A Fantastic Island Cross-Country

Roche Harbor airfield is just a 5 minute walk from Roche Harbor. This day it was a crowded little field!

I’ve mentioned before how airplanes diminish scale; what once was distant or laborious to visit becomes much easier in a small plane. Today was such a trip. Michelle and I hopped into N24529, blocked out at 10:50, and were eating lunch on the Roche Harbor waterfront at noon. And I should note that I took a deliberately scenic, indirect route over Jefferson County, Whidbey, and Lopez. This is immensely gratifying. There’s no ferry trip — let alone, wait in the ferry dock line — and the trip is so much more enjoyable. On a cloudless, clear day such as today our cruising altitude of 6,500 feet was somewhat gratuitous, but man we could see forever. Mountain ranges on both sides, Mt. Baker standing out in perfect clarity, and sailboats far beneath.

I was particularly proud of the technical exactitude of the flight. I’m now training for my instrument rating, and Jim, the school owner, laughingly said, “Guy, if there’s one thing I guarantee, it’s that your instrument course will make you a perfect VFR pilot.” I noticed said effects today: perfect trim, rock-solid altitude and course holding, and two-finger flying. My cockpit was feeling “zen” as well. Procedurally, everything simply came together.  I had even gone out of my way to challenge myself by choosing checkpoints which were non-obvious visually but instead necessitated cross-radial fixes similar to how IFR intersections do.  I was delighted to have both VORs dialed in and working like clockwork — this skill is going to become very useful in IFR flight.

Speaking of instrument training, I find its technical sophistication to be thoroughly appealing. I’m a cerebral type, a “computer guy,” a technician, and a software engineer…so perhaps this makes sense.

By the way, on pretty days the San Juans CTAF becomes very, very crowded.  With all the uncontrolled airports up there — and there are at least eleven or twelve — it’s hard to get a word in edge-wise.  And furthermore, the occasional slow-talker would mic in without having thought his message through, and interminable seconds of “ums” and “ahs” along with his life story…well, you get the picture.

Oh, and I’ve put some pictures online.


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