Epilogue: Get to the Chopper

In the morning I arise and check the weather. It is 13 kts gusting to 17. Great news! I call Ben from Coastal Helicopter to check in. He is going to head to the airport and will check back in at 0800 for a weather report. When I get the call the breeze has picked up slightly but not unreasonable. Ben should arrive in this Bell-47 helicopter by 0930.

Since we may all be leaving today we need to get the inflatable back into the house so it is not exposed to weather unattended. The five of us make quick work of it and get it stowed back in the south hallway. We then need to prioritize gear and personnel by weight for this transfer. We itemize IMG_0933our gear by weight and bring it to the designated landing pad, which is just a flat part of the island painted red. The coast guard lands here all the time. We keep our eye on the horizon but somehow miss seeing the helicopter before it is right on top of us! The Bell-47 is a relic yet very reliable. It was built in the 40’s and is still going strong. It is just a bubble for a cockpit with an open frame tail. It also has-rubber inflated pontoons. Ben lands gently on the rock and shuts down. It takes a long time for the blades to stop spinning, and with every rotation the whole rig bounces on its pontoons.

IMG_0934

Eventually the blades stop and Ben steps out and makes his way over. He brings out a scale where he will weigh each bag before stowing. Gear is only stowed on the outside of the aircraft, in racks, using bungee cords. I’m sure this is all safe but if feels a bit too extreme for my taste. We load the primary gear and the first person into the helicopter and they take off. One minute later and they have returned. Ben forgot to move a small weight onto the tail frame for ballast. With that moved the take off again and make for Trenton airport.

IMG_0966

Now there are four of us on the island and the next two should be able to squeeze into the cockpit with Ben, with the rest of their gear, and then we should be done. Tanya and I have a lot of gear. When Ben returns 1.5 hours later Tanya and I have made the decision to stay. While Ben wants to make sure we get off the island safely the reality is that

Our first guest leaves the island

Our first guest leaves the island

our options are quite limited. Only one of us can go with Ben at a time, which would leave one person alone. Strike one. We would need three more trips to get all of us and the gear off the island, potentially leaving a person alone on MDR with limited gear. Strike two. Lastly, the wind has been steadily picking up and is now sustained over 20 kts, with gusts to 25. Strike three. Both Tanya and I would much rather stick it out and leave by boat.

Ben is still not convinced he is not coming back. He packs up the two final guests and they do a fly over then disappear to the north. Tanya and I breathe a sigh of relief. We were able to pull off this second trip without a major hitch, and now everyone is headed home happy. We may need to wait two more days for Chris Candage and a weather window but the bulk of our work is complete.

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