Sunday, May 24, 2009

When God speaks on the radio...

I had a flight, a while ago, from Lake Martin to Smith Lake to visit a friend. Both lakes are here in Alabama and about 100 miles apart. We planned to leave around 9 a.m. with 30 gallons of fuel, which should have been plenty for a round trip of 2.5 to 3 hours. We planned our trip via Logan Martin lake in order to have an emergency stopping area and to keep us clear of the Birmingham Class C airspace (we don't have a transponder).

We filed our flight plan, which is always a bit of a challenge when you try to explain to the briefer that you are not departing or landing at any "airports" (I usually try to tell them what airport we are near). We lifted off about 30 minutes late, on the hottest day of the year, into a stout headwind. Our flight time was 1.5 hours, but the flight was bump free and very pleasant at 4500 feet.

When we got to the lake, we discovered that my friend's dock was a seaplane nightmare. No flat areas to nose into and every bit of the dock had a cover over it to bang the wings, preventing a side approach. So we borrowed a beach and a tree from a neighbor. I took my friend for a cruise around his lake for about 30 minutes and introduced him to seaplane flying. He seemed to really enjoy the ride.

Around 3:30 that afternoon we departed for home. We had burned around 17 gallons of fuel, but we were enjoying the tailwind that had plagued us earlier as a head wind. We figured we'd need no more than 8 gallons to get home, which left us with more than a 30 minute margin. Our return flight again took us over Logan Martin Lake. We knew we had fuel to make it home from there, which was less than a 30 minute flight, but the larger the fuel margin, the happier things are, and we were getting hungry since we had missed lunch.

We decided to press on home. A few minutes later, while still over Logan Martin, a religous radio broadcast came through on the VHF radio--all frequencies. I cycled the radio a couple of times. Still I got the religous station. This is not an issue that I had faced before. My buddy and I decided to find a marina and buy some fuel, since God might be trying to send us a message. Fortunately we found a seaplane compatibile marina after scoping out several on the lake for poles, manuevering room, gas pump access, a place to land near it, etc. The one we found also happened to have a restaurant. The fuel dock did not allow us to pull up beside it since there were poles. This meant a straight in approach. Approaching a dock straight on makes it difficult to catch the dock from the front of the floats without bouncing off. You have to cut the engine just at the right time to coast all the way to the dock, but not so fast as to bash into it. Once the engine is off you must get out of the plane with rope in hand and get to the front of the float, around the strut. Moving forward on the float slows you down a little too. Once close enough to the dock, you step or jump with the rope and tie things off. Aside from the locals looking at us like we just stepped off an alien spaceship, we had some fine food, conversation, and an extra 7 gallons of fuel.
We were very comfortable on the last 30 minutes of our trip knowing that we had ample fuel and full stomachs. An awesome flying day was had by all.

No comments:

Post a Comment