The last few days we have been in the middle of that storm that had been chasing us. It caught up and jus didn’t go away. That is, until today when the clouds seemingly started to lag behind us. Then the intercom went off. The Captain had called for me to come to the bridge. Something told me that he wasn’t asking me up there for beer. Sure enough as soon as I arrived he looked around at the sky around us and then turned to me and asked,
“Ok for flying?”
I glanced quickly at the bird radar, which I had learned to use as a weather radar and noted that most of the red clouds were behind us, and that we were sailing into what appeared to be a relatively clear screen. A glance out the windows told me the same thing, that the sky ahead was clear and so I gave him the thumbs up. It wasn’t raining anymore and they were hungry for a catch. So was I, I need them to do about 100 tons per day if we’re going to make it back to port in time to celebrate NYE on dry land. I wasn’t worried about Christmas on the boat, that was more for family anyways, and I had my gifts in my suitcase still tucked away from mom and dad.
The Captain, who unless yelling at his crew during a set, is normally a pretty stone faced guy with not much emotion. Grinned a bit when I gave permission for a flight and then said, not over the loudspeaker,
“Ok, helicopter standby.”
Fortunately they’d finally learned that I wanted the boat heading changed so that the wind was coming over the port bow, and they started that turn right away as I grabbed my mechanic and we climbed up to the helicopter to get it fired up. A few minutes later the first officer and I were in the air.
Flying in inclement weather is something I would do all the time in the US, because in Washington especially in the winter, that’s the only option you have for flying. It however is very different to be flying in gray weather over the open ocean. Instantly once we were airborne I could tell the wind at 1000 feet was much stronger than at sea level where it had only been a breeze. Occasionally a cloud would pop into our path and I’d have to maneuver around it, sometimes just going below it. Rain fell lightly on the canopy a bit but for the most part it was clear.
What I couldn’t understand is why we were up here. We flew for 2.1 hours (with a refueling break) and I couldn’t see a thing other than choppy ocean and whitecaps on the sea. I felt it would be impossible to differentiate a school foaming at the surface from the white frothy sea foam, and the idea of even seeing one beneath the surface, a “slick”, was impossible to me. Sure enough after 2.1 hours of flying we had seen exactly nothing.
But for me, I got to fly, and that broke up the monotony of cabin fever I was feeling after having been storm tossed for the last few days watching movies in my room, or making jokes with the crew down in the galley. My sanity was saved.