Seaplane Ops at the Taj Mahouse
The Taj Mahouse is
in Shangri-La-di-da. That's in Virginia, on Jordan Point in
the James River, east of Hopewell and southeast of the Route
106/156 drawbridge. X marks the spot:
(all formats indicate the wrong house in GoogleMaps)
|N37º 18' 17.77", W77º 12' 53.29"
37º 18.300', -77º
||10463 Jordan Parkway, Hopewell, VA 23860. (Google
it for an aerial view of the river and the correct house.)
The water is fresh, but there is a 3 foot tide.
When the tide is medium or
higher, there is plenty of water everywhere for seaplane
ops. You can land anywhere, in any direction.
(What follows may look
complicated at first, but it's actually quite simple.)
At very low tide, the center of our little bay gets shallow.
During rare extremely low tides, that part of the bay becomes a
mud flat--but it's still safe to land and take off by going around
the edges. (See photo below.)
The colors suggest water depth. The blue
area ("- deep -") is always at least 15 feet deep, even at low
tide. The greenish "shallow at low tide" area can be too shallow at low tide,
and occasionally--rarely--it even becomes a mud flat.
That's when I go along the line of piers, where it's always
VIDEO--seeing is believing
Here's a cockpit video of taxiing onto
the beach at low tide. (Opens in a new window.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAwBC6R-RvY&list=UUUZxvBxevBs9vms_0QlBRqg&index=2&feature=plcp
TIDE PREDICTION TABLES
If you're planning ahead (or merely curious) check the tide tables
for Jordan Point:
Here's an interesting tide table.
(Opens in a new window.)
And another interesting tide table.
NOTE: These are predictions. Actual tide height is
strongly influenced by wind and magic.
ACTUAL TIDE HEIGHT
Here's a simple method for gauging the water depth. (No
Fly over our place and look for 2 stripes across the pier.
|WATER LINE AT
|DEPTH of shallowest area in center of bay
IN-shore (west) stripe
| at least 2 feet deep everywhere.
|| at least 1 foot deep.
In the photo above, the water line is INshore (west) of the green stripe. No
problem! It's deep enough everywhere for SeaReys and
Lakes. For deeper draft seaplanes you'd have to decide for
When the water line is between
the stripes, the minimum depth
in the center of the bay is between 1 and 2 feet. That's
deep enough for step-taxiing in my SeaRey, but might be shallow in
places for displacement mode.
When the water line is OFFshore (east) of the orange
stripe, avoid the shallow area. Taxi around the north end of
the shallows and keep close to the piers.
My SeaRey draws about 0.5 foot
on the step and 1.5 feet in displacement mode with the gear
up. Most of the time I can take off and land even in the
center of the bay.
If you're not sure, just stay out of the middle.
VERY LOW TIDE
The bottom is soft mud, so even
if you went aground, it wouldn't do any harm to the
airplane. The mud is slippery, so getting stuck isn't
likely, but if it happened, the tide would soon float you free.
Even at very low tide there is always enough water just off
the piers, about 100 feet out from them. When
taxiing in displacement mode at extremely low water--it's very rare--I turn
toward shore near the marina, or in line with the northern-most
pier, and keep in close to the piers all the way to our pier.
I've never seen less than 3 feet of water along the piers, even
when the "shallow" area is exposed mud flat. And that
happens only 3 or 4 times a year.
ONTO THE BEACH
At medium tide or higher, you can just taxi in to the beach
anywhere. Lower the gear before passing the end of the
pier. The bottom is soft and flat, so be ready to add plenty of power as soon as the
wheels touch. LOTS of power.
If you have a nosewheel, it might
be better to leave the gear up. If in doubt, leave it up.
Just taxi in as far as you can and tie to a tree or a
tiedown. You might prefer to turn the airplane around and
tail it in. There's usually a coil or two of rope on the
beach or the pier if your line isn't long enough.
Our pier is about 200 feet long. For the outer 100
feet, the bottom is very sticky mud. The inner 100 feet is
firm mud, firm enough to taxi on. The beach is sandy.
I've dredged a channel through the sticky part that lets my SeaRey
taxi in and out at any tide height. My SeaRey draws about
1.5 feet with the gear up and about 2 feet with the gear down.
At medium tide or lower you'll
see 2 pairs of poles with green
cross-shaped tops marking the channel. Their tops are 3 feet above the
At quite low tide you
may see an outer (third) pair of shorter poles marking the
entrance to the channel.
If you see 2 rows of small poles between large green cross-top poles, the water is less
than 2 feet deep there. Stay between the lines of poles and
use plenty of power.
If you see no poles at all, the tide is high and you can go
Alternate method: You may see a white pole on the
grassy bank. At medium or low tide, keep the white
pole lined up with the left white chimney until you're
at least halfway in from the end of the pier.
The river is always
changing the beach, and sometimes the sand gets soft in
places. If your wheels get bogged down--no problem!
There are several 4' x 8' plastic lattice mats that will get you
moving again. Just slide one in front of the bogged-down
wheel and taxi onto it.
There's a white mooring buoy
between our pier and the southern-most pier, but about 100 feet
farther out, where the water is always deep enough. You
can tie up to it, or you can anchor anywhere near the buoy (but
clear of any airplane tied to it). You'll want to stay on
the "deep enough" line, about 100 feet out from the line of
piers, but not more than 200 feet out from them. We'll
pick you up with the (ahem!) Large Marge Party Barge &
Self-propelled Seaplane Tender.
EAGLES & OSPREYS
A pair of ospreys have been nesting on our pier in spring and
early summer. A pair of eagles has a nest in a tall tree
near the east end of Indian Point--the little point to the
southeast of our place. It's not an official sanctuary, but I try
not to fly low directly above the nest. There never seems to
be any conflict if I stay offshore, or approach to land over the
trees close to our house.
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