The Great Sea Plane Adventure
By John Wakeman
It was the summer of 1963 and Dad and I had made a “solo” trip to Camp. One of our favorite adventures was to pack up a picnic lunch and head to the first island. Our picnic fare was usually purchased at Draper’s store and typically included the following Canadian brands: Maple Leaf Wieners, Humpty Dumpty potato chips, a can of “feves”–which is French for baked beans– cold bottles of Pepsi, and a Cadbury chocolate bar.
It was an overcast day so we brought along a canvas tarp just in case of rain. I had “captained” us out to the island using my grandfather’s powerful 31/2 hp Johnson outboard motor. We had just finished arranging our picnic supplies on the island when we heard the sound of an approaching plane. We searched the sky and found it, a seaplane coming in low over the island.
The plane passed overhead heading North towards camp. The plane circled around and made one more low pass over the island and touched down on the lake in front of camp, taxiing up the shoreline just to the east of Little Joe. We couldn’t believe our eyes! We quickly abandoned our plans for a picnic, tossed our supplies into the boat, fired up the motor and raced back to Camp to see what was going on.
We soon learned that the plane had carried Paul Smallman, a member and his friend, Laurence Chrisie, the owner of the plane. The plane was a small two seater in which the pilot sat in the front and the passenger sat in the back. The passenger compartment was about half the size (front to back) of a Volkswagen Beetle. There was little room to carry any supplies. They had brought a small suitcase and had placed a dozen or so bottles of beer into the pontoons through a small watertight hatch. When they opened the hatch to retrieve the beer they discovered that all of the bottles had broken on the flight up.
My father invited them to have dinner with us but they were more interested in getting into Gracefield to pick up their own supplies. My father offered them the use of his car which they accepted. They drove into town and picked up enough meat, bread, eggs and beer to last them their short stay. They also stopped at Victoria Lodge to arrange for fuel for the plane. Since there were no pumps at the dock, the plan was to have the fuel on the dock in cans when they landed on Lake Victoria the next day.
I was fascinated by the seaplane and I was waiting on the shoreline when they returned from their fuel run to Victoria Lodge. They asked my father if we would like a ride in the plane and we both jumped at the offer! We climbed into the plane and since it was a two-seater I had to sit on my
father’s lap. Between our legs in the back seat was the “stick” used to fly the plane from the back seat. It was connected to the one the pilot used in the front seat. When the pilot moved the stick the one in the back moved too. My father warned me not to touch it!
The rope was untied and as we were pushed off from shore the engine came to life with a roar. We began to taxi into position heading towards the island. The pilot gunned the engine and we began to pick up speed as we glided past the Priest’s cottage.
The lake was like glass and as the pilot pulled back on the stick he was unable to break free of the water’s surface tension. Perhaps the load in the back seat (I estimate that at that time my father and I weighed about 240 pounds together) was pushing this small plane to its limits. Finally as we entered the wide open part of the lake past Priest Point, there was a light ripple on the surface of the lake, just enough for us to break free of the water’s grip.
We slowly lifted off the lake, just clearing the treetops of the island. lt was late afternoon and as we climbed higher we could see the sun reflected off of the many lakes in our view. We headed down the lake over the narrows, the second and the third island. We banked to the right and headed over Lake Desormeaux and continuing our turn returned over Duffy’s Bay. The number of lakes surrounding our lake was astounding to us. We made a pass over Camp, looped back over the first island and began our descent. The plane touched down on the lake and we glided to a stop, eventually taxiing back to the shoreline where our adventure ended.
I still have vivid memories of that special flight over a very special place nearly 50 years later!