The Seaplane Flight

Seattle’s Puget Sound Waterfront. Photo: Athena Alexander

 

Seaplane landing, Lake Union, Seattle, WA

One summer day six years ago, we had a wonderful adventure on a seaplane. We took off from Lake Union in Seattle, Washington, and landed 45 minutes later in Victoria, Canada.

 

(The fires here in Wine Country rage on, though there is 35% containment, so I am continuing with the water theme started last week. Boat Rides.)

 

There was a free shuttle that transported us from Seattle’s International Airport to Lake Union, and we had arrived early. A small airport, Kenmore Air was the most relaxing and picturesque U.S. airport I had ever been to.

 

There was plenty of time to sit around the docks watching the floatplanes land. I sat there trying to grasp how landing in water was going to work, while Athena took photos.

 

With passports and carry-on bags, we soon walked down the pier and climbed into the floating plane. Other than the two “floats” mounted under the fuselage, it looked like a regular Cessna airplane.

Lake Union pier at Kenmore Air, Seattle, WA

 

Besides Athena and myself, there were two other passengers, plus the captain and co-captain.

 

Seaplane Cockpit

 

Water takeoff was similar to an earth takeoff, but not as solid or defined…a combination of plane and boat takeoff.

 

We left Lake Union, a busy commercial and recreational boating hub in Seattle, and soon enjoyed a picturesque bird’s-eye view of Washington State’s largest city.

Lake Union, Seattle, WA

 

The plane’s two floats, which make water landings possible, add weight and therefore drag to the plane. This creates a slower rate of climb and cruise speed.

 

A slow climb and cruise speed resulted in a relaxing environment. The relatively low altitude offered fascinating views of the world below.

 

We flew over the San Juan Islands. There are 172 named islands, and several hundred smaller islands. Ferries and boats of all kinds cruise through this archipelago, from cargo ships to kayaks. It is a popular tourist destination. Map at end.

 

Aerial sailboat, from seaplane

 

Though we saw none of this from the sky that day, there are pods of orca whales, as well as humpbacks and minkes; and other wildlife, too, including the largest concentration of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.

 

We saw that some islands were empty of people, while other islands were more established.

 

A few of the San Juan Islands, Washington State

 

Soon– too soon–it was time to land.

 

We were given an expansive aerial view of Victoria as we descended. Located on Canada’s Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia is a sizeable city, population 92,000.

 

Victoria Canada aerial photo from the seaplane

 

The sparkling harbor came closer and closer.

 

When we came to the moment of landing, I was pleasantly surprised…even delighted. Because I finally got to know what it must feel like to be a duck.

 

We landed just like a duck does, with it’s webbed feet extended for landing while the rest of the upper body slowly and seamlessly eased gently onto the water’s surface.

 

In my mind…I quacked with joy.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

 

Water Taxi, Victoria’s Inner Harbour and B.C. Parliament Bldgs. Photo: Athena Alexander

 

Empress Hotel, Victoria’s Inner Harbour, Canada

 

The San Juan Islands. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 

85 thoughts on “The Seaplane Flight

  1. Quacking stuff! I’ve just heard a floatplane take off down in the harbour – it’s a good day for an aerial tour of the Broken Group.
    Great description of the slower delights of a small plane flight, and where better to do this than over the islands of the PNW?
    Thanks, Jet! I hope the increasing fire containment trend continues, and you and your neighbours remain safe.

    • It’s a particularly beautiful region of the world that you live in, pc, and great fun to visit. It was a short jaunt for an anniversary celebration, and great fun. Thanks for your well wishes, we are lucky to be safe and not evacuated. Hoping your weekend is a joy.

  2. Landing like a duck…what a cool and apt analogy, Jet. That seaplane ride looks like so much fun. I have never been in a plane that small and it looks like it gave you and Athena the chance to get some views along the way. It’s so strange to think of getting into a tiny plane and needing to bring along your passport, but Victoria is obviously not all that far away. I lived outside of Tacoma for three years when I was still in the Army and love the Seattle area. In fact, since I have lived here in the Washington DC area, I’ve visited friends in Seattle four times, going twice by plane, once by Amtrak, and once driving. One of my favorite memories of the last time I was there was a boat excursion around Seattle with my then boyfriend that culminated in a dinner of salmon cooked on cedar planks.

    • I very much appreciated your comment, Mike, and sharing. Your memories of the Pacific Northwest were also fun to hear, espec. their specialty of salmon cooked on cedar planks. Salmon in Seattle is deservedly classic, as I have found no place on earth where salmon is that mouth-watering. We have a special friend who lives in Seattle and have made many trips there to see her, and I have had the joy of visiting this magnificent city many times. For us in Calif. it’s a quick and easy flight. My warmest thanks for your comment today, Mike, much appreciated.

    • Yes, it was exciting, and a great way to spend the day, Eddie. How fun to take you up into the “wild blue yonder” with us today. Thanks so much, my friend, for your lovely comment.

  3. Seattle is a beautiful city, but nowadays it’s completely crossed off my list of places I would visit. Such a shame that anarchy has made the place unsafe. Lovely pictures of how it used to be. And I enjoyed seeing Victoria. The Empress Hotel is worth a visit. I had a cup of tea there once, years ago. Paid through the nose, but it was worth it just to sit in the tea room and admire the heavy polished wood furniture and the old style decor.

  4. This post is just ducky! πŸ™‚ Smart to stay with a “water” theme. Hoping rain comes to Napa Valley and all parts of CA soon. In the meantime, savor the memories of your seaplane adventure.

    • Thanks for your visit and warm wishes, Pam. Yes, enjoying water themes right now seems to help. Went to Tiburon yesterday, much water there, and their air was clean, too. Sending smiles your way.

      • A week ago our son in Tiburon said he had ashes on his car – sitting out on the driveway. I guess it depends on the way the wind blows. All I know is I wish the wind would stop blowing so the firefighters could stop these horrors. xo

      • The fire near our house in wine country is only 36% contained and has been going for two weeks. 330,000+ acres. Air is really bad. We’re spending this weekend at a friend’s in Berkeley so we can breathe. Our deck is a thick blanket of ash and we sleep with N95 masks on. So my wish is your wish, Pam. Many thanks.

      • Thank you for the update-as horrible as it is. Sending you rainy and watery thoughts. We have friends who are living in Calistoga, Sonoma, Petaluma and lots in Marin County. The smoke seems to have carried everywhere. With a hug, Pam

  5. It sounds like a fun trip! I’ve never been in that area. I’m sure it must be wonderful. Great post as always! Thank you, Jet. πŸ¦† Quack!

    • I enjoyed your comment, Janet, and the jet ski paranthetical gave me a smile. Thanks for your kindness regarding the fires. Lives have been lost in these fires, so we all hope it will end soon. My warm thanks.

    • I do love being in the sky because there is so much to see and feast your eyes on, as you say. I’m happy you enjoyed this seaplane with us, Amy, thanks so much for your visit today.

  6. What a nightmare this year has been for so many! Very happy to escape with you, Jet. I don’t much like the going up and coming down but now you tell me I can land like a duck… what could be better? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  7. We went on a seaplane over the glaciers of Alaska (near Juneau). It was a blast. My sister has been sheltering in place on a boat docked in Seattle – she said the Canadians have been very stick about not allowing US boaters into Canadian waters. Even to those tiny islands.

    • I appreciated knowing about your sister docked in Seattle, Jan. Canada is not the only country tough on letting Americans in during this pandemic, can’t say I blame them. I am happy you’ve had the joy of being on a seaplane, my friend. Thanks so much.

  8. what a wonderful ride, Jet. Athena’s photographs are beautiful! thank you for taking us along! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ happy weekend, dear friend! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • I have fond memories of taking a ferry in the Seattle area with you and Nan, dear Bill. And all that salmon we ate! Glad you could vicariously join us for the floatplane flight. My warmest thanks.

  9. Seaplane Flight, what an awesome adventure, Jet! These views are stunning and photos are so beautifully capture. Thank you for sharing with us. πŸ™‚

  10. I’ve never been on a seaplane flight, but I think it would be glorious. The closest I’ve come is the Cessna STOL (short take off and landing) craft our hospital used in Liberia. When the airstrip’s cut out of the jungle with machetes, and when it might tilt up or down, that STOL is useful. We often had to make a pass to run the goats and the soccer-playing kids off the strip before we could land.

    • Glad you were entertained with the seaplane post, Craig. And I enjoyed hearing about your first seaplane flight, a lot. My warmest thanks for your visit today, buddy.

  11. What a pleasure it must have been on that seaplane! And enjoyed your narrative, too. I adore Victoria– and Vancouver Island in general–have been there a half dozen times and am eager to get back. I take the ferry over from Port Townsend, a fun and easy ride. -We had panned a trip for this early fall…but it will wait. So thanks for this.

    • Yes, it was a pleasure to take that seaplane flight. Great views and fun experience. We took the Victoria Ferry back to Seattle and had the beauty of a sunset and then the lit-up ferris wheel. I like hearing about your adventures in Victoria and VI, Cynthia. So many ferries around there, always a new adventure. Glad I could supply you with a little PNW adventure. Thanks so much.

  12. Victoria, as I remember, is a very picturesque city. I went there often, by ferry, while living in Vancouver for 8 years. That was years before you went there. I even got to take a sea plane way up north into the islands, where MacMillan Bloedel was clear cutting an island’s trees. THE HORROR
    Anyway, it turned me into a tree hugger, which I am proud of.
    Thank you, Jet, for this post, unlocking memories!

  13. Flying in a seaplane has special memories for me. When I was young, preteens maybe, I had my first plane rides in an old Cessna 195 my uncle had on floats. It was those rides that inspired me to get a pilot’s license 20 years later or so, and what give me my strongest memories of my uncle. Despite the many years since I can still see, in my mind’s eye, the water splashing and receding under the pontoons as we took off.

    The San Juan’s are beautiful from both boat and air. I only flew up there once, in a Cessna 172, landing in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. (Ground side. I never got a seaplane rating.) It’s another one of those more favored memories.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • There’s nothing like the small planes, Dave, I can imagine you have many fond memories. I enjoyed hearing about your inspiration as a young man, from your uncle; and your continued enjoyment of the Cessnas. When I was in college I flew small planes, Cessnas, and I still have a love for them. Many thanks, Dave.

  14. I’ve landed like a duck too! Quite an experience for sure, Jet! We flew by seaplane from Key West airport and landed in the water at Dry Tortugus NP where we floated up to the beach and were left for the day to explore the fort and the beaches, then the plane returned late in the day for us to board in the water to fly back to Key West. Flying low over ship wrecks and seeing large shark pointed out to us was pretty cool! Funny story, when I saw our ‘old’ seaplane on the Key West airstrip, I started to worry, what were we thinking (we’re not flyers). And then we saw a guy walking up in a Caribbean shirt, khaki shorts, & flip flops, I turned to my husband and said, “I hope that’s not our pilot.” It was, and I was a nervous wreck, lol. But he was fabulously funny, and we had a great time! He was a ‘seasoned’ seaplane pilot for sure!

    • I chuckled at your funny story, Donna. Laid-back dude in flip-flops, not exactly one’s idea of a pilot, but it sounds like he did a fabulous job. Great fun to see sharks and shipwrecks in the water, and no doubt the sparkling turquoise waters. A day in the Dry Tortugus sounds divine. Many thanks for sharing your story, Donna, and for giving me a smile this morning.

    • Great to hear from you, Walt. I’m glad you enjoyed the “duck’s-eye view,” my friend, I like your words in this comment. I am enjoying your new poetry book immensely. Cheers to you!

  15. I couldn’t help but chuckle a the thought of you quacking away and the pilot wondering what on earth might be going on. A perfect analogy.
    Wonderful to have those island views and that of Victoria as well. I think of these planes now and wonder if they are all grounded? Certainly not flying across the Canadian US border.
    Hoping the fires see further containment in the week ahead.

    • Oh yes, we enjoyed those aerial views from the floatplane, Sue, and I’m glad I could share some here. I find them mesmerizing. These days I read on their website that they’re still making the flights but there are, of course, many more restrictions. I don’t know about the border situation, but I do know that during Covid they’re not offering their free shuttle from SeaTac to Lake Union. And yes, the fires are more contained. From one lightning storm there were 22 fires fought by 12,500 firefighters who have bravely continued fighting since it began on Aug. 17. The one close to us is now 89% contained. It’s been quite a struggle, but the perseverance is impressive. Thanks so much.

  16. Laughing πŸ˜‚ at your last line quacked me up!

    Great post with great bird’s eye views by Athena!

    Memories of shooting my trusty film camera from a Cessna over Placerville back in the early 70s. Only time I’ve ever experienced motion sickness. I, too, probably quacked with something like joy when we landed. πŸ¦†

    • It’s so funny you say the last line “quacked” you up, Gunta, because in my first draft that was the line I used! I’m delighted you enjoyed the post and photos. And I liked hearing about your Cessna flight over Placerville, too. Always a joy to hear from you, my friend, thank you.

    • It was a very strange sensation, to be feeling like a duck, but at the same time it was infinitely entertaining. I’m glad you could join me, dear Nan, in this experience. My warmest thanks.

  17. What a great way to travel to Victoria. I’ve flown in small, two-seater planes and I’ve taken “duck” tours a couple of times so I’m imagining it’s a combination of the two! What fun!

    • Lovely to “see” you, Roslyn, thanks for stopping by. Although I have never been on a “duck” tour (but I’ve seen them), I’m guessing your creative idea of the combination “duck” tour and two-seater plane is a good rendition of the sea plane experience. Many thanks, and happy days to you.

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