Let me tell you about last Friday… I turn up to work, preparing for a drop off at Gawa, at the northern most end of the Island. Another pilot tells me that the Police wanted to talk to me. Apparently there was some guys reported missing who were supposed to be heading North up Cadell Strait in a 4.5m tinny and they wanted me to have a look for them. It seems the other pilot wasn’t heading in that direction, so they asked me instead. So I headed up the coast at 1500ft having a causal look as I had passengers, figuring I’d have a better look on the way back at low level. Well I did spot the stranded boat, so I kept going to drop off the passengers at Gawa and then get the lat/long position to report to the Police on the return leg of the flight.
Not even a third of the way home, I see a boat cruising up the strait at top speed. “Must be the Police boat” I thought as you don’t see many tinnys going that fast up here. Seems funny they are way up here, they have totally gone past where the stranded boat was. So I turned to circle over head the boat, who cut the throttle and after a few moments of indecision decided to turn around 180 degrees and follow me. I like to think the action of “waggling” my wings helped (it means “follow me” for air-to-air communication, but I don’t know about air-to-sea/land communication… note to self: look that up sometime). So I head back toward the stranded tinny with plenty of circles to make sure the Police boat is still following me (see picture of my track). As they were closing in on the stranded vessel, I circled one last time over the Police boat, who gave an enthusiastic wave which I took to mean “yeah, we see them now, thanks”.
Circling overhead the stranded tinny, I see one of the guys waving two bright red jerry cans which was quite smart, as they were very easy to spot (at least from the air). I could see the other person bailing water from the boat. I’m still not certain what the problem was, as I have heard nothing of the incident since.
This is my second successful effort in locating a missing boat since I’ve been up here. If I get a third, does that automatically make me an honourary member of the Police Air Wing?