A friend of mine has a fly-away home attached to the Payson, AZ airport. There are a number of homes with hangars incorporated with them. Airplanes have the right of way on the streets. He has more aircraft in a traditional hangar and is one of three sources for me to fly from the area. Another is at Embry-Riddle University in Prescott. The local Hughes 500C is available as well but the weather has been so rotten at higher altitudes where I live that it’s not a reliable way to fly. General aviation isn’t a bad way to get around. Should I sell the White Wolf Mine and buy a fly-away home with a hanger? It’s tempting.


Housekeeping: I appreciate what Claudio points out to me (and a few of you). Everyone sees things from a different perspective. In the case of the price Russia is paying for its Ukraine gambit, it’s difficult to argue that it’s very high.


Wagner Group (Update)

(Strategypage) (h/t Claudio) The Wagner Group is shutting down operations in Ukraine and concentrating on its Africa operations. This came about because Vladimir Putin had to settle a dispute between the Russian generals in Ukraine and Wagner boss Prigozhin over who deserved credit for some minor victories in Ukraine. Putin sided with the generals and ordered the Wagner Group to concentrate on Africa. Wagner Group is a profitable international operation that reports directly to Putin. The Wagner Group was sent to Ukraine because the Russian army needed help, not competition and criticism.

Meanwhile, the United States began imposing sanctions on members of the Russian Wagner Group and those affiliated with the Wagner Group. The United States defines much of what Wagner Group does as a form of terrorism. Some of it definitely is. Most of the criminal offenses were committed by Wagner Group personnel sent to Africa, where the profits from legal and illegal activities were abundant. More recently, a Chinese space satellite manufacturer and satellite operator were sanctioned for selling the Wagner Group satellite imagery of Ukrainian military units and facilities. These imagery services aided Wagner Group in its recent offensive against Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. During these operations, Wagner Group members committed numerous atrocities and war crimes. Then there was the Wagner Group activity in Ukraine, which received far more publicity than the more lucrative dirty deeds Wagner was guilty of in many parts of Africa.

For Ukraine, the Wagner Group recruited convicts with the promise of a pardon if they served six months. This backfired when it became known that only about 20 percent of the first convicts recruited survived their six months and received their pardons. Recent recruiting efforts show that far fewer convicts are willing to volunteer and, justifiably, feel safer serving out their sentences. Russia then banned Wagner from recruiting prison inmates. Instead, the Russian military does the recruiting and offers more survivable terms of service as well as the pardon after the term of service is completed.


Kazakhstan Shows its Teeth

(h/t Claudio) Russia used to launch commercial satellites at the old Soviet Baikonur launch center in Kazakhstan. Russia rents this site from Kazakhstan and has fallen behind in rent payments. In response, Kazakhstan seized $26 million of Roscosmos assets at Baikonur.

Russia is not getting foreign commercial launch business because of the Ukraine war sanction. Russia is expending its funds in Ukraine, has less cash in general, and can’t muster enough troops to threaten Kazakhstan.  Russia has been referring to Kazakhstan as one of many areas, like Ukraine, that should be absorbed back into Russia. Kazakhstan has no interest in that arrangement. The Russians are not reliable partners.


Russia, Iran, and the Canal

(h/t Claudio) The Russian government is bringing in dredging equipment for a major, and overdue, dredging of the heavily used Volga-Don Canal that enables ships to get from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. Because of the war in Ukraine and Iran supplying weapons and equipment to Russia, canal traffic was up 15 percent in 2022 over the previous year.

Since 1952, a 101 kilometers long canal, linking the Don and Volga rivers, gave the Caspian Sea access to the Black Sea and the world’s oceans. However, ships using the canal cannot displace more than 5,000 tons and be no more than 140 meters (434 feet) long, 17 meters (52 feet) wide, and have a draft of no more than 3.5 meters (10.8 feet).

Normally the canal moves over 12 million tons of cargo a year. About half of that is oil or oil products. In 2021 Russia agreed to allow Iran to use the Volga-Don Canal so that Iranian ships can reach the Black Sea from the landlocked Caspian Sea. This is the first time Russia has ever given a foreign nation free access to the canal. Russia and Iran are now using each other’s Caspian Sea ports heavily for trade and getting Iranian weapons to Russia. Both nations have agreed to establish a joint-shipbuilding operation in the Caspian Sea and cooperate in dredging the canal, something that has not been done since 1991.

The prolonged lack of dredging has made portions of the canal shallower and forced ships to carry less cargo. The 13 locks on the canal connect the Volga River, the longest in Russia that empties into the Caspian, and the Don River which empties into the Sea of Azov, which is connected to the Black Sea via the Kerch Strait. The Caspian is the world’s largest lake at 371,000 square kilometers (about the same size as Poland). It is about a thousand kilometers long and 430 kilometers wide. It’s saline but is only about a third as salty as ocean water. The Caspian has a 7,000-kilometer-long coastline, with the largest chunk (1,900 kilometers) belonging to Kazakhstan.


The Truth is out there —  I guess

There was a reported space alien abduction in the Mogollon Rim area of Arizona. Since that’s my home turf, I took some interest.  In this area, everybody knows everyone else to some degree.  The abductees are known to blend peyote and Kentucky mash. So much for their abduction and return.


In the Days of Fighting Sail

More on Smuggling

Often their actions are in the dark and considered dangerous yet lucrative. Who has not seen the images of men trying to secretly bring their goods ashore or distract a revenue cutter elsewhere so that barrels of precious goods could be taken away unnoticed?

The History

Whether this was always true is questionable, but smugglers are secretive and began their trade as early as the 13th century. Especially the coast of southern England, the counties of Kent and Sussex, which was a gateway to Eastern Europe and the market there, were attractive for smugglers.


Smugglers carrying goods. Painting by Louis Gabriel Eugene Isabey (1803-1886)

The wool trade was the main business because under the rule of Edward III and Charles II, it was forbidden to take wool out of the country. But it was done anyway and the wool was shipped to Holland where it was returned to the English market as cloth. Because it simply paid more for Dutch cloth. In 1676 a service was established which eventually became that of the Revenue Cutters.


A Smuggling Lugger Chased by a Naval Brig by Thomas Buttersworth, 19th century

Among the smaller sailing ships of the seventeenth century were a number of smacks and coasters, of which the newly formed Customs House organization hired a nucleus to watch over the ‘owls’ – so-called because wool smuggling had to be done at night when the owl was on the move. Whole villages were devoted to smuggling and when one was found out, the village stood together and as soon as the convicted owler was to be arrested, the officer was beaten so badly that he quickly left or was bribed.

The wars with France during the reign of William and Mary 1689-97 made the smuggling of silk and lace (as well as much Jacobite correspondence) into England fairly easy, and so the threat increased. Small gangs of ten grew into hundreds of villagers, and those with cellars stored the illegal imports, which were transported by armed French smugglers whose crews openly defied the Revenue officials.


HM Revenue Cutter Vigilant towing the Barque Alfred of London, a valuable Prize captured 17th Dec 1828 having on board 1010 half Ankers of Contraband Spirits concealed under a Coasting Cargo, by H. Rolfe 

The situation worsened in 1713 to such an extent that even the navy was sent on patrol in the Channel to stop the smuggling. However, the network of smugglers at that time was underestimated, because they had already made the islands their own and operated over the entire English Isle as well as the European mainland.

And the smugglers did not even stop at the navy. And many a sailor or officer smuggled large quantities of wine, brandy, and other dutiable goods with the help of a few prostitutes or disguised as supplies. It got so bad that no one could be trusted and even these ships had to be thoroughly inspected. But here too there were often middlemen who looked the other way for a fee. So much so, that the Revenue Service had no chance of stopping them and increased the controls.


Rigging out a Smuggler, by Thomas Rowlandson 1810 

The smugglers changed their method of concealment, and in the period between 1816 and 1860, the goods were very creatively hidden on board. The goods could be found in the partitions between the hull and the fairing. Many a gun was not loaded with a ball and in the hold, there were whole barrels of brandy under the ballast. Smaller ships operating between France and England disguised themselves as fishermen with their cargo under the hull. In these cases, the captain who was caught could at least still claim to have picked up the barrels with his nets by mistake. Even supposed greengrocers did not have potatoes on board but tobacco shaped into balls. Dragging barrels behind him was one of the most popular methods because you could cut them off if necessary to escape quickly. If you were lucky, they would get caught on the shore and could be collected later.

The Revenue Service and their ships

To get to the smugglers, the revenue service used fast light cutters known as revenue cutters. These fast vessels, usually armed with up to 14 guns and swivel guns, had to compete against equal cutters (they were often built in the same shipyard) and schooners, which required a good crew. They were stationed in all major coastal cities in order to quickly reach a nearby area. The crew consisted of 23 men in total, one of whom was the captain and he had two mates at his side. Even though they had no uniform until 1804 and wore only a red shirt, blue breeches, and petticoat breeches over them, the men earned more than the men of the Navy. A successful revenue captain could earn between £250 and £500 per annum. The First Mate could earn between £75 and £150 per annum and the second was able to earn between £50 and £75 per annum. The common sailors, all able seamen, were able to earn £36 and £60 per annum. This high payment was partly due to the danger they faced and the service they rendered to the crown because every smuggler caught brought the crown additional goods that could then be legally resold.


Revenue Cutter of 1799, by Mike Fuller, 2018 

From 1804 onward, a uniform for the three officers was added. The captain then wore a blue coat with silver buttons three and three sets and a silver epaulet. He also wore breeches and a waistcoat and a cocked hat. The mates, on the other hand, wore silver lapels on the sleeves, and two and two silver buttons, the rest was the same as the captain.

Known Smugglers

John Carter the so-called King of Prussia from Prussia Cove in Cornish operated there from 1777 and 1807 with the whole family running a very well-organized smuggling ring.

It may seem ironic to us today, but John Carter was regarded as an “honest man” by all who knew him, including the customs officials in Penzance. Once, when John was at sea, the customs officers came into the bay in their boats and seized a large cargo of goods that had just arrived from France. When John found out what had happened, he was very upset, not because of the loss of the contraband, but because he did not want to disappoint his customers and feared losing his good name. A plan was hatched. With some armed comrades, John broke into the customs house shops in the middle of the night and took the goods, taking care to take only what was actually his. When the burglary was discovered, the officers noted what was missing and reported that only his goods were gone, but no others.

John smuggled until he was 70 years old and was very successful up until then, but in 1807 he got into a run-in with HMS Fairy, which presumably caught him. After that, he never appeared again, but his son-in-law picked up where his father-in-law had left off. And even his son continued until the late 19th century when he finally gave it up because it was no longer worthwhile.


The real cause of the present high price of provisions, or, a view on the sea coast of England, with French agents, smuggling away supplies for France, by James Gillray 1795 

The Hawkhurst Gang was a notorious criminal organization that ran smuggling operations throughout the southeast of England from 1735 to 1749. One of the most notorious gangs of the early 18th century, they extended their influence from Hawkhurst, their base in Kent, along the south coast to Dorset, where they successfully raided the custom house at Poole. After being defeated in a battle with the Goudhurst militia in 1747, two of their leaders, Arthur Gray and Thomas Kingsmill, were executed in 1748 and 1749.

The End of Systemic Smuggling

The smuggling business flourished until about 1860 when the high taxation of tea was abolished and a gradual preference for Scotch whisky over French brandy became a social feature. The adventurous days associated with risky seafaring were thus over. With better wages, better education, a higher moral code, and more opportunities for honest leisure, there is no longer the same incentive to cheat His Majesty’s tax revenues.


    • I don’t want to be labeled as somebody who makes fun of people with two teeth (total). I’m sure that there is a name for it. Nor do I want you to call me “dipsophobic” or of promoting anti-Indianism because Native Americans get high on peyote as part of their faith… but yes, credibility issues.

    • Close Encounters of the Third Kind used a fake chemical spill to distract from real aliens; East Palestine used fake aliens to distract from a real chemical spill.

      Making your way in the world today
      Takes everything you’ve got
      Taking a break from all your worries
      Sure would help a lot
      Wouldn’t you like to get away?

      Sometimes you wanna go
      Where everybody’s probed the same

  1. …and a pilot to boot.

    Why am I not surprised. You realize yer making some of the rest of us look like poseurs by comparison.

    You’ll know when you’ll be ready to move from the WWW to a less strenuous spot, but that fly in place sounds terrific for your needs. (And that’s a nice paver job in front of the hanger.)

    • I’ve been flying for some time, military trained. They said, “we have found that there operational necessities requiring that officers should learn to fly fixed wing and rotors. Any volunteers to start ground school?”

      “Me, pick me.” Two of us volunteered. So we did VFR quals, rotor quals and they asked, “Do you want to learn to fly a Mi-24 for an upcoming op?”

      Does a bear crap in the woods?

      I eventually graduated to IFR AFTER flying an Mi-24 through rainforest weather in Brazil/Peru on an op during the wet season where there was always heavy fog/rain.

      • [Me…further shrinking into my chair.]

        But seriously, well done….it ain’t bragging if you can do it.

        Local rancher friend got tired of driving his bull breedings all over so got his pilots license. Let people surprise you, never know what they’ve done…makes life very fun and interesting, which is partly why I lurk here, the stuff you all have been and done.

        • It’s okay LL, there’s no such thing as IFR in the RoW AFAICT. Or other rules, really. I bet you were at least as good as most of the certified IFR commercial pilots in Brazil and Peru, anyway.

          What does a Hind really have for instruments, anyway?

          • Don’t sweat it, Paul M – there are also people here like me (or, at least me, anyway), who are not on the graph at all. I am not cool, and have neither been there nor done that.


  2. Fly in housing. Embrace the power of both or better yet perfect a viable personal VTOL under the umbrella of one of your companies and just build a small landing pad and hangar next to you present abode.

    HM Revenue Cutter Vigilant towing the Barque Alfred of London brought to mind the difficulties my son and I had towing a 28 foot inboard with his 23 foot outboard. The occupants in the 28 footer were, as they say, three sheets to the wind, and had run out of gas about 7 miles from the nearest petrol source. We couldn’t give them fuel because son’s outboard is a two stroke. As difficult as that was I cannot imagine what a pain towing a boat under sail would be.

    blend peyote and Kentucky mash. If that won’t mess up your psyche nothing will. I am a bit surprised alien abduction was the most outrageous thing that they thought happened to them.

  3. Thank you for refferring me to Strategypage; I desperately needed a laugh today:March 25, 2023: Britain is being criticized by Russia for sending depleted uranium tank gun shells along with the Challenger 2 tanks sent to Ukraine. Apparently the people running Russian propaganda operations are now aware of what is going on with the ammunition used in Russian tanks. The Russians also supply depleted uranium shells for their tanks, as does Germany and the United States. So why is depleted uranium coitized?

  4. We were looking at a fly-in residence in Clackamas county many, many moons ago, but the weather is so great 9 months outta the year and, of course, IFR facilities were lacking leaving PDX as the closest alternative. +++
    As we found out and discussed, there’s a lot to be considered – it was so tempting, though.

  5. The co-evolution of revenue cutters and smugglers led to some fine sailing boats as well as hot power boats during prohibition. I think this kind of competition is a big driver of progress, not to mention Nascar. A proper warp drive might be the result of helium 3 smuggling in a few years.

  6. I have a cousin who’s father was a private plane instructor. Any of his nieces or nephew’s that wanted to fly could for the price of gas. Both my cousin and I soloed 5 months apart. We both went to a community college and he dropped out after a year to join the Army as a helicopter pilot. As soon as he paid of the car he bought in college he bought a Cessna 152. When he paid off the 152 he bought a Bonanza where he put both on the rental market. By the time he retired from Army as a W4 he had traded multiple aircraft but he had 3 paid off planes. A base model Cessna 150, a Cessna 172, And a Cessna 310 twin engine. Since his retirement he has gotten certified in multiple jet engine and become a cooperate pilot. He lives in a fly-away home in NE Florida. His commute to work is a 150 Cessna Tail Dragger to Jacksonville international where he will fly a helicopter downtown JAX to transport his client to JAX International to transfer them to a Gulfstream for the big flight. He makes stupid big money and has the mil retirement also.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here