Thursday, June 25, 2009

Flying across generations

I caught the flying bug early in life, but I'm not sure where exactly it came from. To the best of my knowledge, there wasn't anyone in my family tree that was an aviator. My dad was horse guy and I have memories of him departing for a weekend now and then with my grandfather to attend events with intriguing names like The Little Brown Jug.

Others inherited their interest in airplanes from their parents or other members of their family. This is something that I hope happens with Co-pilot Egg, but it's not something that can be forced. It's also often something that won't be known until much later in her life. Their lives are so very full of new and different things and at least in the case of Egg, flying is mundane. She's never known a time in her life when I wasn't a pilot.

She is by no means unique in this. A Twitter buddy posted a link to a very moving story about a father/son flying relationship. You really should read the whole thing (here), but here's a sample to get you started:

My earliest memories are of pointing to the sky, having detected the far-off drone of a piston engine. Dad had been a pilot since before I was born. He flew a pea-green Cessna 172 from Rialto Municipal in Southern California. I can remember with crystal clarity those lazy Saturday afternoons at the airport, helping him push back the big hangar doors and leaning my small weight against the airplane’s struts as he pulled it into the sun.

I read him checklists, learning words like “aileron,” “magnetos,” and “pitot” that no one else in my first-grade class knew.

Egg could also describe the function of the flaps, rudder, and elevator should it ever come up in casual conversation. She knows nothing of these "struts," though. Those are for sissies.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Having it both ways

There are three ways of looking at Fathers Day. First, you can view it as Mothers Day, but without the flowers. A day of breakfast in bed, relaxation instead of the normal day-to-day chores, and a nice brunch or dinner out. Or, you can view it as a day to spend with your children doing things together. Finally, you can take the opposite approach and spend some time doing something with your own dad. I figured if I played it just right, I could have at least two out of three of those.

The weather for today was forecast to be flyable, albeit fairly hot and humid at a presumptive 86 degrees and 50+% humidity in the afternoon. Rather than that being a problem, that actually played into my plan. Co-pilot Egg would not want to get up early and make breakfast for me (and for good reason: she had her wisdom teeth out yesterday) or pursue any type of activity, but might be up for a late afternoon movie. My dad, on the other hand, is an early riser like I am. With the pieces lined up like that, the germ of a plan started to develop in my head. I could fly out to the farm in the early-ish morning while it was still cool and calm to pick him up and fly out somewhere for brunch, then return home for the afternoon with Egg.

The challenge then was to find someplace to fly to. Given that I'm physically incapable of planning or deliberately flying a route that involves a lot of backtracking and that the farm is located on the western edge of Ohio, none of the Ohio restaurant airports that I know of really fit the bill. By being limited to flying only southwest, west, or northwest, it looked like I'd have to find someplace in Indiana. After spending quite a bit of time hunting around the internet for just the right place, I relaxed my search constraints and decided to allow southerly and northerly destinations as well.

Oxford, OH (KOXD) fit the bill. While there is no restaurant on the airport, I had been there once before and knew that the FBO guy will provide a ride into town and a later pick-up for the ride back to the airport. Oxford is only 40nm from Darke Co. airport (KVES) where I would be picking up my passenger, so if the return flight was uncomfortably hot & bumpy it would at least have the benefit of being brief. And without Co-pilot Rick along, I'd have to fly the hot & bumpy leg myself. Best to minimize it then, right?

The only outstanding issue was where to eat in Oxford. The last time I was there, I ate at a nice Mexican place. I didn't figure that would be a good choice for today, though. Google told me that there is a Bob Evans in Oxford, so I decided that I'd use that as a fall back plan if we couldn't find something more interesting. There was a severe down side to Bob Evans, though, and that was its location. It was out on the fringes of town. If the FBO guy dropped us there, it would be a very long walk into the town. I wanted to walk around the campus too - it's very scenic. Since Bob's was only the secondary target, though, I thought it was OK to take the chance.

As I was flying out to the farm, I listened to the Unicom on 122.8 and counted the number of occurrences of the poor radio practices I wrote about here. I had to give up when I ran out of fingers and thumbs to count on. The radio was really hopping with traffic from all of the normal 122.8 players but there was one in particular that I've never heard before that seemed to be attracting quite a bit of traffic: Connersville. I've found that an unusually large number of arrivals at a place I don't normally hear used at all means there's some kind of fly-in or event going on. As it turns out, Connersville Mettel Field (KCEV) has an annual Fathers Day fly-in. Mystery solved.

It takes about half an hour to get from Bolton to KVES, ample time for me to revel in the smooth flying conditions. I rarely fly alone anymore, but it's a nice change of pace now and then. When I fly alone, the plane is lighter and feels more energetic. There's also a little more room to spread out and adopt a La-Z-Boy kind of relaxed posture. Once I got all settled in and trimmed Papa to fly with a light fingertip touch, I kicked back and let the miles, well, fly by.

The pattern at KVES was empty when I arrived, so the decision as to what runway to use was left entirely up to me. There was no wind to speak of; as I flew over the field I could see that the flaccid windsock wasn't going to provide much of a hint either. It appeared that I would be able to have my druthers, so based on the fact that a landing towards the east would require squinting into the morning sun, I decided I'd druther land to the west. It was an OK landing, but not the squeaker I'd druther have when the wind is calm. I misjudged my flare, forgetting that it's a narrower runway and that my sight picture would be off a bit. I plopped Papa down from about a foot high. Not enough to rattle my teeth or nerves, but enough to feel that I had left a good landing on the table. A wasted opportunity, in other words. Thankfully, there were no witnesses.

I got my dad loaded up (maybe I should give him a name - how about Pat Treeark? Patriarch. Get it?) and we took off for the short ride down to Oxford. Because there is no dead horse in existence that I won't flog, I made sure to point out instances of poor radio work on the Unicom on the way down. It was a target rich environment. There was also great sightseeing to be done since this was a strip of geography that he has heavily traveled in the past. "There's Eaton over there, and that big lake must be Acton Lake and Hueston Woods."

The wind was still light and variable when we reached the decision-making point at Oxford. Since we were approaching from the north, a left downwind to runway 5 would work best. I announced our position and intentions when we were six miles out. Soon thereafter, a Cherokee announced "ten miles out, landing runway 5." There! That's the way you do it. He had been monitoring the frequency and was going to follow my lead. Knowing he was out there and going to be following us, I spurred Papa up a few knots to get us out of the way a little quicker. The ensuing landing was about average. As we were taxiing in, I saw an RV-8 already parked there. You can't go anywhere....

It's a neat airport. I like the old-school (heh!) FBO building:

The artist alongside his work.

As we parked next to the RV-8, the FBO guy came out to see if we needed fuel or anything. I responded that we have plenty of gas, but a ride to town would be appreciated. "Unnecessary," he replied. "Just take the courtesy car."


By that time the Cherokee was taxiing in so I waited until he was parked and out of the plane before heading in to get the car. I thought there was some possibility that he'd be wanting to go into town too and I thought it would be courteous to share the courtesy car if he was. Nope, he wasn't. Emergency rest room break. "Ha," I thought. "What a rookie. He doesn't know about Espresso!"

He sure missed out! In the unofficial Best Courtesy Car in the Country competition, KOXD is a clear front runner, at least in the Regional competition:

Brand new! I think it had about 23,000 miles on it. Miami University owns the airport, and by extension it was the university that provided the courtesy car. It's enough to make the father of a soon-to-be-college-age daughter wonder how he's going to afford tuition. It's a beautiful campus and town, though. If she wants to go there, Daddy will have to find a way. It's a college town through and through and would provide for a tremendous collegiate experience. Plus, and this is only a minor consideration [cough cough], I could fly out there to visit!

We found the town easily enough. I think I only made three wrong turns in as many miles. I don't know why I don't grab the Garmin Nuvi out of the Subaru on my way out of the house. Just can't seem to remember to do it. After a little walk through town, we found a place to eat and absorb some air conditioning. I had a generous portion of Gyro meat (both beef and chicken), most of which I had them box up for transport back to Columbus. I try to eat light when I have the prospect of a hot flight home ahead of me, and all indications were that it would indeed by a scorcher. It'll make a good lunch tomorrow.

The Miami University campus is huge, so we were only able to see a small portion of it. It was surely a representative sample, though. The architecture is remarkably consistent considering that the place is 200 years old and has expanded by at least an order of magnitude in that time. Miami has a bit of a "preppy" reputation in Ohio, and the equestrian center must sure exacerbate that:

Snazzy, eh? They had enough stables to provide lodging for dozens of horses. Very impressive. Yet... I don't think I'll tell Egg. Tuition is one thing, food and lodging for a horse? I don't think so!

The trip back to KVES was warm but the air hadn't yet gotten too bumpy. There was a light chop and only one big pocket that we dropped into. It was nothing like those hot August afternoons when Co-pilot Rick gets stuck with the flying duties. After I had dropped Pat off and was heading back to Bolton, I debated climbing higher thanthe 3,500' cruising altitude that I'd been using all day to try to find some cooler, smoother air, but it's only a 65 mile trip. It's usually more efficient just to stay down in the rough stuff for the 25 minute flight.

As I was monitoring Bolton tower, I couldn't help noticing that there wasn't much flying going on. Too hot? Probably not. I think it probably had more to do with it being Fathers Day. In any event, I decided to break one of my Comm Rules. When the tower is really, really slow, I've found that I often have to repeat my initial call because I caught them by surprise and they just weren't ready for a call.

"Annnnnd, Bolton Tower....."

It worked. Got it on the first try. He responded with "Winds calm, report left base runway 4." That set me up for a nice over-the-neighborhood approach and a landing halfway down the runway to reduce taxi time. As I exited an taxiway Alpha 3 and crossed in front of the tower, he said, "Hey, I really like that Yosemite Sam!"

Pat would be proud.

I got home in time for my Fathers Day with Co-pilot Egg, but it didn't work out. Her teeth were still quite painful and she had a low fever. She gave me a rain check, though, and I think I'm going to use it by flying out to Oxford with her so she can see it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Worlds Collide

With aviation being as diverse as it is, there are many “worlds” that divide the flying community and these worlds don’t always share a common viewpoint or, for that matter, a common language. As pilots, we typically find it easy to form a bond with others that may live in a different world than we do and it is often the case that any given pilot may exist in more than one world, but there are times when, to borrow a Seinfeldism, our worlds may collide.

There was an interesting collision between my world, where I predominantly fly into rural uncontrolled airports, and Lynda’s world of structured IFR flight into and out of major metropolitan airports. Our worlds (but hopefully not our respective aircraft) collided when we had a Twitter conversation on the topic of radio communication. As a breed, pilots tend to be evangelical on any number of topics and one of the most contentious can be the proper way to communicate amongst ourselves or with Air Traffic Control. Controllers also have a stake in this game as they spend nearly 100% of their working day talking to pilots. Any time you have that much of a specific activity in your work life, there are bound to be sore points. Lynda had a few blog posts on the subject that you should read if you want to keep up with the discussion, but I will try to excerpt as necessary to help the more time-constrained amongst you keep up.

Because Lynda inhabits a vastly different flying world than I do, the applicability of some of the communications sore points she mentions to my world are somewhat rare. For example, the always controversial “with you” as used in the context “Big City Center, four six six papa golf with you at eight thousand” isn’t that big of a deal to me since I rarely work with Big City Center. That said, I can see the point of those that object to it: frequencies can be crowded and even two unnecessary words uttered by a lot of airplanes can propagate into an untenable over-usage of a fixed capacity spectrum.

In my world, frequency congestion is also a problem. The uncontrolled airports I fly into often share a radio frequency with many other surrounding airports. This is known as a UNICOM frequency. It is also commonly referred to as a CTAF frequency. They’re not precisely synonyms, but the semantic differences aren’t critical to this discussion. This definition will suit our purposes:

UNICOM is employed at airports with a low volume of general aviation traffic and where no control tower is presently active. UNICOM stations typically use a single communications frequency. Some fields always offer UNICOM service while others revert to UNICOM procedures only during hours when the control tower is closed.
In this system or protocol, aircraft may call a non-government ground station to make announcements of their intentions. In some cases, the ground station is not staffed. If no one is staffing the ground station, pilots broadcast their location and intentions over the UNICOM channel. When the ground station is closed this is done without an acknowledgement.

This UNICOM frequency is used by pilots to coordinate their activity within the vicinity of an uncontrolled airport with other pilots. As an example, consider an arrival at MadCo (KUYF) where I typically buy gas for Papa. The runway is oriented east to west. I usually approach from the east. If the winds are westerly, I will want to land on runway 27 which points into the wind. Coming from the east, you might think that I could just fly straight in to runway 27, but that is frowned upon. In fact, it’s another of those evangelical issues pilots love to argue about. Rather than fly a straight in approach, I navigate to a position six or seven miles due south of the airport, turn north to approach the airport, and enter the traffic pattern at midfield for a left downwind.

Before I get to that position, though, I have been monitoring the UNICOM frequency assigned to MadCo. As soon as I'm far enough away from Bolton Tower, I change the radio to the MadCo UNICOM frequency and start listening. In the case of MadCo, that frequency is 123.00. Amongst others, this is also the frequency at Blue Ash (KISZ), down south in Cincinnati. Even as far away as that is, I can hear pilots there and they can hear me. Therefore, I identify the airport that I am going to in order to avoid confusion. My initial radio transmission will go something like this:

“Madison County traffic, experimental four six six papa golf, six miles south, inbound left traffic two seven, Madison County”

Because I have been monitoring the frequency, I have a fairly good idea as to what’s going on in the pattern. There may be a student doing touch & goes, or there may be other airplanes arriving or departing. Because we all announce our intentions (with some notable exceptions, such as airplanes that do not have a radio), I can develop a relatively good picture of who’s there, where they are, and where they will be when I get there. I say it’s a “relatively” good picture because it can never be completely accurate. At a minimum, though, it should give me a pretty good idea as to the amount of traffic there and which runway is in use.

It may seem obvious which runway is in use, but that is not always the case. If the winds are light and variable, or if they are almost exactly 90 degrees to the runway orientation, it’s up to the pilot’s discretion which runway to use. Those are tricky situations in which the only prudent course of action is to listen, look, listen, look, listen, and look, look, look. Since those are the two things most important to do anyway, that really shouldn’t be a problem. It is a fact of life, though, that there are many pilots that rely entirely on the existence of radio traffic to determine what’s going on at the airport. Not surprising, that was recently the topic of another Twitter conversation.

Where the issue of frequency congestion arrives is when the UNICOM frequencies are used for chit chat. It is far too typical to find that you can’t get a word in edgewise because a couple of buddies are yapping about this, that, and the other thing. There are also a number of other poor (in my opinion) techniques that can cause unneeded congestion or unsafe situations:

- Every now and then, you will hear “Podunk Unicom, what’s your active?” Translated, that means what runway would you recommend that I use. Keep in mind, by definition there is no controlling authority at an uncontrolled airport, so any response to this can at best be only advisory in nature. There are three ways to determine this for yourself rather than tying up the frequency by asking: 1) know the wind direction. This is often available via an automatic reporting system. There may not be one at the specific airport you are using, but check your charts. There are often airports nearby that have one. Well, at least in Ohio where there are many, many airports. 2) look at the wind sock. This requires you to fly overhead at an altitude above pattern altitude, though, so many are reluctant to do it. 3) monitor the frequency. What are other pilots in the area doing? I’m not ruling out the use of “What’s your active” or its kissing cousin “Requesting airport advisory,” but it is used far more commonly than is necessary.

- Not listening for other pilots talking to you. Simply broadcasting your position and intentions is all well and good, but for true coordination to occur you have to respond to any other pilots that may be trying to talk to you. They may want to know your intentions (full stop, touch & go) or they may be trying to alert you to a potential conflict. Either way, communication is (or should be) a two-way street.

- Not clearly stating what airport you are at. You may have noticed in my example above that I said “Madison County” twice. This is another contentious subject, but I do it for two reasons. First is that the first word may be cut off by the radio if it is said too quickly after keying the mike. This is also the reason many pilots start a transmission with “Uh” or “And” and it should be no surprise to you by now to learn that this too is a pet peeve of many a pilot. The second reason that I do it is because of how many times I will be flying along and not quite hear the first airport identification but clearly hear “left downwind two seven.” Darn, did he say “Morain” or “Madison?” I then listen for the closing identification, but not everyone does it.

- I mentioned this above, but far too often we hear “Hey, did you see the game last night?” “Man, I’m glad I’m flying this morning, I have to mow the lawn later.” Hint, people: no one else cares, and we may be trying to, you know, land this airplane at a crowded field. Write a letter for crying out loud.

Those are pretty common beefs, but there are some that are more situationally dependent. This brings us to the intersection of Lynda’s world with mine. During our Twitter conversation, I stated that there are a couple more communications that I find to be either unnecessary, overused and wasteful of the limited space available on a shared frequency, or even somewhat dangerous.

The first was:

“Podunk County, Cessna one two three echo echo five miles east, inbound, any traffic in the area please advise.

In the most common case, this is a completely useless transmission and has the additional effect of incurring even more congestion when every airplane in the vicinity of Podunk chimes in with their location. I always wonder what the guy flying that plane has been doing for the last 20 miles that prevented him from monitoring the frequency. In fact, Co-pilot Rick and I just had this discussion last Sunday as we were approaching Urbana. We decided that there are exceptions that need to be made to any hard and fast rejection of the “please advise” call, but they are relatively rare.

One that I fully understand after having experienced it myself is in the case of the airplane that is arriving after a hand off from air traffic control. In my case, the Tampico had only a single radio so I could not monitor the UNICOM frequency while still being in the positive control of ATC. It is often the case that ATC does not allow the frequency change to the UNICOM frequency until the arriving plane is already in the close vicinity of the airport and at that point, the most prudent thing to do is ask.

That is the first of two quandaries faced by the folks that live in Lynda’s world. The second is closely associated with it. It is case where an IFR pilot (or student) will announce their position on UNICOM using a language that is completely foreign to most VFR pilots. For example, you might hear this:

“Podunk County traffic, Beechcraft one two three is procedure turn inbound to runway two seven.”

Upon hearing that, the low-time VFR pilot or student doing tough & goes is usually thinking “Huh?? Where the heck is Procedure Turn? I wonder if they have a restaurant there...”

This disparity in language puts a burden on the pilot flying a high performance airplane making an IFR approach on a VFR day. ATC will often require that the pilot “call procedure turn inbound” before releasing him from the frequency. The IFR pilot has to make a quick transition from an IFR mentality to a VFR mentality, and there isn’t always a lot of time to do it in. In a perfect world, that pilot would have ample time to report “procedure turn inbound” to his IFR controller and get his release from the frequency before de-IFRing himself and announcing his position to Podunk traffic as “eight miles west, inbound.” I’ve been there, and even in an airplane as slow as the Tampico it was a difficult adjustment to make. It has to be far more difficult for a pilot in a high performance airplane, especially if that pilot didn’t spend a lot of time in the VFR world before moving up to the IFR world.

Even within my world, I find times when I wonder what’s going on in the head of another pilot. It is often too easy for me to forget that I didn’t always have 700+ hours under my belt. Lynda made an extremely good point on this topic: “A pilot may believe someone is being an idiot, but be professional. And no one gets hurt!” That’s exactly right.

It is important for a pilot to retain a couple of abilities, no matter how experienced he or she may be. First, a pilot must be able to empathize with those pilots from other worlds. In my world, we were all students once, many of us were low-time weekend renters, but few of us have flown at the speeds and in the complex environment that Lynda does. In the first two cases, we need to remember our past. In the latter case, we must try to be as cognizant of the challenges others may be facing as possible. We share the sky, so we need to be able to see the other guy’s point-of-view. Second, and I believe this to be critically important, we need to retain a desire and ability to learn from others. As a corollary to that, I also believe that it is important for us to be able to engage in critical introspection in order to learn from our own mistakes.

Failing that, the chances that your world will collide with someone else’s in a literal, rather than Seinfeldian, sense will be needlessly increased.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Early starts

My personal list of things that are improved by getting an early start continues to grow. Consider:

- Flying. The air is cooler and smoother, there are fewer airplanes to deal with in the battle for limited-capacity shared resources (runways, parking spots, pie), and the greenhouse cockpit of an RV has not yet gotten hot enough to cook a pizza.
- Driving to work. Every five minutes late out the door is another 10,000 cars on the road being driven by women doing their makeup and men pretending they're racing the last lap at Talladega.
- Running/jogging/biking: see 'Flying' re: temperatures.

To that list I have now added kayaking. But we'll get to that.

I'm just back from an early breakfast at Urbana for the second week in a row. Co-pilot Rick, who is now a necessary component of the airplane to the degree that I rarely fly alone anymore, has had afternoon commitments for the last couple of weekends and the weather forecasts for the late afternoon have also been somewhat cruddy.

There's nothing wrong with the idea of flying out to breakfast per se, but it does come with the slight additional baggage of feeling like some of the utility of the airplane is going to waste. It is a pretty expensive and ostentatious (bordering on debauchery, to be perfectly candid) way to go out for a meal after all. To salve my conscience, I've been practicing the throttle-to-idle-on-downwind landings that I first attempted during my BFR last month. It's better to do that when the landing pattern is more or less empty and the only way to ensure that when flying to Urbana on a Sunday morning is to get there early. See 'Flying' re: limited-capacity shared resources.

The first attempt was the arrival at Urbana last week. Remembering that I had landed long both times I had tried it during the BFR, I extended my downwind a little bit before turning onto the base leg. Once turned onto the final approach and with enough altitude in the potential energy column of the how-goes-it spreadsheet (as evidenced by a solid row of white lights on the PAPI lights), I would start easing the flaps down. On the first try I put Papa right on the numbers with an almost-a-greaser-but-not-quite landing. Later, when returning to Bolton, I did even better: I scored one of those landings where the only indication of having converted Papa from a flying machine to a rolling machine is the scuff of the tires as they are forced into rotation by the friction of the runway surface.

On the way out to Urbana, I also got a chance to take a better picture of the round barn:

Today was a bit windier at 7-ish knots and thus afforded me with the additional benefit of a crosswind to practice against, but the results were similar. Well, the second and third results were similar; the arrival at Urbana was something more akin to what you'd see in a circus act. I carried a bit too much speed into the flare and got into a cycle of bouncing down the runway on the left wheel. Or as I said at the time, "That was atrocious, and it's still not over." Fortunately Papa needed gas and at an unsustainable price of $3.45 per over at MadCo, it was pecuniarily efficacious to make a stop there on the way back to Bolton. That would give me a chance for a redemption landing, albeit landing to the east which is something I routinely do poorly when landing at MadCo. It worked out well enough today, as did the final landing back at Bolton. It wasn't a strong crosswind, but it was sufficient for getting some good practice.

So, back to why kayaking is improved with an early start. Getting out to the river before it starts to get hot and/or sunny is a big benefit, but beating the crowd of drunken canoers is also beneficial. That's primarily a problem further down river where Trapper Johns Drunken Canoer Livery feeds sloshed boaters into the river like the detritus from a pork rendering plant splashing out of a sluice pipe, but you still get your fair share up river too. As we all know, it's never too early in the day to be drunk in a boat but most of the heavy drinkers get smashed on Saturday night and sleep in on Sundays. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part you can get there ahead of them.

You may remember that the last time I had been kayaking, I had gone sans seat cushion when we took the boats up to Alum Creek. As you might expect, that caused a notable discomfort in the posterior regions. To address that pain point, I ordered a seat cushion to provide some buffer between my bones and the hard bottom of the boat. It turns out that seating cushions for kayaks are unconscionably expensive. The cheapest I could find was a product called the Happy Bottom Kayak Seat. It was surprisingly costly for something that's really nothing more than a piece of injection molded foam, but what are ya gonna do? If the bottom isn't happy, the kayaker isn't happy. I used the seat for the first time yesterday when Rick and I took a short ride down the Big Darby.

We got the aforementioned early start so had the river to ourselves for the most part, although we did come upon a group of three fishing from a canoe. Either the fish were biting like mad or these folks were going to go unfed for the week if they didn't bring something home, but for whatever reason they apparently couldn't spare the 30 seconds it would have taken for us to pass by them. Now I don't know if there is conventional wisdom or a river custom of courtesy to back this statement up, but it seems rude to me to cast your fishing line right across the path of a passing kayak. Which is exactly what two of the three did. Perhaps they think there are brake pedals on kayaks. Hint: there are not.

Once past them, though, it was just the two of us and the chirping of the birds. The water was a touch low and there were some spots where the banging of river water against the bottom of my boat made me wonder when I could expect to spring a leak, and there were a couple of places where I actually got stuck on the rocks, but other than that it was a very nice ride. Except for one thing. I hurt like hell.

While my bottom was perfectly happy, it so transpires that with regards to kayaking, happiness is a zero-sum game. In other words, it seems that something has to hurt. By removing the pain from my bottom, it was mathematically required to find a new place to reside. What it found was my backbone. The new seat shifted my seating position such that I found myself leaning back against the cockpit sill. After about a half hour of rubbing my spine against that hard, sharp edge, I was to the point where something had to be done to put some padding between the two surfaces. I folded up the little towel that I carry with me and that provided a modicum of relief, but it was one of those situations of too little, too late. I was burdened with that ache until we finally got out of the boats. It was the first time since I've been kayaking that I couldn't wait to get out of the boat. So the search begins today for a piece of foam that I can glue to the sill to provide a softer place to lean back against.

Even with the personal discomfort, though, it was a beautiful ride. I took along the video camera and put together a short, six minute movie. Be sure to watch it all the way through since there's some neat wildlife to see at the end. And it you have the bandwidth to view it in HD, it's well worth doing so:

Warning: don't turn your speakers up too loud - it gets very noisy when the boat starts hitting and scraping across rocks!