Friday, 23 January 2015

My favourite book

Flood Tide by John Ridgway – Completed (for the 6th time) 4 May 2015

This is undoubtedly my favourite book bar none. I have now read it 6 times (though its 16 years since I last read it on a 16 hour flight aboard an RAF Tristar from Mount Pleasant Falkland Islands to Brize Norton). It is this book (along with the Ridgway’s later ‘Then We Sailed Away’) that has inspired the 2nd part of my life including my decision to leave the RAF in 2001 in order to follow my own path. Though my life possesses little of the adventure that is recorded here some key concepts that I have taken from this book are Self-Reliance; Positive Thinking; ‘Being is better than having ‘ and don’t be afraid to borrow from the future.
Written in 1988, during a then record breaking 203 day non-stop circumnavigation (beating the previous record by 30 days), the book tells the story of how the Ridgway’s settled in Ardmore and of the first 20 years the John Ridgeway School of Adventure. This however is not simply an autobiographical work as it is Ardmore itself and the dwindling community of crofters then living there that are the real stars. This cast changes as the older generations of crofters die or move away but life is brought to the community by the new influx of people to support the Adventure School in particular Lance and Ada Bell and the various instructors on the annual courses. The book has a wide cast of characters.

Ridgway tells of how the Adventure school s set up with the help of Rod Liddon and his wife in 1968/9 from where it moves to the early courses that are run and the Liddon’s departure. In addition to the running of the Adventure School a living was extracted from the land by Ridgway and his neighbours crofting activities ranging from peat-cutting to fishing to setting up one of the earliest Salmon farms in the Highlands and eventually to the acquisition of a flock of sheep.

The story of the adventure school courses and of the crofting life is complemented by the stories of the winter adventures that Ridgway carried out in order to ‘recharge the batteries’. These trips are covered in other books by the author however sufficient details are here to provide a taster for each of the trips recounted which are:

1970 First expedition to the furthest source to mouth of Amazon. On this expedition John met Elvin Berg (who would be burned alive by Shining Path terrorists in 1985)
1972 First crossing Gran Campo Nevado Ice-cap, Patagonia, Southern Chile.
1973 English Rose V, 32-foot sloop. Winter family sailing voyage Ardmore to the Spanish Sahara to give Rebecca Ridgway an adventure prior to leaving for boarding school
1977/78 English Rose VI, 57-foot ketch Whitbread Round World Race.
1979 John and Marie Christine’s Himalayan journey in Nepal
1980 John and Marie Christine’s preparation for and running of the New York Marathon
1983/4 With Andy Briggs, in English Rose VI, a then record 203-day non-stop sailing circumnavigation of World
1985 Peruvian expedition into the Shining Path infested Apurimac Valley. Planned to celebrate Rebecca's completion of school on this expedition led to the discovery of Elvin Berg's fate and the discovery of his 6 year old daughter Elizabeth who would be adopted and taken to Ardmore by the Ridgways.

It is now 27 years since I first read this book and it has lost none of its appeal . It is the only book I have read 6 times and there is a reason for that – in short it is a fascinating and inspirational tale. Although it is well complemented by the 1996 ‘Then We Sailed Away’ it is a shame that John Ridgway has not written a sequel as this book draws you into the lives of those mentioned and it would be nice, though perhaps painful, to discover what happened to the residents at Ardmore as the book closes in 1988. I do know that John and Marie Christine retired in 2003 and that Rebecca now runs the adventure school but its hard to believe that the hyperactive Mr Ridgway has simply sat with his feet up and slippers on for the last 12 years!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Book Review The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett Completed 7 January 2015

‘The Journey in Between’ is an account of Keith ‘Fozzie’ Foskett’s 2002 walk along the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. Foskett started his 1600 km walk from Le Puy en Velay making his way to Santiago de Compostella and beyond to Finisterre – the most Westerly point of Spain.

I started this book in May 2014 and only finished it many months later not because it is a difficult read but because it is an easy and enjoyable one. I enjoyed dipping in and out as Fozzie made his way along the route taken by thousands of pilgrims since at least the 9th century. Foskett is not a Pilgrim in the conventional sense as there is no religious meaning in his Journey though his completion of it helps him realize that it is not the start or finish of any trip that is important but ‘The Journey in Between’, hence the book’s title. This realization, recounted at the end of the book is what leads him to evaluate what he wants from life and forms a framework for his later lifestyle. As Fozzie says ‘It gave me the tools, the wherewithal, the people and the insights to make sense of my life. To realise there is a journey in between, and to enjoy it’

The story of the journey is told with humor and recalls key sights, sounds (particularly the snoring of other travelers in the many refuges along the way) and fellow travelers found along the way. Foskett seems to be a lot luckier with the ladies than I but perhaps it’s the spiritual nature of the journey that unlocks this potential – he’s certainly inspired me to give it a go!

In summary an enjoyable and gentle traveller’s tale well worth getting hold of.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Last Flight of 2014 Aberdeen to Perth in Cloud and Turbulence

In the afternoon of 31 December and with just a few hours of 2014 left Alex and I decided to take ZV to Perth for some VOR approaches using the PTH VOR and an old Jeppesen plate. We knew Perth airfield would not be busy and would be closed from 1500 so homing to the beacon would not be an issue though we would need to make sure Dundee was aware of our intentions.

The airfield winds at Aberdeen were reasonable light though the winds at 3000 ft were 220 40kts. We re-fuelled ZV to full before the trip (a good thing as we would be airborne for 3 hours). The plan was for me to fly to Perth, carry out 3 x approaches then hand controls to Alex for 2 x approaches before recovering to Aberdeen where Alex would get in a 3rd approach though an ILS rather than a VOR this time.

We took off at 1400hrs in bright sunshine, Alex looking cool in his sunglasses, but as we climbed to 1500 ft I levelled off to stay below a layer of cloud and then - wallop we were hit by some pretty heavy turbulence, heavier than I had experienced in a small plane before. Slowing to below 100 kts to protect the airframe I requested a climb to 4000 ft which was allowed by ATC but which now made us IMC. We had been in cloud for30 minutes before Alex realised he was still wearing his sunglasses - he looked cool in his Aviators thaough I am sure it was a darker cloud for him than for me.

The strong headwind not only slowed our groundspeed to 60 kts but also caused mountain wave activity within our cloud thereby requiring constant power and attitude adjustments. On leaving the Aberdeen Zone we were handed over to Scottish who provided an excellent service for the rest of the flight until re-joining Aberdeen some 2 1/2 hours later. With Scottish we were able to get a traffic service plus co-ordinate against any Dundee Outbounds.

On the transit flights to and from Perth we had planned to carry out some PFLs but our IMC status precluded this so it was a simple case of homing to PTH using the VOR and GPS. My 1st approach was planned, and briefed with no issues we broke cloud at 1400ft with a DA of 970ft. I tracked to the Missed Approach point and that is where it went wrong. Firstly I did not fly out for long enough given the strong wind meaning I would be outbound on the procedure sooner than I had allowed for; secondly I DR'd my position rather then reset the inbound heading on the VOR dial which meant that I ended up arcing rather than going overhead directly. Thirdly I did not allow sufficient wind correction for the outbound track. These errors combined to push me east of the inbound heading rather than west so quick abort and climb to 3000ft to reset was required. Lessons were learned immediately and applied for the next 2 approaches which went fine though the cloud base was notably decreasing and visibility becoming much murkier. On my final Approach Alex took over at the MAP to fly the missed approach and then to do his 2 approaches. The 1st of which was done straight away before we had to spend 10 mins circling at 1000ft in the gloom to allow 2x movements from Dundee to clear. Alex then carried out his 2nd VOR and from the missed approach headed back to Aberdeen.

The return flight was also IMC and mountain wave activity was again significant though our ground speed was much faster at 160kts. Again as we approached Banchory we received some severe buffeting that threw us about quite a bit. Being IMC Alex requested an IFR recovery to ILS. We were told to make our own route to the ADN and then were vectored to the ILS for a smooth landing at 1800hrs. We wished each other a good new year and then went our separate ways.

In doing my log book that evening I was pleased to see that I had exceeded my 2014 Resolution's target of 40 hours and had logged 51 hrs 20 mins for the year