Thursday, June 12, 2008

Keeping afloat

I wonder if every new boat owner has the same uneasy thought of going to the dock to find only the top of a mast sticking out of the water? I had almost talked myself into riding out to the marina today just to check and even took a set of boat keys with me to work. But airplane problems intervened and I spent the day first, trying to figure out why both main tires on the Citation were trashed and second, how I could get them replaced in time to cover the trips coming up. As it turned out yesterday’s commuter like schedule, with a couple of very short trips and very fast turns in the Gulf coast heat simply overwhelmed tires that were near the end of their service life anyway. Never getting a chance to cool and subjected to multiple long taxi routes in both Gulfport and New Orleans the tires simply overheated, shed layers of too soft rubber and scorched their way through to the cords. Thirty plus years I have been around airplanes and this is the first time I’ve managed to fry a set of tires simply by working them too hard; learn something new every day.

Most of tomorrow will be spent having technicians drive in from Alton to jack the airplane and replace the tires. So we can’t plan on making it to the boat until Saturday morning. I guess if it hasn’t sunk by now it will still be floating a couple of mornings from now. I know I turned off the batteries and closed the thru-hulls, but I think I’m going to need to write an airplane-like checklist I can have on the boat. Something I can look over both before pulling out of the dock and before leaving the boat behind. After more than 3 decades pilot habits will not be broken.

While at the office this morning, and for the second time in as many weeks, I got word that a friend had passed. Ken was another friend from the airport with whom I had flown on many occasions. He had a stroke last night and died this morning. There are probably not two middle-aged white guys anywhere who are more opposite then Ken and I. He was ex-military (Vietnam Vet), pro-gun, conservative, religious, and to my way of thinking both a bit sexist and a little intolerant. But I considered him a friend. He was also a superb craftsman and artist. He had a Piper Cub dressed up in its military uniform as a L4 that we flew many times. The airplane was as perfect as any I have seen and Ken was as good a Cub pilot as there can be found anywhere. One of the rare times when I actually used my CFI was giving Ken his biennial flight reviews in his beloved Cub. It was both a huge amount of fun and a complete waste of time. He could, on demand and in nearly any wind, land that thing on any spot and on either wheel, out of a full wall-banger of a slip or at the end of most gentle of glides, three-point or wheel, power off or power on. I doubt that airplane will ever be flown that well again. He was also in the process of building a Fokker Tri-Plane replica. The fuselage and wing work are pure art. Ken will never finish that project, a sad and pointed reminder that we do not set the margins of our lives, neither the start nor the end. But we do set the limits.

By buying Nomad Deb and I decided not to wait but to move the limits of our lives, just a little, while we had the chance. To learn a new thing or two, see a new place, look at the world from sea level rather then the flight levels. This evening, knowing full well that we can plan for tomorrows but can’t make promises for them, I am pretty content with having taken the chance to buy the boat. The trick now is to enjoy every moment, every wave, every time we leave the dock and every time we return, to keep it afloat as long as I can.

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