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


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.


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..?


You bet ya! :)

Wish you were here!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lemon Sharks

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!