Turks and Caicos 2007
Ready to Go
Preflight in Homestead
Into the Sunrise
Rosie off our wing
We made it.
Cruise ships came by every 3 days
First night out.
Rosie & Gene do a fly-by.
Launching the dive boat right in front of our room.
In between dives - 2 dives per day.
Always with a group.
Parked planes at Grand Turk.
Grand Turk from the air - not very big.
Bahamas from 4000 feet
Last take off together from Ft Pierce, FL.
|See Story in pictures here.||
On our Way
Bob and Kathi
Very loose formation
Cruising at 9500 ft
On approach at Grand Turk
Osprey Beach Hotel
Janet checking out the beach.
Sunset from our room.
Sunsets were gorgeous.
The scuba gang.
Parrott fish - they look like they are smiling.
Deb standing next to a hundred year old anchor.
Packing for the trip home.
Part of the group at the motel in Florida.
One of my dreams while I was building "Moody Blue" was to fly to the
Bahamas, so when Rosie invited us to tag along on a trip to Grand Turk,
we said absolutely.
The planning started by getting passports, ordering a customs tag from Homeland Security and booking our room at the Osprey Beach Hotel in Grand Turk. Rosie and Jimmy Baker encouraged me to try scuba diving while there, so I checked into getting scuba lessons locally. I found Big O Scuba in Omaha and started the lessons.
The plan was to fly to Homestead, FL to meet up with the other 7 couples who were going to fly their homebuilt RV airplanes together to Grand Turk. The reason for leaving from Homestead was to be able to over-fly the Bahamas and therefore eliminating the need for customs delays and stop initially in Providenciales(Provo), Turks and Caicos for fuel and customs. We normally carry fuel for 4 1/2 hours of flight, so the 3.5 hour flight to Provo would be doable. Even though the Bahamas doesn't charge for customs anymore, the time savings by eliminating an extra stop would be significant.
We launched out of Atlantic, IA on Thursday, Apr 19th, fueled at Kennet, MO and Decator County, GA and arrived at Valkaria, FL by mid afternoon. Bob and Kathi Clasen (Bob is retired from the Iowa National Guard as did I) met us and were gracious hosts for the evening. Next morning, Bob and I had to check out the local sights, from the air of course.
Janet and I departed X59 for Homestead, FL and to meet the team. We rented vans and carpooled to a local motel for the night. We socialized and filed our flight plans by phone.
A short night and we were packing and preflighting for the great adventure. We formed 2 flights of 4 for the flight to Provo and on to Grand Turk.
A flight consisted of:
B Flight consisted of:
Flight B took off 20 minutes after A. We flew in loose formation at 9500 feet for safety. Rosie was in charge, but had us fly lead since we had the slowest plane. I set the auto-pilot on course and concentrated on holding altitude. Lead really needs an altitude-hold. I had a hard time watching the altimeter when the view outside was so great. I caught grief on the radio for it , too.
We arrived at Provo and took on fuel and waited for the customs people to do their thing. It seemed to take forever and cost a fortune. Just paperwork, no inspection. We were finally ready to finish our trip. About 20 minutes on southeast, we arrived at Grand Turk. We tied down the planes in the grass. There was about 1 inch of soil covering the hard coral that makes up the surface of the island. Someone brought a "big" hammer to drive the steel stakes we all brought. (I left mine there when we left - too heavy and cheap to drag home) Someone called the taxi and we shuttled about a mile over to the hotel. The room wasn't luxurious, just nice. We had a front door and a back door to the beach. I quickly donned my suit and took a dip in the surf. I discovered that swimming in the ocean is kind of spooky because you can't see what is under you. After that I always took my mask and snorkel. It was great when you could see everything below. One day while snorkeling just off the beach, I spotted a stingray and swam around about 10 feet behind and above it for a while. It was great.
OK. Ready for some night life. It's not a huge event, just great conversation, good drinks and good food. 2 nights while there our dive-master, Mitch Rolling, formerly from Ames, IA, played for us with his band in the hotel atrium. He was very good. We ate, imbibed and danced. "Rum punch all around."
During the day, many of us took to the boats for scuba diving. Since I only had the basic instruction back home, I needed to do the open water portion of my training. Mitch was a great instructor. After 4 dives, I was declared certified and paired up with Rosie as a dive partner for the rest of the week. We saw sea turtles, barracuda, eels, parrot fish, groupers and every color of fish and coral you could imagine. No sharks this time. We even did a night dive. Eleven dives went into the logbook. Scott Mills and Jimmy Baker took pictures underwater and I got some of those pics. Blue Water Divers was our dive company.
One day, Rosie and I decided to give a couple of rides. Rosie took a local TV reporter and I took a local boy (Denzel) for a ride around the island. I got some good pics and Rosie got some formation practice (as if he needs it). The day before we left, Rosie, Bryan and I needed fuel for the trip home so we gave more rides on the trip to Provo for fuel. I took Monica, Rosie took Mitch and Bryan took PJ. You can see the video here.
After 8 wonderful days on Grand Turk, it was time for the trip home. Jimmy and Gary had made arrangements for someone to be at the terminal early so we could clear customs and get to Florida early enough to clear US Customs and make it home the same day. What do they say about best laid plans? The customs guy didn't show and the young man who did was inexperienced and slow. I guess it is just as well, because there were thunderstorms in the Bahamas (about 300 miles west). We ran up against them and turned back to Provo to wait it out and top off our fuel. Two and 1/2 hours later, we launch for our fuel stop at Stella Maris, Bahamas. The remnants of the storms made it interesting. We had to fly through some rain, but the it was partly cloudy as the storms were dissipating. After fueling, the clouds opened up and the planes were given a good washing. After clearing Bahama's customs, we launched for Fort Pierce, FL and US customs. We arrived at 5:50 PM and had to rush to clear customs before they closed at 6 PM. After the day's long ordeal, we all agreed we needed rest before flying home. The girl at the FBO knew a hotel nearby who would come and get us, so it was a plan. We all had a last supper at a local seafood restaurant.
After a good nights sleep, we all took off together and headed northwest. We split off from the group and headed straight for home. After the same two fuel stops, we were home by 4 PM.
The rest of the group stopped at Jim and Vicki's in Goodland, KS for the night and continued on to California the next day. You can see Scott and Deb's accounting of the trip here. You can see Paul and Victoria's account of our trip here.
All in all, a great adventure. Taken as one step at a time, it was no big deal, but when one looks at the entire trip, it was quite amazing. Our plane that I built in our garage had taken us on a trip across the waters of the Bermuda triangle and we not only survived but were thrilled.