Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All Aboard the Goose!

Back in January, Kelly and I bought an 30 minute island tour on a Grumman Goose at a charity auction and have been saving the certificate, hoping to use it when Bro was visiting but also understanding that those types of things are highly weather and schedule dependent.
Kristine and Max were over at the pool but they got changed and met us at the airport where I was checking everyone in and giving out body weights.  Thanks Max for only weighing 40 pounds - this allowed the rest of us to carry a little extra "baggage".
As you can see in the second photo from the top, I let Bro sit in the front - I assume he didn't drive the plane but you never know with that guy, he's pretty capable.  During the flight he was getting insider scoop from the pilot and we figured he's share once we got on the ground; he claims he didn't really hear anything due to the engine noise.
I was actually amazed by how quiet the Goose was, given the pair of 450 HP Pratt & Whitney piston engines bracketing the passenger area.  I think it is probably more quiet than the Saabs they use for the Anchorage to Unalaska run - I always use earplugs for that flight.

This is Bro getting more insider scoop from the pilot - again, he claims he didn't hear anything.  I'll get the info out of him somehow, eventually . . . . 

It is hard to describe with words the beauty of the island seen from the air, 95% of which you can't get to by road.  I could see how a guy with a boat could spend a lifetime right here on the island and never see it all and it reinforces the idea that global travel just isn't needed to have a rich full life, there is so much in a guy's backyard.  Unfortunately, none of our families are in the backyard last time I checked - except a precious visit from Bro - so travel we must.
You can see I was having a pretty miserable time.
I took over 180 pictures from the air and it was very hard to narrow it down to 20 or so to post.

In this shot, the north side of Ballyhoo is out the plane's left side and this is looking at the area where Skip and I went fishing for rockfish last week.  I gave Skip the camera so this is out of the front of the plane with one of the engines visible at the top of the frame.  Clouds were pouring like smoke out of that mountain valley.
Bro took a picture of the pilot, a very cool guy.  I know his wife Rhonda and they are both missed as they recently moved to Anchorage.  He is just out here temporarily helping out covering some pilot shortages.
The Grumman G-21 Goose first flew in 1937 and has been a workhorse in Alaska and all over the world ever since.  It has hand-cranked retractable landing gear allowing flights from either water or a conventional runway.  There were only 345 of them manufactured from 1937-1945 and there are only about 50 left that are still flying and in museums around the world.  Some interesting links are the Wikipedia entry for the Goose , Goose Stories where the author does a great job of capturing the essence of flying in the Goose in Kodiak, Goose Central where the author has many Goose links and maintains a database of all the Goose serial numbers, and finally the KIAL news story about the Goose that crashed last year out here, and now serves as invaluable spare parts for the planes few planes still running in the world.  Ummm, yeah, I didn't really mention that last one to Bro before he got on the plane . . . . 
Here is a view of Alyeska Seafoods with Haystack Hill in the background, and beyond that Captain's Bay with Westward Seafoods just visible just left of center at the top of the frame.
One of my favorite shots, this shows Alyeska Seafoods with part of the town of Unalaska in the foreground, including the Russian Orthodox Church.  You can see how the plant is on an isthmus of land with a salmon stream on one side, and the Bering Sea on the other - and ideal location that has been occupied for almost 10,000 years, the oldest continuously inhabited coastal settlement in North America.
Still circling, here is Little South America and the bridge from the awesome Unalaska town side to that other side where the hotel is located . . . . 
Making a water landing in Dutch Harbor.
Touchdown!  It was so smooth when we landed you almost couldn't tell.  
Joe and Max watching the approach to the ramp.  Max thought it was pretty cool the plane could turn into a boat.

Revving the engines, the pilot climbed up the steep boat ramp.  The Goose truly is a cross between a Jeep and a plane - and it makes a mighty fine boat as well!
A plane crossing the road - especially a special historic plane like the Goose - makes quite a scene.  I was taking pictures of them taking pictures of us . . . 
Joe, Max, Kristine and the pilot pose after the ride.

Skip and I posing after the ride.

In the afternoon we went salmon fishing.  I stood on a rock in my sneakers to fish but Bro didn't feel he was getting the full experience unless he was waist deep in the Bering Sea wearing sandals and jeans!

After we got home we vacuum packed the fish, ordered out for pizza and watched a movie - all in all a pretty full day of vacationing!  Cheers!


Lauri said...

OMG Steve, what awesome pictures...and thanks for the history lesson about the Goose! This should receive the "post of the year" award in my opinion...

Thanks for sharing (if you ever need another person for an adventure like this one, call me!) ;)

Suzassippi said...

First of all, you look great and it's good to see you are nicely recovering from your surgery.

The tour was great and I loved seeing it from the air. What a nice treat.

Gigi said...

Fabulous!! What fun for all of you. I got to ride the Goose home from Nikolski once when I was out there for my previous job. But would love to take a big ole island tour one day.

Akutan's April Dawn said...

Great Post!! Love the pix!!
Sounds like you enjoyed the ride!!! I LOVE THE GOOSE (especially since it's really the only way in and out of here other than a boat)!! She's a beautiful plane. And I don't take the ear plugs on her either like I do on the saab!!!! It's going to be sad when they stop using those planes (we're supposed to get an airport soon here in Akutan).

I put a link to your blog in my post for today!! Hope more people get to enjoy your beautiful pix.

Isn't Paul a great pilot too?!?!!

Glad you guys were able to enjoy not only a ride on the goose, but enjoy the beauty of this place we call home!!! Especially when it's all green out like it is now!!!

Mj in Md said...

These pictures are unbelievable!! Never knew it could be so green up there!! (Those webcams don't do it justice). Looks kind of like Ireland in some snaps...
Thank you SOO much for sharing. Very happy to see/hear you're back up and around. Take care!

oh, btw...if you need someone to share an adventure like that...forget Lauri; she lives there. Give me 30 hours and I'm there!! ;-D

Lori said...

Of the pics I could see - awesome! What a neat thing for you to share with your bro and friends! I envy them! And I too agree, wow, that color green - breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

The seventh pic down? You should sell prints. I'd buy one.

Thanks for sharing such a killer experience with us!

Lauri said...

Hey Steve! Don't listen to Mj...the family can't even persuade her to visit them in Seattle, ain't no way she's coming to Dutch!

Alaska Steve said...

Well Lauri, Unalaska is way cooler than Seattle so maybe she's make the trip - especially if those DC boys were in town. There are a couple more photos I'm going to post today - it was hard to pick!

Lauri said...

Yeah, I can dangle a DC boy or two in front of her, but I've been trying for years to get her (or ANY of my other cuzes) to visit me...I might have to resort to dastardly tactics...wanna help??


Alaska Steve said...

Lauri, you know when it comes to dastardly deeds you can always count me in! ;o)

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

WOW! How absolutely STUNNING!

You are such a lucky man to be married to Goldfish, to live where you live, to see what you see, to experience what you experience.

How incredible!