harbor was <br />full of boats safely at anchor.<br /><br />Islands in the harbor did not lend themselves to Searey operations on this <br />day. Rocks rose steeply from the white crested waves. Under fairer <br />conditions some of the small sandy beaches would be irresistibly attractive.<br /><br />Gloucester and Rockport received low ratings as attractions from my local <br />sources. It would have been shorter to go due north from Manchester. I just <br />couldn't bear the thought, though, of missing any of the picturesque coast. <br />I took the long route.<br /><br />The detour proved to be worth touring. Homes in the classic New England <br />style were perched above the churning water on sheer cliffs. The gloom of <br />the dark gray clouds and drizzle gave the coast a ghostly feel.<br /><br />The dark feeling had to have been shared by the owner of a hapless sailboat. <br />The forty-foot boat severely listed against the gray rocks exposed by low <br />tide. It's still raised sail luffed in the wind having broken free from its <br />stern attachments.<br /><br />'On it's deck I could see the terrorized crew hanging from the rails. There <br />was nothing to do but come to their aid: Sea-SkyKing to the rescue. Braving <br />the roiling waves and howling wind I hurled my able craft through the <br />treacherous boulders. Left and right I kicked the rudder to wind my way <br />through the needle. The hull groaned as we hit the first wave, then again <br />and again. Only a last second application of full flaps saved us from being <br />smashed apart. Nearing the shore I flung out an anchor, playing just enough <br />rope to approach the broken vessel. Standing in the cockpit I yelled to her <br />captain, 'do you have any Gray Poupon?'<br /><br />Continuing around Cape Ann I gradually turned back on a northerly course <br />along the shore. The shoreline became more hospitable with long sandy <br />beaches at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. It was secluded and <br />unpopulated today, with only a few brave Kayakers on its waters. Although <br />much of the Refuge would be off limits to seaplanes, the fringes offer many <br />Searey play places.<br /><br />The beaches were hundreds of feet wide due to the low tide. They might make <br />a good emergency runway for a wheeled landing. I decided, however, that I <br />would leave the gear up if I had to land because of the prospect of soft <br />areas tripping up the landing gear.<br /><br />A picture book coastal town passed underneath at Seabrook Beach. It <br />contrasted starkly with the ominous looking concrete mausoleum housing a <br />nuclear reactor on the other side of the town's sheltered cove.<br /><br />This stretch of coast was well populated with mansions and estates. It was <br />obvious that the American economy had been very good for more than a few <br />folks.<br /><br />By the time I reached Portsmouth the skies showed occasional patches of white <br />and blue. The steady rain became intermittent, then stopped. As the rain <br />streaks disappeared I could see hills rising up on the distant horizon to the <br />north.<br /><br />A national wildlife refuge north of Portland was dedicated to Rachael Carson. <br />It seemed a fitting tribute to the scientist who reminded our industrial <br />society that there are balances in nature which are disrupted at our peril.<br /><br />A Prohibited Area encircled a small section of the coast around <br />Kennebunkport. A quick review of the chart panel showed it only extended <br />from the surface to 1000'. It was not hard to circumnavigate in any case. I <br />supposed it was to keep the news helicopters and other flying paparazzi away <br />from a Presidential Playground.<br /><br />I knew I was in Maine as I flew under the Portland Class C airspace. Just to <br />the north small islands were liberally scattered across the water. Their <br />rock cliffs were mottled tan and black. Shockingly white bands of sea froth <br />separated them for the surrounding cold clear waters.<br /><br />The wind had picked up again, and with it came the turbulence. Some gusts <br />were so strong they seemed to throw the airplane over on its side. The image <br />of the wrecked sailboat was forcefully brought back to mind. A quick <br />throttle reduction was required to keep the airspeed out of the yellow arc. <br />Some fancy footwork brought the Searey back to a level flight attitude.<br /><br />At 1500' I settled on a power setting giving 4700 rpm and 30' of manifold <br />pressure. This kept the airspeed at an indicated 90 mph.<br /><br />The islands were all strikingly aligned. They formed lines like a fleet of <br />ships heading out to sea in a narrow channel. White spray curled from their <br />seaward pointed bows. Rays of sunlight played across their green hills, <br />moving like a searchlight with the racing clouds. The effect was <br />transfixing. It would take a great artist to capture such a scene. It must <br />be the everyday fare of the pilots flying this shoreline.<br /><br />There was one last stretch of open water to cross at Penobscot Bay. I was <br />down to 700'. To minimize the distance to land I overflew the islands about <br />three miles off the Knox County Regional Airport.<br /><br />Even though the airport was an uncontrolled field, I monitored the local <br />Unicom frequency on 122.8. I knew from listening to the automated weather <br />that the wind was out of the northwest at 18 with gusts to 24 knots. I <br />watched for traffic that might be landing on the north runway.<br /><br />Sure enough, a commuter called in that he was approaching for landing. 'Knox <br />County traffic, Bar Harbor Express is a Beech 1900 in bound from the east, <br />descending for landing. Any other traffic, please advise.'<br /><br />'Searey 50 Juliet Bravo is 3 south of the airport, east bound.'<br /><br />'Traffic south of the airport, what is your altitude?'<br /><br />'I'm at your 12 o'clock and three hundred feet below you. We have a rapid <br />closure rate.'<br /><br />'I'm stopping my descent. I still don't have you in sight.'<br /><br />'I'm passing under you now. No factor.'<br /><br />There was a brief silence. The Beech pilot then got back on the radio, <br />'Airplane flying south of the airport, suggest you avoid the approach end of <br />the active runway in the future.'<br /><br />I replied, 'Suggest that you, sir, practice 'see and avoid' techniques in the <br />future.'<br /><br />You could almost feel the righteous indignation in his reply: 'I take my <br />responsibilities very seriously because I've got twenty people behind me.'<br /><br />I didn't bother to reply. Looking out the window was part of that <br />responsibility. Flying a standard pattern was another. At three miles out <br />and 700' I was nowhere near a 'responsible' pattern. I was just glad I <br />wasn't one of the twenty people in the back of his airplane.<br /><br />I derived some sadistic amusement out of the further confusion the indignant <br />Professional Pilot made trying to enter a standard pattern. I had obviously <br />caused him to abandon his nonstandard right base entry. He cut off a Cessna <br />Stationaire ahead of him on the left downwind.<br /><br />There was too much to see to get aggravated with a flagrant Captain of the <br />Airways. So many possible landing sites were now in plain view. Sandy <br />beaches on the lee side of islands were cradled in the massive arms of <br />protective boulders. It required some discipline to remind myself that I was <br />only minutes away from delivering the airplane to its rightful owner.<br /><br />Deer Isle loomed large in the windscreen. There was a GPS waypoint that I <br />assumed to be Jeff's house. I announced my arrival by circling the waypoint <br />and looking for eager spectators. There were none to be seen, however, and <br />the fuel gauge said it was time to get on the ground.<br /><br />There was one final challenge: the Stonington airport (93B). I knew the best <br />runway (25) would provide more crosswind landing experience. Seeing the <br />airport lying within a deep canyon of trees made it appear even more <br />intimidating.<br /><br />At least there were other options available. Several nearby airports were <br />more aligned with the wind. I decided to try my luck one last time against <br />the flow.<br /><br />The ride down the chute was wild. The narrow path through the trees made any <br />crabbing approach too scary looking. I aimed the airplane right down the <br />runway and corrected by keeping the wing low.<br /><br />Experience at more open airports earlier in the trip helped. It still turned <br />into a three-squealer landing. It was such a relief to turn the key off for <br />the last time with an intact airplane.<br /><br />The Hobbs meter showed a flight time of 3.2 hours from Hopedale. That made a <br />total flight time over three days of less than twenty hours (19.7, actually). <br />The trip from Orlando to Maine was approximately 1200 miles as the crow <br />flies. You may recall that the way I flew it would be an insult to a crow.<br /><br />Jeff soon arrived with others in an admiring entourage. My circling maneuver <br />had alerted the island's efficient communication network to the arrival of a <br />strange new resident.<br /><br />After securing the airplane, Jeff took me to my guest quarters. 'Here's the <br />house. It's all yours for as long as you want it,' he said. I didn't know <br />what to say.<br /><br />He had dropped me off at a beautiful three level classic New England house. <br />It was all mine. It sat on a hill next to the thick woods, looking out over <br />a large field, down into a wide cove. The interior was warm, natural wood, <br />with wide windows framing the postcard scene outside.<br /><br />More pleasant surprises remained. In addition to being a true artist with a <br />camera, Jeff is also a culinary wizard. I arrived at his house after a short <br />walk through the woods for a dinner of blackened tenderloin. Life just <br />couldn't get much better.<br /><br />I'm not sure who was more excited about our late afternoon flight the next <br />day. It was impossible not to join Jeff in his enthusiasm over flying his <br />airplane for the first time in his home territory. We both grinned <br />constantly.<br /><br />What a grand territory it is! The islands, hills, coves and ocean all <br />combined to overload the eyes.<br /><br />As we overflew his house you could see Jeff's young son and daughter dancing <br />up and down on the lawn, waving wildly. The Searey joy was spreading even to <br />the temporarily ground bound.<br /><br />I was honored to be with Jeff when he made his first Searey landing in the <br />cove off his house. As befitting the occasion he brought the airplane in for <br />a perfect landing. He did an excellent job outmaneuvering the crap trap <br />buoys. He pointed out that these would make great visual reference points <br />for glassy water landings.<br /><br />Jeff continued his tour-de-force by visiting his parent's home. After <br />another excellent water landing, he pulled near the shore and shut down the <br />engine. His parents waived from the beach. There was little time for <br />pleasant conversation, however, as there was more flying to be done.<br /><br />I was with Jeff for his first landing in the Searey at the Blue Mountain <br />airport. It is a lovely grass strip owned by Jeff's family. Here Jeff <br />proved that his grass field landings were as good as his water work.<br /><br />There was still more to do. There was a nearby fresh water lake we flew to <br />where we rinsed off some of the salt water.<br /><br />The final landing of the day at Southport was a non-event. I was a bit <br />envious after my debacle the previous day.<br /><br />Weather closed in on Sunday limiting our flying fun. There were passing rain <br />showers and low clouds. Sitting in the guesthouse watching the changing <br />scenes in the cove as the tide dropped 9' was excellent entertainment for me.<br /><br />Finally the weather broke. Jeff told me there were only two objectives he <br />wanted to accomplish before I left: a beaching, and a landing at Lily Pond.<br /><br />Jeff was intimately familiar with the local waters from his sailing. He <br />cruised their intricate coves in the Searey pointing out all the sights. <br />Arcadia National Park was just a few minutes flight to the east.<br /><br />Jeff spotted a long sand spit and flew over the area. It looked perfect. <br />The water was protected from the waves and the beach was long with a gradual <br />rise.<br /><br />I was somewhat intimidated by the boulders visible in the emerald colored <br />waters near the shore. Jeff planned his approach well and we arrived at the <br />beach without a bump.<br /><br />At first we attempted a direct assault perpendicular to the beach. Gear down <br />we taxied to the edge only to be stymied. The gradient was steeper than it <br />looked due to a rapid underwater drop off.<br /><br />At lest we got a closer look at the beach. It was covered with fine broken <br />shells and sand. We just had to get up there.<br /><br />Jeff's next approach was successful. He took the beach at an angle and drove <br />right up. He shut down the engine and I got out to record the accomplishment <br />on film.<br /><br />Jeff pointed out that the left tire had dug into the sand. 'No problem,' I <br />said. 'I'll just clear out in front of it.' I scooped away some of the <br />pushed up sand and was surprised to find a thick blue-gray mud under the <br />wheel. I wasn't worried, though, as the surface was fine to walk on. I got <br />back into the cockpit.<br /><br />I got in and went through the routine of fastening seat belts and donning the <br />headset, all in anticipation of our launch. Jeff fired the engine and <br />advanced the throttle. In a roar that startled more than a few gulls, we <br />rolled forward about a foot.<br /><br />I still wasn't worried. I got out again and cleared the wheels. That helped <br />us move another foot forward.<br /><br />'Time for a more radical approach,' I announced. We both got out and, <br />lifting the tail, pointed the airplane directly towards the water. 'We'll <br />get out this time for sure. Guaranteed,' I boasted.<br /><br />The following attempt got us only a foot closer. 'Hmmm,' I thought, 'this is <br />not as impressive a showing as I had hoped.' Jeff was sure that the <br />fishermen were making note of our floundering about.<br /><br />Eventually we got both tires in the water. We were still stuck, however. <br />'There's only one thing to do. We'll have to get wet,' I solemnly pronounced.<br /><br />I had no idea the water was that cold! With both of us lifting and pulling <br />we eventually got the airplane into the water. The only casualty, other than <br />turning my white skin blue, was a lost sock.<br /><br />After we were safely back in the air, Jeff offered some local trivia. There <br />were some beaches he knew of with 'mire pots.' Mire pots are sand covered <br />mud holes. Clammers sometimes run afoul of these, sinking unexpectedly up to <br />their knees in the gooey mess.<br /><br />Although mire pots are rare, we had found one on our first attempt. A clue <br />might have been that the sandbar we picked was normally under water at high <br />tide. At least Jeff was good-natured about the newfound mud plastering his <br />tires. I called it his baptism as a real seaplane pilot.<br /><br />Landing at Lily Pond was anticlimactic. It was narrow, but with a generously <br />long landing lane. I was getting a little irritated at the ease with which <br />Jeff was making his landings. I had to earn those after many, many hours <br />(not to mention I hadn't had any good ones recently). At least he had a one <br />squealer of a landing back at Stonington.<br /><br />It was such a pleasure to see a man having achieved his dream. Despite the <br />year long battles associated with getting the airplane built and training, <br />Jeff had arrived. You could see it in his face.<br /><br />I was sure that my aviation adventures were over for the week when Jeff <br />dropped me off at the passenger terminal. Not so. Weather delayed the <br />airlines and I was left to spend the night at the Bangor Airport Hotel. I <br />made it home the next day in seven hours stuffed in an aluminum tube.<br /><br />There were a few lessons learned from this experience:<br />1. watch out for deceiving beaches lest you find yourself knee-deep in a mire <br />pit;<br />2. every experimental airplane is different - you can't assume you can safely <br />fly all Seareys just because you have experience in one;<br />3. the Maine coast must be explored by Searey; and,<br />4. the Arkansas exhaust system sucks (I know it has nothing to do with the <br />trip, but I just couldn't resist).<br /><br />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.<br /><br />Jim Timoney     
Mark MacKinnon - Oct 22,2014   Viewers  | Reply
    Jim, I know this is replying to an old post, but did you ever get it completed?     

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