Sunday, December 19, 2004


UKN Saves The Reefy Lake Boy's Bacon!!!

The day was hot and muggy. I had done a few trips earlier, and it was getting hotter and hotter. I was flying CF-UKN, a 1966 deHavilland Otter, serial# 456. They only made 10 more after this one.

It was just after noon and there was one more load of freight to go to Pauingassi. I was flying off Lake Winnipeg, just south of Pine Dock, Manitoba. I was going to leave the freight until the next morning because of the heat, but the freight handler told me it was all fresh meats and vegetables. "Son of a butt, all perishable goods," I said.

We decided to quickly load and go, as the temperature was over 30*C already. We loaded and I took a long run across the lake, and the Baron STOL kit pulled me into the air. I staggered up to 2000'ASL and proceeded northeast. Once in cruise the cylinder head temperature stabilized at about 400*F, which was acceptable. The prolonged takeoffs and climbs are really hard on these air-cooled radial engines, especially the Pratt and Whitney "Wasp" 1340 engine. I continued to wallow through the air and crossed the Bloodvein River, then crossed Long Body Creek and Long Body Swamp. Man, flying sucks when it is this hot. There is such a reduced density to the air that aircraft lift, engine combustion, and engine cooling are impaired.

I continued on at 2000'ASL, crossed the Pigeon River, then flew past Button, O'Kelly, Grandmother, and Fishing Lakes, and landed at Pauingassi. I landed a distance from the dock so my cylinders and oil would have more time to cool off as I taxied in. I shut down, coasted to the dock, got out, and tied her up. Then I again cursed the heat.

As I unloaded, I opened all the doors on the Otter, as when it is 35*C outside the airplane, it is over 40*C inside the airplane. I finished unloading, then taxied out, took off, and climbed to 6500'ASL. I could get higher now that I was empty.

It was about 20*C at 6500' and much smoother. I clipped along figuring it was too damn hot, so we would shut down any more non-emergency Otter flights once I returned to base. I was about halfway back when my "Bush Pilot (Spidey) Sense" started to tingle. I had been thinking about 12 cold "Kokanees" when old UKN hit some turbulence and dipped her left wing. This caused me to look out and I noticed we were by Reefy and O'Kelly Lakes. I knew the guys with the private cabin at Reefy Lake as I had taken them in fishing a few days previous. I wondered how they were doing fishing.

What the.....? Shit, that looks like smoke. What would they be doing burning in heat like this? One stray spark and the whole Province could soon be on fire. I know the guys at the camp and they are quite intelligent. No, they wouldn't be burning at this temperature. The smoke didn't seem to be coming from the chimney, either. Geez, I'm at 6500'. Piss on it, something is wrong. Power back, down we go!

On the way down my mind tossed around a few different scenarios of what I would find once I got on the water. I couldn't see any boats out on the lake, or see any signs of life around the cabin. I figured maybe all 6 guys got carbon monoxide poisoning from their propane appliances, and then the cabin caught fire. Down I went until I could see the cabin was OK, the smoke was coming from around their fish-house. Still no sign of life. Well, I will peel the shingles off their cabin with my floats and if they are dead, it won't matter, and if they are alive, they will crap themselves and come running outside.

I buzzed the cabin, banked the airplane around and landed. As I landed I could see...BODIES! Live ones, though, scurrying like ants! OK, I can taxi around a little bit longer to cool my engine and oil. I watched in semi-amusement as the ants... I mean guys, put out the fire using garbage cans, coolers, pails, and anything else that would hold water. They sure were moving quickly. I taxied to the dock and tied up.

Gord came down to see me with a sheepish look on his face. They had been fishing that morning, cleaned fish for lunch, and decided to play cards and stay in the cabin until later because of the heat. Apparently, someone had been smoking and threw his cigarette on the ground by the shed, and the peat covering the rock must've started smouldering until it burst into flames and rapidly spread.

The rest of the guys finally got all the fire out. They continued to soak the ground with water, and said they would keep watching the area for the rest of the day. They all agreed they should have known better. Anyways, they were fine, so I bid them adieu, as I needed a COLD BEER!.

I picked them up a few days later and they headed home. They said another group of their buddies were going to use their cabin on the coming weekend, and I should expect them.

Well, the weekend came, the buddies showed and presented me and old UKN with TWO 24's of Molson Canadian Beer! Hallelujah! They said it was courtesy of the "Reefy Lake Firemen". I laughed. I thanked them, took them to the lake, and returned.

Later that night, I drank some of the booty, reminisced, and watched the sun set through the bottom of an amber bottle.

UKN got me into tight lakes and out of jams. She also alerted the boys at Reefy Lake....... Posted by Hello

Sounds like an exciting life. The fire reminds me of the Little Grand fire when I was visiting in the early Fall of '89.
The life has it's moments. Something new every day. This fire at the camp easily could've started another fire like in 1989, but UKN's timing in detecting the fire was impeccable, and the "Reefy Lake Firemen" averted a catastrophe.
I often think about coming to MB for a hunt in the Fall, but only if we could go on a fly in together. It would be a blast! Maybe bring Justin. He is pretty stoked for hunting these days....when he is not playing guitar 5 hrs/day. If you were game for that, and I'm sure you would be if you had time off, then I would try to plan it for 2006 as I am kind of committed to a fly in Elk hunt in 2005 (and also a father son hunt in Burns Lake with a friend of mine and his 2 kids). If for some reason 2005 is the right time for a MB trip then I could cancel my committments if I did so in the next month or so. I like to plan my trips well ahead of time because I get maps of the areas etc and do lots of research (I am not talking about your area of course). Not sure I can afford it financially so I will wait to hear what your thoughts are before figuring out what I can sell :)
A hunt together sounds enticing. If you have made committments for 2005, I wouldn't change them. Plan for 2006, then you won't have to sell anything, and my boy will be a year older. Talk to you soon...
wow great to see the plane my grandpa was flying for sherit still alive and well. he picked it up with my grandma for sherit in 66. he lead a intresting life wish i had known him he pased away in 96 of parkisons
Thanks for the comment, 1ajs. I wish you would have left me your name and contact info, I would love to touch base and learn more about your Grandpa and old UKN when she was still a virgin. If you read this comment, contact me and provide me with some info, pictures, anything you could, and I am sure we could make a nice tribute to your Grandpa and UKN.
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