I was so busy most of December preparing for the holidays that I didn’t get out flying much. Yesterday I finally remembered my two flying goals for this year — log as many flights as Tyson and get up to 40 hours for the year. At the beginning of December, I was 5 hours short of the second goal. That’s two flights to Maine. So yesterday, I flew to Maine.
It was windy. So windy in fact that I rejected Brunswick, which had hiking trails nearby, because of a strong crosswind. Instead I flew to Rockland where the wind was straight down the runway. The next problem, was the cold. On the ground, temperatures were falling from a morning low of 33F down to 20F. Up at where I was at 3,500 feet, it should be ten degrees colder. The heater was barely noticeable over the draft. I was a little icicle by the time I landed.
The wind was blowing 14 to 25 knots down the runway, as expected. The landing was easy. Then when I taxied right off the runway, I noticed my tail kept trying to lift up. Puzzled, I double checked all my controls. Then I remembered way back to my tailwheel training where I had been taught to “climb into the wind” and “dive away from the wind” when taxiing. I had done it mechanically for a while, and then gotten out of the habit because it never made a difference. It was nifty to finally experience the airplane responding to elevator position on the ground.
Tying the airplane down was no piece of cake either. For one thing I was still frozen, even after donning another jacket from my pack. For another, the wind kept spinning my plane around every time I let go of it. I was very glad we keep tie down ropes and chocks in the plane. I was not at all glad that the tie down anchor was deep in a puddle. I won the wrestling match and got the plane tied and chocked, and fueled. I paid inside and paused to warm up. The attendant there agreed it was cold. But not as cold, he said, as it typically is this time of year. He said it’s always this windy.
I wanted to see the ocean. And, I have to admit, like many people during this pandemic year, I have daydreamed of buying a vacation home in Maine. So I headed off down the road towards Owls Head park to see what I could see. I made it as far as Crescent Beach. The main road passed brushy woods, lobster households, and old New England farm houses. At the turn off to Crescent Beach, the scenery changed to close packed beach houses and grass yards. The beach itself was a proper Maine beach with cobblestones and some muddy sand near the water. I drank my hot chocolate and watched a seagull drop a muscle on the rocks. Offshore, two small islands glowed in the amber light.
The problem with the amber light, is it meant it was past time to head home. By the time I got back to the airport, the sun was behind the trees. My tie down rope puddle had a solid layer of ice on top. I bundled up with more jackets and my fleece pants. The first half of the flight home was glorious. I was still warm. And the sunset was amazing. It was a perfectly smooth gradient from brilliant red to midnight blue. The colors reflected off the ocean. I spotted a bright planet. If I turned around, I could see the full moon. The Portland city lights and neighborhood Christmas lights came on. And then, about a half hour from home, the sunset faded, and I started turning into an icicle again.
The last funny thing happened as I was approaching Manchester, about 25 nautical miles from home. Air traffic control (ATC) vectored me 20 degrees to the left. Then, in quick succession, they gave directions to a UPS cargo plane. I could see it blinking off to my right. Next ATC directed another large plane. And then they said something like “N61AW caution wake turbulence. You will be following a 737 in to land.” My first thought was that I must have misheard the N number, because there was no way anything big enough to make wake turbulence could land at Brookline. However, no one else acknowledged the notice, so I asked on the radio if that last transmission was for N61AW. ATC confirmed it was. I informed the controller that I was landing Brookline not Manchester. At that point, the controller told me to resume heading on course.
The weather forecast is for rain tomorrow, so that’ll have been my last flight of the year. I didn’t quite make either goal. Tyson did 48 flights. I made it up to 38.1 hours and 44 flights.