Saturday, April 9, 2016

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Altitude

My original plan of going start-to-finish, Private to Commercial in 6 months or less, has not exactly gone as planned. But then, what in my life ever has? While it was a disconcerting realization that I would not be able to reach my goal in the time I allotted myself, it was slightly less distressing than realizing the artist I’ve been happily singing along to for weeks is actually Justin Bieber.

I have opted to embrace my setbacks as just part of my journey; as how I’m meant to experience the road to becoming a pilot, instead of pushing against a brick wall expecting it to move.

I have already met the best people, and isn’t that what it’s all about? From some very inspiring gal pilots (Melissa, Kimberly, Beth, Myra, just to name a few), to some great times with my instructor Brian at North Perry, to all the other fun people who are only in my life right now as a result of my flying endeavor (Klaus, Rick, Pretti) I have no reason to regret these delays. I'm sure I will look back fondly on these days as some of the best; I have some wonderful memories in the bank for when I’m old and grey.

One of these friends is someone I met a couple of years ago, but have only had the pleasure to become better acquainted with very recently. He owns a flight school in Maine. And as a result, I have decided to sail Annie Laurie to Maine.

First flight in a taildragger!
An Austrian who learned much of his American dialect in Maine (lobstah!), Klaus is actually my original inspiration for becoming a pilot.  Following a boat delivery from Antigua to Maine in spring 2013, Klaus was hired by the owner of the boat to fly my crewmate to Nova Scotia, and then to drop me off outside Boston.  I was impressed with his piloting skills, as we landed at Halifax International on a typical Nova Scotian spring day (the fog was so thick, I didn’t see the runway until the wheels were actually touching it).  He was flying his Beechcraft Duchess that day, and he allowed me to take the controls on the way south.  From that moment, I knew it was only a matter of when, not if, I would become a pilot.

My reasons for Maine are twofold, as I am still actively looking for a buyer for Annie Laurie, and what better place to find a buyer for a classic wooden boat than along the coast of Maine? And I’ll be glad to escape the southern heat, and the extreme weather summer could bring.  Which reminds me, I don’t think I mentioned the tornado that came through the anchorage in Fort Lauderdale, did I?

It was a rude awakening. Around 7AM, the day after my birthday, I was still in bed when I heard the wind begin to roar.  I assumed it was ‘just a squall’, and hesitated to even bother getting up to look out the window. Then I remembered I had new neighbours anchored fairly close to me, so I got up to make sure if one of us dragged anchor, we wouldn’t be on a collision course.  Almost as soon as I stood up, the boat was knocked down.  Books flew off the shelf, my toaster oven landed on my shins, and all my undone dishes smashed to the floor.  It was a WTF moment, and as the boat gradually righted herself, I jumped on deck to watch my new neighbours drag past me, about a boat-length away.  Then, I realized I was dragging too, in the direction of a concrete seawall.  The rain was torrential and the wall of wind so solid, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I went below to switch my battery switch over to my starter battery for the engine. On my way to the switch, the boat was knocked down again, this time on the other tack, and it took an excruciatingly long time (say, 20 seconds?) to right herself.  For a moment, I didn’t think she would, and my mind raced with contingency plans. What could I possibly do? Nothing.  There was absolutely nothing I could do but hope for the best.  My dinghy James was tied-up midships, and the boat had fallen on top, submerging him (with a bow and stern line tied to the mothership, he didn’t actually sink).  When she finally did right herself, I scrambled on deck again in the driving wind and rain, started the engine, and motored for no less than 15 minutes, with the anchor still down, just trying not to drag any closer to the seawall.  When it was finally over, I was so drenched and cold, I thought my teeth were going to break from chattering so hard.  Then I heard my phone ringing down below.

My neighbor Monica was calling, asking if I was okay.  I was in shock, I suppose. I couldn’t even answer her question.  The only thing I remember uttering was, “Monica, what the fuck just happened”.  That was indication enough to her that I was indeed okay, and she informed me of the extent of damage in her end of the anchorage.   I looked out beyond the gas cans, paddles, cockpit cushions and life jackets bobbing around in the now relatively calm lake, and there I finally saw that a catamaran was capsized, and a trawler had sunk. 

 Annie Laurie suffered no damage except some broken glass down below; my nerves were far more shattered than the glass.  Now, winds of 15 knots or more in the anchorage cause my hands to shake and my breathing to shallow. I think I have a mild case of PTSD after that morning.

So, it is with much trepidation that I plan my final northward journey with Annie Laurie.  Weather being what it is, and with so much experience behind me and therefore extensive knowledge of what could go wrong, I’m honestly not looking forward to the trip.  But, as fearful as I might be, I have no doubt it’s exactly what I should be doing.  However long it takes, and whatever route I end up going, one thing is for sure: it is bound to be an adventure.