Episode 36: On to Ottawa

Robbi 1 Comment

As I rolled over in my warm and toasty sleeping bag, I became aware of a low roaring…. Doug! What is that noise?? I kept expecting to hear the full blown airplane start up, as had happened about 6:00 am the morning before. You see, we were camped out next to the taxiway at the Greenville Airport…a veritable tent city, complete with a cacophony of snoring,coupled with the sounds of civilization- what a change from the absolute quiet and solitude of sleeping on the beach of a remote lake in Canada just 24 hours before. Then came a screech of wheels and a clank of a car door. “Coffee anyone?” asked the now familiar voice of our “Maine” man, our shuttle driver, Michel. It was 6:45 am and within 45 minutes, we had dressed and packed up our tents, sleeping bags, and camera gear and loaded them into the extra large van and headed off through the misty morning toward town and …food! We wouldn’t be taking off too soon, if the fog didn’t lift.

The site of our previous morning’s delicious repast, Auntie M’s, was too crowded this morning, so Michele whisked us off for a lovely drive through this charming town to The Landing, a quaint spot on the west shore. Once satiated, with the fog still too low to depart, the ladies passed the time by visiting the craft fair, which seemed to have magically appeared since yesterday, while the guys spent more time on the phone getting weather reports and re-setting customs rendezvous times. The town was a-buzz with seaplane lovers of all ages and after some announcements , our pilots Doug and Mark waxed eloquent, while interviewed about the GAAA adventure on the announcer’s stand.

By now, it was 11:00 and the much ballyhooed seaplane/canoes races were about to begin. Now, I must admit, I wasn’t too disappointed about our departure delay, as I was quite curious about this local competition. It went like this: There were teams of 2, a seaplane (The first up was a Cessna 185) and a canoeist. Timing began as they both set out from the dock; the roar of the Cessna engine as it drug the heavy craft through the water, a juxtaposition to the quiet swiftness of the canoe, both pressing toward the small dock anchored in the middle of the lake. Once there, the pilot jumped out and helped the canoeist strap the canoe onto the float, both jumped back into the plane, roared toward the next buoy, cut the engine to idle, did a 180 around the buoy, put in full power and raced back toward the dock . They must then dock the plane and take the canoe off the float, before the timing was complete. The time for the first team was 3 minutes, 19 seconds! Whew! …the tension…!!!

Unfortunately, our schedule calling, we had to depart before watching the other contestants. We departed to the south in formation, banked to the right and did a 180 ourselves, to do a low pass over the crowd in thanks for their great hospitality. What a great town! What genuine and gracious people! This is one place we all hope to return…soon.

It was Norma’s turn to fly right seat, so I sat behind Doug with the lens of the Nikon against the window. Incredibly, the trees are turning to autumn colors in this latitude and had changed dramatically since our passage through , just 2 days ago.. The forested hills became rolling plains of farmland, and as I snapped continuously the many hues and textures which sped beneath me, I pondered my great fortune at being able to experience what relatively few will ever see and how lucky I am to be able to share a part of this adventure with my partner and my best friend. Ah, what an incredible way to see this beautiful country!

We crossed back into Canada and around 2:30, where we reached the point of our customs clearing on the Richelieu River, just north of Lake Champlain, where Quebec meets the States of New York and Vermont. We landed on the water and spotted the flying Canadian flag, as we watched several sailboats jockeying for position around the dock. Like well-trained Americans, we taxied into the que, this, apparently, being a foreign idea to several of the boaters. At length, as we drifted a few hundred yards away, Mark “nosed” his Beaver in to the bulkhead, there being no seaplane friendly dock, and customs was cleared without much effort. So little effort in fact, that I was not given my bio-break as promised…. Desperation breeds creativity and … well…I promise to wash your water bottle really well, Jim!

Another hour of flying,and we crossed the St. Lawrence River and winged our way up the Ottawa River where we were met at the dock by our hosts for the next 36 hours, Dave O’Malley and John Longair of the Vintage Wings of Canada Museum. Doug says one can never see too many aviation museums,,, tomorrow we’ll see two.

We’re staying in a nice hotel for the next few nights and trying to readjust to the social norms of civilization. For Norma and I, the transition is pretty easy. We’ve only been with the GAAA a week, for the guys, especially Mark and Doug a feeling of “I don’t quite belong here” seemed to ring universally true. I wonder how long it took Roald Amundsen or John Rae after being gone for months, years to feel “normal” again???? Maybe, after experiences like this, you never do….

From co-ordinates – N45 27 49 W75 38 45

Rockcliffe SPB, CTR7

Robbi-I-fell-off-the-float- DeVries

The shout-out goes to Rodney Folsom, the fuel-master back in Greenville, Maine,( pumps-yeah!) and to our friends and family –thanks for all your support!