Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ordinary...

My little dictionary defines ordinary as “not exceptional in any way, especially in quality or ability or size or degree”. And then, in addition, as if to emphasize the point, it mentions the words “ordinary bicycle’ and first off a bland looking bike comes to mind, probably black with silvery bits, and backpedal brakes, just plain with nothing odd or fancy about it, but then the little dictionary goes further and describes its idea of “ordinary bicycle”.

“An early bicycle with a very large front wheel and small back wheel…” Of course I had a good chuckle.

We are heading home on Friday. Ordinarily at a time like this one would go on about what it has been like and say something profound. Instead of doing the usual write-up of our last few days – which has been brilliant to say the least; the weather has been fantastic (no doubt as those who have followed the ‘weather where I’m at’ little project have noticed), we have had a few lucky shark sightings and many people saw these magnificent fish for the first time, and there is still a day to go – I am going to leave you with some ordinary photographs.

And normally one would not compare photographs to bicycles, unless it is one of those with the very large front wheel and the very small back wheel, which of course in my opinion, makes it anything but ordinary.

Stretching on an ordinary sky-cycle...
Just an ordinary island...
An ordinary rainbow...
An ordinary fish...
And an ordinary smile...

Wish you where here!
:)

PS: The shark photo is courtesy of my friend Luke Riley. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Slow sweet fools and end times...


The other end of the runway...

Time they say is a healer. It is money too. And a dimension. They say that time is one directional and irreversible. That it is a commodity and precious. It is invisible, invincible and inevitable. And yet, Albert Einstein said that time is nothing but a persistent illusion. Of course, I am sure you can forgive my indulgence in some philosophical banter given that time is running out for us – there can be no illusion that the MCSS official whale sharks season 2012 is coming to an end.

It has not been the best of seasons. In fact from an economic point of view it has been disastrous to say the least. Throw in the devastating fire and we are all left with our own thoughts and interpretations of past events. The only winning side appears to be science, which given the data seemed to indicate that whale shark numbers are declining and that climates are changing. No surprise.

Yesterday, for the first time this week, Neil got into the air. Remarkably he managed to do a complete survey of the whole of Mahe, even if there were threatening rain storms in the vicinity – his descriptions are quite vivid! But the highlight was being routed over the town harbour by Air Traffic Control. While orbiting and waiting his turn to land he spotted a large black square that seemed to be moving – of course we are very familiar with the shape of Manta Rays. Neil was intrigued that this guy was right inside one of the ports, among all the boating and shipping action. The harbour is not just a safe place for boats but for fish too. Many small fry hide in large schools amongst the harbour walls, boats and other kinds of flotsam often found in these areas. Naturally (no pun intended!), predators are not stupid either and it has also been well recorded that sharks hang around these areas more often than not. It was not completely surprising to see the Manta in the harbour but it was a first.

Talking about firsts, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing certain this season has been change. To illustrate my point I would like to invite you to join me in a little project that is bound to prove fun. Click on the link, “weather where I’m at” and follow the weather forecasts as predicted for our little island over the next few days. (I have handily put in the correct link for you :) I encourage you to do so every few hours too. Without a doubt it will change while at the same time and very appropriately I might add, illustrate the volatile characteristics of the whale shark season thus far. (To be honest it was a particular dismal forecast which prompted me to write this blog entry in the first place. Now it seems to have lost some of that point I’m trying to make! :)

The other day, by no co-coincidence I might add, I was listening to music from Diane Krall. With the music in the background I was lost in thought when quite suddenly, these words just leapt at me.

“Time is made of honey slow and sweet...”

Given that my thoughts and emotions were pondering the notion of end times, perhaps it is not so unrealistic that these particular words grabbed my attention, though the fact that I was certainly not listening intently says a lot about the ability of the subconscious. Suddenly I was enthralled by the depth of imagination of not only likening time to the viscous flow of honey, but that you could actually taste it. My mind started to consider that honey could actually be slow and just as I recognized the magnificence of such a super personification, the very next line quite literally made me burst out in a chuckle.

“Only a fool knows what that means.”! (The song is ‘Temptation’ sung by Diane Krall)

I chuckled for a long time after while the ideas of slow honey, sweet times and fools danced in my head. It struck me the foolishness lies in the thought that time could be only slow and sweet – that given our season events only a fool would deny that sometimes time is swift and bitter too.

Wish you were here!

;)
PS: Could I be so cheese to say, Einstein, 'lick' your heart out!? :))))


The other end of the runway...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chinese lanterns, buttered bread and double edged swords.



Do you know what a rain drop feels like at 60mph? The white streak on my arm is a little bullet of a drop...

I recall one Christmas when Chinese lanterns were the rage. In fact it proved to be a rather memorable one but not for what you may think. While we spend some time gazing at the night skies lit up with glowing paper bags, we ended up having way more fun reading the direct translations from the instruction leaflets – this had us rolling in laughter for the better part of Christmas. Though amusing, it illustrated perfectly the notoriety of direct translations involving languages from the Far East. Of course for translations to make sense, what is needed is an understanding of the meaning or intent of the subject matter, in this case operating instructions. 

When it comes to popular phrases though, especially when one is dealing with a particular culture that is, say, emotionally rich in expression, chances are that they will have an existing or equivalent saying already. Take for example, “having your bread buttered on both sides”. I stumbled upon a particularly humorous translation of this the other day. It is easy to imagine big burly Russians – perhaps it is all the fur they wear in those freezing temperatures – but would you believe the Russian equivalent is, “it’s hard to have a seat on two chairs at once”? And what about my all-time favourite, an expression that strikes at the heart of those exuberant pasta and wine lovers, the Italians? “To have the barrel full and the wife drunk!”  :) Hehe..!

At the end of the day we all have our own idea of having it all, of having your cake and eating it. (And some have really ruminated the meaning of this expression tiresomely!) Take for example my circle of friends – all lovers of flying, in particular hang gliders, the very best kind of flying one can do – who work long hours to feed this flying passion. They mistakenly think that being paid to fly is the equivalent of having your bread buttered on both sides.

Consider for a moment sitting in a little open cockpit micro-light. Your only landing option is covered by a large dark cloud, streaks of rain falling from its belly. And as the cloud grows and spreads you are ever so more flying further out to sea, putting your faith and trust entirely into God’s hands and a metal machine to keep you aloft and alive. Inevitably you ponder the wisdom of flying and your initial weather assessment that sooner rather than later this cloud will dissipate and the rain will stop. And even though you desperately try not to, because your reason knows it is futile to do so, you worry. You hope. You fret. And while your smile, your voice and your demeanor remains calm, there might just be a reason to visit the Doctor when you land, just to check up on those pesky stomach ulcers.

The startling reality is that if you weren't being paid you would never be up there in the first place – and how quickly having your bread buttered on both sides can turn into a double edged sword.

Rain over the air port while we wait out to sea...

Still wish you were here!
:)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

R.I.P


Sailing is one of those gentleman sports. It is man against the elements and there is something noble about that. When the wind fills the sails and you can feel her mast and hull taking the strain before there is a steady surge forward, man is somehow made more alive. Perhaps there is some spiritual connection between man and that which fills his sail, somehow when those sails bulge full it strikes at the core of being man. In our modern era we have many variants of sailing. Even though in my younger years I was an avid sailor, today I practice sailing of a different kind. I have wings allowing me to sail, not on water, but on air. There is something ancestral and deeply satisfying in that. And I have had the privilege of sharing that with others, which have resulted in close and cherished friendships.

One of the most clich├ęd sayings I know goes something like this, “it’s blah blah blah… what matters is how you get back up” – oddly it reminds me of Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer – but given the dramatic events of late; the complete lack of sharks during the most booked part of our season and the devastating fire, the recovery of the Underwater Centre has bordered on nothing short of the miraculous – in no great part due to the organising skills of Glynis and David. Within two days they had set up a kind of field dive centre right outside the hotel on the grass and it was business as usual. It has been so effective that guests were none the wiser about the recent tragedy – which gets me to my point.

Tragedy.

I have recently received an email about the death of a friend and I am astounded about how deeply it has affected me. Tragedy seems much more appropriate here. In part, it is the reason for me not keeping up with my blogging – not that I am making excuses but as far as excuses go… Well, let’s just say I have not been in the mood for much lately.

Todd Stuntzner and I met in Seychelles some 7 or 8 years ago. He was working for Helicopter Seychelles back then and as is so often the case, over time got enchanted with this little micro-light – how else when Todd was sitting in a comfy helicopter cockpit at 1000ft while hearing the radio transmissions from a tiny-micro-light flying at 6000ft. If this does not stir your interest as a pilot you just do not have flying at heart. It was inevitable that Todd called me to go for a flight in the micro-light. We became friends to such an extent that he ended up visiting me in Wilderness the year after. Todd also learned to hang glide and as so often happens, the intimate time one spends with students on a training slope when learning to fly like a bird establishes connections and builds bonds way out of the norm. Todd was an awesome guy, a gentleman, a fellow hang glider pilot, aviation enthusiast – someone whom I with great honour ended up calling my friend.

After his stint in Seychelles, Todd moved back to the US and he took up hang gliding as a sport, often keeping me updated on his new found flying exploits as a hang glider pilot. I enjoyed his emails, picking up on the excitement of experienced gained and the satisfaction Todd got from sharing them with me, the instructor, the man whom he perceived as having given him some great gift. In this day and age of bits and bytes Todd would send postcards, finding clever ways to express his joy and appreciation of having learnt to hang glide. All those times it was I in fact, who realised it was me who had been given the great gift.

The email from his parents came as a shock. They had only recently gained access to his email friends list – but Todd had passed away in the end of May of this year, along with three of his friends when their light aircraft went down while on their way to a fishing weekend.

Oh, I guess I have to mention that the sharks have finally decided to make an appearance. Of course, whilst our change in whale shark luck might have come as a result of prayer, or the appearance of carnivorous plankton, and that it was perfectly timed to lift our spirits, especially after the dive centre went up in flames, I could not fully share in the joy of this. We have had sharks for the whole week. The afternoon shark dives have been so successful with as many as 11 sharks dived on by happy customers, all in just one after noon. It was like old times and not. The interns too have finally seen what these enchanting islands can really be like, while tourists, fresh off the plane and totally ignorant of our last month’s ordeal were totally mesmerized by the sharking experiences. And while it was something to behold when these islands decide to turn on, I could not fully share in it. It was strangely surreal to think that someone who had experienced the islands joy with me was no longer alive.

Given the state of my mood it is impossible not to reminisce about past good times and of course friendships. Friendships that, like the wind filling the sail of a yacht, momentarily send you on an exhilarating broad reach and then quite suddenly, leave – the wind taken out of your sail, quite literally. One is left pondering the memories while it is inevitable that you realise you have been moved, physically and spiritually. You are changed forever.

It seems good friends have a way of doing that. RIP my friend.

Wish you were here…



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fire…

Of course there is always a lot that happens during whale shark season but this year, well, this year is one for the record books and will go down in history for more than just the lack of whale sharks.

As you should be aware of, for the last months we have sighted not one whale shark around the island of Mahe. It is a first since the start of the monitoring program – 1997. Though it has its scientific value it has been really bad for all parties concerned. No whale sharks, no eco-tourism tours. No eco-tourism tours, no research funds. As if things couldn't get worse, yesterday morning we hear the dreadful news – the Underwater Centre has burned down! Yes. Right down to the ground – there is absolutely nothing left. We are talking diving equipment, dive computers, BC’s, weight belts, tanks, compressors, paper records, personal gear from customers (Not to mention the whole of the Aqua-firma’ dive group who is here for a week of whale sharking and diving – all personal gear gone, up in smoke – if I can use such a cheesy metaphor at a time like this.) I believe there are two dive tanks that did not explode – the only things that survived the furnace. The cause, would you believe, the pizza joint next door. They left the electric pizza oven on all night and with the building consisting of thatch roofing, well…

As you can all imagine things are a bit rough and out of joint at the moment. The paperwork and insurances set to probably play on for many months if not years. And in the meantime people’s livelihoods are on the line.

For now, the MCSS is continuing with the monitoring program and have arranged gear to do eco whale shark encounters, in the event we get these elusive spotty creatures. Of course, we are all pretty down considering. Fire can be a destructive force of more than materialistic things…

For our comfort, wish you where here!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Quick update - very quick!

Today was my turn to fly. The weather wasn't ideal - a moderate Northerly wind made the western side of the island turbulent and unpleasant. The afternoon the wind was lighter and the flying much nicer. Once again the water around the island is exceptionally clean - in many parts the under-water visibility is in excess of 30 meters. It is the 8th already and these spotty creatures are still playing hide and seek.

Rather reluctantly we seemed to have gotten used to their non-appearance...

Still...

Wish you were here!
:)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Humour me with fear...

Darren, our third house mate, always whirls in after work – he just whisks in to grab a few personal belongings before heading out to his love for the night. Sometimes though, we would squeeze in a quick chit-chat about the day’s experience.

“I had to go down to see if the ruvs was ok today.” He says with a note of increasing excitement.



A ruvs is an acronym for, ‘remote underwater video station’ and has become quite the latest scientific buzz word among the MCSS crew. It’s a home-made kind of contraption, constituting a steel frame with a can of fish bait punched full of holes on one end and a Go-pro video camera on the other. This set-up is just lowered overboard, left on the bottom for three hours – as long as the battery lasts – then pulled up and the video content watched with the hope of capturing something exciting – like a big old shark of course! So far, none of that has happened except that on some occasions the ruvs would end up on its side, which after 3 hours of video watching led to a few stiff necks.

I was not surprised at all that Darren had to do a quick breath hold dive to go check it out.

“Phew!” he says while pausing to take a deep breath, clutching his heart with one hand and then, his eyes draw into little slits while smiling widely – his sincerity at these moments becomes so obvious that I have developed my own sense of endearment for him at times like these. Of course I can’t help but smile too, the sense of recognition of having been in similar scenarios quickly coming to mind too.

This made me wonder whether humour is an acquired skill or taste. Of course we all laugh soon after birth, long before we have an awareness of it but I am not talking about the pleasured response or the response from being pleased, rather the ‘what’ that should cause a pleasing response. I mean, it would be completely inappropriate to laugh if someone gets mugged. (Or would it?)  The reason why I am heading down this line of thought is because personally I find myself laughing at the oddest of things. (Thankfully, I know I am not alone on this otherwise I would have been very concerned!) And of course we all know that a sense of humour is healthy but my sense of humour can cross that border of subtlety with such ease that I think perhaps it is only I who can go so far and see humour there. Of course the qualifications for seeing, or rather experiencing this kind of humour often comes with having personal experience of a similar event, which can greatly add to the hilarity – something which I was experiencing right now.

Darren was rubbing his heart in a soothing circular motion, as if still needing to calm himself down from the experience. “But the water was like, so green and the viz just 2 or 3 meters…” he continues while visions of dark, murky green water easily come to my mind. After all I did spend four years in the Navy as a diver.
“And it was deep, maybe fifteen meters..?” for just a moment he looks at me quizzically before continuing, still rubbing his chest, “And it got dark the deeper I went and I was thinking.., Phew!” He pauses again while taking a deep breath – I could see he was reliving the moment, the slits hiding his eyes becoming even narrower and naturally my insides start to chuckle much more at this stage. “What if something big suddenly comes up at me? What if a whale shark suddenly just appears out of the gloom?” He was smiling directly at me, his eyes opening more to make clear eye contact so he could make sure I was with him down there…

“I would freak out so much!” he says excitedly while I nod and start to break into an audible chuckle. “And I almost turned around to go back but then thought about the ridicule of the guys in the boat and then, Phew!” he says once again taking a deep and loud breath before adding, “Suddenly it was there, the right way up and I was out of there! Straight-up! Boy I wasted no time!” He was shaking his head almost violently, eyes drawn to slits again – very evident of his honest admittance of the fear he had felt.

I too laughed with him. “It is nervy hey..!” I mention while remembering those moments of mind-warfare while diving into deep murky water on your own all too well. Of course the laughter I felt went way beyond the mere words of our conversation. I could sense some emotion within Darren that in his retelling of his experience he was going over some newly discovered personal emotions resembling the likes of fear.

And boy is that funny! ;)

Wish you were here!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Does green mean go?


Anna and I enjoying the good conditions...

Just a quick up-date.
The weather has finally started to play along but of course no one bothered to tell the whale sharks about that. We have been flying consecutively for the last 10 days (and some before that too) but thus far these somewhat elusive spotty creatures have not made an appearance – yet. It is somewhat puzzling. In essence it is exactly this type of occurrence that made marine science what it is today. The ‘why?’ question (in this case!) being foremost in our minds. It is a rather intriguing puzzle (Something I elude more about in my book - Wings and Whale Sharks. :) but trying to piece together why they are not here is a tricky affair. There are of course a whole range of variables to take into consideration which makes it difficult to make it an exact science (which it is actually – kind of like the weather ;)

The water last week has been exceptionally clear. We had areas with close to (if not!) 40m of underwater visibility. For mid-September this is rather unusual. This time of year the water is often more turbid with plankton bits floating in the water making for abundant whale sharks. Of course the water clarity was broadcasting the lack of their popular food stuff – a logical explanation why there is now a lack or rather, a complete absence of whale sharks! (Of course the reason as to why the water is so clear i.e. the lack of plankton is another story all together.

Exceptional water clarity for September...

This week though there has been a slight shift in the current patterns. There seems to be an accumulation of “green” water regions in all the bays on the windward side of the island. These areas are very apparent from the air and are – as we pilots like to put it, a good sign. Though the greenish tinge to the water is not necessarily the plankton type that whale sharks like, it most probably is a predecessor to the good stuff and we are all waiting with abated breath (though it could be a week or two for the plankton life cycle to kick in).
In the meantime we have been flying and taking up the interns and others that are keen to see what the survey flights are all about. Here are a few pics of those – notice too the exceptional water clarity.

Wish you were here!

:)

PS: Spot the green line running down the middle of the pic - blue on the right and green on the left.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The truth shall set you free...


Savi and I at 6000ft over Beau Vallon bay - pure bliss!

I am struck by the paradox of two popular sayings – ignorance is bliss and the truth shall set you free. If ignorance is bliss then does that mean knowing the truth leads to some realm that is not blissful? And then knowing the truth will set you free of what exactly? Ignorance?

To find the real truth about these sayings you need to go to the source, where these saying originated. (A really great story behind them – I encourage you to look them up :)

The south westerly winds have moved in over the islands of Seychelles. These winds are not known for their pilot friendliness. In fact I have had some of my most interesting flying experiences with this particular breath of air – that it has its origin from a dragon I can vouch for first hand.

Today Neil is up there flying. (Thank God it is not my turn! ;) But this morning I could read the signs and knew what was in store. Neil on the other hand thought it a great day and was blissfully unaware of the turbulence the subtle shift in wind direction brings.

On our spiral descent. The wind is coming right at you. (Yes, from out of the picture towards you. :)

Last night I happily showed him the landing footage of yesterday’s flight. (Yesterday the wind had already started veering towards the south west.)
“Hey Neil… Check this out!” My voice carried a bit of pride – not for the accomplishments of the flight but just for the fact of having captured a few rock and roll moments on camera – as pilots it’s always a thrill to watch these from the ground.
“See where I spiraled down? It provides the path of least amount of turbulence…” I said while I could not help notice a raised eyebrow from Neil. There was just a slight shift in the tone of his voice too.
“I would never have known to do that…” I could sense a tiny bit of trepidation of ever having to fly in similar conditions.
“Savi loved the spiral dive” I added. “He said it reminded him of his tandem sky-dive…” Of course at that stage in the flight I on the other hand did not think of sky-diving – though the thought of free falling was probably somewhere in my mind I can assure you it had nothing to do with sky-diving! For Savi this was the most exciting part of the flight – me too of course but for very different reasons. Afterwards, on the way home as I pointed out some swaying trees to him I said “Savi, if we were up there in our little orange plane we both would be screaming for our mommy…” While listening to his laughter I was entertaining thoughts of dying.

This morning when Neil left for the airport I wondered if I should have told him about all my turbulence secrets – a kind of aerial survival guide. “Ag, I will make a decision when I get to the airport…” He said while his dry mouth forced a slow, laborious swallow.

The truth shall set you free from bliss alright!
:)
Wish you were here!

After the flight. Savi and I - happy for different reasons!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

40 days...



I want to say it is official but I would be lying, even if I know I am right. (This personal vrs official business is another story! ;) I am talking about the worst whale shark season we have ever had. It comes at a very bad time too. These giant fish seemed to have joined forces with the economic pressures from all over the world – the recession is not just confined to the world of commerce.

As you all know we were off to a promising start but it soon fizzled out as the days passed and we could not run any encounter trips. Of course we have all been very positive about this, “Its still early. Lots of time left.” Or “This has happened before. Nothing to worry about…”. But for all this positivity, slowly the wheels have been falling off the wagon. It’s been twenty days and we have not managed to run even one whale shark trip with paying pacs. Even though the interns have had a turn to dive with these large enigmatic creatures, there has been no money generating trips for the MCSS.

The Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles certainly can do with these additional funds. Like so many other NGO’s around the world involved in conservation activities, being pro-active in generating some research funding by the NGO’s themselves has become a trade mark of well organised and worthwhile conservation organisations across the globe. Certainly the MCSS is in a favourable position to make use of this – the whale shark ecotourism program being a great opportunity.  Unfortunately, it is a program that is very much dependent upon external factors of which there is absolutely no control over at all. Economically that equates to risky business.

Firstly, the aerial observational fights are entirely dependent upon the weather. Couple this with the appearance of whale sharks and it certainly highlights the vulnerability of an organisation to this type of business environment. If the weather is particularly bad for a longer than usual period of time and if on the few days that it is flyable there are no whale sharks around as well, then it turns into a test of character for everyone involved. We have some interesting examples of diplomatic-grumpiness around these parts of late. :)
The stats are not looking good – we have only been able to fly a third of our time we have been here. At this rate we are in for a record which we have no interest in breaking.

Of course, we are ever hopeful too. After all, there is still forty days left! And forty days, according to history is a very meaning full number. :)

Wish you were here!
:)
PS: Neil is up flying today. Let’s hope he got some!

The interns…


There are six newbies to our program – three men and three ladies. They share the MCSS staff house right next to the MCSS office. It is a great place (See previous posts). Perched on the rocks adjacent to the ocean, the views, especially at sunset are absolutely idyllic. I recall many days of sipping a glass of red while admiring the setting sun over the water – truly memorable moments. Of course the newbies have found their own routines too, some which also include watching the sunsets as evident by the copious amounts of cigarette butts in a sea shell astray at the view point. This (and clothes heaped on a pile), epitomizes the typical lifestyle of students at this stage – a time when health is not high on or even part of the priority list of life.

 Amanda, Maddy and Jozefine.

Of course, not all of them are students. John and Amanda are probably more experienced at this thing called life. Amanda is from the UK and a Chiropractor – her hobby being marine biology and sharks. She has taken a 6 month sabbatical from her career and seems to be thoroughly enjoying her time here.

John on the back of the pick-up.




I have not had a good chat with John just yet, but judging from his lack of presence during the evening party sessions I can only conclude that by this stage he too has found that drinking and partying all night is not a good thing for the human body!







But Jozefine, Maddy, Savi and Ross are just full of youth.

These four have been up on the micro-light with me so I have managed to get to know them a little bit better. As you know I treasure these moments.

Jozefine is a biology teacher from Belgium. We spend a lot of time chatting in our home languages with one another, which is weird. It’s like there is some unseen Star Trek voice translator that allows you to hear this strange tong but oddly you can understand it! Flemish is so much like Afrikaans!

Savi, is French but with a very strong America accent. He has lived in the US for 19 years and just recently moved to France for the sake of his mom who is quite ill. No doubt that this is weighing heavily on his mind, even if he does not show it openly. Even if he is the smallest of the interns his voice project otherwise – his radio transmissions are LARGE, if you get my meaning. :)

Maddy, of course needs no introduction. (See previous post) In fact, we met last season. She was doing her Dive Masters with the Underwater Centre and lived in the flat next to ours.

Ross, 24, from the US, is a mechanical engineer and fresh out of Uni. He is quite the intelligent young man, intent on traveling, doing a lot of diving and out just to enjoy life for now. Oddly, he doubts he will ever work in the engineering line. He does have an unusual talent though – impressive culinary skills. He has promised to show us how to produce a serious chocolate fudge with the microwave! (On the first social evening at David’s house for the crew I overdosed on these little double chocolate delights!).

They are a great bunch. Now if only the weather (and the sharks!) will play ball!

Wish you were here!

:)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seasoned familiarity...



I marvel at how familiar one can become with Mother Nature. It is raining and I find a deep rooted comfort in that. Not just the sound of the rain resonating through everything – even the bones in your body – no, I am talking about the intimate familiarity of it. A familiar phase you can only attain after spending a lot of time in her company. Perhaps I am fooling myself here in my description – it might be nothing of the sorts. Just contentment found after seasons of doing the same thing – a most wonderful perk if you have done something you love for that length of time.

Did I ever tell the story of crossing those white cottoned clouds with Maddy in the back seat? Like the comfort of years and seasons – I think a good descriptive word would be, seasoned familiarity – Maddy once again reiterated to me that nothing beats such an experience as in sharing it with a pretty woman. And believe me, I have flown my fair share in my time, and still marvel at being able to discover new intricacies of the fairer sex – they have such beauty if a man knows how and cares to look.

Maddy is 24, an age that I think back upon as an emotional and physical innocent time – perhaps fresh might be a better word – but to me it seems a great springboard to start life from. She is there I have to add, in that space of finding the right direction even if to her the road seems riddled with bumps and holes. Kind of like the air we were experiencing over those clouds. There is this mix of fear and excitement and beauty and awe – a cocktail of emotions that never fails to stir and lasts a long time afterwards. Even if we were being tossed around by turbulence and Maddy had fear popping out of her in giggles and smiles, she knew it was all going to be alright. Being in the right company does play a big part in that – like having me in the pilot seat ;) and it sure is true for all aspects of life.  In the time I got to know Maddy – she did not just share the back seat of my plane but also a coffee, while that very same deep rooted comforting rain poured down on all sides, all things that help to remove emotional barriers, believe me – I got to realise that this young lady has had far more of life than one would normally expect of someone her age.

We had a great chat about life and the universe – most often because I love such topics but also find joy in stretching those young minds into these more serious realms of life. Of course by now I’m more than qualified to say that too. It also qualifies me to say that Maddy is there, at the start of her real, adult life, on the mend, physically and emotionally – the bad habit of smoking being kicked and her heart on the mend. (Yup you guessed it, the end of a very bad relationship). And as much as it pains me to see these things in young people, there is also pleasure – knowing that these things are what form you, gives you personality and character, builds wisdom and wrinkles and attractiveness.( OK, the last bit is just for me – nothing is as boring as a perfect unblemished baby face! ;)

Of course there are things that I have come to recognise as awesome qualities in a person, the kind of thing you should never settle without, like the ability to be happy no matter what and having a sense of humour. Maddy is like that, which if you get to know her is rather remarkable – not that I would want to divulge information of a more personal nature here. Let’s just say, I am very fond of Maddy. She is a good woman. (Remember that movie?)

So sailing across these cottoned textured clouds while being tossed around in turbulence builds a bond, whether one is aware of that or not does not matter but these exposures to the rawness of life brings a certain revelation to one’s purpose.., well to me anyway. :) And who knows, perhaps Maddy might have taken something to that effect with her too, even if it was just to show that there are healthy things in life you can do, that makes you forget about everything else.

This is Maddy in the back seat – making the most of the view, the turbulence and the company.



Wish you were here!
:)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2%


From our house, there is always a dissonance of sounds – dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, cars, trucks, chainsaws, fighting geckos and the frenzied squawks of the fruit bats to name some of the obvious ones. It can be quite alarming to say the least but thank God for our natural ability to filter out these audio disturbances. However, even through all of that natural filtering – and believe me the locals have it down to a fine art – there is this strange, deep throated, moaning grunt that enters the air at suspicious regularity. It is a strange noise, one that is impossible to filter out. It is puzzling and disturbing and cannot be placed but for that oddly suspicious rhythm to the grunts that triggers something vaguely familiar within in you.

Of course inevitably you have to ask.

“Oh that?” the locals would say, “That is just the tortoises having sex.” At which stage it is too late to retract your question and the door is left wide open for a range of topics, most of which have nothing to do with tortoises I might add.



The Aldabra giant tortoise is one of the world’s largest. It is also the oldest living animal on the planet. According to records, Addwaitya an Aldabra tortoise attained the amazing age of 255 years before kicking the bucket. Eddwaitya was estimated to weigh in excess of 700lbs – the oldest and largest tortoise in the world! I often pondered why our Creator chose to give them years of life far beyond that of us humans, who are supposed to be the crowning glory of His creation.

Of course I have known about the Aldabra giant tortoise for many years too but my knowledge of them have always been limited to that which was disseminated by the local folk – that they humped a lot – and seldom was anything else divulged at all. In fact there is a couple just below our house – their loud grunting sounds bellowing into the air, early morning, midmorning, late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, early evening… It is certainly no secret that they copulate frequently.

(I have to add that this too would leave me pondering.)

The other day I stumbled upon an interesting read about these animals. Once, these tortoises roamed freely on all of the Seychelles islands. Many scientists believe each island had their own distinct species of these giant tortoises but that only the Aldabra tortoise survived. For seafarers, tortoises were easy game and a great way of providing fresh meat for a ship’s crew. Sailors would come ashore and just pick them up so to speak. (I have to wonder what they did when they ran into an Eddwaitya size-a-like – it would have taken some manoeuvring of sailors to get that on-board!) Inevitably the tortoises where literally “carried” to extinction and they disappeared from all of the Seychelles islands except Aldabra. It was from Aldabra that they were reintroduced to their older habitats on the other islands and today there is a hefty and healthy population of them around. It was then that I read that these old guys are only successful at coitus 2% of the time, which perfectly explained their age and frequency of copulation. Our Creator knew very well that without that they would have been extinct long before the seafarers got hold of them!

Wish you were here!

:)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bull shark


Quick update.

We are on day 12 of the Official MCSS Whale Shark season and so far Mother Nature has not been too friendly – 12 days gone, only 5 flyable, none where we could get the boats onto the sharks. Even today there is rain out in the bay and I wonder if Neil managed to get up. I know earlier on he was fighting his instincts – to fly or not to fly!? (You know it’s strong if you are using a traffic-light as a wind-strength indicator! ;)

The other night, while visiting some friends in the yacht club, as we crossed the jetty we spotted a shark. It was a bull sharks and it was trying to outwit the fish attracted to the spot light shining into the water. For a while we were entertained by this shark’s stalking techniques, ranging from just casually swimming in from the side and trying to slide closer to the fish on the sly, to faster semi charges from the murky depths into the light. None worked. You could see the fish seeked shelter in the light, from which they could easily see the shark and stay out of harm’s way. Here is a pic of the shark. Cool hey!?



Wish you were here!
:)

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's in a name...


Quick update.

After my rather encouraging previous report things have changed somewhat. At this stage we have had 7 days since opening of which only 3 have been flyable. Today is even worse than yesterday – rain showers with strong gusty winds. At the airport I was just in time to see Emirates have to do a go-around. For a big plane that is a big deal though in Seychelles this time of the year not too uncommon. They had three go-a-rounds in the last two days…

The Anemometer is my favourite instrument. It is an analogue wind speed and direction gauge – classic recordings with a marker on paper. It is quite a breath of fresh air in an era where everything is going digital. This instrument records wind speeds and direction over time. It is a great way of checking the history of the wind action and I base much of my decision making on this fine instrument. If ever the recording touches the 30knot mark it is a simple black and white decision for me. This is a pic of the wind speed side of the graph… Say no more!


Neil has decided to learn to SCUBA dive on his off days. He admits at not being a water-baby and having drunk a lot of sea water yesterday. Today is day two of his adventure.

Last night we got invited to a crepe party, as the French call it (Pan-cakes).
“Veroee..” It was the third time the French lady pronounced her name to me and it still did not hit anything familiar. Even if her voice was sexy, her phonation and accent made vowels and consonants disappear and fade into one. Full of laughter and light-heartedness I asked again. Laughing and being in a similar mood, she shook her head and said, “Virginia...” It was very obvious she has had to do that before.

Our hostess, Anne, a French lady we met in our first week, found a new house and as part of the house warming she organised a mellower get together. I like to think it was to accommodate us pilots but reluctantly realised it was because Anne has a very sweet tooth. Nutela spread, honey and bananas were the favourite toppings. By 9:30 Neil and I had to call it quits after we both seemed to run into a sugar crash! This was unfortunate since the French ladies outnumbered us by two to one which was nice for a change.

Darren, the third part of our house (We are three sharing the house) met a new girlfriend. These two are quite madly in-love by the looks of things. So this morning he is telling me about his new lady (as he often does - she is French and another connection we have with the bevy of French ladies this season). Her name is Iesatta. Though she is French she is from some tropical island descend – Barbados I think, she has a beautifully almond coloured skin. Iesatta's family have come to visit her this week and that set the topic for the morning. (Don't worry. Last night Neil too was having a tough time getting the names.)

“So it is Iesatta (pronounce as in ‘eesaata’) Her sisters name is Buyla,” says Darren. “B-u-y-l-a” He enthusiastically goes through the motions of spelling it out for us. Neil and I are of course paying attention and listening intently. “And her brother’s name is Felloloo”.
“Felloloo..?” I ask while thinking to myself who on earth would give their kids such strange names.
“Yes.” He says before adding, “and her parents’ names are…” before pausing and saying, “Actually I have no idea how to pronounce them.”

Wish you were here!

J

Me in my favourite coffee shop - where I'm writing this...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Taking care…


Since the 1st of September we have had four days – three flyable with sharks. These are great numbers and we hope a foreboding of what is to come. (Its funny to see how everybody is suddenly happy with lifted spirits now that the sharks are here. I know from experience that this is going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride.. ;)

Neil and I - he is in the front seat.

Flying out to sea in a single engine aircraft is not considered a kosher thing to do. Of course it is an adage which we inherited from our forefathers for good reason – back then motor technology was just not what it is today. You have to hand it to them though. Even though motor reliability was perilous, they never wavered from crossing inhospitable mountain ranges just to deliver post. (Back then post was thought of in a totally different light all together; getting a letter was really important…). But these early postal aviation pioneers crossed inhospitable terrain on an almost daily basis and often, too often, they would not reach their destination.  Many where never found. (The list includes the likes of Antoine de Saint-Exupery - you can go look them up, written down in the annals of history).  The chances of surviving when going down in mountains or over the ocean were slim to none –finding the wreckage of the plane afterwards had no better odds either.

It was a high risk occupation and the turn-around of pilots were not much different to that of the waitresses at our favourite pizza joint down the road. Certainly these men knew the risks and they were not stupid. Yet, the pilots never stopped flying. They never stopped working and they never looked for a different occupation. No, they kept at it – the lure of adventure in that seemingly void that leave no trace of visits too great to give up for the price of being mortal. As one such early pilot, Dean Smith put it. “It was so alive and rich a life that any other conceivable choice seemed dull, prosaic, and humdrum.”

Such was the era of unreliable engines and un-wavering human courage – brave men that had no place for the foolish.

These men were meticulous in what they were doing: They knew all about the weather. They knew their airplanes back to front and inside out. They knew the routes they were flying (OK, early on there were some exceptions…) But considering what they were doing they took care.

Neil has ventured out on his own today. We had a good look at windguru and at what the weather looked like outside the window (A wise thing to do!) Other than a small chance of rain, it looks just fine. We have also meticulously gone through the plane too, fine-tuning everything we can lay our hands on. We have gone through the emergency procedure drills – repeatedly. Of course over the last four days I have accompanied him on all the flights, familiarising him with procedures and getting him settled.

Neil is very experienced. Other than flying hang gliders and micro-lights, he is also a qualified commercial helicopter pilot. Even so he has been a bit nervous during our few days of training. His words have reminded me of the kind of flying we are doing.

“You must remember we are operating on the top end scale of the envelope. And while your judgments to say it’s a go or no have been fine-tuned, mine is not. At these scales the margin for errors are pretty small…”

It certainly is not your average Sunday’s flight.

Here we are on our way back from spending the afternoon in the isolated Conception Island area. We avoid flying long distanced over the sea with just one engine. Instead climbing high and overflying the island is the safest route. This is the view from 6000ft overhead the airport…

Oh, and did I mention that now-days our engines are pretty reliable too…

Wish you were here!
:)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

They are here..!



Just a quick update. At 6 this morning I collected Neil at the airport. Neil is our second pilot who will be helping us out with the flying duties – yes it all gets a bit much for just one pilot. Of course we have all been saying that when Neil arrives everything is going to change. He is a good guy and our luck is bound to be different. So we all thought. Given the weather and lack of sharks we certainly were willing to try anything.
Well, Neil and I had a quick coffee, bit of a catch-up and then headed to the airport to have a look. The wind was still pretty strong but I deemed it doable. Now, two years ago Neil was one of the pilots for the season so it is not like he does not know what is going on.
“It looks fine Neil, the wind is not that strong so it will be good.” I said only to be greeted with these big eyes staring right back at me before he dryly replied, “Are you kidding? It’s howling up there!”
:)

Well, Neil is getting used to the wind again.

We had a great flight in the morning and we thought we saw a whale shark. It was swimming in very deep water over a white sandy bottom and before we could get a good look it had disappeared over onto a rocky patch. It was a whale shark or just a big other shark – we just could not be sure.
In the afternoon David decides to send out the boat with the interns only – they really needed to see a whale shark before any clients did. It was a tough call since we had to cancel a boat full of clients – A safe call.
Of course we find 4 whale sharks in the Conception channel for the afternoon. The interns are over the moon so everybody is in a very happy mood.

It is kind of cool to start the season, 1st of September (Start of spring!) on such a good note.
Talk about a good note. I have to mention that today is my parents’ 50th anniversary – now that’s cool! :)))))))

Mom, Dad, well done and to be honest..,

I wish I was there!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It’s all grey…

30 Aug. 2012
It has been a while since I have written – the energy and time to write has just not been there. The flying has been a mix of good to absolutely appalling conditions. There have been times where we have sailed across Beau Vallon bay at 6000ft and the air was as smooth and calm as a baby’s bottom and then on the very next day, even just after take-off the ocean and air resembled that of an aged cowboy’s unshaved chin.
My metaphors are not thumb-sucks either. It perfectly depicts the flying conditions we experience here. They also resemble my much loved banter on life – how life resembles pretty much the road from innocent baby-bottom smoothness to the pitted grey of wisdom.

You never get wisdom without the grey.

Oddly enough, (and this time not planned) I watched a movie the other night called, the Grey. Everybody dies in the end, so I did not like it much, but later as my mind started to munch on some of the scenes and events I changed my opinion. It is actually pretty good. (It’s all about survivors of a plane crash in some heat forsaken frozen land while the survivors not only need to battle the hostile elements but a pack of wolves too).

And, I suppose, in the end we all die too.

Of course the notion of death is not limited to living things only – even our project is subject to it – if the whale sharks don’t come, the project will be dead too (in the water!) – OK, I didn’t need to put that in there but isn’t that how the expression goes? ;). The fact is, the 2012 season is off to a slow start and it is making all of us realise how dependant we have become on the arrival of these large spotty creatures. It has been two weeks and so far we have not seen even one. And even if the official season only kicks off on the 1st September, every year at this stage the sharks have always put in an appearance. It has put a bit of a damper on things – by now the interns had hoped they would have had some in-water experience at least. (It sure goes a long way when you are helping with research and customer management if you have had some in-water experience yourself!). Of course they have been doing a lot of training – every day the team leaders have been putting the interns through the paces.

Even I have played a role in meeting and taking some of the 2012 interns up in the little micro-light. This part, for me at least, have always been a real treat and to be honest, more so in later years. At this stage whale sharks are anything but new to me and my interest and curiosity finds more meaning in the living creatures that occupy the little seat on the back of my orange plane. How often I have seen them get into that seat all smooth and baby-bottomed, and then an hour or so later whether from conversation or the flying experience (which by now even you at home should know can be quite something!), leave with the signs of growth. Heck, and if you know how to look, as I do, you will even notice the appearance of different shades of grey too.

Wish you were here!
:)

This is Glenn and I high over the bay of Anse La Mouche. Def no need for any grey introductions here!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Observational Operational


I made our first complete clockwise survey of Mahe today – I think that qualifies as being fully operational? There were no sharks. My eyes scoured the ocean, fine-combing all the usual hotspots and even those that are not, for these large placid creatures. Of course, to me it was just business as usual except for one thing – being acutely aware of this beautiful life I am living. For some reason I was placed here, deserving or not (Not!) and am living this real life dream. (How much of that has to do with attitude!?)

A few days ago I made an interesting observation on Facebook – how events that happen to friends can/should change your perspective of life. This certainly is no unqualified statement. Something huge happened to me too which changed everything. But before I digress into that event (and believe me I can and love to do so), let me just mention in a nutshell some of these recent events – perhaps you will understand more the reason behind the words of my pen.

I mentioned in a previous post that one friend was in for brain surgery (twice!) just from sudden migraines while the other is on the way to being airlifted to South Africa from a bacterial skin infection. Another is not sure if she is running to something or away from it. Yet another awaits an important operation. Then there is the on-going issue of the infamous lady-slipper-throne (Yes, the dental floss trick did not work) which highlighted the underappreciated privilege of having a loo in a house. And then finding the perspective one gets from being suspended in a Dacron-deckchair at ten-thousand feet after making the jump from such a lowly position (Jump John Carter jump! – or was that Virginia?). Throw in a remarkable movie called – Life in a day – and the words to describe these emotions flee from me.
If your life and perspective are not being changed or challenged everyday then you are not where you should be.

OK, got to go. My little orange plane is waiting..!

Wish you were here!
:)

The lay of the runway - we land in the taxi loop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The dark side...


There is another side to Seychelles – and let’s be frank and not beat about the bush – call it the shitty side. (Seychelles does have a dark side too). Take for example our lady-slipper loo. This masterpiece, aptly made to perfectly simulate the waist it is designed to carry, has been my main focus for today. (It is kind of funny when you have this on your brain how one’s focus seems to be contaminated by that very word that comes to mind too.)

Though there is some attraction to stumbling out into the garden for a pee first thing in the morning, the same cannot be said for a number two, so unblocking the lady-slipper-throne has become a priority.
The resourcefulness to un-block gets blocked by a particular sharp bend in the built in design of the lady-slipper-throne. (I mean, have a look – who in the world came up with such a crap design?) Nothing would follow the slippery path past this joint – not the hose-pipe or the old wing wire I doubled up (for some added rigidity) could get past this bend. Finally an old wash basin plunger got some gap going for the water to slowly flow down-stream but it is still not safe enough for normal use. The problem lies not only in the sharp and bendy exhaust but in its diameter which is only fit for little ladies and their miniature poodles. Even if cleaned I can see this becoming a regular problem. It was not made for men, that I am certain off.
Perhaps I can allow a light string to be washed down stream enough to be caught on the backside of the house. This can be tied to a bigger string which in a series of steps could allow a thick rope to be trailed through. Perhaps the giant sized dental floss action could do the trick…

Just an hour later I was cornered in the North West by a large line of rain that had set up in a convergence line, effectively cutting me off from the airport. It is quite something to realise that your options are a 40 mile flight into wind, far out to sea to get around the irritating rain or try to get over it. There was the long way or short way, neither of them being the right way. In the end I squeaked over a lower gap in the cloud at ten thousand feet before spiralling down on the other side – shaking and shivering from the cold and relief.

Zero sharks but plenty of adventure both in the air and on the ground!

Wish you were here!
:)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Perspective...


20Aug2012 - Our wings being prepared in our great hanger.
It’s lunch time. Of course I am thinking of lunch – peanut butter sandwiches to be precise, we are on a budget – but for the moment I feel the need to communicate. (By definition it means you need to write back! :) The south east winds are doing its thing, 20knots gusting 32, meaning I get to catch up on all the other odds and ends that needs taking care of – like finding a new battery for our pick-up. Ever since we arrived it has laboured to start the car – a Nissan diesel 4x4. During the day, when in use it starts but after a nightly layover the battery seems to have lost some of its charge. Every morning we have to resort to interesting tricks to get her started.

It is not much different with people. Our batteries often run flat. Those with some life experience know exactly what I am talking about. We often find ourselves in need of some charge – anything to give us that boost to keep going.

A friend of mine is lying here in Seychelles hospital. It has been her annual holiday and for the past week (plus one coming!) she has spent her time in bed, on a drip and very-very ill. Outside is paradise. Inside is, well…
At home another friend is in ICU- after complaining of a migraine. We are praying for her too.

Is the fact that I have no headache and can walk outside and enjoy paradise not enough to charge my batteries? Sure is when you look at it that way isn’t it. And that’s one of the tricks to life.

Perspective.

Yesterday, the interns walked to the beach when a large coconut decided it was its time to give over to gravity. It was a glancing blow off Josephine’s shoulder leaving just a bruise yet our minds have been blown away by the gravity of the incident. What if..?

Perspective?

You bet ya! :)

Wish you were here!
:)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lemon Sharks



18Aug2012
Well, the plane is done and we have managed to do one survey flight. No sharks so far. The water has been very clean with underwater visibility in the region of 15-18meters in most places. For those that don’t know, clear water is not conducive for whale sharking. Whale sharks love murky water – water that is full of plankton. By the looks of things it seems that there are some strong winds on the way. Perhaps that will push in the much needed colder nutrient rich water we need to kick start the plankton cycle. That’s when the sharks will come.

As with all things, one adjusts. I had Glen visit the other day (actually he has been visiting almost every day but that’s a story for another time) so Glenn tells me of how he ended up on a small little island in the South Pacific doing statistical work for the government. Accommodation was part of the contract but it was so terrible he was only prepared to sleep on the floor – on his personal towel with a little pillow under his back-side.
“It was appalling to be honest but by the fourth night I was looking forward to sleeping like that and by the end of the month I had learnt to sleep flat on my back for the whole night without moving and it was great!”
There is a lesson in that.

This morning I spent almost 2 hours at the hangar waiting for the weather. It was too strong and periodically small little rain squalls would come racing through. The mean wind was 22knots. The runway traffic light – steel poled and concreted into the ground – was rocking in its foundations. That was when it struck me to call it quits and head home.

This afternoon we had a rare treat. Two lemon sharks decided to hang out in a small little bay of the Hilton Hotel. Darren was called by one of the staff about these two sharks that he is ‘feeding’ and now they  keep on coming back – for days apparently. (He had a bit of a chat with the chap about the feeding bit – imagine a 3 meter lemon shark coming into the bay, bumping a tourist asking for some food!?:) But Darren and some friends had a good swim with these two ladies (He identified them as two girls). Here are some pics of the event. Of course, seeing it live we enjoyed it even more…

Wish you were here!
:)

 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday - the 13th!


Well at least it is not Friday! ;) (But there is something about the 13th ... Can't quite put a finger on it…)
I must say. It has been a while since I have been this tired. There is no workbench so we are working on the floor. The bending onto your haunches and back up, walk to this part of the wing, then back again and so on – after a day of that you surely know about it.

David decided to take the day off – after all, he is only here to do the inspection not the work. (That’s my department.) I am working very meticulously – one needs to if you are going to fly over the ocean. It means progress is a bit on the slow side. Still, today I managed new fuel filter, hoses, stripped and cleaned the carburettors, did the gearbox oil, washed the air-filters, replaced a few rusty bolts and nuts and just some general cleaning. I guess it is something…

It was good to see Donn too – Donn, or at least, Captain Donn Du Preeze is in charge of the Air-wing. It is thanks to his (and his superiors!) generosity that we are able to conduct the air-survey parts of the whale shark program. The SCAA accommodate us too, not just with flight permission but by waiving landing fees also. (One would think that a micro-light has just about zero impact on the large tarred runway but they sure do not think so in SA.  In our local town airport, George, after I decided to visit a friend in one of the large airport hangars, I had the airport official track me down in no time with his receipt book to get my details and cash of course! ;)

We are staying in a luxury apartment for now – only because our little wooden apartment is still being prepared. I have been there once – while they were still building – and it seemed a bit dark and hot. It is in a recessed wall so not much of a breeze gets in there. But that’s for tomorrow; right now I am heading for the couch, with a beer while watching a movie on this large flat screen TV on the wall…

Wish you were here!
:)
It just remembered about the 13th… It’s my dad’s birthday! And it is a biggy too!  S-e-v-e-n-t-y! Cool!
Happy birthday dad! I wish I was there! :))))

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Whale Sharks 2012 is here...


Whale sharks 2012 is here! Well, I’m here in Seychelles which is what we are sure about at least. As far as the sharks are concerned we can only guess - lets hope they too know it is that time of the year!

It is the first week and as usual it’s all about maintenance of our beautiful little orange plane. Getting it serviced and airworthied is priority no 1.  Strangely the first job we tackled (That’s David Daniel and I - David is here to do the inspection on the plane) was replacing the worn tires on EPE. It seems we do not just fly long distances - all the taxy-ing on the rather long International runway has taken its toll on our tiny wheels too.

Ironically this job – as all mirco-light pilots know is a pain – the tires weld themselves onto the rim wall and often trying to remove them results in breaking the rim. When ordering new tires, many pilots just orders a new rim at the same time too.

And it is a dirty job. And it is a tedious job - replacing three tires can take all day...

First you split the rim by undoing the three bolts that hold the two halves together. And that's the easy part done Then you try and use every trick in the book to remove the tyre from the half of the rim. (I tell you every time pilots do this they invent new ones too – as one pilot did after two hours of struggling with one he just used a three pound hammer. He was done in less than thirty minutes after that - of course he had to use the new rim too.)
So we split the rim and sitting opposite each other on our haunches with the tire flat on the floor between us we ponder the heavy dilemma ahead of us.

David prods down hard on the tire. Then I grab the half rim and pull up. To our utter amazement it lifts clear of the tire! Mouths ajar we gasp at each other.
“No ways!”
“That’s not possible!”
“something is wrong…” and even before we can finish there is a clang and the bottom half of the rim clangs to the hangar floor – without any prodding or pulling from us. We are gobsmacked! How the he..?

Let’s hope the rest of the season is just as easy…

Wish you were here!

:)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More cool weather

Well, after my hot air post, I have had some interesting emails. At least I know that people read my stuff and take note. All in good spirits of course. :) But I just can’t help myself – I love talking about God. And He has indeed blessed us with great flying weather this week. Philip has been having an absolute ball - which reminds me, Philip said the secret of a rain dance is all about timing!

We have had two days of perfect south-easterly winds and again for today and predicted once more for tomorrow too. For a hang gliding instructor this is almost heaven on earth. At the moment the wind is very light but my guess is it will pick up and by lunchtime it will be good business.

I will post a great pic of his flying later today but right now I have to run – I have a neck massage appointment in half an hour. :)