Monday, May 28, 2012

Adventures in Paradise - Sea Plane

Saturday we had a Source staff meeting. We do that a couple or three times a year, at least partly I think because, as an online paper with a virtual office, it's good to remind ourselves that our co-workers are real people.

So I and my two fellow St. Croix staffers – Bill and Justin – were on the sea plane for St. Thomas. That's the best part of the meetings, practically the best part of island living. When I have to get to  St. Thomas I take the sea plane over. (Obviously when the meeting is on St. Croix we just drive.) Seaborne Airlines uses these little 15-seat float planes, small enough that when you check in they ask your weight so when they assign seating the weight is properly balanced. And you can't imagine lying, because an unbalanced plane is a high price for a little vanity.

You walk out onto the dock and climb in, crouching as you work your way forward to your seat. The co-pilot, who is sitting so close you wonder if he paid for his seat, turns around and gives you the safety drill, then they start the engines and you're off. 20 minutes to St. Thomas.

There's no door between the cockpit and the cabin, and you can watch them as they work, both of them pushing forward on the same throttle to hold it wide open as you suddenly pick up speed and dash across Christiansted Harbor. I've flown the sea planes back and forth from St. Thomas a dozen times or more and it never gets old. It's just so cool as the plane hurtles across the water. You watch the tip of the pontoon – when it suddenly stops throwing up a wake, you're airborne.

Normally you just sit and read, but on the flight over Saturday I kept a close watch on the cockpit. The pilot seemed fine, a middle-aged guy in a wrinkled uniform shirt, baggy shorts and sandals. The co-pilot, however, was worrisome. She didn't look old enough to drive, let alone fly. I'm sure she had all the proper training and the FAA knew about her, but I wanted to make sure she didn't suddenly decide to use the navigation system to update her Facebook page, or whatever the kids do these days.

In no time we were over Charlotte Amalie's harbor, coming down straight for the water. That's the view through the front window – blue water. Out the side window a palm-lined beach flashes past, then we were racing past the line of moored sailboats. It was the most tropical scene you could imagine, and I wondered – what did I do to deserve this? Talk about unmerited blessings from a particularly benevolent deity, I am living a pretty cool life.

The meeting was fine, this one was actually sort of productive. I worked for six years at the Corvallis newspaper. Maybe it's because it's a university town, but that was a meeting crazy culture. We were constantly in meetings, it's hard to imagine how we actually got the paper out. Our close personal friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry, said meetings are what corporations do because they can't actually masturbate. (I'm pretty sure that was Dave. Sounds like him.)

Instead of having the meeting in some conference room with stale air and a table littered with staler bagels or cold pizza and Sticky Notes, our meeting was held at a waterfront restaurant, Hook, Line and Sinker. This is a picture of what we saw out the window.

Then it was back on the sea plane for the return flight. Both crew members were appropriately grizzled this time and I could relax.

At least until we got back. The landing at St. Croix is always a little unnerving. To hit the harbor at the right angle the plane has to come in over land, dropping lower and lower over the highway, the housing project, the WAPA generating plant. There's a power line you cross right near the end that I always feel I can reach out and touch. But then it's past, a strip of white sand flashes by and you're splashing down safe and sound in the harbor. Home!

Rough life, huh? How was your last business meeting?

1 comment:

TikiGeek said...

Hey John. I held an offsite meeting for my sales team at a tiny winery a few months ago. The owner agreed to let us use his tasting room for an hour and a half then give us all a private barrel tasting afterwards.

We had sweeping views of a huge vineyard the whole meeting, and I kept thinking "how did I get so lucky?" the whole time. We make a lot of sacrifices for living in a nice place, including a shakey financial future, but it's times like that put it in perspective.

I just turned down a better paying job in San Francisco this week because I love where I live so much. I believe in the same dream you have, that life's too short to live somewhere where you're miserable. It's not all about money, right?

Hang in there John.