April 7, 2009
Over the water once again.
It was a gorgeous, warm afternoon when I landed today in Seattle from St. Paul. I knew I’d be palming my camera for the flight back north to the island, as opposed to my flight out five days earlier through dense, sleety fog that inspired only a propeller-drone accompanied cat nap.
That trip down was a textbook example of how I’ve gotten used to literally flying by the seat of my pants living up here: it was April 1st and actually SNOWING over the islands all morning. This kind of weather is why I took the 6am ferry and shuttle all winter (thanks, John!) instead of risking iffy flights, but you’d think things would be safe by April. Nope. I was booked on a noon seaplane. Those don’t fly instrument-only and are grounded in bad weather with low visibility. Knowing this, I called in around 11:10 am to see if the plane was going to be canceled. I had a chamber music performance class to coach at Cornish College of the Arts at 2pm.
My schedule mattered not to the aircraft gods, who grounded the seaplane at the very last minute (or, uh, watered it). I immediately called the Friday Harbor airport to see if their fixed wheel equipment was going out. It was. It was leaving in nine minutes. I insisted I would be there.
Amazingly, I was. Charles and I grabbed my roll-on and coat and flung them and ourselves into the car. Speeding is not an option in Friday Harbor, largely because although there is virtually no traffic, there will always be one truck in front of you sauntering down the road leading to the airport with as much urgency as a snail on Quaaludes. Plus, in a tiny town where lots of people actually know you, your face, your vehicle, or all three, it’s just really poor form to cut people off, weave around them, race a stop sign or imperil cute furry animals by speeding. This is what Los Angeles is for, after all.
I rushed into the little building that they call a terminal, and at first saw no plane at all. Well, there was a tiny little thing with wings sitting there, but that could not have been the plane. Wrong. It was a mini-me version of the plane they usually fly for these trips. It actually seated at least eight people, but the “aisle” between the seats was… about 8 inches wide. Good thing most passengers bathed that morning. The cheery pilot greeted me and took my roll-on. I shoe-horned myself into a seat and off we went.
I arrived at Boeing air field, shuttled back up to Lake Union where I was supposed to have landed all along, and got to Cornish in plenty of time. Phew. Had a terrific time with colleagues at lunch and the student ensembles during the afternoon. I was happy to have been able to make it by a hair.
I’ve come to view my little tales of white-knuckle schedule shifts that prevent one from leaving the island when they need to, as a public service to my community: they help limit the hoards of people who, upon seeing the photos I post of this idyllic paradise, might seriously consider actually moving here. Until they read stories like this one, and this one. Then they snap to their senses and the population of the bridge-less San Juan Islands remains at a microscopic count. If you happen to live here too, now you can thank me for scaring everyone off.
Thus was my ordeal on April 1st. Apparently, the Universe decided to reward me five days later, because today I hit the puddle jumper jackpot on my return flight. There were just two passengers: myself, and a gentleman who lives on Orcas Island. We were stopping there first. I loved hearing this, because the flight path to Eastsound takes us over Lopez and past endless atolls and unrecognizable floating lumps of green, one such lump being where my house is (see green arrow). It’s spectacular:
As the Orcasian deplaned, I suddenly reverted to my 9-year-old child self and felt an overwhelming urge to make the last leg of the flight in the co-pilot’s seat. When the pilot returned I asked him if I could join him up there, and next thing I knew I was strapping myself into a contraption that would have secured me tightly enough for a space shuttle launch, much less a gentle landing at Friday Harbor airport. I was in heaven! I don’t think I could get the huge grin off my face the entire flight, and I wished it was a much longer distance between the two islands. For all the many, many puddle jumper flights I’ve taken the past two years living here, even those where I sat in the seat directly behind the pilot, this was just fantastic. I don’t have any intention of getting my own pilot’s license, largely because I think I’d have such a great time looking at everything that I’d space out and forget something important, like, uh, fuel levels. But my Walter Mitty moment was a real highlight with which to start another action-packed week.
Headed in for our landing…
From the air to the sea: the scene from my window at lunch, minutes later.