Sunday, March 02, 2008

On a Clear Day

One of our blessings in the Pacific Northwest, in addition to all the natural beauty of water and evergreen hill and snow-capped, rocky mountaintop, is a small fleet of seaplanes to jump us from one exquisite vista to the next. The Kenmore Air seaplanes fly out of either south Lake Union or north Lake Washington, to all the destinations you really want to go up Puget Sound and into the Strait of Georgia in Canada (with the notable, and peculiar, exception of Port Townsend, which would be the perfect 40-minute jaunt).

I visited Victoria with my cousin last weekend, and had two clear-day opportunities to fly on one of the ten-passenger Turbine Single Otters for my round trip.

It was spectacular.

Some of you may remember from long, long ago that I was afraid of flying on big commercial planes. Fortunately, I mostly got over that, particularly considering all the flying we did last summer. But even at the height of my fears, the small planes didn’t really bother me. It probably has something to do with scale, I’m sure.

For one thing, although I know this isn’t true, it looks like I could probably figure out the controls in a pinch and land the thing if I had to. After all, there’s a lot of water around, so finding a flat runway won’t be a problem. (I conveniently forget the front page photo in the paper several years ago of a Kenmore Air plane floating upside down just off-shore from Gasworks Park . . . turns out it was a training flight and no one was injured, but still. The pontoons are meant to be under the plane.)

For another thing, we only fly at about 1,000 feet, and although again I know I’m wrong, it feels like I could pretty easily live through plummeting such a slight distance. So anyway, I accept that I’m deluding myself, and I enjoy the ride.

A nice feature of the Otter is that the windows are convex, so you can get an excellent view of the countryside trailing away under you. I spent both my one-hour flights with my pate glued to the deepest part of my window, staring straight down at the ground. Did you know trees are star-shaped from the top? Well, they are. And tide flats look like elephant skin. And much of Puget Sound is surprisingly clear. And much of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, right outside Victoria Harbour, really isn’t (although we’ve heard that, with the Olympics coming to Whistler in a couple years, Victoria is finally going to have to do something with municipal sewage other than pump it straight into the drink. Although the local fishing is good.)

My cousin S and I enjoyed our stay in a foreign country, even though with the dollars at virtual parity it wasn’t like being able to spend play money anymore, and we look forward to other getaways in the future.

And I cannot recommend the seaplane adventure highly enough.

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