Fort Dodge, Oshkosh--they were great fun, but the 2005 Georgian Bay
SeaRey Gaggle was about to begin, and it was time to move on.
Sunday, 31 July, 2005, I flew north to Beaver Island, in the north end
of Lake Michigan.
On the way I stopped at Shawano, Wisconsin, at 3W0
(which has a water runway as well as pavement), hoping to meet up with
my old army buddy,
Tom Rudesill, whom I hadn't seen in um 48 years. Alas, it didn't
work out--for the second year in a row. But here's a photo that
Tom took with my camera a long time ago in a country far away:
We worked together, Tom and I, at A-33, an army aircraft maintenance
depot in Korea, repairing aircraft radios. For nearly a year I
slept in the bunk above his. One day I asked if his ancestors had
come from Italy. He laughed and said he was full-blooded
Menominee (I think) and I was damned lucky he hadn't scalped me
yet. He was the gentlest, kindest, most thoughtful guy I knew
We often hiked in the barren hills surrounding the airfield, and one
day we met a farmer trudging along with his A-frame. He let us
try it on and we gave him a pack of cigarettes in return. At that
time, all of the trees had been cut for fuel, and even the grass went
for fuel as quickly as it grew.
I knew another G.I. in Korea who used to brag how he had stuck a lit
cigarette through a pack of matches to make a time fuse and flipped it
out of a deuce-and-a-half onto a huge load of straw that a farmer was
carrying along on his A-frame. He seemed to think that was really
Here's a recent photo of Tom, cropped from a group shot that he sent me
Maybe next year...
All right. Onward now-- north to Beaver Island, in the north end
of Lake Michigan, about halfway between Manistique and Charlevoix,
I crossed the lake, about 30 statute miles, in rather thick haze,
keeping low enough to see the
water looking almost straight down. Otherwise it would have been
hard to tell which was was up. It would have been No. Fun. At.
in a landplane, but in the SeaRey it merely required a little
care--because if the engine had quit it would have been easy to set
down on the lake and use the marine radio to find help.
This is looking west (the next day), back toward Wisconsin, from the
the house of John and Sandy Gerrish--whom Carol and I first encountered
when we were neighbors in Lagos, Nigeria, back in 1963. The land
on the horizon is another island. The mainland is another 25
nautical miles beyond it.
who were watching the sun set that evening:
John and Sandy, flanked by the first violin (Barbara? sorry--not
sure now), and some guy who's better left unnamed. (The camera
took the picture all by itself.) The first violin was a first
violin in a concert the previous evening. John played stand-up
bass viol and Sandy, flute. Their granddaughter, Harriet (Deborah
and Mark's daughter), played violin, as well. I had the best part
of all--second row listener.
Lest you think this was some kind of family amateur night, you had
better know that young Harriet is very
good and that most of the other 30 or so musicians are professionals
and most had been brought there just for the concert. Beaver
Island is a rare place indeed!
...saying, as I recall, "Do-on
Don't you dare
take a picture
And John (contemplating a possible alternative to the 2 hour ferry ride
And he built it all with his Swiss Army knife! (No, no.
Actually, that raft is a joint project with the grandchildren.)
From Beaver Island I flew to the Michigan mainland and then southeast
to Port Huron, north of Detroit, where I filed a flight plan for
Sarnia, Ontario, just across the river, and (after some difficulty) got
a transponder squawk code from a controller at Selfridge ANGB (used to
be Air Force Base, now National Guard).
I'd been across that river many times by ferry, but this was my first
crossing in my own airplane--and I was somewhat anxious about it.
I had my pilot certificate, my medical certificate, my birth
certificate, and all of the required papers for the airplane--even the
radio license that the Canadians say is required there. (It's no
longer required in the US.) The two young Canadian customs
agents--a boy and a girl-- Well, they seemed very
young. hardly bothered
to look at the papers, but they did peer into all the crevices and
crannies of the airplane. They also allowed me to get out of it
while they were peering. Finding no contraband, they got bored
quickly and let me remain in the country.
And then--there was Carol. She had been visiting her sister, Jo,
and Jo's husband, Tom Schultz, who live in Wallaceburg, only about 30
km south of Sarnia.
Now, here's the one part of the whole trip that I'm sorry about.
I like Jo and Tom a lot, but we hardly had time to say hello and
goodbye before Carol and I had to take off for Midland, Ontario, on the
Georgian Bay--to ensure that we'd arrive there before sunset.
Midland was the staging point for the 2005 Georgian Bay SeaRey
Gaggle. A whole bunch of us stayed at the Best Western in town
and based our SeaReys at the airport. The Gaggle lasted most of
the week, and we made several sorties around the Bay.
Georgian Bay? What--you've never been there? It has the
clearest, cleanest, most inviting water in all of the Great
Lakes. The rockiest, too--but that just makes it all the more
beautiful. Here's the Gaggle beached in a secluded cove for lunch:
One of the three minor SeaRey mishaps of the trip happened there--but
showed up at the beach below. When I throttled back to land, the
engine wouldn't slow down below a low cruising rpm. After one
go-around, I managed to get it dowdn on the water by switching off the
magnetos--the ignition. On the beach (below) I found that the
throttle arm of one carburetor had been bent inward so that it jammed
against another part, keeping it from closing. How did that
happen? I never found out--but suspect that someone must have
lost his or her balance while wading during lunch and fell against the
throttle arm. It was an interesting little adventure.
Follow the leader! There are three SeaReys ahead of me, down low.
This was dubbed "The Hole In The Wall." We flew through it at
about 20 feet altitude, where it was probably two wingspans wide.
After the Gaggle Carol and I stayed with the Gaggle organizer, John
his wife Ellen in Shelburne, Ontario, northwest of Toronto.
Then John and Carol and I flew to Dave and Lynn Edward's place near
Picton, right on Lake Ontario. Here we are, approaching Dave's
The Edward's house, on Turtle Cove, an arm of Lake Ontario, near
The Turtle Cover "Gaggle" at dinner--Lynn Edward, Carol, Don, Dave
Edward, John Dunlop, Dave King, Carol King.
Carol took the train back to her sister's and I flew east toward the
This is Boldt Castle. Someone told me the history of it, but
mainly it's just a really cool-looking place. You can see it at
water level from the town of Alexandria Bay, NY.
From there I was on a pilgrimmage--to Hammondsport, New York, where
Glenn Curtiss flew the world's first amphibious seaplane on Keuka Lake,
one of the Finger Lakes. I wanted to visit the Curtiss museum
and, well, just to settle in for a while on the waters of the lake and
see if I could maybe get some feeling of how Curtiss might have felt
about flying seaplanes there.
I flew south
down the lake at about 200 feet. The lake is shaped like a
Y. This is looking toward the stem, with the west branch behind
the hill to the right. Hammondsport is around the bend at the
center, at the very bottom of the Y.
I landed on the water, lovered the landing gear, and taxied up onto a
beach. A few people came over to talk about the airplane--and
then suddenly this lovely Lazair ultralight appeared overhead and began
turning tight circles.
landed and the pilot taxied to shore to have a chat. It turned
out that he was Dale Kramer--THE Dale Kramer, the designer
of the Lazair.
Lazairs are legal ultralights--but they have two engines, an inverted-V
tail, and transparent skin. They were sold as a kit until the
mid-'80, when the insurance problem put Kramer and Cessna and most
other manufacturers out of the small airplane business.
Kramer asked what I was doing there. I told him about the
pilgrimage. He invited me to fly back up the lake three miles to
his house--said he'd drive me to the museum.
Well! Of course!
So in a few minutes, the SeaRey was drawn up on the beach in front of
the Kramers' house, with the Lazair anchored just offshore.
A few minutes later I was flying the Lazair--and what fun! It
handled easily and intuitively, and the twin 18 hp engines gave it
enough power to climb at probably 500 feet per minute, although that's
only a guess because the only instrument on the Lazair was a simple
airspeed indicator. It was a lovely experience--flying as close
as is possible
That evening Dale, Carmen, her father and sister took me along for a
dinner cruise on the Keuka Queen, and I slept in their RV.
The next morning we visited the museum--and saw, among many other
things, this lovely old mahogany Curtiss seaplane:
And visited the museum's restoration workshop. Here's an early
20th century airplane builder's toolkit, with Kramer and a museum
And something you don't find in just any museum--parts for Curtiss'
June Bug and the famous WW I Jenny.
Finally I had to take my leave of Hammondsport and head south toward
Richmond. The weather was quite hazy again, making the flying
over the mountains, but I managed to see this in south central
Here it is again, with some of the haze filtered out:
I'd driven through that tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike many
times, but had never been able to imagine this view of it before--had
no idea that the ridge was so steep and sharp on top. Flying
really does change your perspective.
By the way, did you figure out in Part 1 what has five eyes and runs
Yes? Okay! Then you realized that it's misleading to write
that joke. It's easier
when you just say it. Now (with that hint in mind): What's the longest
pencil in the world?
And so I got back home again, 2400 nautical miles better off than when
I left, three weeks earlier.
Apology: I've left out most
of the trip, a lot
fun, and many
interesting people whose company I enjoyed. Sorry! This is
already far too long for any web page, and besides, it's time to get
ready for another trip.
Go back to Part 1. (Opens in its own window. This
window will stay open, too, to economize on bandwidth.)
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