Overnight on Sunday had come a message from Cal Son: The children are very excited that you are coming, it said, they have been de-toying your room.
Courtesy of a friend, the Academic, the Captain and Boatwif were sped round the motorway towards Heathrow, there to catch a flight to San Diego. The engine of the Academic’s car purred sweetly, protesting not one jot when the M25 Orbital became too congested and a diversion past Denham Film Studios was taken. What a triumph – off loaded at Terminal 5 there were but two minutes to wait before the desks opened for baggage drop. The Academic returned northwards, promising a pick up in a few weeks’ time. Thank goodness for her red Renault (?), which safely conveyed three adults, a large amount of Cadbury’s drinking chocolate and several hefty suitcases the sixty odd miles to Terminal 5.
Once through security checks glitzy shopping opportunities assault the eye. Passengers, some scurrying, some dawdling, crowded the shopping areas.
Those who can resist perfumes and handbags and Duty Free spending opportunities can gaze out of the window at the ranks of aircraft drawn up,
ready to convey passengers to Manchester or Munich, San Diego
5,478 miles separates Heathrow and San Diego airports. Just after 2pm the twin-engined Boeing 777 lifted into the air above west London, the aircraft climbing steeply away above the lakes and reservoirs
that surround the busy airport.
A joy for the Cleddau crew on such flights is the Moving Map technology. Onto the screen set into the seat back of the row in front is projected a constantly updated computer generated map of the aircraft’s position.
Over Runnymede the aircraft climbed, above the Cotswold Hills, heading west for Cardigan Bay and Ireland. Aberystwth appeared on screen, the Spanish version of the map writing it as Alberto Lea…
It was bumpy over Ireland’s west coast, there were distinct ice floes just off Greenland. It was -60 degrees Fahrenheit outside and a slew of ice crystals peppered the porthole window. Then came the long slog above Canada’s frozen tundra, over Hudson Bay, next across the Great Lakes.
The aircraft’s bearing swung, heading now south as well as west. In clear skies the view was through a shimmer of water vapour from the port side engine. Below lay snow-topped heights, ridges and rifts, cruising over the Black Hills and Devil’s Tower. There’s an aching vastness about it all, this huge terrain stretching endlessly below. Just as on the boat there is a compulsion to know through which county we pass, here the compulsion grew to know which state we flew above… Wyoming, Utah…Then at 1600, with an hour to go, it was Arizona. The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas appeared on screen. The sun was losing its height, west facing hill ridges throwing off a rosy glow; the aircraft began to descend, over the Colorado River, across the Salton Sea,
the roads across the desert’s salt flats ruler straight. Non-American place names flashed up on screen – Acupulco and Caracas. Light in the sky was nearly gone, but city illuminations twinkled below. There was the Pacific Ocean, the sweep of Coronado Bridge, the naval dockyards, the high rise blocks.
At just after 1am GMT on Tuesday, 5pm Pacific Coast Time Monday, the aircraft landed – and as the engines were switched off there was a glimpse of two Alaskan Airline planes and a row of palm trees…
Engines… inspection by the Captain last week up at Stoke Boats (reached via fast Virgin train from Milton Keynes to Stoke-on-Trent) revealed Cleddau’s empty engine bay,
her old BMC 1.8 now on the boat shed floor
with the new Beta Marine 43 in its crate alongside,
You see, there are reasons to be thankful for engines…!