Aviation – Paragliding and Paramotors

So…. about a year ago I sold my airplane kit and tools, and resigned myself to walk away from aviation as a hobby forever, aside from drones. It had just gotten too expensive. I haven’t really flown in years, let my medical and flight reviews expire, and stopped paying for renters insurance because I wasn’t renting planes anyway. I’m not an idiot though, I never surrendered by pilots license to the FAA and left the door open for re-entry, even if only cracked the slightest amount. I love aviation, or at least loved it (past tense), but felt I needed to close that chapter of my life and look to hobbies that were less expensive and more obtainable.

So I bought a 1965 Mustang project and a 2006 Yamaha FJR motorcycle with the proceeds from the sale of the Zenith CH750 kit, and have been working here and there on the Mustang and will have the FJR on the road in plenty of time for prime riding this fall. I work a lot as a police officer and software engineer, and I have always loved classic cars and motorcycles, so these are normal things for me to purchase. I cleaned out the workshop and bought tools appropriate for auto and motorcycle restoration and never looked back. But I made a huge mistake, I did look UP!

A while back I was on patrol at “The Point”, the beautiful west end of Oak Island that is very popular with tourists and locals alike. It is a large sandy area where Oak Island ends and the intracoastal waterway, Eastern Channel, and the Lockwood Folly river meet the Atlantic Ocean. The waters around The Point are very dangerous, with strong and sometimes unpredictable currents, but it is a very pretty area with great fishing and sunsets, and a lot of wide open space. Then I heard it…

It was a sound I was not completely unfamiliar with, I had heard it before. It was the classic buzz of a 2-stroke engine, not unlike a chainsaw, leaf blower, or weedeater. But this sound was out of place at The Point. There are no trees, no grass to cut, and it wasn’t coming from the ground anyway. It was over me, and not by much, only about 50 feet or so. Naturally I looked up and saw a multicolored powered parachute cruising along at about 20 miles per hour. I watched as the pilot cut the power and landed in the sand a few hundred yards away from me. I started walking towards him to chat about this wonderful little flying machine, but just as quick and he landed he was flying again, heading east along the beach. As it turns out, some paramotor pilots have had bad run-ins with law enforcement. Even though this encounter would have been far from bad, and I don’t even know if he saw me or not, I was a little upset that he flew away before I had a chance to pick his brain.

Oh yeah, there’s that word, paramotor. Even though I have been involved with aviation for several decades, I was not familiar with the term. I was familiar with what I called “powered parachutes”, but that is actually a very wrong term. These aren’t really parachutes at all. Well, they are, but…

I finished my shift late that night and went home, still thinking about the pretty little parachute thing-a-ma-job. Google to the rescue, a few minutes later I was reading about paramotors, paragliders, things called “wings” that looked nothing like wings I was familiar with, Vittorazi Moster 185 engines (I thought they misspelled Monster), harnesses, kiting, “clipping in”, forward and reverse launches, A, B, C, and D lines, brakes, frames, butt-landings, faceplants, and some kid from New Jersey named Tucker Gott.

I’ve seen these before at Oshkosh, but for whatever reason I never paid them much attention. In reality, I had seen trikes and similar ultralights my entire life, even flew a Weedhopper ultralight in the 80s that belonged to a friend of mine, but I don’t recall ever seeing a foot-launched powered glider. This was, somehow, new to me. So I stayed up most of the night reading whatever I could find online while watching Tucker Gott do some amazing flying all around the world. This looked to be just too much fun to miss out.

Of course, this is aviation, so my excitement was tempered by the reality that this was going to be amazingly expensive, lawyers had to have already screwed everything up, and I am sure the FAA regulates the holy hell (and fun) out of it. A few more Google searches confirmed just the opposite was true. The cost of entry was surprisingly reasonable, though not cheap, and the FAA does in fact regulate paramotors, but much less so than even ultralights. You can take off and land pretty much anywhere you have the minimal space needed, public places, beaches, or anywhere you have permission. Even at airports. You don’t need a hangar or runway, and can easily transport a paramotor in a car or pickup truck. And the safety factor is a huge plus too. Sure, these are powered mostly by 2-stroke engines (electric is becoming viable), which will never win any reliability awards, but in the end you are flying a parachute, no matter what they call it. When the engine quits, you land. Notice I said land, not crash. Score one for the little guys!

Over the next several weeks I continued my research, learning about the USPPA, kind of like EAA and FAA combined for powered paragliding, and located a North Carolina-based PPG (Powered Paraglider) school called Carolina PPG, owned by Darren Locklear. The pilot I saw flying over The Point was likely Darren, or possibly Mark Huneycutt, who had recently flown from Frying Pan Tower to Oak Island. I have since talked to Darren on the phone and chatted with Mark online, and am looking forward to meeting both of them in the future. I ordered “The Book” on powered paragliding, “The Powered Paragliding Bible” by Jeff Goin, and am making my way through it slowly.

I sometimes live my life in a vacuum. It’s not intentional, and I am not being secretive, but there is usually a lot of crap floating through my brain at any given time and I seldom speak those thoughts out loud. So even though I was getting pumped (or stoked as the kids say) about paramotors, I hadn’t said a word about it to my wife, Missy. Now I know from experience that Missy pretty much lets me do as I please, and attempting to stop me from doing something I want to do is usually a futile battle not worth having, but to my surprise she was actually on-board with this crazy idea! I think she sees it like I do, a reasonably priced and relatively safe way that a pilot like me can remaining flying and living life to its fullest. So long as the life insurance premiums are paid up! 🙂

So what’s next? I am hoping to be able to go to flight school in August or September. It takes a little over a week (weather and wind permitting) to get your license, and of course already having knowledge of aerodynamics, federal aviation regulations, navigation, airspace, etc. will work in my favor. I will likely buy a new gas-powered paramotor and wing from Darren at Carolina PPG and use it for my training. I really think an electric paramotor will be in my future because I envision enjoying many short flights around Oak Island and very little cross country work, making electric power a viable and desirable option. But I still know pretty close to nothing about this stuff and am looking forward to learning a whole lot more.

I’m Seriously Bad at Blogging!

So my blog has been around for many years, 15+ to be exact, and I keep saying I am going to do a better job of updating it and keeping it current, but I seem to never actually do that! So, I’m not going to say that again now, we will just see what happens.

I moved the blog recently to my own website, this one, and some of the images and content from the old posts didn’t make it. I don’t think anyone will miss them, so I am not going to try to reconstruct those pages, they are what they are. Instead of creating a massively long “update” post, I will just create several random ones over the next while to sort of get this site up to date. A lot has changed, and I will certainly miss a bunch of stuff, but will do my best.

Home Improvement Projects

When we bought our home in 2016 it was a fairly typical Oak Island house built on pilings to protect from flooding. It had a small section under the house finished for storage and in 2017 I divided that to create a 100 square foot office for me in the front section and storage in the rear.

A year or so later, I removed that wall, moved my office to the back corner, and used the entire room as a workshop.

It was too small for a workshop, so in 2020 I enclosed almost the entire other side under the house to create a 400+ square foot workshop.

That made for a much better workshop. My office now had the entire original storage area, which was now used mostly for storage. All was good for the next 3 years. Then we decided we wanted to properly finish the interior of the storage room. It was already insulated and had a nice exterior door, so the only things that needed to be done was a small amount of framing to remove a double door, frame around electrical and plumbing service, and open a small pass-through (not really a door) to the downstairs bathroom. That plus drywall, paint, and proper flooring would give us a really nice downstairs area.

But since my office was located in this room, I first needed to build a new office. When I built the workshop in 2020 I did not go as far back as I could have, leaving space for me to park my kayak behind it, between the back wall and the rear stairs. We decided to enclose that section using the same materials used for the workshop to create a 12′ x 7′ office area.

To save money, I moved the glass double doors from the workshop to the new office, the solid double doors that used to lead to the storage room to the workshop, and enclosed the last area between the pilings. It’s a small office, but more than enough for me, and very easy to heat and cool.

Now that the office was moved, we could concentrate our efforts on the real project. Since there was very little framing that needed done, I decided to start with the drywall. I tore out all the old plywood and paneling and relocated the plumbing line for the exterior spigot. I spent a little extra for moisture and mold resistant drywall because this is the lower level and it is hot and humid along the coast.

Not wanting to move major electrical or plumbing, I decided to make a “closet” around the hot water heater and other hard-to-move things, and not drywall inside that area.

For cost and ease of installation, we chose 7mm vinyl laminate flooring, a couple gallons of light green paint, mostly reused and donated trim, and voila! A very nice area, complete with loft and access to the bathroom. It took about a month of nights and weekends to complete this project with a total cost, including the new office, of less than $3,000.

Restoring a 1965 Ford Mustang

My latest project is restoring a 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe. I found a nice starter project from a guy in Raleigh back in late November, rented a U-Haul trailer, and dragged it back home. It was reported to be in running condition, although we could not test that theory, but is very complete. Here is what she look liked when I brought her home.

The data plate shows she was originally Wimbledon White, which is still visible in some places, and was built in August 1965 in San Jose, CA. I suspect this car was restored, at least partially, once before in the 80s and that is likely when it was painted blue. It has the 200 cubic inch inline 6 cylinder engine, C4 automatic transmission (with a severe leak), and no power steering or brakes. It’s about as simple as a car can get, and will make a great restoration project for me.

I am in the process of tearing it down now and finding all the things she needs. To my surprise, I have found (so far) very little rust damage. The floorboards look very good, with only 2 spots needing patches welded in, and they are original. There is rust on the rear left quarter panel that will require a patch panel, but the body looks to be amazingly straight, original, and rust-free. There is a mild dent in the driver side door that I think can be fixed. The front seats have been recovered and look good. The back seats looks good but is torn on the bottom rear. You can’t see it, but I will likely fix or replace it. There wiring is mostly good with a few crappy splices to repair. The carpet is shot, but the sound deadening rubber underneath is fine. The dash will need replaced, but all the glass and original brightwork is in good to very good condition. I have bought a set of American Racing 14″ wheels to replace the poverty caps it came with, and will repaint the car in its original white color.

As of today, I have removed the hood, engine, transmission, exhaust, front fenders, doors, and interior.

My plan is a full frame-up restoration, so I have to completely strip the car down to the unibody frame. I have designed a Redneck Rotisserie (tip over jig) that I will build to allow me to roll the entire chassis 90 degrees to clean, repair, and paint the undercarriage. Once that is complete, I will start the process of restoring and reassembling everything from the ground up. I expect this will be a 1 to 2 year project. I am not building a racer or hotrod, and will rebuild the 6 cylinder engine and automatic transmission, probably hopping it up just a little bit with headers and maybe fuel injection.

I’m a Cop!

In the mid-80s when I was a teenager in the Charlotte Police Explorer program, I always knew this day would happen, I just didn’t imagine it would be in 2022! This has, literally, been a life-long dream of mine to become a police officer and today it happened when I was sworn in by the Oak Island Police Department.

Being Sworn In by HR Director Debbie Lasek, with Missy Holding The Bible
Chief of Police Charlie Morris Welcoming Me
Chief Charlie Morris, Todd, and Assistant Chief Frankie Cooke
Missy, Todd, and Halle
Tom Hathaway, Steve Wilson, Todd, Pete Grendze, and Hugh Johnson from Oak Island Water Rescue
BSCO Deputy Andrew Nichter (BLET Classmate) and Todd
Brunswick Community College BLET Class “The Nasty Nine”
The Nasty Nine – Unauthorized Class Picture 🙂

1996 Corvette

While I am mostly an airplane guy, I do have a love for cars as well. Not all cars, most I merely tolerate, but there are a few that I have owned, or would like to own. I can annoy my wife all hours of the day watching Velocity Channel shows like Garage Squad and Wheeler Dealers. I have owned several very nice cars in my life: 2 Porsche 944’s, 35th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang GT Convertible, and 1971 and 1992 Chevrolet Corvettes. Some were in great shape, others were projects, but I loved them all. And while I am mostly a “Ford Guy” (that currently drives a Dodge Ram 1500), my all time favorite car is the Chevrolet Corvette. There is just something magical about the American icon, our only true sports car, that just gets to me. I mean seriously, how can stuffing a powerful V-8 engine into a tiny 2-seater with gorgeous curves not excite the normal, testosterone-fueled man?

I have been looking for a new-to-me Corvette for a while now, keeping on eye on AutoTrader and Corvette classified web-sites, waiting for the right one to come along. I am not rich, so my budget required me to look mostly at the 4th generation Corvettes (C4) that were built from 1984-1996. I’m not a huge fan of the C5’s, from 1997-2004, though I did look at one. I really love the 6th and 7th generation Corvettes, but I’d have to rob a bank or run some blow out of Florida to afford those. The first and second generations (Up to 1967) sell for more than my house, and the C3’s (Shark) that were popular in the 70’s and early 80’s were, with a few exceptions, terrible cars that the government, and GM mismanagement, almost killed. Within the C4 years, I limited my search to 1992 to 1996 Vettes because I wanted the higher horsepower engines, the curvy body style, and none of the problems associated with the 80’s cars.

I found what I thought was the perfect Corvette for me, a 1996 Coupe in Torch Red, 6-speed manual transmission, the powerful LT4 engine from the Grand Sport (1996 was the only year this was offered), and in as mint condition as possible for a car with 115,000 miles. It had been owned for over 18 years by a retired engineer at Disney and spent most of it’s life in central Florida, but was now in Blairsville in northern Georgia. I sent an email to the owner, Bruce, to get more information about the car and we started a lengthy email chain of questions and answers, as well as a few phone calls.

It was time to talk to Missy about it. While she would never be completely on-board with the idea of adding a car we don’t really need (I “needed” it, but WE didn’t), she was understanding, so the conversation about price and shipping with Bruce started happening. We were very nervous about buying a car that we had never actually seen, much less drove. Bruce took more pictures for me, and even posted 3 videos online for us to review. He pointed out the problems as well, showing us the good and bad things with the car, though there were very few bad. We agreed on price and started trying to figure out how to actually get the car to us in North Carolina.

I thought about moving it myself, by driving to Blairsville or flying into Chattanooga. I looked at Greyhound, Amtrak, and the airlines. I thought about renting a Uhaul trailer and towing it home. Our schedules did not align, and all options were expensive and had logistical issue to solve. In the end, I posted an ad on uship.com to try to find a commercial driver that could pick up the car and drop it on my driveway for a reasonable price. I immediately received a TON of quotes, most around $1,000. That was just too much, it’s only 441 miles between Bruce’s house and ours. Once the big auto transport companies got out of the way, smaller 1-man operations started giving me quotes. One man, Dion Gomez with XGSK Transport, quoted me $400 and said he was already in north Georgia and could pick up the car within 12 hours. He was scheduled to come to North Carolina for a pickup, so this meant he didn’t have to deadhead the trip here. It worked out great for all of us. Dion and Bruce coordinated the pickup and at 3PM yesterday the Corvette was in my driveway, less than 20 hours after first contacting Dion!

The Corvette itself is a 1996 Coupe with the LT4 (330 Horsepower) engine, 6-speed manual transmission, and has chrome wheels from the C6 Corvette. It came with the factory service manual, a couple of magazines with reviews of the car, bra’s for the front and mirrors, a car cover, extra air filters, a canvas removable top, and various other bits and pieces. The valve covers are signed by Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McClellan, as well as race drivers Steve Park, and Andy Pilgrim. It also came with the original (laminated) window sticker showing a price of $44,224 ($71,056 in 2018 dollars)  and is also signed by Dave McClellan.

As I said, I was very worried about buying a car from a stranger on the Internet, especially without having seen it first. Once I actually saw the car, my fears were alleviated. It is absolutely beautiful, in incredible condition, and far exceeded my expectations. Without further delay, here she is!

Hurricane Florence

As I write this blog entry, many of the people in our community are still having a very hard time. Things are not perfect here either, but we are blessed and far better off now than just a couple of days ago. I won’t be writing too much about the hurricane, or posting any pictures, since those are plentiful online already. I just want to recap the last week for myself to remind me later of the power of Nature, both Mother and Human.

Florence was originally forecast to hit us nearly directly as a Category 4, and possibly 5, storm. As such, like most reasonable people who don’t want to die, my wife, daughter, dogs, and I evacuated a day before the storm hit to my sisters house outside Charlotte. As the storm approached, the forecast changed. It would be much weaker, “only” a Cat 1 or 2 storm, but would lose all forward speed after making landfall and would likely remain over the Carolinas for several days. This meant upwards of 30″ of rain would fall, creating catastrophic flooding. Since I work with the Oak Island Police Department and Water Rescue, I felt a strong responsibility and desire to return as soon as I could to help out. It was killing me to remain in Charlotte when I knew people here were in need. I stayed until Saturday morning and then drove back. It was a treacherous drive, constant and hard rain, gusts of wind around 70 MPH, and miserable conditions.

I almost made it. I decided to take highway 87 from 17 through Boiling Spring Lakes. Standing water on the road made it very difficult to get to BSL, and one car was already off the road in the ditch and almost completely submerged. I stopped to make sure nobody was in it, then continued on my way. I got into downtown BSL and found a police car blocking the road, which was between 2 lakes and about 8 feet deep. Damn. I turned around an headed back to highway 17, ending up at Han-D-Hugo about 20 minutes later. I pulled into the parking lot and waited for a few hours with several other people for conditions to improve. They did not, and the flooding was getting worse.

Seeing the water rising quickly around Town Creek, I decided to make a run for my church in Supply. I was told by a lady that south 17 was closed, but I could get around the closed part using Old Ocean Highway, so I left. In several places the water was deep and my old Dodge Ram had to go very slow to get through the water. Near the government complex in Bolivia, everything was underwater, it was as if a lake had formed around the whole place. I came upon a section of road that water covered for about 800 feet and waited for a deputy in a Charger coming towards me to get through. I then went into his lane and made my run for it. I was surrounded by water, so even though this was a dangerous decision, it truly was the lesser of all the evils. With a few hundred feet to go, my truck started getting pushed sideways and I could feel the rear tires slipping as the pucker-factor went through the roof. I plowed water ahead of the truck and off to both sides as I slowly found a sweet spot around 4 MPH and finally came out the other side onto dry concrete. Several lights on my dash were lit. Check gauges, check brakes… My heart was beating through my chest and it took about an hour for my blood pressure to return to normal. This was honestly one of most terrifying moments in my life.

The rest of the drive to the church was relatively smooth. I pulled in under the awning just before dark and sent a text message to my pastor to see about getting a key to get in. Supply did not have power, but I figured I could at least use the restroom and stretch out on the floor for the night. Unfortunately, no key was to be had. Everyone that had a key had evacuated (because they were smarter than me), so I decided to spend the night in my truck. I got as comfortable as a 6’5″ 270 pound guy can get in the cab of a truck and dozed in and out of sleep throughout the night. I turned on my EMS radio at one point and heard the military doing water rescues at Han-D-Hugo, the same place I had left a couple hours before. Other water rescue teams were doing rescues at the Buddhist Temple not far from me, and there was even one crew doing a rescue in the Lowes Food parking lot! Yes, in a parking lot.

Throughout the night my cell phone alarm would go off with a tornado warning. There were at least 3 of them, countless flash flood warnings, and various other emergencies. I finally turned my phone off, reckoning that if this was my night to die, it was my time. Several times I was awoken by my truck getting shaken by the strong winds. At first I would sit up and make sure everything was okay. After a while, I just rolled back over and went to sleep, content to allow fate to run its course. This was no act of bravery, it just was what it was.

Dawn came early and with relative calm. Rain showers and some wind were punctuated by a few minutes of peace. A black man, his elderly grandmother, and his adorable young daughter drove up and parked under the awning near my truck. We talked for a while, shared some cookies and cigarettes, and told each other our similar stories from the night before. I knew the bridge at 211 and Lockwoods Folly River was underwater, and that highway 17 north and south were blocked by water, as was Green Swamp Road. I knew we were trapped in about a 1 square mile area, but he and I would still walk out to the highway every 10 minutes or so to make sure. Yep, always a river running through it. At one point I noticed it had not been raining for a few minutes and decided to go for a walk to help pass the time. I came upon the Supply Fire Department. I was really just looking for a place to go to the bathroom, but was wearing my Oak Island Water Rescue hat. After talking with their chief, it was decided that I would be drafted to help them with water rescues, even though my experience level is extreme novice. I returned to get my truck and gear from the church and drove to the fire department.

The chief had to make some calls to FEMA and others to get me on board, which only took about 10 minutes. He said I would be getting paid the same as a firefighter. I told him in Oak Island we were strictly volunteer. He said it didn’t matter, now I was a Firefighter with Supply, NC. I would spend the next 28 hours with them. We did 3 water rescues in that time, all swift-water, something I have never been trained in, and even had one rescue that ended in a guy getting arrested. Now that was a first! We joked that things are different in Supply, here you get dinner and a show!

I cannot say enough good things about the fire department in Supply. This is one of the finest group of people I have ever had to the pleasure to meet. They took me in, took exceptionally good care of me, fed me, washed my clothes, gave me a place to sleep, shower, and provided many of the comforts of home. The men and women of the Supply Fire Department are true heroes, wonderful people, and I’m happy to call them new friends. The same applies to the many Brunswick County Sheriff Deputies that were there as well. You guys, and gals, rock.

Many of the firefighters were on a fire call the next morning and I was outside sweeping the floor and just hanging around, enjoying the sunshine that was interspersed with thunderstorms. A deputy pulled up to sleep for a while and said he had come there from Oak Island. Wait, what? You came from where? How? He told me the route he took and I quickly gathered my belongings, forgetting my water rescue gear of all things, said some quick goodbyes, and took off for home. 30 minutes later I arrived at my home on the island. The bridges were still closed to the public, but having Oak Island Police Department and Water Rescue ID’s would have gotten me in, though knowing the officer at the checkpoint was sufficient.

I arrived at home and found it very dirty, but unharmed by the storm. Despite taking a direct hit from the eye of a hurricane, we lost no trees, the flood waters had not reached our house, and we were good. I was mostly worried about the cats, which we had to leave behind. Windy, our cat from the hood in Chicago, barely noticed me when I walked in a went back to sleep. JoJo however told me all about the hurricane by meowing throughout the day and night! He was even happier to see me than usual. I took pictures of our house and sent them to Missy in Charlotte to let her know I made it home, and that everything looked almost as good as we left it. She was very relieved, even though the storm was now battering Charlotte and flooding was severe there as well. Several neighbors and friends had asked me to check on their homes when I get there, so I did, and sent them pictures as well. All of their homes were also in good shape.

I unpacked the truck, which was basically a mobile Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms store, and headed down to the police department to see what they needed help with. As expected, they needed help checking IDs for people coming to the bridges, since only folks with addresses on the island would be permitted. I came back home, cleaned up the best I could since we still had no water or sewer, put on my police shirt and went back to HQ and was sent to check IDs on the new bridge. At 4PM the town decided to allow locals to return. There was a 6PM curfew in effect, but it was understood that people could cross the bridge and drive straight home and not be in violation. Another officer and I worked there until well after dark.

I checked IDs and passed out pamphlets the town printed to people for the next 2 days as we transitioned from locals only to the island being open to everyone, from having a curfew to it expiring. I ended my work with them yesterday by patrolling the beach on the ATV, and shot some video of the damage to the beach and dunes as well.

Major kudos the the local restaurants and business’. Even though nearly all of them are closed and suffered substantial damage, they were constantly trying to feed us. Seems like every time we turned around someone was bringing us baskets of food, boxes of pizza, and offering us water and soda. It would have been impossible to starve or even go thirsty on this island thanks to Bob’s Dogs, BBQ House, Domino’s Pizza, Swains Seafood, and several others.

Thank you to my sister and her family! They took in not only my immediate family, including 2 dogs, but also Missy’s sister and her 3 kids, for a week. I know it was tight in your place, but we all appreciate it very much. In return, you can continue to stay at our beach house whenever you like 🙂 Missy, Halle, and the dogs finally made it home on Wednesday as well. Flooding has closed or destroyed many roads, and they made it through South Carolina just ahead of flooding that has now closed that route. Kris, Missy’s sister, and her kids also made it safely back home to Jacksonville.

And lastly, thank you to the residents of Oak Island that I had the pleasure of dealing with. We were all very aware that nerves were rattled, many people were upset about being kept off the island for so long, we were hot, smelly, tired, wet, and just wanted to go home and rest. We read the plans on Facebook about storming the bridges, and I wouldn’t have tried to stop you if you had! But thank you all not only for not doing that, but for all of your kind words of support as you made your way home through the checkpoints. I am happy that in the end you did not see us as the enemy. Every person I know in town government, police, and fire was truly doing the absolute best job they could given the situation and conditions, and I know they all appreciate your understanding and support as much as I did.

Endangered Species Act (Human Version)

This is a letter I wrote today to a member of our (Oak Island, NC) town council and mayor. I posted it here as an open letter to all members of the town council and residents of Oak Island…

Good morning Mrs. Bell and Mrs. Brochure. I am writing today to request your help in providing protection to the volunteers that make up the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program. Through federal and state law, and local ordinances, we have excellent protection for the sea turtles that many of us work very hard to protect.

That is great, but what we are lacking seems to be legal protection for the volunteers that perform this work. I am referring currently to an incident last night (8/21) that I experienced while working on a nest at 10th Place West, where we had 2 intoxicated men smoking cigars and harassing the female volunteers. I stepped in to redirect their attention towards me, and after several minutes of “lively” confrontation, their wives talked them into leaving and we continued with our work of handling the hatching turtles in relative peace. I say relative, because we had at least one woman who refused to turn off her cell phone when requested (a very common problem), creating additional white light that can confuse and disorient the turtles. The 2 men previously mentioned also made it a point when they returned to the rental home near the nest to turn on their very bright back porch light. We were too busy at that point with the turtles to call police or request help. To make matters worse, one of the men claimed to be a game warden, though I highly doubt that claim.

The previous nest a few weeks ago, there was also a drunk kid causing problems. He was well past the “do not cross line” we had established, and was carelessly walking around the area while over 100 hatchlings were scattered around and trying to make their way to the ocean. I was able to remove him myself, and avoid stepping on any turtles, but during this time all volunteers are extremely busy and taking time to deal with issues like this is unsafe, for both the volunteers and turtles.

What I am requesting is that the town create new ordinances for the protection of our volunteers. This should include harassment of volunteers, failure to follow directions, harassing or bothering volunteers or others trying to enjoy to the hatching process, and generally being a nuisance during the very busy 30-60 minutes of active hatching. I did not have time last night to call the police or I would have, the turtles were already out of the nest and making their way to the water when we started having problems with some of the guests. It would be nice to have a police officer present during any hatching, but I feel that having at least town ordinances with financial penalties may suffice. A warning to visitors about the ordinances may be enough to settle them down.

I work with the police department issuing parking and beach violations for town ordinances on a part time basis. On my nests, I could write violations if the ordinances existed, though I realize this is not a viable solution for all the other nests. And, of course, I could not write them anyway while I am busy with my volunteer work of getting the turtles to the water. They would have to be issued after the turtles are safely in the ocean. But a police officer could write those citations, as well as handle more serious matters such as intoxication and communicating threats.

I hope you will take my suggestions seriously before we end up having a serious problem involving our volunteers. I believe we need just a little “teeth”, an actionable ordinance that we can use to educate our visitors, and punish when needed.

Thank you both for your time,

Todd Osborne

Donating Blood Pressure

I often donate blood, have been doing it for 3 decades now. My blood has an enzyme that is needed for treating premature babies and burn victims, so I try to always make myself available when the vampires (Red Cross) call, something they never seem to forget! I have often been curious if donating blood lowers (temporarily) your blood pressure, so I decided today to do a little test. I have a blood pressure monitor that I use everyday to keep me inline, doctor’s order, so I hooked myself up this morning at it was 122/74 with 50 heartbeats per minute, slightly elevated. The Red Cross checked it before donating as well, 124/70 with 54 beats/minute. After donating blood, and eating lunch, I tried again. Now it is 115/63 and 59 beats/minute, normal pressure. I realize this is anecdotal, subjective, and not very scientific, but following the blood donation my BP was in the normal range, something I have not seen in months.

So here is my plan. Instead of taking my blood pressure medicine, I will just drain a pint of blood each day, I seem to have too much 🙂

Remember, always give 100%, unless you are donating blood!

A Little Catching Up…

I know I have not been great about keeping up my blog, and as always, I will try to do better. That said, this post will try to bring it up to date so that going forward only daily updates and news will be needed.

As for my airplane project, I have completed the Zenith CH650 tail kit and have disassembled the Corvair engine that I bought in Chicago over Christmas. I am in the process of cleaning and painting the engine now, at which point it will be in storage for a while until it gets closer to the time I need it. I plan to attend a Corvair College to assemble and test the engine when that time comes. I ordered the rest of the airframe kit from Zenith in July and was given a ship date of September 22, 2018, so I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of a whole lot of aluminum!

My experimental avionics package, GlassPack, is done for now. I have it working quite well and will be adding more features to it in the future, but unless some community support develops around it, I will likely only be building this for my own plane.

I joined the Oak Island Water Rescue Team a few months ago. I am still very much in training, but learning quickly. This is a great team of 20 volunteers that respond anytime someone calls 911 for people struggling in the ocean or waterway, boat accidents, and basically any time rescue on the water is needed. We also have a U.S. Coast Guard station on the island. They are used more for offshore rescue since their boats need 16′ of water depth to operate. We handle the shallow water calls and so far I have been on about 20 of them. Fortunately most were not serious.

I also joined the Oak Island Police Department, originally as a volunteer to do parking enforcement on the weekends. The town council decided they wanted us to be part-time employees and migrated us to employee status. The Police Department also trained us on ATV’s and we now do enforcement of many town ordinances on the beach as well as parking. We also help patrol the island and assist police officers with their calls.

Lastly, I volunteer with the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program. I have been assigned to 2 nests so far this year, with the first nest hatching a couple of weeks ago. We helped 117 baby Loggerhead turtles make their way to the water. This is an important program because these turtles are very endangered and because Oak Island is a prime nesting place for Loggerheads. In a normal year, about 8,000 Loggerheads are hatched on Oak Island, and only about 1 in 1,000 will survive to adulthood, primarily due to predation. We will be setting up the second nest this evening.

So, I am managing to keep myself very busy, but I like busy. The volunteer work with Water Rescue and the Police Department will go way down in the off-season, and there will be no turtle work once the season ends. My free time will then be dedicated to building the Zenith CH650 kitplane and suffering through the 50 degree cold North Carolina winters. Sorry Wisconsin peeps!!!