Adventures of a Modern Pirate: August 2019

The scent of gas and oil permeated the air, and yes, I inhaled. There was no better high than Avgas and oil when it came to old seaplanes. 

She was a large white Grumman HU-16 Albatross with blue stripes along the fuselage. “Chalk’s” in bold blue lettering ran along the vertical stabilizer. A classic aluminum beauty floating on the beach before my very eyes. As the cool sea breeze brushed against the hot exhaust manifolds, the snap, crackle and pop sounds radiating from them were audible from the short distance.

Peter was his usual happy self as he smiled down at us and then jumped down. Brief handshakes were shared, and then we stood staring at the seaplane. I was simply in awe, and my uncle stood speechless with hands atop his head and mouth agape. 

“How the hell did you manage this?” my uncle asked.

“It’s a long story,” Peter replied. “We gotta hurry! Help me get her turned around.” 

“Woo-hoo!” I said.

“Okay,” my uncle said dubiously. 

Using lines and a headwind, we floated the big girl around. Facing the open ocean and resting the tail against the sandy beach as an anchor, we got her situated. By then, a small crowd of smiling locals stood watching from the comfort of the shade the palm trees provided. Occasionally, Polaroid cameras could be heard going off behind us. I never forgot that sound.

Peter waded through thigh-high water, climbed aboard through the aft door, and waved us in. We threw our belongings to him then waded out. He pulled us into the fuselage, where twelve empty tan seats waited along with a matching upholstered interior. The horizon was visible through the windows across from me as I felt the buoyancy under my legs. A mild seawater odor was indicative of the seaplane’s life. It was an exhilarating sensation for a 15-year-old boy. 

I found a seat behind the cabin door with a clear view of what was to come as my uncle climbed into the cockpit and sat shotgun. I peeked into the cockpit as Peter worked the controls and flipped switches when I heard the loud whine of the starters turning and then, “pop!” The engines roared to life and settled into idle. My rear shook in the seat as Peter gassed the engines. We lunged forward under power and afloat. Nothing could have wiped the smile of this pirate’s face! Yo-ho-ho!

Gotta get back to my coconut concoctions . . .

This column is part of an ongoing story of tales from the past that continues each month. Read Josh’s previous columns here:

To read more about Josh’s new novel, click here!

Joshua MacLeod is a NSB local and a Florida native. He is the author of Savage Tango and Chasing Latitudes. He lives with his dogs, Durango, Higgins and Oscar.

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