Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Fill in the Blanks

Picking up where I left off, I did indeed spend much of the summer in Scotland. I changed my return flight once again, and cancelled my checkride for my commercial pilot license (CPL), vowing I would reschedule when the time was right, and that this would be just a temporary deferment. Looking back, it's hard to believe how many memories to last a lifetime I made in those few weeks.

Part of the accommodations at HebHostel
On Calum's suggestion, and in exchange for cleaning and changing of beds, I spent my first couple of weeks in Stornoway based at the family-owned HebHostel in the center of town. It proved to be an excellent starting point, as Christine and her family are enthusiastic hosts who love to help any hostel guest or volunteer get involved in local activities.
Evening row aboard Manisiadar, Lews Castle
It was in this way that I became involved with Falmadair, a local group involved in preserving traditional boats and sailing on the island.  I was introduced to a few local sailors and rowers, and shortly after found myself out rowing on an almost daily basis, and eventually partaking on a coastal trip aboard the last traditional working Sgoth, Jubilee, built for the silver jubilee of King George V in 1935, and is the last surviving sgoth Niseach, a Ness-type skiff, that participated in the once prosperous Hebridean line fishing industry.
Jubilee and a few of the skiffs in Crosbost

It was while walking back to the hostel from one of these evening rows that I noticed a guy on a motorcycle trying to get my attention. He drove past, and a minute later intercepted me at another street corner.  After removing his helmet, I finally realized it was my new friend Billy the weaver. We talked a short while, and he mentioned a local music festival known as Stromash was taking place the following weekend, and that I should maybe check it out. You know, only if I wanted. Wasn't a big deal. Whatever.
Volunteering at HebCelt 2018

I had in fact arrived in the Hebrides at a great time, as summer festivities were just getting into full-swing.  I attended the Stromash, not surprisingly bumping into Billy once again. And the following weekend was HebCelt, a Celtic music festival held each July on the castle grounds for the past 23 years.  I volunteered in exchange for a free weekend pass, and somehow managed to convince Billy to join me there too.
Calum, Donnie, Billy and I, HebCelt



It wouldnt be long before I found myself, more often than not, making myself at home in Billy's loom shed. Joey and Luna, siblings from the local cat rescue, didn't seem to mind sharing the sunny spot on their couch. (Which reminds me, I'll have an Effie update for everyone soon, but I'll leave that for the next blog.)

captivated audience

By late July, after Billy had initially wooed me with a date to a cemetery, followed by the music festivals, camping trips, walks on the moor, and charity shop scrounges, I knew why I had come to Lewis.  I had to experience it for myself to believe it could be true, and now I know how it feels to know forever could never be long enough. So much from my past all seems a bit silly now, though it all had a place in the process to bring me to where I am now. It's a life I certainly didn't see coming when I boarded the plane in West Palm in early June. In the near future, entries in this blog may not be focused so much on sailing, or flying, but they will at least be sticking with the uncharted theme.

Catching the last bus home
Camping in Glen Etive, en route to Runrig

I knew full well the time was drawing near when I would have to return to America and re-schedule my checkride to complete my CPL. I was pretty determined and single-minded that my first aviation job would be as an aerial survey pilot, and with many of the primary hiring deadlines being October, I decided I should be on my way back to Florida by mid-August. But not before one final hurrah... 

Runrig's Last Dance at Stirling Castle
I became one of the lucky ones to be in the crowd of 25,000 for what would be Runrig's final performance, after 45 years together.  Though I only knew a handful of their songs, and had not been a life-long follower of the band, it was an emotional evening all the same. I was sad I'd allowed them to drop off my radar since living in Scotland back in 2004. I had actually only realized in the final hours that fellow Nova Scotian Bruce Guthro was the current lead singer band, and had been since the late 1990s. After the concert, I felt sorry for all I had missed out on over the years, and that it was really over.

Typical windy day in the Outer Hebrides
The following day, it was time for Billy and I to say bye for now. Nothing was yet etched in stone, but I did know two things: soon I was going to be a commercial pilot, and someday soon I would be coming back home.


Upon arriving in Florida, I did a few refresher flights with one of my favorite instructors, Nancy. With various roadblocks still standing between me and a checkride being conducted in Florida, it seemed much easier to drive 1500 miles to Maine (where life is the way it should be) and try to schedule with the lone FAA-designated Examiner in the State.

And on September 19th, in Sanford, Maine, 19 months after my first solo flight, I became a Commercial Pilot. 😃

With an abundance of applications for relatively few positions in the world of aerial survey, I knew a certain amount of luck might be involved in landing one of these gigs, no matter how qualified I may have felt.  I agreed with Billy that I could apply for these various companies just as easily from the loom shed in Scotland as I could from North America.  Within a few days of arriving back in Stornoway, I had an invitation for an interview with a company in New York.  I was now not only a commercial pilot, I was an employed commercial pilot.

Accepting the job would mean close to 9 months apart, which was far from ideal, but I knew what I had to do. With his unwavering support to pursue my flying dreams, and a nice visit last month in Maryland to help break up the time apart, I have just 2 months left before I go home. And I'll go with hundreds of additional flight hours in my logbook, which has opened many doors to future job possibilities, along with months of invaluable experience that has taken me from New York to Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Iowa.

The future is full of possibilities, and I have so many plans when I return to Scotland.

Oops, my mistake. From now on, I'll have to make that WE.

💙