John & Anne Wiley

2013/03/12

Dreams & Schemes

We’re ramping up. The dreams and schemes going into our Islander Adventure are pretty intense. So much to learn, plan, get, and do before we take off! Looking at this pic of Goleta Beach just now made me realize the Caribbean is going to look similar.

4742 Bahamaesque

4742 Bahamaesque

Both have beautiful beaches, ocean, boating, fishing, diving, swimming, and lots of blue. The sky here is often similar to pix I’ve seen of the Caribbean. But the ocean, not so much. Here it’s a deeper blue that’s more serene somehow, and there it’s brilliant and a lot warmer for water sports.

So today I’ve invested quite a bit of time figuring out the maximum distances we’ll be flying over water.

Water Crossings

Water Crossings

If you’re interested, you’ll probably need to click for the larger version to make any sense of this. In essence, it turns out the first water crossing from West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island (about half an hour) matches the one between Great Inagua and the little island just off Haiti.

Many (most?) pilots don’t worry about long water crossings, even in single-engine planes like Tripp. Lucky Lindy is oft quoted saying two engines just give you twice the chance of something going wrong. That’s fine, but more important to me are two things:

1)Engines have become vastly more reliable since Lindy’s adventure, and Tripp’s Lycoming 0360 is among the very best. Engine troubles of any sort on planes like Tripp are very rare. But the only sort of engine trouble I’d concerned about on a long water crossing is sudden and severe power loss, and that is much more rare still. Almost unheard of. Still, I do all possible to minimize that tiny chance.

2)I fly high. No, not in that sense, silly! Planes like Tripp glide quite well, serenely going about 1.5 miles per 1,000 feet of altitude. So unlike the innumerable pilots I see taking off from SBA toward Catalina past that scene of Goleta Beach (above) staying low as they head out over the water, I climb to always be within gliding range of land. Tripp is quite safe for going into water (for us that is – Tripp would probably eventually sink and become a fish refuge), so the concern is about being far from shore. Anyway, on those two long Caribbean crossings we’ll be beyond glide to shore for about six minutes. So even if the fickle finger of fate were to choose that moment to touch our trusty powerplant, we’d land near shore.

Now maybe you’ve never thought about this (or don’t want to!), but for me it’s a big part of contemplating a Big Adventure that includes big water crossings. If we do go beyond the Bahamas, it will be a small factor in our decision along with all the international ramifications of passing near Cuba and Haiti, possibly stopping in Dominican Republic, and visiting Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

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