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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Four: North America

Saturday, January 19

Carmen to Las Blancas Lagoon 2400 LAND AT LAS BLANCAS LAGOON. (And how!) (Flying time 6 hours, 45 mins.)

Aboard Asulinak, anchored off the eastern coast of Yucatan. We are in a pretty pickle, and this is how it came about: I had a hunch that it was too late in the day to start from Carmen, because it is 400 miles to the tip of Yucatan and then quite a long distance across to Havana, but nothing could have stopped us when once full clearance was given, and we took off in a stiff breeze, getting up with the heaviest load we have handled in a long time, 210 gallons. A course was laid straight across the Bay of Campeche to Progreso and then eastward to Cape Catoche. Bob called Sayville, and wired Ambassador Daniels that we were under way again, and then began picking up local stations. One of these operators was quite chummy, and kept referring to Bob as "my fellow" and "my friend", so Bob impertinently replied "O.K., amigo mio", and threw in some entertaining asides over the inter-phone. All this time we were struggling in the teeth of a strong southeast wind, and I was flying just as low as could be to minimize the amount by which it act us back. Eventually I cut the margin to fine and left the antenna weight on a wave, which merely added to Robert's troubles.

We should have gone directly over Cape Cactoche in order to take a good departure for Cuba, and I was careless to have veered away from the coast some 60 miles too soon. As a result neither of us knew at just what point we had left the Mexican coast and started out over the open Gulf for the island of Cuba. An hour and a half later began to realize that we were temporarily lost; we had been careless about drift readings, we were uncertain of our line of flight, Cuba had not appeared in sight, and the sun was due to set in 20 minutes. Whether it was a wise decision or not, I gave up any further flight toward Cuba and after climbing to 4000 feet to have a good last look around, started back toward the Yucatan Peninsula, which sticks out bluntly into the Gulf. We quartered southward and sighted land finally against the last remnant of sunset glow. By the time the coast was reached it was quite dark and the moon had not yet appeared. Charts showed a series of reefs about 10 miles off shore and counted on these to give us enough protection for a landing. As quickly as possible I reached the shore, which was still dimly visible, and swung about for a landing, with both lights turned on.

We struck the water just as though it had been solid rock, and I was certain that we had landed on a reef. So soon as momentum was lost Bob jumped to the floor to see which side was going to sink first, while I endeavored to turn about. The plane was unmanageable, and I was more than ever convinced that one of the pontoons had a great gaping hole. I succeeded finally in turning it in the opposite direction, the left float being completely submerged as we wheeled around. I opened the gun and rushed for shore, hoping to sink it in shallow water. We were still afloat as the landing lights began to show up the trees, so I let it weather cock, waited a moment, and then called for the anchor. We were in about 4 feet of water. We have been here half an hour and nothing further seems to have gone wrong, so we are beginning to doubt that the pontoons are damaged at all. We are also realizing what a violent wind is blowing (about force 7), as the airplane is pitching and tossing so badly that we are both getting seasick. We are here for the night, and Bob is getting the tidal schedule from Merida 200 miles away. It would be a shame to have the ship break up on rocks on account of falling tide.

That report may have saved us from disaster. We started the engine and taxied out into deeper water. There is no list of the ship to either side and I feel quite certain that the pontoons are sound. It certainly is rolling badly and our heads are reeling! I have swung the hammock underneath the left wing, and Bob is making a couch on the folding seats. I wonder how much sleep there will be?

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