Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It has been a busy few weeks what with Birthdays, school bridge building competitions, Easter and now half term. On my birthday, John signed me up to go flying with these four lovely men in a big yellow Sea King Helicopter. I was asked if I wanted to just sit and watch as they flew around or did I fancy getting winched, uh yes please (sorry Mum I know you think I am mad) because where else would I get the chance to do something like this. I was kitted out in a bright orange rubber immersion suit (steady with the jokes about rubber on my birthday already covered that!!) and a helmet with two fancy drop down visors (how top gun did I feel :)) and then a life jacket. Just getting in and out of all this kit made me sweat like mad never mind moving about in it. G1 then took me around the Sea King and gave me a full safety brief and explain all the items on board and where I would be sitting, how to secure my safety belts etc. I did manage to getting a soaking wet bottom and I looked like I had wet myself even before we started the scary bit as I sat in one of the rear seats, apparently they had been doing sea drills the day before and things hadn't yet dried out! I was given a flying suit to change into which really didn't suit me, think tight rolls. It was then onto a safety video and to watch the crew briefing.

The pilots did all their preflight checks and then had a quick fly around the heli area to check their electrics and systems. G1 (no names sorry) and I were then winched up from the heli pad you can see above in front of the hanger. I don't know what I was expecting but it didn't feel at all like I thought it would. You are winched using a strop which goes underneath your arms and hooks up to the winch cable. It really pinches your skin under your arms if you don't stretch out before being lifted. I now have some lovely bruises on my underarms.

We then headed out over sea to the Mare Harbour area where we met up with this tug boat. G1 was then winched down first on to the back of the tug and you can just about see him standing in the middle of the back deck. Then came my turn all on my own. Surprisingly I wasn't frightened. It is slightly surreal dangling over the sea that high up. As I was lowered towards the ship G2 kindly interpreted my Husband's wishes for me to be dunked up to my head in the sea and very gentlemanly only dipped my toes in it! He mentioned something about trying to correct the swing it would have created so close the back of the boat had he dunked me fully and the difficulties that would have posed (so maybe not so gentlemanly) and then I was lifted onto the deck and released from the winch. We took a look around the tug which was quite interesting and not easily done with vertical ladders and size 5 walking boots inside a size 9 shoe immersion suit. Think clown shoes.

It was then time for me to be winched back up on my own into the Heli and take a rear seat while G1 and the crew practised flying close to and winching down onto the front of the tug. I have to mention here as well that the tug was moving during all of this and the skill these guys possess is amazing.

Here you can see G1 being winched down onto the front of the boat, what you cannot see is that G2 has a little joystick control by the back door with which he can control the direction of the helicopter, taking over from the pilots. All the time in the heli I am plugged in to the intercom system and can listen to the crew giving instructions and comments.

Once they had completed their training exercises with the tug we headed back over MPA and out to a range to the North. I was allowed to go and stand between the pilots and chat with them about their controls. Yes there were further jokes about rubber and knobs and what more could a girl ask for on her birthday. Ah aircrew they don't change no matter what the aircraft type.

We arrived at a small valley where the Sea King landed. G1 and I got out and walked over to rock face where I got left after wading through a stream and climbing up the opposite bank. I was instructed to hold on tight when the heli came back to pick me up as the wash from the stream could be quite strong. G1 then headed back to the heli and I was left on my own as they took off into the distance. It was rather peaceful there but the thought did cross my mind that I was a long way from home and although I know my Husband loves me he does have me insured for a rather high amount!!

I was sat about half way up the above picture on the left hand side after wading through said stream in my clown suit. Again another tricky place to pick me up from. I thankfully had nothing to fear as they did decide to come back and pick me up. They flew around once marking my position with flares and then came back and hovered supposedly discussing how they were going to approach winching me out. At this I got to play with the visors and dropped my clear one to protect my eyes from the debris flying about. You can see the stream I crossed in the picture below which I took as they were about to take off and leave me.

This time I was going to be lifted with the scenario that I had a broken leg therefore I was put in two strops one under my arms and the other under my legs. I was winched along the valley and dropped off at another position higher up the rock face. The crew then flew away again following the same procedure as before.

Once again G1 came back down put me in a double strop, this time lifting me with him back into the aircraft from my position below.

This time I had my camera on me and they were happy with me taking pictures,which isn't as easy as it sounds, the helmet along with E. suit and life jacket doesn't allow for a great amount of manoeuvrability. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed that the kids had been fiddling with the settings on my camera and that I was in manual mode! The photo below was completely blown out as it was taken in direct sun as the helicopter hovered above me but after a bit of photoshop work I actually like the effect.

Once again we went the heli made its rounds and this time since there was no wash blowing up I managed to get some pictures of the crew in the door.

It is definitely more comfortable being winched with two stropes rather than one. When I was being winched over the boat the drop can be quite jerky and you really felt it under your arms and in your back.

This time is was a nice smooth glide up underneath the belly of the helicopter. You can see G2 checking the winch as it comes up and operating it from inside the heli door.

nearly up.

hello there.

After all the winching we headed back to MPA the long way down Berkeley Sound where we were fortunate to see whales. I was so excited sat in the door looking for them I didn't get any pictures. We saw a few and quite a lot of plumes but unfortunately they weren't really up for playing with a big yellow helicopter.

You can see from this picture that I really didn't have much head movement space with all the equipment on. I had to get G1 to undo the zip on the immersion suit as it was digging into my neck. The equipment is not designed for short, round ladies!!

Then we flew along the coast of Stanley, around the bottom of the town (below is the Chandlery where I do alot of my supermarket shopping) and back home along the Stanley road.

It was quite bizarre to see the road that I drive at least once a week from this angle.

All in all it was a birthday treat that I will not forget in a hurry. Many thanks to the crew and fitters who made it all possible. I do have to add that throughout the day I didn't damage myself in anyway, however as I walked back into the helicopter squadron I managed to trip over my goon suit and fall flat on my face giving myself a very nice set of bruises on my hand and knees. Thankfully for once my camera was in the bag but I was embarassed as their helmet shot off into the air. How silly did I feel!

Later in the week we had another gorgeous sunset, this one is unedited straight out of the camera.

The weekend arrived and it was time for the kids to help with chores and house cleaning. Ellie was helping me to wash floors (she likes to make pretty patterns with the mop on my floor) in both the bathrooms. John headed down to use said bathroom and this is the sign that he found. At first I thought Euan had done it but it turned out it was Ellie. Whoever it was we both found it hilarious and definitely one of the things to go in her scrapbook. I particularly like the stick man with the mop.

Last day of school before half term and I attended a prize giving assembly where they announced the winners of the bridge building and egg decorating contest. Maddie was fortunate enough to win a prize for her bridge design and was awarded a glass paperweight of the millenium bridge by Sam Allin (Consulting Engineer for Gifford). Euan came second in his category and was given a pen and rubber with the Gifford logo.

Trying to get a picture of her looking at me standing with Sam Allin was near impossible but I did get this one as she sat down. It doesn't seem to matter how I try and teach her that the hair band goes infront of her hair and behind her ears, she still has it sat to the back of her head with all the hair in front of it. We are in the middle of the battle of put it up or get it cut mode.

Easter Monday saw a beautiful day here with wonderful sunshine and very little wind (a rarity down here). I seized the opportunity to head down to Bertha's beach with swim costumes and towels in bag just incase the opportunity arouse to go out and see the dolphins. The beach was stunning and everything was glistening in the sunlight. We headed down the right where you are more likely to see dolphins and see them we did, out on the peninsula there was a pod of 5 but they were heading out to sea. Not put off we carried on around to the next bay during which Maddie managed to drench herself all up one side in one of the rock pools.
The kids set up camp with buckets and either built sand castles or searched for shells. Fergus ran around like a lunatic trying to drag pieces of sea weed which were over 10ft long and a good 6ins wide. Just then I saw the dolphins coming back in our direction. I made the decision to pop on my swim suit and head out into the very cold water to see if they would come and play. I waded out to waist height squealing everytime a wave buffeted me and I was greated by five dolphins swimming around me within inches of my legs. They are such beautiful, beautiful creatures and I cannot explain what it was like to be so close to them in a wild environment. I did take a small video of the action before the batteries died on Euan's camera but I will not subject you to the screaming and sky action everytime a wave hit me, nor my screaming at Fergus to go back inland as he kept trying to swim out to me. I called to Ellie to join me but she was finding the water to cold so I waded back in and one by one with the children lifted them onto my hip and waded back out. Each time the dolphins came back over to greet us and rode the surf almost directly at us, shooting off just as they reached us.

After about 15 minutes my legs were starting to go very red and I decided I had better head back in and warm up. It was such an emotional experience and I cannot wait until next summer when I can do it again hopefully in slightly warmer waters and possibly wade a bit further in.

We all warmed up and got changed apart from Maddie who had no dry bottoms. We wrapped her in a towel and made our way back to the car, very happy bunnies. What an Easter treat.
Tuesday was spent cleaning the house for dinner quests last night and trying to hunt down some lemons to make steamed lemon curd sponge puddings for Friday and eggs to make some meringues for dessert that night.
Today we headed out to Fitzroy and took a look at the monuments out there and view the little cove. It was to cold to hang about and with Fergus being incredibly disobedient Mummy's temper soon frayed. We came back and spent the rest of the day refining our Lego building skills and rushing backwards and forwards to the park for short plays.

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