21 July 1997 – Part I

(Part of my Gone Fishing story)

Monday, 21 July 1997

Day 3 at Sea

0800 hours SAMOAN TIME (Pacific Time minus four hours)

DIDN’T SLEEP SO WELL LAST NIGHT. Oh well, what can a guy do? I was planning on sleeping in a bit, but soon after the cook rang the wake up bell, the captain came over the PA and said, “Let’s get the chopper ready.” Damn, I haven’t moved that fast in a while- I was up on the flight deck before I had my shorts past my ankles.

We launched the chopper about fifteen minutes later. I then took a few moments to relax up on the flight deck- just me and a few billion gallons of seawater. I looked up and noticed a large tanker ahead and thought, “Hey there is another boat.” It then dawned on me that we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and this might be the only other boat I see.

Anyway, on with the story.

I woke up sometime mid-morning Tuesday and found Jean (pronounced John with a funny “J”), the pilot. He had explained some things to me the night before on the drive to the boat, and he continued to do so as we ate breakfast.

The next four days were spent almost exclusively on the boat working on the helicopter. I had to install a few parts that I brought with me from the factory to replace parts that took a crap near the end of the last trip.

Since this was the first Robinson Helicopter that this company had acquired, I was here to make sure that things went smoothly on the second trip so that they might be enticed to buy more Robinsons.

It was amazing how much damage to the helicopter the previous mechanic had done. He had zero experience working on Robinsons, and it showed. Nothing too major, just minor damage to the airframe that was quite avoidable.

I continue to hear stories about this guy. Apparently he was pretty clueless in general and had no business being on a boat. Hope they aren’t going to have bad stories about me when I leave!

It constantly amazes me how long things take to do on a helicopter. A job that you think will take one hour takes three.

R22 (2)

Jean “JC” helping out with helicopter maintenance before we departed Samoa

The captain of the boat was unhappy with the communication gear about the helicopter, so they brought in a marine radio guy with previous aircraft experience to install two new radios.

Talk about a long job! It took this guy three-and-one-half days to the installation. By the time he was done (with our help) it was Friday around noon, with a scheduled boat departure of about midnight.

I quickly threw some gear on the helicopter so that I could balance all the rotating parts, and did the balancing that was to be done on the ground. With about 1 1/2 hours of daylight left, the pilot and I went flying for the first time. We flew to check the balance of the main rotor, and to make sure the two blades were tracking properly in relationship to each other.

For what seemed like the first thing to go right the whole trip, the rotor system was perfect, requiring no adjustment. We took the opportunity to do a brief bit of sight seeing around the island. It was very relaxing to be flying- just as it always is.

We flew northeast along the coast a bit and then crossed over to another island about 1/2 mile away. This was a very small island with one village on the west side and a volcano on the east side. The rim of the crater was really all that was sticking out of the water – really cool!

Too bad that in all the haste I did not grab my camera. I hope to have more time for sightseeing when we get back.

Next Entry – 21 July 1997 Part II

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