I know that it’s not practical, even if I could afford it. But there is something about being able to fly somewhere, land, drop the anchor, hang out, maybe fish for supper and then fly somewhere else. It might get tiresome – one day – maybe. But there’s nothing to say that you couldn’t land the beast, taxi it and leave it in a tie-down while you went and did something else for a while.

You could turn something like this (above) into a hotel. Five lakes in three days – something like that? Add a chef, a stocked galley and serving wenches and it might have some appeal?

Or you could live aboard a boat and let the wind push you (which happens in an aircraft too, of course).

But you can’t switch bodies of water easily, and you can’t pull up the anchor and fly before the wind as efficiently as you can in a sea plane.

I’ve heard it often said, and I think correctly, that the journey is every bit as important as the destination.

It’s true of life, because a six foot drop and a mouth full of dirt is not as appealing as sailing to Bora Bora on a 50′ ketch (with a stocked galley, a chef, serving wenches, etc).

There is a theme going here. Sailing before the wind or flying over the weather, it’s all about the experience.


  1. The airship has the benefit over the sea ship that if really bad weather is coming, you can fly away. In the sailboat all you can do is face it head on. Sailors say "heave to" – as opposed to "heave, too", which is what you do over the side when the seas are really bad.

  2. Why don’t you just have a massive boat that you can land aircraft on? Buy a second hand one from the navy. Fill it full of chefs, exotic dancers, wenches, and wolves and clowns, obvs.

  3. When I was quite a bit younger, this live aboard thing was quite appealing to me. Just pull up anchor, and run with the wind, preferably in tropical seas. And I eventually got myself a twin engine 35' Carver, lots of elbow room, and learned how to operate it. The trouble with all of this dreaming of the freedom of the whole thing, etc., is that Mother Nature (Gaia) has no concern for your well being, none whatsoever. I was a great sunny day captain, but my first test in rough waters put these dreams to rest. I was caught in a squall with high winds, 12 foot waves, maybe higher (and they get higher the older I get) and I was about 1 mile out of the harbor we just left. Turning the vessel around just about killed us, we were going into the wind, and either way we turned we would expose ourselves to side winds/waves which could have swamped us. I picked a lull in the wave, and gunned the port engine as I swung to starboard and we started a hard-a-lee with as much speed as possible. The twin screws came out of the water for a few seconds as the transom was lifted out of the water, the RPM's red lined, and then we dug in again and completed the turn. White knuckled, sweat drenching experience, something I did not want to repeat. Ever.

    I got rid of the boat maybe two years later, with no regrets that I didn't sail around the world. Like I wanted to before reality set in: I had to get WAY more stick time behind the helm in rough water before I was ready to call myself a sea captain. I remained a sunny day sailor and was fine with that.

    Still am.

    And airplanes are even less forgiving than boats, WAY less forgiving. Gaia eats airplanes and shits yachts for breakfast.

  4. I had a short lived dream of getting a retired HU-16/Grumman Albatross and making a flying RV out of it. Not quite as big, you would have to be your own chef and you would have to invite your own exotic dancers on board. Oh well, it is still a nice fantasy.

  5. I ran into a guy on a lake in the Brooks range who had a nice gig- he was a sign painter, spent the winter inside working and took the summers off, flying from place to place, fishing and camping in a little Taylorcraft on floats. Looked like a lot of fun, although in remote areas avgas can be hard to come by- best to bring some extra and make a cache here and there.
    Speaking of float planes- there is a book out there on a Pan-Am clipper flight on Dec 6, 1941 to the South Pacific , who got caught out by the attacks next day and was instructed by sealed orders to bring the aircraft back home- to LaGuardia in NYC, all the way around the world. Very interesting- those engines burned 110 octane fuel, mostly a military fuel. Obtaining fuel meant flying into Brit bases in the Far East, all of whom were primed to shoot unknowns asap.
    Time had been short at the stop , and the Skipper of the 314 was torn between tearing down and loading a spare engine as a spare, or painting out the US markings to protect against Japanese attack. He went for the spare engine, and the US insignia was the sole thing that kept the Hurricane jockeys from shooting up the clipper on approach to an airbase in the east.

  6. As I recall, Jimmy Buffet did something similar with a PBY a number of years ago. Someone restored a WWII German transport aircraft ( an Aunt Ju ) and did some very interesting things with it. Perhaps I am mixing these two events up in my mind, but in any case, the idea is sound ( if expensive ).

    As for the sailing away to the south seas, my wife's family did that in the summer between her junior and senior years of high school.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  7. I sat on the ramp in San Francisco in the back of an HU-16 during the mag check & thought about it. I realized I couldn't afford the gas for the run up, another dream that reality put in its place! But an amphibious airplane as a flying camper is still a good dream…

  8. Somewhere in a dusty box, I have a magazine article about Charles Lindbergh in the Pacific during WWII. He returned home aboard a large flying boat (I don't recall which one). Part way through the long over-water flight, the crew asked Lindbergh if he wanted to get some 'stick time' in the cockpit. He agreed. While sitting in the pilot's seat, it was not lost on him that he was now flying a plane that had two pilots (three counting him), bunks, a head, and a small galley.

  9. spoil sport!

    A pox on your ocean adventure.

    I have similar experiences with a power boat of similar dimensions to yours. I was between Catalina Island and the mainland off LA and told MRSLL to put life jackets on the kids because there were even odds that we'd go down. We limped into Long Beach harbor about six hours later, chastened. (and a pox on Neptune)

  10. You'd need to own a few oil wells, Rob.

    BillB, yes, the HU-16 was on my list and I have thought of that, but it didn't really translate to anything but a fantasy.

  11. I don't get sea sick or air sick. Maybe it would have worked if I'd been born a Rockefeller? The Kennedy family has bad luck with adventures. I wouldn't have wanted to be born in that clan.

  12. Interesting story. Harrowing adventure.

    The little Taylors will land anywhere, and floats in Alaska and Canada provided needed versatility. My brother-in-law still owns one but he lives in the Lower 48 and I rarely see him.

  13. Things evolved insanely fast. Kittyhawk to the Moon. December 1903 to July 1969. My grandfather was born in 1902 and worked on the Apollo (North American Aviation/North American Rockwell). Insanely fast.

  14. DC-3, on floats, re powered with turbos.


  15. Well done! I always knew you'd get a sea-plane, and that's a benefit. Not just for you, RHSM, but for the whole unit. Well, the Officer's Mess part, obviousy.

  16. Indeed. Igor Sikorsky meets Neil Armstrong.


  17. One of my Mom's Uncles had seen the Wright brothers fly when he was a child. He was crying when Armstrong stepped on the Moon, saying he never would have thought it possible, and remembered when Robert Goddard had been chastised by the academics.

  18. If you were sailing in that area, you may have seen or crossed paths with my wife's father's boat. She was/is a motor/sailer, 58' at the water line and they sailed around SoCal before they sailed to Tahiti.


  19. The infinite romance of a flying-boat yacht appeals to me at a very deep level. Since it's totally impossible for me in any case, I've always had my heat set on an H6K Mavis:


    re-engined with something less implausible, of course.

    Of course my rational side can't help but think of the joys of aluminum mixed with salt water, and the infinite maintenance.

    Just as well, I suppose, that I'm not that much of a Fortunate Son.

  20. Dang, LL. You're too much like me. Sailor, aviator, caught between the airport and the marina. Now living far from the big salt. In fact, the other day I was thinking of e-mailing you.

    I'm a commercial pilot. Before that I was USCG 100 ton certificated. I've about 50K blue water miles, countless coastal miles. Lived in Coconino County and am thinking about heading back to AZ in a few years, staking a few acres to call my own and build a grand shop for projects with a small living area. Or…finding the right boat to sail around the Pacific again. Or…find some pilot seat, probably a bottom feeder cargo outfit. I ain't getting any younger. One thing I do know, I won't shove off solo again. I don't mind being alone but man I got lonely real bad.


  21. 'Tristan Jones' was a fictional character. It is true that the writer was a Brit, that he did serve in the RN, that he did sail a wee bit. His writings are provocative and thrilling. My favorite is the account of him sailing the lowest and highest bodies of water – the Dead Sea and Lake Titicaca. Then he and his hired boy slugged it out pulling his boat through the Mato Gross down to Montevideo.

    For a real account of a real man who forged an amazing life, read of Sir Francis Chichester. His book, The Lonely Sea And The Sky is what you want. Amazing adventure. And authentic.


  22. Don’t overlook the Republic RC-3 Seabee.
    Parties onboard would be a mite intimate, though.
    There are upgrades to an LS Corvette engine, and some sort of twin engine. Neat amphibian. The biggest problem I have seen documented is landing on water with the gear down. The plane always ends up sinking when you do this, as it flips over. Some people just remove the gear if flying around lots of water.
    I might still have the “Flying” magazine with Richard Bach’s SeaBee on the cover (70’s vintage, IIRC). Good story about him getting it, and learning to use it. Gear up on concrete just shaves off a little bit from the keel.

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