1 Seaplane + 0 Beach = What Would MacGyver Do?

ICON-nie at sunset on Lake Champlain

ICON-nie Lives the High Life

Our ICON A5, ICON-nie, has been a busy gal: flying Virginia’s waterways, attending a local Splash-in, and hanging out for “show and tell” activities at the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport. June came, time for our annual vacation to a camp on Lake Champlain in Colchester, Vermont. Of course, we would take ICON-nie there for fun on the lake. That’s a no-brainer. Right? Kind of.

At the time Bruce wanted to fly the aircraft to Vermont, ICON-nie got called to work by ICON Aircraft Company. Instead of implementing the original plan, Bruce left her at a Lamborghini dealership in Sterling, Virginia.

Lamborghini to the left, Rolls Royce to the right, and ICON-nie is the only girl in town.
(Thanks to Jimmy Buffett for inspiration.)
Photo by ICON Aircraft Company

ICON-nie’s job was to show visitors how smart and beautiful she is. She is very adept at making a positive first impression.

Imagine a Lamborghini as your wingman.

She hobknobbed with two new friends, a racy, red Lamborghini and an elegant, black Rolls Royce, which further enhanced her WOW factor. While ICON-nie was living the good life, Bruce and I were making the two-day drive to Vermont, our MDX laden with fishing gear, water toys, clothes, and food.

Challenging Revelation #1

On day two as we were leaving Kingston, New York, Bruce discovered that a front was marching menacingly toward Northern Virginia where it would bivouac for four days. Instead of bringing ICON-nie to Vermont the next day as planned, Bruce immediately needed to go to Virginia to rescue ICON-nie before low ceilings and high winds trapped her there.

I drove as fast as the WAZE poice alerts deemed prudent, while Bruce searched for and found a 1:45 PM flight from Burlington, Vermont, to Washington DC. I dropped him off and proceeded to check in at our rental. Twenty-one agonizing flights of steps later, I had unloaded the car while Bruce was comfortably on his way to Virginia. His plan was for ICON-nie to depart Leesburg Executive Airport (KYJO) by 6 PM and see how far he could fly before sundown.

Challenging Revelation #2

In the meantime, I discovered something that Bruce didn’t know which would impact ICON-nie for most of our stay. There was no beach! The lake was flooded because of heavy winter snows and spring rains. The lake had “been above its 100-foot (30 meters) flood stage for almost six weeks” and was just beginning to recede. https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/38807/20190603/spring-flooding-of-lake-champlain-beginning-to-recede

Flooded lake wiped out the beach in front of our camp. With no room for the fire pit, there were no S’mores this year.

With no beach, how was Bruce going to pick up and drop off passengers? Maybe even more importantly, how was Bruce and his flying gear going to get from the lake to the house?

What would MacGyver Do?

At 12:30 PM Bruce flew in from Sarasota Springs, New York, where he and ICON-nie spent the night. He landed in front of the house and tied up to a mooring buoy. With no other recourse, Bruce swam to shore since the water was over his head.

Bruce ties ICON-nie to the mooring and then swims to shore.

With some McGyver-like thinking and trial and error, we formulated a plan. Bruce decided to take the camp’s kayak out to retrieve his gear, not realizing he couldn’t get into the airplane without a high risk of tipping over the kayak when he stood up. Empty handed, Bruce kayaked back to the house and found the camp’s paddle board. Channeling MacGyver again, Bruce found a serendipitous piece of ratty, old rope on the beach, which he used to tether the paddle board to the kayak.

Try #2: Kayak tethered to paddle board.

Here We Go Again

Try #2 was a success, or so we thought. At 2:15, 45 minutes after he landed, Bruce was finally able to step from the paddle board to the wing, so he could get his gear and put it into the kayak for the trip back to shore.

With the help of a kayak and a paddle board, Bruce retrieves his gear.

At the house, Bruce lugged the kayak and paddle board out of the lake, hosed them off, and dragged them to their storage spots behind the house. He then changed into clean, dry clothes only to discover that he had left his phone and keys in the plane’s console. After uttering a few expletives and re-dressing in his wet, dirty clothes, he again tethered the paddle boat to the kayak and floated out to the plane. Try #3 finally got the job done. Almost three hours after he first landed, ICON-nie was resting at her mooring, and Bruce was united with all his gear. I have never seen him make a martini so fast.

The Human Tugboat

Fast forward from Sunday to Tuesday. The water had receded enough that Bruce believed he could beach the airplane. He wanted to move it manually to protect it from being damaged by the rocks, seen and unseen, on the lake’s bottom. In a practical move, he made a run to Ace Hardware to purchase a new piece of rope, stronger and longer than the found one. Back at the camp, he ditched the kayak, but took the kayak paddle, the paddle board, and the rope out to the plane.

Bruce discovered that the double blades of a kayak paddle worked better for his purpose than the single blade of a paddle board’s.

Bruce then tethered one end of the rope to the plane and tied the other end around his waist, making himself a human tugboat. By alternately dipping the paddle in and out of the water, Bruce was able to pull the plane sleekly towards the shore. MacGyver would be proud!

Like a tugboat, Bruce positioned himself to bring ICON-nie to the shore.

Out-of-the-Box Thinking Pays Off

The water at the shoreline was then shallow enough that ICON-nie could sit on the lake’s sandy, rock-strewn bottom.

With a rope tied around his waist and tethered to the plane, Bruce paddles ICON-nie to the shore.

Bruce and our friend, Jim, were able to board the plane from ankle-deep water. Bruce then pushed the plane backwards off the lake bottom, jumped into the plane, and started the engine.

With a push, ICON-nie is off to deep water.

Bruce then turned ICON-nie from the shore to head to deep water. The canopy came down when she was in the final position for take off.

Lake Champlain is a Disneyland for exploring by seaplane. Bruce and Jim are ready for fun.

A Happy Ending

Unlike MacGyver, we didn’t stop a nuclear arms seller or dismantle a bomb with a paperclip, but like MacGyver, our story has a happy ending. Who knew that a kayak, a paddle boat, and a piece of rope could rescue ICON-nie from an assault caused by flood waters? Every story should end like ours with big smiles. Roger and out!

Jim and Bruce are happily airborne over Lake Champlain on Malletts Bay.