couple of the many thousands of islands of the Bahamas.
(From 4000 feet)
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A lot of planning and preparing goes into a flight to the islands. Some of the items on the checklist are:
Prep packing list, Inspect plane thoroughly, gather charts, sort tool box, fill O2 bottle, take scuba refresher training, install 12 inch numbers on plane and much more. The government now requires every plane to file by internet a report when leaving and entering the US from a foreign country, so that had be done by us, also.
Packing list includes: Sun glasses, Sun block, Cameras, Laptop, Flight Bag, Clothes Bags, Scuba Bag, Passports, Customs packet, Charge cords for all electronics, Life Jackets, Tools, heavy duty tie down stakes and more.
The flight to KESN (Easton, MD) will include navigating around or through the DC airspace.
Trip to Maryland:
We were packed and ready on Friday night. All the last minute chores were completed. Saturday we woke to approaching rain showers. We kept our schedule and I thought we would beat the on coming rain, not the case. It started raining just before we were ready to pull the plane out of the hanger. Since I still needed to top the fuel tanks, we waited a few minutes for a lull in the showers. With topped tanks, we departed AIO (Atlanitc) in sprinkles and marginal VFR conditions. The plane got a bath on our way to 9500 ft and made our way east. We were into VFR conditions within 5 minutes.
Go into the light.
Our original first fuel stop was Logansport, Indiana (GGP), but it was socked in so we angled southeast and fueled at Flora, IL (FOA). We stayed just ahead of a line of shower activity to Flora. I asked center for flight following so I could get some practice talking to controllers on the way. I wanted to be on top of my game when traversing the SFRA around Washington DC. The weather was good east of Illinois all the way.
Fuel at Sutton, WV
Our second fuel stop was Sutton, WV (48I) where I called Flight Service and filed our flight plan through the SFRA. We used MRB-GAI-VPONX-VPOOP-ESN as our route through the SFRA. About ten miles from the restricted zone, I contacted approach on 132.77 to open the flight plan and get a squawk code. That's when it happened. My King 76A Transponder decided to hiccup. The controller couldn't see our txpr return. I had to circle Fredricksburg while I cycled the radio on and off twice before it sprang back to life. I have to commend the controller. He was so helpful and patient and when I finally got clearance he offered a vector to our first waypoint in the corridor, since I was off my track and needed a few minutes to get my bearings again.
We crossed Chesapeake Bay and were released by the SRFA controller and contacted Easton tower for Rwy 22. Jim was waiting on the ramp to haul us to his fabulous house on the bay. His wife Janet was so gracious. It was time to relax with good food (Champaign for the girls, wine for the boys, shrimp cocktail for the appetizer, baby back ribs, baked potato, and corn on the cob for the meal). We took a tour of the grounds and the dock and when the mosquitoes started biting we retreated to the great room for more wine.
Jim and Janet's house in Maryland.
3 Days in Maryland:
We spent time with Jim and Janet. They have become fabulous cooks and wine conisuers(sp) in their retirement. They fixed our evening meal each night. We enjoyed ribs, salmon, crab cakes, sweet corn, baked potato, salads and wine. It was wonderful.
Jim and Gene went flying to get cheaper gas on Sunday and all of us went to Annapolis Naval Academy on Memorial Day to check out the museum and the harbor. It was a great time and we will need to do it again.
Trip to Homestead Florida:
On Tuesday it was time to bid our new great friends farewell and head down the coast to start part 2 of our Bahamas adventure. We departed ESN and asked Pauxitant approach for flight following to Homestead. We were handed off to numerous controllers along the way. We stopped in Charlotte (EQY) and in Jacksonville (HEG) for fuel along the way. We arrived in Homestead at 4:30 PM to a great welcome by 14 other couples who arrived just the last hour before. We fueled with the last cheap gas we would see until we get back to the US next Wednesday.
We had 5 rental vans to get us to the new Hampton Inn in Homestead. We got together for a flight planning briefing by Jimmy B and Rosie. There would be 3 flight groups departing 10 minutes apart. The plan was to fly direct to Nassau, then fly the island chain to Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas. After each pilot called flight Service to file our flight plans, we spent the rest of the night shopping for last minute food and snack items to take with us to Exuma. We had to take care to only take what we could to stay below our weight limits for the plane.
Trip out to sea:
Wednesday morning brought a group caravan back to the airport for packing and preflight and flight briefings by each flight leader. After takeoff, each flight leader opened everyone's flight plan together to save time. Our flight group climbed up to 7500 ft for the first leg over the open water. When we reached Nassau, turned on course direct to Georgetown (MYEF) and descended to 1500 ft for a good view of the islands and beautiful water that has about a thousand shades of blue. Some of us went on down to 500 ft when we got within 50 miles of MYEF. We were surprised to see many private runways every few miles that were not on the map.
Over the Bahamas chain.
On landing at Georgetown, we were marshaled into our parking spot on the ramp and fueled up by the fuel truck. After tying down the plane we had to clear customs and were transported by taxi to our home for 7 days.
Stay at Palm Bay Beach Club Resort:
Our time on the island so far has included reunion with old friends, meeting new flying friends and meeting people from other countries and the US who are staying on the island also. Most folks are interested in the fact that our group is so large and that we come together from all over the US to spend time together on these trips.
Other activities include: Walks on the beach, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, hanging out around the pool and dining in one of the restaurants for starters.
Diving: Gene went out on Thursday morning with 10 other divers for a 2 dive trip. He dove on a sunken ship wreck and a reef. First observations is that the warmer weather this late in the season has reduced the fish population, so the diving will not be as fabulous as previous trips but still good. The other issue with the diving is the wind that we are experiencing right now. The seas are rough. Getting back on the boat is challenging. Gene is going to lay off the diving on Friday and Saturday and hope the seas will calm a bit. The forecast is for better weather in a day or two.
Our Saturday fly-out:
Jimmy Baker, who formed the original island flyers group 10 years ago planned a fly-out to Pittstown. Pittstown Point is a short runway at the north end of Crooked Island. All 13 planes signed on to accompany him for lunch at the restaurant near the air strip.
We awoke to overcast and rain and thought we may have a problem. However, the weather around here changes every 10 minutes, so we all took the taxis to the airport, expecting to depart after a short wait. It worked out perfectly. It was raining at the airport, so we waited for about 20 minutes and it started to clear. We all pre-flighted our planes and departed in 3 groups of 3 or 4 planes each. We flew at 3000 ft over to Long Island and let down to 1000 ft and flew along the island chain down to Deadmans Cay airport before turning southeast toward Pittstown Point air strip. We had to skirt a long line of rain clouds before turning at a break in the clouds just before getting there. The 4 ship we were in did a straight in approach with a half mile interval.
Long Island - along the way.
The runway begins almost at the waters edge, so it can be intimidating for some. We had no problem, of course. It was quite a site to see 13 planes lining both sides of the runway at this small strip next to the sea. The staff at the restaurant had fruit punch for us and a great lunch including Grouper, Conch, Chicken, cole slaw, and Key lime pie for dessert.
After lunch, we all had to pose for a group picture on the sea wall. All but 3 planes left soon after to return to Georgetown, Exuma shortly after. We stayed at 1500 ft all the way back and over-flew some really gorgeous terrain. We flew off Bryan and Sherrys Bonanza and got some good pictures.
After a few more days of leisure, we saddled up and made the trip back to Fort Pierce, FL to see our favorite customs officials. Then we all went our separate ways to home and the life of work and anticipation of our next flying adventure.
So we had a great time travelling with our RV friends. It seems that we have local friends, long time friends, Oshkosh friends and RV travel friends. A few friends meet more than one parameter. Life is so great when you have an RV aircaft.
If you are thinking of travelling by private plane or hopefully by RV, Get Busy Livin'.