Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stonington, Maine

I must first note that this write up was completed and ready to post yesterday but for some unknown reason blogspot wiped it out....anyway here is my second attempt at recounting the facts. Enjoy!

Day 1 Thursday 9/10/09

I had been watching the wx for the last week and it was apparent last night that a Friday get away would be a reach at best. I still had hope and so I held out on making any calls to move our reservation. I’m up and out the door headed for work and the sky looks gorgeous, we really need to get out of town today. Heck with planning, we’ll find a hotel somewhere between here and Maine if we can’t add a night in Stonington. I pull up and park at work swipe my badge across the card reader and get up to my office. I quickly check the online flight schedule for our club and find out that fellow member Dan reserved the plane for 5-8pm this evening; this is not a good sign. I place a call to the Boyce Motel and confirm we can add today to our stay, one hurdle cleared. Next I fill out a leave slip and look for the Director and confirm I’m a go for added vacation time, I have plenty on the books, hurdle number two cleared. Last but not least I contact Dan at work to see if he can give up his flight time tonight so we can bug out, he agrees, last hurdle cleared, I’m in the home stretch. I now call Mary and advise that we need to be in the air in an hour can you be ready? My Bride informs me she just got up but she is ready to pack.
I arrive home and walk into clothes flying and our bags rolling around the room. Mary is hard at it getting things ready and I tried to assist (read this as not getting in the way) as best I could. I threw a few things in a bag, remembering that the temps have been high 40’s at night. I head downstairs and print out the latest wx info, update my flight plan/nav log and check for NOTAM’s and TFR’s. I have the appropriate charts, flight bag ready, Garmin and Zaon packed and ready. I return upstairs to schlep the bags out to the SUV and load the flight gear. Mary grabs some water; we load up the dogs and head to the boarding facility. Why is it that when you are in a hurry the rest of the world seems to down shift a gear or tow and slow to a crawl? I thought we would never get out of the vet clinic where we board! Finally, we are headed to the airport.

We roll up to 679er and quickly get to work. Wilmington is reporting sky broken 3,100 and it’s moving in off the ocean. The low is turning counter clockwise and bringing all that moisture in for us to enjoy. Mary pulls the cover, I pull the nose plugs, chock and untie. Not much talking here just running through our routine in overdrive. Mary starts to transfer bags after I pulled our supply box out of the bird and moved it to the SUV. I did keep two quarts of oil, the funnel and the gatts jar with some clean rags. I started to sump fuel and Mary pulled the SUV out to the parking lot and locked it up. I finished and did the one more time walk around making sure I completed all the pre flight items and giving 679er a good visual once over. I was up on the wing and doing the Piper roll as Mary climbed on the wing. I set up the electronics goodies, buckled in and started the prestart checks. Once completed I got the fan turning and notified ground we were ready to taxi with the appropriate info. I was cleared to taxi and call the tower when my run up was completed. I took the extra time to double check my list since we pushed so hard to get going. Now is not the time to cut any corners when getting ready to depart. All systems looked ready to go. A last added check for flight controls and trim setting followed by a call to the tower had us rolling for a back taxi on runway one.

I turned 679er into the wind and turned her loose…..we’re on vacation!!! I climbed out to 2,500 and picked up flight following with Philly. I was very comfortable at this altitude but knew that by Allentown (KABE) I wanted to be 3000 and climbing. The layer was lifting the farther north east we flew and I was climbing to 5,500 when Philly dropped me advising NY was not taking VFR traffic. Hmmmm…ok, I can deal with this. I did dial in the frequency Philly provided so I could monitor. We would be crossing the active approach for the NJ and NY airports. After I heard target north east bound 5,500 I decided to call in, I figured they would really want to talk to me. I was right, they provided a squawk and we happily road along working together. We crossed the Hudson at 5.5 and cruised along. Our first stop was going to be Hartford/Brainard, Connecticut. Neither Mary nor I had anything to eat or drink besides the morning toothpaste and mouthwash, we were both hungry. I was handed off to Bradley approach and stayed on with them until I had the field in sight. When I tried to cancel approach advised to keep my squawk code and contact the tower, ok that works too. We crossed the final ridge and passed by a tall tower to our north and passed near a building just off at our ten o’ clock. I let down for pattern altitude and acknowledged the report two mile left base runway two zero. I announced my position as directed and was cleared to land. I set 679er down smooth and slow with a touch of stall horn. I made a left turn off and contacted ground to advise our final destination of Atlantic Aviation for food and fuel. The restaurant had good service and food. I really needed to stop and eat; I was starting to get a pounding headache. We walked out to the plane and did a walk around; 679er was never out of my sight. I sumped the tanks and we loaded up for Maine. As I started up I mentioned to Mary that my headache was gone, it must have been hunger or the need for fluids.

Brainard ground provided a squawk for me as I taxied out for departure. Pretty cool, not having to pick it up in the air. I wish Wilmington did this for the VFR folks. We took off runway two zero and turned right on course to a 56° heading. It was a great day to be flying in the north east, especially since we left that bad wx behind in Delaware! I was just North West of KORH, Worcester Regional when I requested 7,500 to remain VFR. I had dialed out the Garmin 496 and could see the echo tops clearing just west of Portland. My request was granted with the added maintain VFR. As I explained why I went over instead of under the cloud layer to Mary, Bradley called and asked a question. 28679er, say flight condition? Say what? I was caught off guard and hadn’t heard that phrase prior to today. I responded say again, not familiar. Approach must of thought I was a Jacka$$ but this time asked for a PIREP. Ahhhh….I’m a dummy! As I hit the push to talk I chuckled and said Piper PA28-181, scattered 5,500, I hope this doesn’t jinx me but no turbulence, approach laughed and thanked me. The Garmin was spot on today as we continued north east looking for the end of the scattered layer. As we approached Portland it really started to break up. From Portland we turned 79° direct to Stonington, 93B. We got a great look at Portland and all the beautiful islands as we continued north east across the Casco Bay. I got a good look at the twin runways of KNHZ, Brunswick Naval Air Station to my north soaked up all the beautiful scenery. I said to Mary that I wish we had a dollar for every boat we saw; we would be flying a jet! We got to see Boothbay Harbor, Franklin Island Wildlife Refuge as we made our way towards Knox County regional (KRKD). This would be my fuel tank switch since we had to hop over the last few islands to get to Stonington. The view was unreal, reminded us both of flying into Block Island after crossing Montauk (KMPT) and the Block Island Sound. We split Vinalhaven Island and focused on finding the postage stamp runway in the trees. I canceled flight following at this time and dialed in traffic at 93B. I made my position reports and had a visual on the runway, all 2,099 feet of it. If you’re flying in look for the church steeple left of runway seven, can’t miss it. On short final I asked Mary to watch the tall trees, her look was priceless, I had plenty of room. Once clear of the trees I did the chop and drop, and 679er will indeed drop like a rock. I added a touch of power to flair and touched down with half of the runway remaining. No parallel taxiway here so back taxi it is to our parking.

When 679er was buttoned up we called the Boyce Motel. The owner had stated he would pick us up and take us into town. Wow, this would work out great, now if the cell phone would work. I finally find a hot spot and make the call; Barrett said he was on his way. We had our bags ready to go as he pulled up and loaded everything in the car. One last look at 679er as we left her in the middle of the trees in an unfamiliar place. There was only one Bonanza tied down across the grass and a Mooney waiting on an engine to keep her company. It was only 3.5 miles to downtown on a freshly paved road. Barrett gave us a quick tour as we passed by buildings and he also pointed out restaurants. Once we got checked in and our bags unpacked we decided it was time for dinner. We followed the recommendation and walked up two doors to the Harbor café for the lobster special, two for $17.99, what a bargain!! The Harbor Café is a cozy little place that the locals call home. We ordered steamers to start our dinner and let me tell you these are not the typical cherry stone clams I’m used to. These clams were large, like oysters in my opinion. I ate maybe five or so and had enough, Mary finished her plate and one or two of mine. Our waitress asked what was wrong with them and I said I thought they would be the cherry stones, she laughed and said no, steamers, not cherry stones, I'm thinking she was making fun of me. The lobster was really sweet and tender as could be, a great dinner. The reason why they were so sweet is because they are shedders, sort of like the soft shell crab syndrome. Anyway great food and service, this place is a keeper. We waddled back to our room and crashed for the night!

Day 2 Friday 9/11

Rise and shine, good morning Stonington Maine! The plan for today was to grab breakfast then walk, up the hill, to the farmers market. We strolled over to the Harbor café and enjoyed a great breakfast. We then walked up Pink Street to the end, followed a path through the woods, picked up another small road to our left for a short distance then turned right on the main drag heading out of town. Just a few paces up on the right were the farmers market/outdoor fair. The first table had fresh baked breads, they looked great. The market had many different vendors; fresh vegetables, baked goods, jewelry, yarn, tools and food samples. Mary and I enjoyed the wx and walked around checking out what each table had to offer. As we completed our rounds we decided to head back down the hill, using the main road. We left the farmers market area and crossed the street to check out a place called Susie Q’s. This small shop is a baked goods and coffee house. We walked around the shop looking at all the antiques offered for sale then sat and ordered up some ice tea and split a blueberry raspberry crisp. Ahhhh, the tea hit the spot and that crisp was pretty darn tasty too. Off we went headed for our hotel and the main road hike was straight down hill, no switch backs of level areas, it was exciting to say the least on my new hip. We passed the opera house and checked out movie times then hit a few of the local shops along our path to Boyce’s, our hotel. Mary and I took a siesta break as all good vacationers should do. We got up in time to clean up and head out to dinner. Dinner tonight would be at the Maritime café, just across the street from our new breakfast hangout. We opened the place; a pleasant change from the days of taking pride closing places, getting old ain’t for sissies. We got the best seats in the house overlooking the harbor. It was nice to watch the lobster boats come and go offloading their catch at the commercial pier. Mary and I ordered the lazy lobster with sliced baked potato wedges and broccolini. Lazy lobster you ask……it’s a whole lobster picked clean and served in a slightly larger crème brule type dish swimming in seasoned butter. Oh God, it was so good! We passed again on dessert, to full to even think about it. Once again we waddled back across the street, venturing to the other end of town to check out what shops are there then heading back to our room for the night.

Day 3 Saturday 9/12

The wx forecast was not the best but we figured on getting out and doing some sort of tour. You guessed it, harbor café for breakfast. It was a leisurely pace this morning as we went through the brochures and found out we missed the light house tour, it left at 9am, it was now 10:30. Hmmm, we walked around town, checked out the local convenience store, picked up some wine and munchies for later then hunted down a hot spot for cell service. This all took its toll so we called it an afternoon and went back to the room for nap time. I got up wanting to try some of that ice cream at the local stand just up the street and decided to walk up and get a maple walnut double dip on a sugar cone, Mary passed. It was good stuff! Around 2:30 or so the Princess decided it was time to get up so she walked up to the same stand and brought back lunch, two lobster rolls, again good eats. I played around on the computer, yes, we had wifi or at least someone did and I was getting on through their hook up. Mary got up in time for dinner so we both cleaned up and headed out. The Harbor café was close and that was the choice. We each ordered lazy lobster and it was just as good as last night’s catch. The only difference was green beans for me and pickled beets for Mary. After dinner we walked south out of town checking all the new places we hadn’t seen. We actually gave the movie a thought but it was too early and I didn’t want hang out for an hour waiting for the opera house to open. We turned around and walked back to our room bringing day three and its overcast misty wx to a close.

Day 4 Sunday 9/13

Well we can’t say we didn’t get enough sleep. We were ready to go and last night’s rain cleared the air. On tap was breakfast at… fill it in. I like the interactive blog entries, it adds a bit of something, don’t you think? Yes, the Harbor Café is the correct answer. We walked to the north end of town and found the church that everyone said has good cell coverage, they were correct. Mary called her Mom and Dad to check in on them and then we walked in to take part in the local Sunday service. After church we walked down the hill to the boat dock and checking for our light house tour with Isle au haut Boat Company. Midcoast Maine is home to many beautiful and historic lighthouses. Isle au Haut Boat Services offered a tour of six lighthouses on their fully Coast Guard licensed and inspected 47 foot passenger boat, the Mink, for a cruise lasting about four hours. There was a small group waiting to board and everyone was very friendly. We also have one dog joining us today, Molly the yellow lab. The plan is to leave Stonington at 11:00 am, cruise past the Mark Island Light at the western entrance to Deer Isle Thorofare and then cross the East Penobscot Bay to view the Goose Rocks Light. We would eventually travel through the Fox Islands Thorofare, passing picturesque North Haven Village, and then pass the Brown's Head Light and its keeper's house. After travelling down the west side of Vinalhaven Island, we would view the Heron Neck Light. Sailing back across the bay, we made a stop for photos at remote Saddleback Ledge, and then return to the Isle au Haut Thorofare for a view of the Isle au Haut Light on Robinson's Point. We also joined the Light house passport program. The United States Lighthouse Society sponsors a Passport Program. The passport has a blue vinyl cover, similar in appearance to an official United States passport; it’s available through the Society and lighthouse retailers across the U.S. When you visit a participating lighthouse, you can get your passport stamped.

It was a great day on the water and it was spent making new friends and enjoying the company fellow vacationers. One can hardly describe the sights, smells and sounds of our day and it truly did test each of our senses. You can see by some of the pictures a glimpse of what it was like but to be on the water in clear sunshine feeling the spray, listening to the seagulls and turning to see another island shrouded in misty fog is just one of those “you had to be there moments”. We said our goodbyes as we reached the dock and each went in separate directions. I exchanged info with a few folks who live in the mid-Atlantic area and travel through the area I work and utilize our facilities; it would be fun to catch up again.

We made our way up the hill taking a few minutes to watch Molly retrieve a lobster trap buoy just off shore, her reward for being such a good girl. On past the church and down the hill towards town discussing our dinner options. The last place left to try was Fisherman’s and it was on the way. We decided we were going to just walk in and see what they had to offer. The place was still pretty empty, except for the few locals watching football at the bar and making noise and a few couples seated inside and out on the deck. We sat inside near some open windows to soak up the breeze and not add to our sunburned faces. I had calamari and Mary had Lobster chowder for appetizers. We followed up with, I really hate to be boring but…..lazy lobster. That’s right, four days in a row for dinner, this is living! Food and service was good and I’m glad we got to try all the local places. We walked to the room tired and full tummies. I caught up on the football scores and Mary passed out as soon as we finished packing.

Day 5 Monday 9/14

Another early morning start in order to get in the air. We made the traditional walk to the harbor café for breakfast and said our goodbyes to the staff thanking them for great food and service all week. The bags were packed and we only needed to make a final pass through the room and call Barrett for a ride back to the airport. The Boyce Motel owner was happy to give us a lift. I did ask him to post on so he can maybe pick up a few new customers. Since he said he would come and get pilots who would stay at his place, it was worth the listing on the 93B page. We arrived at the airport and found 679er sitting all alone, the Bo had since left and the Mooney was still waiting on overhaul. One of the locals was parked near the runway in an old white mini pick up just outside the airport property and he watched our every move as we got 679er ready to go. I checked the fuel and she was low, well under 10 or so each side. I sumped the tanks since we had a good overnight rain wanting to make sure there was no water in our tanks. As we completed the pre-flight a few people trickled into the airport. I completed my preflight checks and called clear prop, they all turned to look. 679er fired up and smoothly idled, just waiting to strut her stuff. The wash job still looked pretty good since we cleaned off the air kill bugs accumulated on our trip from Wilmington. I had walked the runway and decided to back taxi and launch off of runway two five. The winds were calm and I wanted to exit over the lowest tress/terrain. I turned off the little jug handle at the end of seven and completed my run up. We were ready to go. I announced Archer 28679er departing runway 25 Stonington traffic and went full rich, pump on, landing lights and strobes on. I also added two notches of flaps to be extra safe. 679er roared down the runway and as if to say watch me to the locals at the hangar, she jumped off the ground and was screaming out at 700-1,000 feet a minute. Easy big girl, no need to impress, we’re clear of the tress let’s cruise climb and make our photo run. We headed west North West to find the light house captains house and dock wanting to snap a few shots to send him. I guess we found it, Mary was clicking away and I circled on station. Mission complete, we pointed 679er to Knox County so we could top off. There was traffic departing and one on a taxi for departure as I entered a six mile final for runway two one. I advised the pilot of the aircraft holding short that I had visual and if they were ready I would slow down so they didn’t have to wait. They acknowledged and rolled out on the runway and launched. I was now just inside the two mile mark. We landed smoothly and taxied to Downeast Air for some go go juice, we took on 27.3 gallons. We used the facilities and I sumped the tanks before starting up. I heard a citation jet on the outdoor speakers that was inbound and I knew he was headed for my parking spot when the line guy brought out chocks and a red carpet. We fired up and taxied clear heading back to runway two one for our departure. 679er has a full belly and she rumbled down the runway with no added flaps and climbed out sure and steady. We were underway to our next stop KLCI, Laconia New Hampshire.

Turning left 60° put us on course 270° direct to Laconia. It was a gorgeous ride. We passed over Wiscasset (KIWI) and this time directly over Brunswick Naval Air Station (KNHZ). We continued west nipping the Portland class Charlie airspace, yes, I was on with Portland approach. Off to our right was Lake Sebago, it is huge! As we crossed the Maine – New Hampshire state line we noticed there were a lot more lakes in the area. We proceed on to Laconia picking out various points on the sectional and making mental notes. Off to our one o’ clock was the Ossipee Mountains, Mt. Shaw reaching the highest at 2,990 feet. Over the nose was Lake Winnipesaukee and beyond that a clear visual on Laconia. The runway stood out like a sand spot in a lush green paradise, easy to spot. We made a straight in approach followed by another good landing. We taxied off short of our intended parking spot due to taxiway and ramp work. It was a short walk to the terminal. The facility was clean and the man working the desk was very helpful. We passed on a courtesy car as previously planned and instead picked up some local brochures and got the heads up from the attendant working. With that we headed out for the plane. A quick stop to have a look around and check on the local area for potential vacation destinations, this place is now on our list for four day get aways.

We taxied out and launched off runway two six after swapping calls with a lear jet inbound for a low pass FAA Flight Check on runway eight. He was nine out and we were up and away in short order. The Zaon traffic picked him up and Mary gave me a confirmation that she had visual, I was busy looking for a light sport overflying the field at 5,000. I did turn out twenty or thirty degrees after departure to clear the area for the lear jet. Once I had visual on him I turned back on course. We had approximately 90 miles to go on our course of 260°. As we crossed the Connecticut River, the New Hampshire-Vermont border, we could see the ski resorts in the distance. We passed between Mt Snow to our north and Haystack Mountain to our left. I had to look up the name of the lake or pond at the top of the mountain and simple enough its haystack pond; it was pretty neat to see. Looking at the ski slopes I could not imagine hauling butt down those hills, no way. Then again with my bad sticks that sort of stuff does not excite me, maybe it’s the humpty dumpty thing a putting all my parts back together…..cold shiver down my back.

We pretty much spilt Somerset Reservoir in half and decided to follow the valley through Green Mountain National Forest for our destination of Morse State. Another airport easy to spot along the highway just like the sectional shows us. We entered on a 45° for left downwind runway one three. I got my first terrain alert as I turned base looking directly at Whipstock hill (1,200 feet). Not a problem as you turn to final well clear of the hillside ahead. I made another nice landing and taxied into AirNow for fuel. Ok, don’t laugh but this was only my third time using the self serve fuel. It worked out, everything went smooth except for the final hose roll up and some fuel left in the line kind of squirted out right at Mary. I’m still laughing……I mean coughing, something caught in my throat.
No courtesy car available for a lunch run so we hit the vending machines for pop tarts, cheetos and a Pepsi, oh how yummy. I sump the tanks and we get started, it’s the last leg home. I taxied back to depart on runway three one and launched for home. Wilmington is calling for a Vice Presidential TFR at Wilmington starting at 1715 local time or 5:15 for the military time challenged. The plan route was direct Huguenot VOR (HUO) about 110 miles then direct Modena VOR (MXE) 105 miles then home to KILG, just a hop skip and a jump. We tried to get flight following with Albany but he was busier than a crazy man herding cats. We tried again as we crossed the Hudson River and got a squawk code for the trip south. We passed east of the Catskill Mountains and they had our attention. As we approached the Huguenot VOR Mary called out the Port Jervis monument that we saw on our last trip to Orange County New York, great spot!

We continued to the next checkpoint Modena MXE and after being dropped by Albany we picked up with Allentown approach. We were happy cruising along at 6,500 feet smooth as could be. Allentown asked us to descend to 4,500 which would put us below the scattered layer, I’m not liking this and should have either maintained 6.5 or canceled but since they picked us up I thought I would comply. What a dummy, always follow your gut, it was bumpy below as I knew it would be and by the time we got in the Wilmington Class Delta I felt like someone was standing behind me kicking my ‘arse’ for the last thirty minutes.

The Wilmington tower gave us a right traffic entry and I acknowledged with the added glad to be home. Base then final I’m a tad high but wanting to land long. I had a good crab in to get to the runway and instead of kicking and dipping the wing I just kicked out. I blew to the side and had to add some power to make a correction and get squared away to land. Not pretty on the last landing but we’re home. We buttoned up 679er, cleaned all the bugs off of her and tucked her in until next time. Next up, The Windwood resort fly-in in West Virginia!


Rob said...

What a fantastic Trip! Thanks for sharing all the great photos and write up. I hope we get good weather for Windwood,.. I'm getting excited about that trip.

Dru said...

Hey Gary, It's Dru, thanks for sharing your vacation tale. Sounds like you had a great time, and now I'm thinking about lobstah!! And lighthouses! :)

Steve said...

Man, looks like everyone's headed to Windwood. You're all making me want to reconsider! :)

Gary - this might be your best writeup to date, thanks for all the details and photos! Trips like this are why I need to be in a club or something... it would awesome to go away for 4-5 days and not end up bankrupt in the process.

I've never been to ME, or spent much time in the Northeast at all for that matter - just Boston a few times. All the talk of lobster and seafood is making me way too hungry.

Congrats as always on another successful trip!

Gary said...

Thanks everyone!!

It was a great time! (Rob) I'm starting to get pumped about WV62 also, should be a blast. (Dru) The scenery is unreal and the lobstah, the very best. I think we are going to vacation in Laconia NH next year, spring or early summer. (Steve) Thanks for the kudo's I enjoy doing the bolg not only for others to read but so I can remember what we did and where we's an age thing ;). It would be great if you can attend Windwood. I hope to get out your way soon, maybe wrap a visit in with a Sportys run.

Steve said...

You're always welcome!

Sporty's is only about 30 nm from Stewart so it really is just a short hop away.

Zach said...

Hey there Gary! I was wondering if you had the chance to visit Stonington Seafood? They have some of the best smoked seafood in the world! I used to cook up in Portland and we would use their products all the time. Great write up and its good to hear that you bought a new airplane. Congratulations! Take care.

Gary said...


We didn't venture out to far off Main St or School St. Unfortunately we didn't have any wheels. We were lucky to get a ride from the owner of Boyce's Motel to/from the airport.

Great place to vacation, the people were so friendly. We are looking forward to the New England area for next summers vacation.