Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Of course the sun is out and it looks like the most perfect day and I guess most people would wonder why on earth we are refusing to fly. It is expected. And it is a tedious and long explenation. Most of it people do not understand because the nature of the conditions are quite technical. There is often doubt. The irony is that the forecast is for the same winds to persist for the next two days. I expected that we would pack up. 5 minutes later David called to ask I don't. He would prefer to wait and see what the winds are going to do.
And that is the nature of this work. Trying to generate funds on the one hand while making safe flying and sensible decisions. Of course David is quite aware of that and does not expect us to fly in anything that we deem not safe. But that does not mean the pressure is any less. The fretting of what the weather is going to do mills in your mind and you are effectively on duty 24/7. It is almost as if one is flying in these conditions in anyevent! It is tough. This is the biggest wear of the job. If the weather is absolutely borderline is it worth taking up someone for a flight? What are you going to do when it is borderline. Then it looks just doable then it doesn't...
Of course I don't believe it is a good thing but we will go through the motions anyway.
You just never know - tomorrow might be perfect...
Wish you were here!
It had been a year since our last flight (or as Garreth pointed out, more than a year) but the sense of excitement was just the same. The wind was 5k from the NE so we climbed to 3000ft on the west coast. Still, we got rocked a bit more than what a measly 5k wind should be capable of doing. So with the same amount of excitement and now with the same amount of fear as last year’s flight (We got rocked at 5grand over Beau Vallon bay on that occasion!) we settled into a rather exhilarating flight down memory lane.
You would be amazed at how many people come out to Seychelles with only shorts and T-shirts. Not a jean not a jacket or any kind of top in sight. I guess it must be a tropical thing. I supposed it is not that you are going to need a jacket or fleece, for it never gets cold here. But /it pays to be prepared because you never know what might happen or come up, such as the chance to fly in a micro-light. It can get pretty darn cold at 5000ft and when you hit the likes of 7000ft or 8000ft it becomes a different ball game all together. At these altitudes in an open cock-pit plane, wind chill factors become painful and any exposed flesh takes a beating. Well, especially considering that you are supposed to be in the tropics.
People who know will always make a plan and I guess Garreth was not going to let his toes freeze again. Even if the boots seemed made for clubbing and dancing it was still the most class act to fly in my little orange plane!
Wish you were here!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Now I have to catch that beer with a sunset! (Or is that catching the sunset with a beer..?) Oh, heck! I have to go!
Wish you were here!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Wish you were here!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
It seems there is some prophetic tendency in my blog. As soon as I mention the word drought and no rain, the heavens open up. It has rained for most of yesterday and last night. This morning it is still raining and the met is forecasting rain for the rest of the day with possible heavy falls for the afternoon. Clearing is expected by tomorrow midday only, or so the met office says anyway…
As if the lack of sharks is not enough, the rain has put out even the last flicker of hope we have had of finishing the season on a high. Of course, everybody is trying their best to keep busy and not think about it too much. It is the usual thing. The end of a great season is approaching and when dreams have been realized it is no wonder that no one wants to say goodbye.
From a statistical point of view this has been the second best season ever. Even if the end has been slow we had a lot of sharks. We saw 42 sharks in just one flight, twice! In total Neil and I spotted 594 sharks from the air while the boat crew had 395 in water encounters. The numbers of experiences are just too many to remember and without the daily recording of the interns almost all would be lost. Meticulous detail of each and every encounter is kept – sharks are sized, sexed, photographed, accompanying fish noted and counted, peculiar markings, behaviour, time of day, area, swimmers in the water among other things are all noted on water proof sheets of paper. Afterwards all details are entered into the computer for easier and more in depth and detailed analyses later on. Add to that the data Neil and I gather from the air and the data sets become pretty impressive to say the least.
The MCSS functions as a team. Without the team effort there will be no success and no progress or reward. Breaking previous records is not just the doings of Mother Nature but also great teamwork from the interns. Of course, I am not saying they are all angels – by no means! :) But they worked well together and this year, once again the team excelled. They will be taking with them treasured lessons and experiences.
In the meantime, we are wet but thankfully on the ground!
Wish you were here!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Of course, with the extreme lack of whale sharks (note extreme) this kind of indulgence is not just customary but mandatory. It comes at the best of times too. The fact that the whale sharks seem to have made an early departure for this year has been playing on our psyche’s and frustrations. Every day boat loads of people have to be turned away. Painstaking explanations are given to appease customers, as if the words, ‘sorry, there are no more whale sharks around…’, could be construed as if it is a commodity and the shop has run out of stock. Surely with just a bit more planning and better management…
October is the start of the rainy season (Well, a bit more rain than in the other months really) and in previous years us pilots have always had some reprieve from flying on those rainy days. (It was most frustrating since we knew the sharks were out there but the weather was not allowing us to get onto them). This October however, there is a drought. Rain fall is down 70% compared to the average for the month and the met office expects this trend to continue. We have been able to fly every single day but ironically the sharks are nowhere to be found. And while we can’t blame anyone but changing climates and global warming, there is certain expectancy for the magical abilities of pilots to find some whale sharks – though subtle, the pressure is always on us.
Of course, I find solace the traditional way. Who cares about whale sharks if you can have that!?
Wish you were here!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Here is another one of Joe’s pics. Is this the end of the season for views and encounters like this one?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Yesterday was absolutely awesome. It was one of those days when you had an element of absolutely everything thrown into one. The morning started when I picked up my passenger. Perhaps I should have guessed by then but being a typical male, my passenger’s beauty numbed all other senses. That of course does let the cat out of the bag – Kim is absolutely gorgeous – but that part is a whole different story. Suffice to say we had a great flight and I enjoyed the company of my passenger immensely.
It was a very unstable day. The build-up of cloud over the island was huge and by lunchtime it was raining over the whole of Beau Vallon Bay. This of course was where the boat was departing from and as expected David called – the concern in his voice obvious. I set him at ease; the build-up was localised and over Beau Vallon Bay only. The west coast should be clear. Of course the storm grew throughout the course of the afternoon and I spent my time flying in close proximity of the clouds and rain. The sun bathed parts in sunshine, mixing concern with tranquillity while I danced on the borders of these two contrasts for almost two hours. The lighting was absolutely spectacular and the rain, clouds, turquoise water, island greens, granitic hues, whale sharks edged over white sandy bottoms was a feast that is impossible to put in words. Eventually the rain started spreading towards the Airport and threatened to cut off my return route. It was a beautiful trip back, scenic and completely uneventful too – I had left a healthy safety margin this time. In other cases we would leave just in the nick of time because of the scarcity of sharks. But because the sharks were playing nice and stayed with the boats, it was easy for me to leave earlier, playing it safe. Here are some pics of the scenery – the build up from a distance and inside the action. All in all a grand day I would say!
Wish you were here!
Saturday, October 16, 2010
On another note, we have had another few days of calm weather. Blissful flying yet the whale sharks again is playing hard to get. I would get 4 sharks in the morning and then only one in the afternoon. Then Neil would get just one in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Thankfully they all hang around and everybody gets a few turns to swim with the whale shark. David and I are not sure what to make of this season. I somehow have a feeling that the season just might be coming to a premature end. That would not be good seeing as the MCSS has two full boats booked until the end of October. It is going to be frustrating and long flights in the last week or so. Of course, not be too pessimistic, as always we remain hopeful. At least the sun has been shining like there is no tomorrow, which brings to a serious issue.
There is a draught on the island. Yes, a tropical island that is supposed to be experiencing rain (and lots of it) at the moment is having a draught. The dam is the emptiest I have ever seen it. Their dam is not very big but as the water is used, it rains again and fills up. At the beginning of the season I noted the dam being the fullest I have ever seen it. Now it is quite the opposite. It has been dry for more than two weeks and before that not much rain – that is very unusual for Seychelles. Every day the water gets cut off for a couple of hours and sometimes, if your timing is off you have to just take a swim in the sea.
Wish you were here!;)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
The other day, Garreth and I talked about flying and age. It was no coincidence talking about these interesting companions – I have been around long enough to know a few retired pilots myself. Of course our conversation was not about pilots and age but about the act of flying people that are not so young anymore. I mentioned to Garreth that some would consider my act of flying Pat as nothing but gross negligence and we pondered this notion.
Pat we guessed must be around 80 – I never asked her age but later friends let me in on it. I noticed her frailty when I helped her into the back seat but it really struck home after the flight – after I helped her out of the seat I had to support her while she regained her balance and footing. It took a while and it was during this time that I had a myriad of thoughts on the responsibility and the risk I was taking by allowing her into the back seat of the little orange plane. I cannot even begin to describe the depths of the compassion that flooded me at that moment too and it were these thoughts that really spurred my conversation with Garreth.
We jested of course about what family might say, “Are you crazy granny! You are too old to do this kind of thing. You might die..!”
“What do you mean I might die? I am dying right now! Come on sonny, lets get up there…” and we both chuckled about that.
Of course the reality is that when it comes to the aged we get hung up about risks far too much right at about the time when the other side of the coin should be considered more. We argued that it is worth considering the risk when you are young – losing one’s life at that stage is quite tragic, (not that we think it is not tragic for an elderly person to lose their life, just perhaps less so) but consider for a moment that for the aged the benefits become even greater. Making a tick on a bucket list is far more than a mark on a piece of paper. In the same way we will never really know what it must have meant to Pat, being up there, enjoying vistas and sensations for real that she had spent her whole life dreaming off. And what about the aftereffects of such an experience? Is the spirit lifted? Is life made lighter? Is living made more sensible? Surely all these things must be worth the possible chances of dying.
It was then that I remembered the movie ‘second hand lions’ and the truth struck me that there is value even in the act of dying. If I were aged and got the chance of dying while flying in a micro-light I would jump at it in a flash. It sure beats lying in some old age home waiting for death, hands down.
“Get out of my way sonny! I want to get into that seat!”
Wish you were here!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I flew two dear ladies this week – they loved it like there was no tomorrow. (Now there is some truth in that statement I tell you!) But these were the kind of ladies that I knew would be useless if anything should go wrong. Like landing in the sea. It would be game over for them. Of course we fly out over the sea for most of the time…
But the enchantments of tropical waters, the magical colours that seduce even the most ardent and steadfast adventurer is triumphant once again. It is so impossible not to be lured into the tranquil beauty that it is a sin not to make use of the moments. Going lower for some high speed flying resembles that of a speedboat skimming along the water. Just better.
Oh magical indeed!
Wish you were here!
This is one of those pics you just have to love. Does it not fill you with a sense of awe? It should. This type of agrigations are very rare and I was lucky to be in the right place...
We have had a bit of a spurt of whale shark activity. Yesterday we encountered 8 sharks in the south. The two boats with full passengers (that’s two groups on each) had a great time. Some of the sharks just did not want to go away! I saw quite an amazing thing. After years of flying this was the first time I witnessed such a thing.
I spotted a hammerhead shark of about two meters, cruising near the surface. This guy was swimming about, seemingly at random, I guess sniffing the waters to find out what is going on. At the same time a whale shark started to surface not far from the hammerhead shark. I could see the hammerhead shark was on an intercepting course. The whale shark, about 6-7meters in length rose out of the clear depths like a living submarine – its dark outline becoming clearer every second. The hammerhead was closer to the surface before it spotted the whale shark. At this stage I could only imagine what it must feel like to look down and there, slowly rising out of the inky depths is the biggest mother shark you have ever seen. I too would not hang around to ask questions. That hammerhead burst into action with the fastest U-turn, running away like a yelping dog with its tail between its legs.
It was hilarious!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
... errr... (should be GRRRR..!!!!) It is not working. Maybe I should think about changing my blog home page....
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Oh! Is that not just like murphy! I am having difficulties iploading pictures. Will keep trying but it does not seem to be working for now...
Of course, the beauty of these calm days is often off set by rain. And the rain can come down in buckets – the likes of which few have ever seen. The torrents are so overwhelming that it often makes you sit up and take note. At this moment I am sitting on my veranda and admiring the rain. It seems to soften the green edges yet those yellow coconuts stand out even more as they shine and glimmer in the wet. I do admire the rain but perhaps it is not a thought shared by those who want a tropical island holiday and the associated sunshine one dreams of. It does dampen the whale shark trips and prevents aerial support. For locals I guess, it fills the few fresh water dams, something the island desperately needs.
Talking of fresh water, this year it has rained more than any of the previous years for as far back as I can remember – a fact that the fresh water lake I often fly over testifies to: it is fuller than I have ever seen. That does not mean it is full – something I wonder if anyone has ever seen, but the rain is needed by locals. They still have serious water restrictions with water supplies being cut off at certain times during most of the days. It is hard to imagine a country with so much rain to have a water shortage. Of course it is also something that obviously is born from bad management. Private freshwater tanks should have been part and parcel of each house right from the beginning. Ironically, the country invested heavily into a desalination plant some years ago. Even that has not been sufficient to fulfil all their needs and all the rain bucketing down just flow right back from where it came – the sea.
Another change the calms and rain bring is the swing in wind direction. The southeast will eventually make way for the northwest but before it does it can bring those dreaded southwest and westerlies. When these arrive the flying becomes horrible. (To get a good idea of what I am talking about check out last year’s entry in October – I think it is called the event of the year. It will give you a good idea of the kind of conditions I am talking about. Besides it is actually a cool story too. ;)
But the fact that the southwesterlies are coming is a clear as day. The only option we have is how we negotiate them. Fingers crossed!
Wish you were here!
Monday, September 27, 2010
Yesterday the wind came back with a vengeance. Even worse, it rained too. The stormy weather put a damper on things but senses prevailed and the day was cancelled. Just as well. even later in the day the winds pick up even more with frequent gusts over 30k at the airport. I sure am glad to be on the ground.
Eisha, a young local dive master who works for the Dive Centre was suppose to come flying with me. Instead, all we could do was watch the weather and talk. Of course I am always up for a chat and it did not take me long to carry the conversation to God and the importance of making Him part of your life.
Especially if you are going to fly in a tiny little plane like our micro-light.
Wish you were here!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
We have been moving towards the end of September – the end of the South East Monsoon season. This marks the end of the windy season. The last week or two have seen a steady drop in wind strengths – the usual 15 knot plus days making way first for 10 to 15 knot days and then the 5 to 10 knot days and now, finally the days with less than 5 knots. These are the days when the island life become the best there is. I am taking nothing away from the windy seasons that carry its own special charms but there is just something that mirrors the soul when these windless calm days reflect not just the drifting boat or the rocky point but part of you.
It is a funny thing this calm reflection. It does seem to be part of being human. Somehow we all long for some peace of sorts and in whatever form your life needs it, it is brought out by these tropical reflections. Everybody is happy.
Neil and I have been sampling some of this good weather and it has been a bonus – adding to the joy of this work.
Here is a pic I got of some of the whale shark action yesterday. (There is a shark in there too!) The wash was strong towards the rocks and in the effort to get away from them some of the snorkelers put in a few extra kicks in a bit of a panick to get away from the rocks. Of course, as experienced divers we know what frantic panicky kicking does in a wild ocean – an ocean with sharks. Out of the blue a few black tip reef sharks appeared and rushed at the divers. They circled the brightly coloured fins for a while and I guess not finding any trace of blood, (OK, I am dramatizing here! ;) disappeared into the depths. But for a while there were a few pounding hearts doing the rounds! The tourists loved it though and after diving on 8 sharks swear the experience was the best they have ever had.
Wish you were here!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today I went for a walk to the internet café. I had been brooding about updating my websites and finally decided to pay the exorbitant browsing fees these old age internet shops charge. (They are still on a time basis and not a data rate – which is made doubly frustrating because the connections are anything but fast. (No such thing as broad band here).
I (or the webhosting site!) made a hash of things and ruined a whole hours’ worth of work. It was time to call it quits and retire to a more off line based web design package – one where I could take my time and not have to pay for it.
Plastered up with Bactroban I should be ok but for my dented ego. What on earth beseeched me to turn my back on such an obvious dangerous animal – a breast feeding mother!?
Oh the woes of paradise!
Wish you were here!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
And my price-less immigration stamp.
After some inquiry, it turns out that an Islamic leader complained that the stamp was too “explicit”. Apparently it reveals too much of the nature of a woman. Of course I can’t help but think it takes a foul mind to think like that – even if there is a striking resemblance.
Hey Seychelles government. What’s up with that?
It of course brings me to another subject. A more controversial one and one that I am probably going to put my foot into, no matter how delicate I try to handle it. Consider the fact that Islam extremists have burned heaps of bibles and nothing happened. So one Christian Pastor wants to burn the Koran and all hell breaks loose! (Pardon the pun.)
Poor Pastor. I mean, think about it. He is probably very aware of the Islamic influence in his country and of the 9/11 disaster and of the heaps of bibles that has been burnt and one can understand how perhaps he has just had enough. It is of course NOT the Christian way of doing it (The modern Christians do not go about burning other religious books) but heaven knows, I can sympathise with the man!
Yes, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with flying or sharks…
Still. Wish you were here!
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Needless, Neil is still enjoying a very steep learning curve.
The day before yesterday he pushed it a bit – according to me. Of course he is the pilot out there and making the decisions, however inexperience sometimes can make you shave off safety issues in favour of the whale shark project. I know. I was there once too. Of course the truth is nothing is worth compromising your safety.
This brings me to another topic – that of the nature of the flying with the whale shark program. Let’s get one thing straight. This is not a passenger commercial flight service. There is absolutely nothing in our flying that is geared towards flying passengers. If anybody comes flying with us, it is as our guests, non-paying guests at that. They get to see what the marine survey pilots do, how we do observational sampling and gather all kinds of information pertinent to a project of this nature. They certainly do not get a “how cool is it to fly!” kind of stuff. Instead they get a briefing about the dangers of the type of flying we do – that it is for research purposes and not with the safety of the public in mind. We take risks, (As Neil told a lucky guy who was flying with him, “We break almost every rule in the book…” which made the poor guys eyes bulge! Neil quickly set him straight though. We do not break every rule in the book. Just one – we often fly out of glide of safe landing areas.) What I am getting at here is that after having made a statement of ‘nothing is worth compromising your safety’, we find ourselves involved in a project of this nature. This seems quite contradicting, and it is. But let’s make sure who ever comes flying with us, is aware of that. They are putting themselves at great risk.
It can also be a pretty damn cool experience too…
Wish you were here!
PS: The pic shows the flying - stormy rain clouds and out of glide of beaches...
Friday, September 17, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I pondered too if hammocks were traditional to times of sailing – you know, in those old pirate ships, where below deck strings of hammocks with smelly, farty old sailors come to mind. Perhaps those same hammocks were strung between two coconut trees after a shipwreck and that was where the coconut-hammock tradition started.
A sudden gust made my hammock sway soothingly from side to side. The coconut tree however creaked ominously. In a quick scramble I made an about turn. It was an easy solution. By placing my head under the canopy of the jack-fruit my toes were left to ponder the notion of falling coconuts.
I’d say, a worthy sacrifice with this kind of view…
Wish you were here!
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wish you were here!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Neil and I have the windows open while we sleep. The south east breeze blows through the room all night which helps to cool things down a bit. Right next to our room is a small bit of tropical forest. There is a tall Casuarina tree, a Bodiman tree, an exceptionally large mango tree, a Jack fruit tree and some others I am unfamiliar with, the leaves of which orchestrates into a scary rumble when a wind of sizable proportions comes by. It serves as a warning to those sailors taking to the seas or sky – beware the swaying trunks and rustling leaves spell. A spell that sometimes creeps through your sweet sleep we so desperately seek. Our desperation is evident too from the ingenious ways we have found to block off the outside world, even while you are smack bang in the middle of it. I for one have the most softest and sound proof earphones for my MP3 player. With these babies in my ear and my black eye patch cover on it can be midday while the party is my room and I would sail away to another world… Well, you get the idea at least. Of course sooner or later you need to switch of the music – which has happened sometimes an hour or two after I should have been sound asleep. In semi-wake mood the player is switched off and the pillow ear plug removed. The upper ear is still needed for those pesky and irritating barking local dogs. They really are a problem on this island.
Sleep is hard won.
Later I walked into the MCSS staff house with the words, “Right. Who ever does not get scared easily can come flying with me…” Outside the ocean was white with spray. Leaves where swirling about inside the kitchen. Suddenly everyone was busy or ‘still sleeping’, and 2 minutes later I left – alone. It was of course just a tease from my side. No one was actually going to fly today…
Ironically I managed to get airborne just after 3 in the afternoon managing a great flight around the island on my own. Coming back I flew high above the island and clouds – the usual safe and turbulent free route.
Today Neil is up. Though windy it looks fine. Some developing clouds around but sunny mostly. I am sure he is having a great time and will sleep well tonight.
It is 7:30 in the evening and it is raining outside. Neil's flight went well but he said he just managed to scrape into the airport before this mother of low clouds with rain swept into the airport. It has been with us for a while. Like I said. Sweet sleep for him tonight.
Wish you were here!
It is Neil’s turn to fly today and even if I thought of going with him yesterday the good weather made me think otherwise. He was sitting on our balcony overlooking the bay. From here you could see the strength of the wind lines.
“Looks good.” I said as I joined him with a bowl of Pronutro.
“Yes. Nothing too bad.” He answered.
“I am not going to go with you but you can take one of the interns with you.”
“If it is ok, I would prefer to just fly on my own first.”
“Sure. You get settled and when ready the guys can join you.”
“Is it ok for you to come with me just to the airport? That way at least you can use the car…” It was a generous offer but probably more a ploy to entice me to go with. Smiling, I politely said no. It was time to cut the apron strings.
“Call me if you are not sure but go out there and enjoy yourself.”
Of course the weather turned nasty. A big storm approached from the south east and before 11 in the morning I had received 2 phone calls and three sms’s. It poured and the whale shark trips have been cancelled for the afternoon. It is now after 1 in the afternoon and Neil is still at the airport weather watching. No doubt his learning curve is very steep today…
Wish you were here!
Word just in is that Neil did have a flight later in the afternoon. He said he only managed to do the survey on the south of the island before he had to scuttle back to the airport as another rainsquall moved in from the south. This is his first for the season and you can bet it won’t be his last!
Monday, September 6, 2010
Today started with the bats going backwards and trees blowing over our high way. It was way too strong to fly, up to 35knots at times. But very late in the afternoon I managed to get a gap and did a survey around the island. It was a wonderful (and exciting!) flight. Managed to get 5 whale sharks on the north side near Conception island. Finished off with a very bumpy but aced landing! ;)
It is Neils turn to fly tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will bet better.
Wish you were here!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Neil of course is not new to flying but I have been showing him the ropes to our air survey program and have answered the usual questions as he is getting used to the flying conditions around this Indian Ocean tropical island of ours. It can be very demanding at times. After his morning solo flight around Mahé I was looking forward to catching a snooze while he goes out for his second solo of guiding the boat onto the whale sharks. He had already done two of those flights with me and was fully capable of doing it on his own. Of course it was then that David advised that he had two boats going out. Now directing two boats at the same time can be a different ball game and putting my ideas of an afternoon nap aside I thought it better to go with him. You know. Just in case. So sitting in the advisory back seat position I settled in for the three hour flight. Neil soon got the hang of it though and I relaxed a bit, finding the time to have a snack – a chocolate to be exact. (On these long flights I often take a chocolate bar or two). And later when things were quieter still, I hooked my feet over the foot rests and snoozed.
Oh, and would you believe, it was actually quite comfortable too…
Eureka! Wish you were here..!
I flew one of the interns this morning – in fact it was the first intern to go up in our little orange plane for the season. Karen is a beautiful brown eyed brunette. Originally from the eastern side of Australia, Brisbane, she got bored of her job as the Marine biologist for a popular tourist resort. The internship with the MCSS was a nice change in scenery, before she decides what to do next. Of course we had a great chat.
The weather was real border line. It put a certain ominous anticipation in our trip to the Airport. Even so, our conversation was light and easy. Then would you believe we got a flat tyre! It took a while to sort that out – the fact that we did not have a spare did not make things easier either. And then in my own way I pondered if God was perhaps giving me a sign that I should not be flying today… (Many times too I have told God that I am a thick skinned man and if he does not want me to do something to please hit me over the head with a large pole so that there can be no confusion! ) Of course all the time I was making light conversation with Karen. At the hangar it was drizzly but we went through the motions of preparing the plane – if we got a gap we could get up within just a few minutes. When it stopped drizzling some low level cumulus clouds whizzed over head at high speed but the wind was almost plum down the runway so up went.
Surprisingly it was rather good. The sun came out, the clouds parted and we had a clear run to the south. Once again, in my own way I relaxed knowing that God honored my usual request the other way round too. (If we were meant to go he would light the way:) Far to the south east the horizon was grey though. These rain clouds would not get to us in another hour at least. Of course Karen was overjoyed and who could blame her. Even I had that usual tinge of sincere appreciation of this work. It sure has its moments, often and then some!
At South point the wind turned on to nearly 30mph. No doubt those stormy clouds to our south east would be upon us a lot faster than I thought. Already they were just 10 miles away and looked pretty dark and intimidating – Karen had no objections to heading back earlier either. This is the nature of flying in Seychelles on those stormy and windy days. It does take a fair amount of experience to know the conditions and to judge just how far one can push it.
I let Karen fly back and like a seasoned champ she surfed the clouds and the rising winds.
“Just think of it as a surf board and ride it back home…” I said. Well, I just assumed she would know something about surfing coming from a coastal city in Australia. Either way, it worked and I took over just for the landing – the gauging water lines from the gust-front and driving rain just a mile or so away not even noticeable to her.
Safely in the hangar with smiles coming from the both of us, I realized that that was way too easy. Outside the rain was pouring down. Whether I had made it look easy or that God was looking out for us was not the point. Rather the fact that it was not easy at all. I pondered too the notion that perhaps I have become complacent. That perhaps others who look on could be deceived into thinking that this is easy…
God can be very subtle too. Perhaps tomorrow I’d better go to the airport with Neil…
Wish you were here..!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Neil has just taken off on his first solo flight around the island. I figured after three flights with him he knows enough to do it on his own. That is the best way to learn in any event. The winds are light. Looks like nothing more than 10 knots. The skies are over cast but with high cirrus clouds. There are a few scattered cumulus clouds around but nothing too threatening. It is perfect for him to go around and get the feel of the place on his own. He is a grown man and perfectly able to make his own decisions. (Well, so I argue anyway! ;) It is 10 in the morning and I expect him back by 11:30. So it’ll be a bit of a wait.
Here is another shot of Neil and I on our way back from spotting whale sharks in the north west corner of Mahé. Pretty spectacular hey! By the way it was just as a spectacular day. We found two aggregations of whale sharks feeding actively within two schools of bait fish. There were at least 8 sharks in each group. Neil loved their spots when we went down for his first closer look. Unfortunately I did not have my better camera with me so we did not get any pics… I will work on that!
Wish you were here!
Oh by the way, if you do like my blog and posts, please join the followers section. It makes a great change to know there is someone out there that is actually reading this stuff!
Neil loves the bats and the spiders. On our arrival while sitting in the open aired airport cafeteria at 9 in the morning, in broad daylight he sudden dropped his yaw and asked, “Am I just tired or did I just see a bat the size of dog flying past in broad daylight..?” He has not stopped his fascination.
Neil is a great help. Thank heavens he has some electronic training too – we made short work of some faulty connections of the intercom and the magg switches on the plane.
Our accommodation this year is in the old Beau Vallon flats. They have been used on a yearly basis but mainly for the general staff, interns and volunteers for the program. Last year I moved into the top of these flat but it was just for the last half of the program period. (In the beginning I lived in luxury. Air-conditioning, satellite TV, washing and cleaning services. What happened to that?) The two of us have moved into the bottom right side of the units. It is a two bedroomed flat with a lounge, kitchen, shower-bathroom and a nice balcony. Four of us are staying here. Yes. Gareth and his girlfriend Laura has one room and Neil and I are sharing the other. Certainly nothing wrong with sharing but certainly nothing wrong with wanting your own bedroom too… It sure is taking some getting used to getting my mind back to the army days of sharing a room. Thankfully Neil is a gentleman. Even if he snores occasionally (he warmed me about it – I too warned him of being pelted with anything within arm’s reach at the time too!) but it seems to working out ok.
Upstairs we have Caiara, Abi and Jenny. Caiara and Abi are old-timers to the program – this year they are team leaders, while Jenny is new and one of the interns.
The interns went out on the boat on Friday morning for the first time. Would you believe they found three whale sharks!? They had a fantastic time by the sounds of it and have been on a real high ever since. On Saturday night we had our official welcoming bash at David’s house. As usual he excelled with a great feast. I loved the ice-cream and his special homemade chocolate sauce. Out of all the years in Seychelles I met another interesting person. Laura (I never got her surname) but she is doing some research into the socio-economic changes within the nature reserve areas of a few Indian Ocean Islands. And if that was not enough she turned out to be a balloonist (I’m sure there is a word for that?) What a grand time we had. Would you believe that Neil worked for a Balloon operator when he was 16 for 6 months, chasing around the country side for him and never even got to go for a ride once? Is life not just like that!?
Wish you were here..!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Is one not supposed to feel better after such a blow off?
We have run into a problem with the renewal of our Authority to Fly. To help those that are not familiar with the workings of the civil aviation authorities let me try to explain it, briefly.
Every aircraft needs an annual inspection for airworthiness. This inspection must be done by a so called Approved Person or AP. The AP signs the forms which are sent to CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and after the aircraft owner has paid both the AP and the CAA, the CAA issues a certificate of airworthiness for the aircraft. In the case of the micro-light it is an Authority to Fly certificate. Our problem this year is that we have no AP person to do the inspection. Our plan was to use our good friend Peter who is a qualified AME (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer) but as it turned out, Peter does not have the appropriate rating (cloth and tubing rating). Unfortunately we only discovered that on Tuesday – the day after my arrival.
Of course, the back-up plan has always been to fly an AP out from South Africa but this was as a last resort only. It also meant that it was going to take a few days to get all that organized. In the meantime we are missing out on flying and surveying days which of course is making everybody edgy – especially David and me. (We are both ticked-off by the whole predicament…)
Our alternative was to ask special permission from the South African CAA to do the inspection – given my experience and that Peter has agreed to help (even though he is not cloth and tube rated). It was worth a shot but this in turn opened up more cans of worms. We needed to write motivational letters – agreements from Peter, formal flight permission letters from the Seychelles CAA giving us permission to fly in their air space (which though has always been openly accepted by the Seychelles CAA it has never been put in writing), proof of experience etc and all of these needed to be emailed to RAASA (Recreation Aviation Association of South Africa) who has been delegated by the SACAA to look after the airworthiness of micro-lights. RAASA in turn needs to have a board meeting and decide if we could do it or not. All of this of course takes time and it has been a difficult to decide which of the two options is the better - one is more expensive but a certainty (flying an AP out to Seychelles) the other is cheaper but not a certainty at all. To be honest, we didn’t even know when RAASA will make a decision nor if they even would say yes in the first place. It is small wonder we are stressed.
And if you did not follow one bit of that – don’t let it bother you. It’s just business and politics. Like me, I am sure you are interested only in the flying and whale sharks. J
In the meantime we have been doing loads of maintenance on the micro-light. It was quite necessary too. Surprisingly the wing is in great shape. We did a major inspection of her today and frankly did not even need to change one bolt. The undercarriage required some attention. Would you believe I discovered a smooth patch on the front tyre! (Pointed out by Peter!)
Wish you were here..!!!
Friday, August 27, 2010
Today Neil and I have done some good PR work. After the introduction to the new interns, including happy hugs from last years in-turns now turned group leaders, neil and I managed to get our flying show on the road. Visits to Airtel – reactivating the mobile, then Frankie from Air port security for the nec permits and permission to enter the appropriate gates and access to the airport grounds, Chatting to Donn about hangar permission and then, the real problem for the season. Visiting IDC and Peter. We need to ask Peter to do the AP inspection on our plane. He was not there so will give him a call. Person to person is so much better.
Afterwards we had a great chat and coffee with Glynis and David at their house. Got odds and ends of the plane – radios, intercoms, new prop blades etc. (Tom we will sort through all this.) We finished the day with a pizza at Baobab but would you believe they had no chilies!? This was almost sacrilege. But we endured and in the end it was the local brew, Seybrew that helped to finish the evening.
Old friends that shared the evening included Abi and Caiera. So it was a bit of a reunion…
Its lekker to be back!
Wish you were here! (Really!:)
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I met Neil a while ago. He is our new pilot that will be helping out this season. Understandably excited but surprisingly he arrived with just one small bag. (Oh yes, I expected the small spares box to be with him so even more of a surprise to me) But it seems he has decided to travel minimalistic - something I have never been able to do. Even if I vow to do so every time, next time. Neil's girlfriend, (Monique) was seemingly not impressed with him galavanting off so early on in their relationship. Apparently they only started dating 2 and a half months ago! Of course I know too that she will be on a flight to Sez in the not too distant future too! They both seem like a nice couple.
I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting the new gang. It all happens tommorrow!
Wish you were here! (Well, almost!;)
Monday, August 9, 2010
We have had the ussual roler coaster ride with gettign things organised for the whale shark season. one has to wonder what it is about the human race that can make life so difficult for themselves. It leaves me speachless to be honest. Simple things just needs to be made a big deal - people cant just do what they said they were going to do. Do you experience the same? I have no doubt you do. Of course I see the devil at work in all these things! ;)
Anyway, we are just about there with the organising of everything. A few minor (perhaps major but it depends how you look at it) still needs to be ironed out but I am sure it will come through.
Now I know I have just written like a politician. Wrote a lot of words but said nothing! No details... (Devils is int he details...) I will let you know a bit later. just not yet. Dont want ot annoy people at this stage of the game! ;)
Anyway, my internet time is up. Got to go!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
But we will keep you guys posted at least once a week about our progress. Please sign in and join the post that I will be sending out. Apparently it makes a difference in the "ratings". ;)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The adventure of living on a ship, flying over what can only be described as breath taking scenery everyday for a month is over. As is usual the hardships are forgotten and what remains are the good stuff. The pleasant memories that makes one want to return and do it all again. We did have great success. For Fred, John and Mick their flying adventures have really just begun as they embark, now unsupervised, on filling their bags with experience. This is were the real flying starts and we wish them lots of extra luck. (Remember that bag of luck story? The aim being to finish your flying career before your bag of luck runs out..?:) Other than the flying I can already say I miss Evelyn's cooking and Maria's friendly smile, doing laundry while the smell of softener lingers around your nose. For a bachelor like me that was a special treat...
The flight back home was another story. But I am here and already having dipped into our cold ocean with a spot of kite boarding. Needless, today I am sore and stiff from the exercise - def became even more unfit during the month on the ship but it is a step in the right direction.
Strangely, on this Wednesday I am filled with a sense of urgency to work. How strange...
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Today we are going to see if Fred can get there. He has been struggling a bit with those landing, which is the most difficult part of flight. Looking at the CCTV monitors the weather seems fine and the only excuse left must be his lovey girlfriend Maria. (I would be distracted too Fred! ;)
Mixed in with this sense of joy is some nostalgia. Our time on board the ship is coming to an end. Two weeks of mingling it up with the crew and they in turn having made us feel like part of the family makes it hard to say good buy. We got a SOS ships T-shirt which is cool. (The crew members wear them all the time). We will miss this time and the new friends we have made. Of course life on the island is just like that - people come and go. On the other hand, I am also so ready to go home too - I can not wait for that familiarity of my own bed! I start my journey home on Monday at lunchtime. It is going to be a long trip since this time round I fly to Mauritius first before connecting to Jhb. The end result is that I will only arrive back in Grg on Tuesday the 2nd (it must be the longest trip ever from Sez to SA!) Naturally I think it is worth it...
Friday, February 26, 2010
Flying around rain cells. There is good reason for the whites of Mike's eyes!
It was still a struggle to get up. 5 o clock is just not my cup of tea! The usual morning ritual followed – having a pee, washing the face, running hot water, shaving, showering – all in an effort to shed the comatosed state of those that have been deprived of sleep. Still, when I walked into the mess and greeted John there was undenyable effort to keep the eyes wide and bright. Even John looked the part – we were both longing for that sleep!
Every morning we wish for rain. It is not that we do not want to go flying, just that there is this desire to stay in bed longer – well at least till its light. This morning flashes of lightning greeted our eyes from the mess room. Even from the CCTV it was clearly visible without needing to go outside. Of course by now we were up and kind of awake. The feeling of being cheated enters the mind. I could have been sleeping. Then we would not have known it was thundery outside. Ofcourse, but maybe we could have looked first before going through the wake-up ritual. Even that would not have worked. Getting to the deck involves some stairs (effort) and it’s still too dark to see anything. One needed some light to see if the clouds were really threatening or not and by the time you can see that it is good you need to be at the airport to take advantage of the early morning air. Even with the signs of lightning one could not be too sure of its distance – the activity could be far away and flying at the airport quite good. No, the notion of being cheated is well grounded and for a moment it lingers in the mind.
We waited till 6:30. By his time it was light enough to see what’s going on. We walked out on deck and looked around. The sky was filled with CB cells. Big ones. A new one was developing over the airport and I could see the rain falling from its base clearly. The tops were billowing upwards at a healthy rate of knots. It’s an easy call. My bed is so snuggly and comforting…
The sun stroked the high clouds with dashes of pink, eluding the presence of some over development in places but it was still too dark to see clearly. When we arrived at the airport I could see there was some rain falling out to the north east but the wind was light and we had at least an hour or two of flying time. I manged to coax Fred into the early morning session, which was tough. He is the only one on board with a girlfriend and I could see he did not like the idea of being pried away from those lovely comforting arms in the early hours of the morning, especially for the stress of having to land and not dying. In the beginning Fred did his best to try and kill us on a number of occasions. In fact even now he reminds the two of us of that hidden tendency lurking in that muddled student brain. It is the kind of lurking that keep us flight instructors pondering the wonders of desk jobs... But for some inexplicable reason we keep doing it. (Maybe because we need the money!;)
And so it is with John and Fred. That lurking killer. Ever present. Making us work for our money. That is why I am, once again, so tired. Or it could just be the 5 o clock starts. ;)
We got grounded 3 times during the day because of CB cells. They were moving in from the North East and very well marked so we could judge it well when to quite and go and land. One actually had a weak gust front that made the students take note. I guess all good in the training process. At lunch time one large cell was overhead the island and rumbled away in deep resonating pleasure. We were starving and since we were heading to the ship for some of Evelyn's great meals it all sounded good.
Tommorrow is another fiver for me and John. I hope to see some more progress. (It has been there but slow in coming. ;) Guess then it is time to turn in...
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Finally it rains! Mike and I are relieved - it means i is a rest day. Ha! That is a mistake. Fly we might not have but rest we did not. It was lecture time and we set some brains on the boil stuffing them with lots and lots of new information - all about weather and navigation and other interesting bits of air law. It was 3 hours of the stuff in the morning. then lunch. Then another three hour session of navigation in the afternoon (which was more like 4 hours!). Every now and then I would walk out to check on the weather (there are these cool CCTV circuits on the big screen so we can see what the weather is doing) just to make sure that the CCTV monitors were not lying. There was a slow drizzle all day. But it did mean we got home earlier. No need for sunset flights with late pack ups. I actually hope for good weather so we can fly. The students need more experience before we leave - we only have 5 days left...
Will keep you posted!
Monday, February 22, 2010
The weather has been unusually fine. We have had no rain and the winds have been light to moderate north westerly all the time. The flying around the runway is very enjoyable with a mix of turbulence and smooth areas - great for giving the pilots exposure to a variety of conditions. But Mike and I are both tired. For this reason I am going to sign off and go to bed.