Water Ditching: Please Hurry

In preparation for this crazy enterprise, flying a single-engine airplane around the world, Adam, his brother-in-law David, and I flew to Mobile, Alabama, Gulf Shores, actually, to take water survival training, because each of us will be flying long, over-water legs and while 5831R is an extraordinarily well-maintained airplane all things mechanical are fallible, and a water ditching is a harsh reality we must prepare for.

So we met with a retired Coast Guard rescue specialist, who lectured us for a few hours on tactics and strategies and fatal mistakes to avoid. There were few surprises, many useful reminders, and a few surprising details that seemed obvious once mentioned, such as a reminder never to wave at potential rescuers with one hand because it looks more like a greeting than a plea for help – wave both arms vigorously. I would hope that anything I might do while floating in a little yellow raft in the middle of the ocean would not be taken as a cheerful greeting, but it would be disheartening to watch the crew of a passing boat wave back and smile and continue on without me. Then we took to the pool and were introduced to the life raft that we will be carrying aboard the airplane. It is about the size of a large duffel bag and is cleverly thought out with details about its construction and deployment that I have already forgotten. They come in various sizes and in versions that are TSO’d or not, which is a certification standard meaningful only in the aviation world. We, or rather Adam, opted for the TSO version, which added substantially to its already shocking cost. It is already frightfully expensive, or seems so now, probably less so when the airplane hits the cold water. We practiced putting the raft into use and boarding it and exploring its various features, of which there are more than you might imagine. Few creature comforts, however. Thirty minutes aboard and inside it in a temperate swimming pool were enough for the fun meter to peg.

Climbing aboard the thing while wearing a fully-inflated floatation vest was not easy, even in a calm swimming pool. I imagine that it would be a challenge in 20-foot swells, but we can count on the sharks nipping at our toes for sufficient motivation.

By now, you have no doubt come to understand that my friend Adam is the motivating force behind this adventure. It is his airplane that will be going around the world and he will be the only one of us to make the entire circumnavigation. He has equipped the airplane, an adventure in itself involving many critical decisions – and shocking costs. And he is largely bankrolling the entire affair and generously sharing it with a few of us. Adam went to the trouble and expense of acquiring a DeLorme tracking device and the tracking service, so you and our friends and family can follow our progress – and which will also pinpoint our position should we find ourselves shipwrecked at sea or crash-landed in the desert like Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince. So there is some confidence that our whereabouts will be known and we would like to think that there is a chance that someone will come get us. After all this planning I looked at Adam and said, “Adam, this is all well and good, but tell me this … In the current state of the world, when hundreds of poor bastards are drowning in the Mediterranean every month, who is going to give a damn about two crazy old Americans floating around the Arabian Sea in a rubber raft?  Who is going to come get us?”  We looked at each other, thought a minute, and I think we were both thinking:  “Yemeni pirates.”

The  tracking device and this website should make their job pretty easy.

So, if you, our friends, are reading this … please hurry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *