Pilot Mall has issued a challenge again for 2012: visit 12 of the 20 Bahamas
ports of entry in the year 2012 to be entered in a drawing to win some really great prizes. Well, all you need to do is say
the word "contest" and Wild Mama is up for the task! Read on to see how Wild Mama and her
crew do in the 2012 Bahamas Pilot Challenge. We took 4th place for 2011 sooooo ... Game on!!!!
* * * * *
2012 Stop 1 - Andros Island: Fresh Creek:Returning
to one of my favorite places in the Bahamas, I was delighted to have a Bahamas newbie with me. Kelly Hayden is a recent FSU graduate with degree in textiles and she wanted to learn more about the industry. The Androsia Batik Factory www.androsia.com has its factory on Andros Island so for a girls day out, it was perfect.
fetched Kelly from Fort Myers on a scuzzy Wednesday morning. Although the wind was really whipping out of the east, it seemed
to leave the crud behind (those darn high pressure systems). The forecasts were for unusual MVFR over Nassau so we decided
to file IFR for the trip over. With the reduced visibility, I almost felt IMC heading out over the Everglades. We were vectored
down to the Keys before making the direct turn to Fresh Creek. The cloud bank was solid until we broke out over the ocean, then it scattered an w=dwindled down to nearly nothing
until we approached Andros Island. The forecast winds held true today: we climbed to 9000' to (oddly enough) avid the worst
of the wind which was reaching 30 kts much lower. We sported only 10-15 kts of headwind but were able to keep up a healthy
145 kts over the ground. We managed to keep in contact with ATC in Miami until the hand-off at 2000' to Nassau - we were only
10 miles out and under the cloud deck so we finished the trip VFR. Kelly got to see some of the blue holes that surround Andros
and, being a diver, commented on how cool they would be to see.
Jeff was going to meet us to give us a personal tour but he was waylaid in FLL and (imagine) hit severe headwinds on the trip
over this morning in his 172. Most unfortunately for Jeff, he could not get up to 9000' and had to settle for the 30 kt headwind
leaving his 172 creeping along at a top speed of only 70 kts - Jeff said he could swim faster! With Jeff delayed we headed
to Small Hope Bay for some lunch and a walk around the beach. The sea breeze was quite still and Kelly and I were both quite
surprised how smooth our flight was considering the winds that we felt on the surface.
Jeff finally made it and we headed off to our tour. He was quite knowledgeable about the textile business and
I think Kelly got quite an education about the process and all of the other incidental stuff that goes along with a garment
manufacturing business that they do not teach in school. Jeff gave us the benefit of his 38 years in the business - quite
fascinating to learn about piece-meal pay, employee management, fabric purchasing and the whole gamut of manufacturing stuff.
We started our tour in the print and pattern room where the ladies
lay out of the print on plain while cloth. They use the special molds, dip them in wax and press the waxy mold into the fabric. Next the fabric goes to the dying area. The colors are mixed according to a very
precise formula then hand dyed in a systematic fashion that puts just the right amount of dye on to the fabric. Then the dye
is set into the fabric and the bolt of fabric hung outside to dry in the sweet Bahama sun. Once the bolt is ready, it goes
in to the cutting room which is filled with patterns for the various garments that Androsia produces. The fabrics are selected
and cut and sent to the sewing rooms where the ladies produce the finished garment. The last process is the inspection and
packaging. Each item is inspected by the cutter, the presser and the packager before it is shipped out to the customer or
sent to the retail outlet for sale. Wow - what an experience. I had no idea how much work was put in to making my little airplane
Thrilled with our experience we finished our shopping (of course)
and headed back to the plane for the trip home. The nice part about making the return trip the same day was that we knew the wind would be behind us. We loaded up, said our so longs and launched into the clouded sky. We hailed Nassau
approach but could not complete our climb-out over 1800' until we broke over the open water and received our clearance. We climbed to 6000' and were
whooshed along at 175 kts for a quick 45 minute flight into Kendall-Tamiami where we cleared customs. With feet dry, we remained
relatively low for the last leg staying above the worse of the bumps with the 91 degree heat but well enough below the clouds
to have a pretty good flight. In all we flew just over 4.5 hours, got a good education and ate a hearty meal. Life is good.
Where shall we go for Stop 2?
Androsia 2012 Photos
August 2012 in the Bahamas: Wild
Mama is now rested and ready to go again. She has been in the hangar waaaaaay too long and she is looking to fly.
August in one of our annual Bahamas trips and this year promises to be a good one. Stay tuned for more to come. Blasting off
on August 16th ..... and away we go!
Stop 2 - Freeport: This is the second
stop in the Bahamas Challenge 2012 but the first stop on out week long junket across the island chain. We are traveling with
the group of Bahamas Aviation Ambassadors and Gateway FBO representatives for the annual FAM.We had come up in the morning
from Tavernaero and the view along the coastline from 800' was amazing. We met up in Banyan at FXE for our initial briefing
for the hop across the pond. We are 9 aircraft in all and about 40 people on this trip. We blasted off a bit late and under a deck of clouds but the shoreline was beautiful.
made it to Freeport before the rains hit but got soaked in the deluge that followed us to the Pelican Bay where we had a fabulous
lunch and round table discussion about customs and immigration. Our departure was a bit delayed by the rain and our turn out was a little more radical than normal as we had to skirt the uncharacteristic localized down pour
that seems not to move. Although a quick stop, we enjoyed lunch and learned a few new tidbits about customs.
Stop 3 - Great Harbor, Berry Islands: After a 30 min hop we touched
down in stop 3, Great Harbor Cay, Berry Islands. This is our overnight stop and used to be home to many of the rich and famous including the Rat Pack who frequented the island many years
ago. But hurricanes claimed many of the historic buildings and Berry Islands haven been in a state of rebuilding, now opening
several Villas, boutique hotels and private homes to welcome visitors to the poiece of paradise. We made a brief general
tour of the island before making our way to our villas to refresh before the evening affair. We were housed in a small but
well appointed villa in the beach Villas. The layout was quite interesting in that the bedroom was up in the loft area
and serviced by a set of "attic stairs". The room was comfortable and had all we needed... just an interesting layout.
We had dinner at Rock Hill restaurant consisting of a great fish buffet and a youth Junkanoo parade. We
were exhausted from a long day so we made our way to be early.
Stop 4 - Exuma: Our day
2 overnight stop is in the lap of luxury in Exuma at the Grand Isle Resort. All I can say is "WOW"!!!! But
first, let me back up and tell you about our flight from Great Harbor to Exuma: we skirted the Nassau airspace at 550' msl
or more appropriately above sea level. The waters in this part of the Bahamas are some of the most beautiful to overfly. Just
south of Nassau is the top of the Exuma chain which is dotted with small islands, small settlements and even smaller airports.
There are some restricted airports with runways as short as 1300'. We snapped some pictures but otherwise just kept flying
admiring the array of colors in the water. Upon our arrival at Georgetown, Exuma we were ushered to the Grand Isle Resort
.... did I say WOW?!!!! This is one of the most opulent places that I have ever stayed. The villas are 2 story with the bedrooms
on the lower level and the living area, dining area and kitchen on the top floor, both sporting an exceptional ocean view.
The rooms are bigger than most homes; are very well appointed and have everything one could possibe need. It made
it difficult to want to leave the room but we were called to Stocking Island for conch salad, beach and lunch ... a real tough
choice. After the day at the beach and to me, some of the best conch salad (in stiff competition with the conch salad of Stella
Maris) we headed back to freshen up for cocktails in the penthouse of Grand Isles and dinner and entertainment at Sandals.
The Sandals dinner was a buffet with all of the trimmings complete with the band and Junkanoo entertainment. There
was also a rather enjoyable "fire dancer" who was a bit of a comedian on the side. After a late evening we headed
back to for some much needed rest.
Stop 5 - San Salvador: Departing from Exuma we
joined up with the "Bahama Beezer" LSA for a little photo session over the blue Bahama waters. Then the
short flight out of Exuma over Conception Cay and in to San Salvador produced even more spectacular scenery. There were many rather
shallow coral reefs that we were able to see as we crossed Conception and can on in to San Salvador. We made a quick stop
at the Riding Rock Lodge before heading out for lunch of cracked conch, fried snapper and Bahamian peas and rice to die
for, before making a tour of the island with "Snake Eyes" to learn about the history of the island. There are many
lake on San Salvador that do not support life. They are not really fresh but do not reacdh the ocean to get the salt water
marine life to come in. We learned about the endangered San Salvador iguana and th elocal efforts to save the species and
re-populate the island. We learned about the history of Colunbus' discovery of the island and early settlers. The island is
not very populated but is one of the best scuba diving areas around with shallow reefs and walls ranging from 40' down to
the low 100' range - good for all levels of expertise. Lastly, we took a tour of the local light still manned. It was interesting
that they have to cover the lighthouse beam with a skirt each day, lest the sun focus on the crystal lens and start a wildfire.
With the heat beckoning us back to the hotel, we had a time to relax and hit the warm waters of the beach before our final FAM dinner at the hotel.
The final FAM dinner is always lots of fun with pilots and passengers telling adventures of the islands. We had a little
adventure with our passenger: Greg Rolle, the Bahamas Tourism trip coordinator, asked us at the last minte if we could take
a passenger and, of course, we agreed. Not wanting to fly over gross, but not wanting to insult anyone, we gentle needed to address the weight issue
but did not want to directly ask to offend our passenger so I emailed that weight was a consideration in any small plane and
to "pack light". Much to our delight, Sieska was quite small AND heeded the admonition to pack light. It was
her first trip in a small plane and she was a delight to have on board as we toured her beautiful country. Thank you all for
a fabulous, entertaining and informative trip.
6 - Stella Maris: Stop 6 is a 2 day rest and recovery from the hectic schedule of the past 3 days. On our first
day we managed to muster enough energy to walk down to the tide pool, sit in the sand and order lunch. Past that, it was sit
on the balcony and watch the day go by.
By Monday we had a bit more energy and headed off to
spend a day diving and snorkeling. The reefs off of Long Island and beautiful and the dive sites are relatively shallow and
an easy dive. Most unfortunately, we had a large rain cloud park itself over our boat for most of the day so the colors were
not as vivid as usual. Oh, darn. But the day was a good one anyway.
I finally saw the dreaded
Lionfish in the Caribbean waters where it most decidedly does NOT belong. The dive master did not spear it because of the
reef shark that was hanging around and the danger to the divers with blood and food in the water. There were quite a few conch
and 2 huge lobsters that we left to keep growing along with the largest hogfish that I have ever seen. The reef was obviously
healthy and not overfished.
Tuesday morning before departing we encountered a gentleman named
Eric who was on a mission to save and protect the coral reefs and in particular the conch. There are concerns that there has
been a lot of poaching from the Dominicans and the conch supply will be depleted if action is not taken soon. We had an interesting
chat about the consequences to the local man on the street in the Bahamas as conch is a staple food of the Bahamians ... not
to mention pretty yummy for the rest of us. I believe I have has conch something each day of my stay in the Bahamas.
Stop 7 - New Bight: The last trip to New Bight came with a rock in my prop so I was very careful
about landing particularly nose high and chopping the power immediately to avoid a repeat of the last time. Success. We touched
down in New Bight a mere 23 minutes after departure from Stella Maris for the passport stamp and a little look-see around
the airport. We followed a departing commercial Sky Bahamas twin turboprop Saab 340 and headed off to the northwest again
for the next landing.
Stop 8 - Rock Sound: The southern most AOE for
Eleuthera, we dropped in to the airport after another relatively short flight of 20 minutes. We have not yet stayed at Rock
Sound but the airport is nice and the people friendly. We made a comfort stop for the restroom and some snacks and water and
made our way back to Wild Mama for departure.
Stop 9 - Governor's Harbor:
Our stop here was quite a delight with the most friendly customs agent we have yet to encounter. She was cheery and most helpful,
making the recommendation for a place to stay on our return trip. We have many who want another outing and we are scoping
out the terrain for the next hotel and place or places to lite for a few days. This is on the list!! Note: there is NOTAM
for the gas - none until September 30th here.
Stop 10 - North Eleuthera:
Touching down at North Eleuthera we were greeted by the friendly folks White Crown Aviation. This airport has fuel and a really
great Pilot lounge with computer services. The lady at the desk recommended Coral Sands on Harbor Island. Pictures looked
great. We made note of that and made Note a $25 facility fee with no fuel purchase. We still had a ton of Avgas left so we
happily paid the $25, got our customs stamp and headed back on to the ramp where we were greeted by the same Sky Bahamas fight
that departed before us at New Bight!
Stop 11 - Chub: The flight from
North Eleuthera to Chub was the longest leg at 77 nm and ended up being the most interesting. Although we spent the bulk of
the trip over water just east of Nassau some nasty weather was brewing and a water spout dropped down right in front of it.
I saw the beginning of the spout peaking out of the cloud and made a sharp left to avoid it wrath. We passed beside it with
no ill effects but that was the closets I have ever come to seeing a spout up close and personal. OK, tick that off the list
- hopefully never again.
Flying back over the Berry Islands, the waters became the deep blues
and varied hues again. We dropped into chub and walked into customs for our stamp and chat with the customs officer who was
headed out to lunch. (Note lunch 12-1 and the office is closed). Also note a $20 facility fee and the lack of a blue phone.
No worries for us ..... off for the final leg of our journey to Bimini!
Stop 12 -
Bimini: With all of the storms behind us, we cruised on in to South Bimini after 2:27 total flight time and 6
landings. The last leg is a 2 night stop for us at the Bimini Big Game Club.. This is our first time spending the night here
and we are anxious to see the island. We settled into the room - very nice and roomy. We are over looking the pool just behind
the marina. I headed straight for the pool which was MY bath temperature. Ahhhhh. After a little R & R, we got a golf
cart and headed off to town to explore. We stopped at Stuart’s Conch Salad for a taste and to add another spot to the
list for the conch salad tour.. Mmmmmm good! With bellies full again, it was time for a rest.
We spent most of the second day exploring the island by golf cart.
Not that the island was so big - at points is is less than1/4 mile wide; but the slow speed of the golf cart coupled with
the shear beauty of the island made our trip quite lengthy. There are many parts of Bimini where the average man lives - those
are typically no on the water and, well, they look like any other neighborhood., Then toward the north and east part of the
island are new exclusive homesites with a view of the bay and ocean out each side of the house. Spectacular!
left the beautiful part, we headed to the southern part on North Bimini and toured the Bimini Museum and headed to Captain
Bob's for a local flavor lunch of curry chicken and rice. We followed lunch with guava duff, a Bahamian pastry; this being
the best recipe that I had sampled yet at the local bakery aptly named "Taste of Heaven". The balance
of the day was quite lazy again, wandering about the Bimini Big Game Club and lounging around the pool. Tomorrow we head home
to prepare the house for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac but tonight, we savour our last night in the Bahamian paradise.
Thursday morning we boarded our water taxi for
the ride back to South Bimini and the airport for the flight back to the US. The water was flat and the air calm for
our 30 minute flight. We touched down at KFXE, cleared customs (Bimini bread and all) and headed off to home. We have completed
the 2012 Bahamas Pilot Challenge - and another great challenge it was. Thanks, Pilot Mall, for organizing this awesome adventure!
Stop: Bimini OK, this one Wild Mama sat out and let her crew go in, dare we say, another airplane. Fellow
99 and pilot, D, has never flown to the Bahamas so she was in for a treat. She came to LaBelle to pick up Terry in her Flight Design CT Light Sport plane. (Such a cute plane
we can't wait to see what it becomes when it grows up!)
The day was perfect with relatively clear skies - except for the pollutants, smoke and haze - relatively warm for the dead
of winter and sporting a gentle breeze. The day was calling out for a fun flight. D arrive around 0900. We filed out flight
plan and shot off into the blue. We climbed out to 5500' and headed eastward toward Ft Lauderdale to break out over Big Blue.
There were many fires - probably burning sugar cane - across the vast farm fileds and northern Everglades adding to the hazy
view below. But above it was clear, cool and smooth air. It is an interesting transition from the swamp to the city:
a line of demarcation that cannot be missed, with the city being sandwiched in between the swamp and the sea.
crossed the coastline about 45 minutes after our departure. We were on flight following and had good communications with Miami
Center. D had done flight following many times before but never across Big Blue. In no time, Bimini was in view. You could
see the plump south island first then the skinner north island appeard. The water was crystal clear and the colorful buildings made
for a welcoming sight. The runway at Bimini is long and has no taxiway so caution is needed to be sure that it is clear before
landing. We circled the island to check for traffic and wait for a plane to back taxi before setting up for our landing. We
were not too upset because the circling view is magnificant. The water in between the two islands was so calm that it created
a false sense of our altitude and an illusion of there being no water - just a sandy spot to land - until a light breeze ruffled
the glassy top.
After a brief round of high five's and hugs for D's first hop across the Pond, we sauntered into customs, filled out our paperword,
stamped the Bahama's Challenge Passport and headed off to lunch. We were ushered into the bus and water taxi for the short
ride to the North Island and to Cap't Bobs for lunch. We were the first lunch customers at this little roadside cafe. The service was excellent and the food was typical Bahamian - filet of grouper, cracked conch and Bahamian rice. With
full bellies we reversed course on the water taxi and bus, made our calls, boarded our winged steed and headed back out across
the Pond to Kendall-Tamiami for US Customs.
The return flight at 6500' was another smooth ride although the haze
over the US coastline completely obscured the horizon making us look sideways to find it. Miami approach brought us straight
in and Kendall-Tamiami ground gave good progressives to get to the Customs building in the center of the airport. The Customs folks could not have been nicer. This
is my second stop there and they are two for two on the nice side and have earned my vote as the #1 port of entry for the
Our last leg was the rough one. The day was now warm and the air over land bumpy, especially in an
LSA; but we endured the quick trip and plunked down on the LaBelle runway having made D's first complete crossing and earning my first stamp in the Pilot Mall
Bahamas Challenge Passport. Only 11 more to go!
File eAPIS for BOTH outbound and inbound flights
flight plan 1-800-WX-BRIEF
Open flight plan in air with Miami radio 122.35, 122.4, 122.2, 122.65
Get flight following to Bimini on 126.8 or 132.45
Close flight plan at altitude on 126.7, 126.9, 127.9
Land at Bimini and clear customs (forms C-7 Bahamas immigration)
File flight plan on phone at airport
KTMB 305-969-7511 (1 hour notice required)
Open flight plan with Miami radio; get Tx code 126.7,
Get flight following with Miami Center 128.6 (or last frequency used for FF - write them all down as you
Arrive TMB - close flight plan 122.3, 122.55, 123.65 or on ground
Total trip for Diana in the CT: VNC-X14-MYBS-TMB-X14-VNC -
5.1 hrs / 22.5 gals = 4.41 gph
See all trip pictures HERE.
Second Stop: Stella Maris
Stop 2 on the Bahamas Pilot Challenge brought Wild Mama and crew into Stella Maris on Long Island. This time, Wild Mama
did make the excursion with Susan Carastro and her twin Cessna in tow.
Unlike the morning before,
this morning was bright and sunny over LaBelle so we departed early to hook up with the twin. Some early morning fog wafted through the farm fields of inland south Florida but the coastlines were both clear. We touched down at
Lantanna around 0800, met up with the twin and were off with feet wet by 0850.
It was odd
to see so many clouds over the water once we broke the coastline. The clouds were spotty but there until Andros where a thick
layer blanketed the whole island. We climbed out to 7500’ and settled in with a nice little 10 kt headwind. We were
still clipping along at 150 kts which was not so bad. We stayed with the 310 in tow most of the trip –
note Wild Mama outrunning the twin!!!!!
The winds across the water were light with barely a ripple and no white caps at all. The water was
a crystal clear royal blue with all other hues of blue mixed in around the islands and the coral reefs. This is the view that
we long to see in the Bahamas. In a short 2:10 we were approaching Long Island. We tried to cancel the flight plan on 126.7
but could raise no one. Stella Maris suggested Georgetown on 118.0 and that worked just fine. (Note to self for next trip.)
The winds were light and straight down the runway coming over the threshold but we caught a couple of wind warbles
from the ocean breeze making us have to come in wing low to compensate. Touchdown went well and we taxied off to the ramp. The Stella Maris
FBO was warm and welcoming and customs was dutiful with a sense of humor. The taxis were awaiting our arrival and the resort
was a short ½ mile.
The resort is lovely and tropical. There are no TV’s in the rooms and there is an open door policy
which was really nice as we did not have to worry about house keys. The breeze coming through the room was almost enough to knock us over so there was no need for A/C
in spite of the 85 degree temperatures.
We headed to the Moonshine Bar for some lunch and
sunshine. Yummy Panini’s, salads and virgin mango daiquiris hit the spot before our trip to the Oceanside tide pool.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon soaking up sun before our traditional rum punch reception. Ya gotta love the Bahamian hospitality!
Long Island has been a great base of operations for our five days stay.
It was the perfect spot for island hopping but the island was also big enough, and the resort offered enough to do that you
did not feel trapped.
Much of our time was spent relaxing as we all seemed to need a break from
the hustle and bustle of life back home. But other times were spent exploring. Bicycles were readily available to check out
some of the local things close to the resort, or for the more adventurous, longer from the resort. We had a snorkel cruise
on Wednesday that took us out to the reef to the west. The reef was about 10' deep and perfect for a snorkel trip. Even I - the biggest cold woos ever- jumped
in the 78 degree waters for a swim. The water was refreshing and the sun warm enough that the cold was not so bad. The corals
were pristine, the water crystal clear and the visibility unlimited. We saw all sorts tropical fish including the lion fish
which w brought here from Pacific waters and has no known predators. Our day on the water was perfect.
Our final day here we decided to become island experts, rented a car and set out to explore the 85 mile long island. Since our resort was near the north end, we started there, heading to the monument of Columbus. Judging by the road we were
first to discover the monument to Columbus since it was built. The views were spectacular, but unless you are p for a slow,
bumpy ride, Columbus is best seen on final approach to runway 13.
After our trek we needed some
water, so we stopped at a little convenience store under expansion. Vince and Donna had bicycled here the other day and raved
about the strawberry ice cream cones. Most unfortunately, they were out as they failed to catch the once a week supply boat,
but they were kind enough to hand dip some chocolate ice cream for us all. Refreshed, we pressed southward.
Salt Pond offered an interesting tease: a beautiful double bay just past the HSC. We made a brief stop at the well stocked
grocery and what not store for some snacks, water and a file to dress my prop where I picked the rock at New Bight, and seek
further directions. The waters were quite rough today so the serene scenery in the photos was not to be had, but the shoreline
was pretty, save for the myriad trash and debris scattered in the grasses leading to the beach. We all wanted to grab a trash
bag and start picking. The shoreline on the ocean side is quite rugged the whole way down the coast that we have seen thus
far, with hills and dunes leading to the beach areas. The harbor side, to the west of the island and leeward of the prevailing winds, had much calmer waters, sandier beaches and more opportunity
for a not-so-challenging swim on a high wind sort of day. We enjoyed the walk out on to the point at the twin bays and kept
heading south. Once again, we are travelling on island time and half the day is gone, far short of our intended destination.
We passed Dean's Hole opting for lunch as it was nearly 1300 and we were starving. Clarence Town
had several restaurants, a bakery and was looking mighty fine for a place to stop. We "followed the signs" to restaurant
row, completely bypassing the downtown area off to the south on the main road. After a piece we knew that this car load of
pilots got off the magenta line and had to do a 180. We got back to the marina to find the Outer Edge Restaurant. Salvation
Either the food was really good or we were really hungry but we all enjoyed our lunch,
none of us wanting to share. There was an old church nearby that we spied and, of course, had to investigate. We squeezed
our way through the spires up to the top to open up a spectacular panoramic view of the harbor of Clarence Town. Satisfied,
we were off the the blue hole.
Dean's Blue Hole is said to be the deepest in the world at 662'.
It is nestled on the rocky ocean side of the island and has an underwater caving system that Mark Ashley would love to explore.
The water was a rich cobalt blue and the sign warning of a drop off was quite accurate: it went from several inches to the bottom in less than a foot. We had wanted to swim but the winds were still whipping enough that cold
would have set in before we hit waters edge.
By 1500 we were again heading north back to the
resort. It was a leisurely ride back and quite enjoyable. We learned that the best stuff is off of the main drag. All of the little settlements are on the side streets. We also learned that
signs are not as easy to decipher as we thought. But the island was fun and the adventure is another for the books.
All of the food at the Stella Maris resort was outstanding. Wednesday night was Bahamas’ night with tropical fare.
Tuesday night was a rum punch party with a buffet complete with steak and mahi. The virgin mango daiquiris were lushes and
all of the people were over the top friendly. One from our group was delayed and missed our private rum punch party so they
comped her meal the next day. You could not ask for better service.
Stella Maris Trip Photos - Click HERE
Stop 3: San Salvador Today was
the big adventure day to go out and work on the island hopping project. The original goal was conch salad but we discovered quite rapidly that getting to the island was easy: getting to the conch salad was another matter. The best was
no where near the airports so we revised the plan to look for the next resort for our next Bahamas jaunt. There was a small
resort near the airport at San Salvador. The airport itself was great – a huge long runway that was really nice and
plenty of ramp space. Coming in to land we saw a beautiful resort from the air so we decided to look at that one. In no time
at all we walked to Club Med and met Fox, the security guard soon-to-be our tour guide.
Club Med was amazing with lush, lavish grounds, well appointed lounges and public areas and lots of
activities in the all-inclusive resort. Each of us found something to our liking. For me, it was the diving, Donna loved the beaches, Trish spied
the comfortable massage huts on the water and Vince liked the French aerobics. Joe like the whole thing and Vern liked the
peace and quiet. For a resort that was 87% full, it was serene and hardly seemed that a sole was anywhere around. We all voted
that this was a place to which we wanted to return. Passport stamped we pressed on.
Stop 4: New Bight, Cat Island. With such an awesome day to fly we wanted to hop to as many places as possible.
Fernandez Bay Resort has been advertising at Sun-n-Fun and I have never seen it so today was the day. We took another short
20 minute hop to arrive at New Bight, Cat Island and in less than 1 mile the cab took us over to Fernandez Bay. It was already
1130 and we were getting hungry. We were operating on island time and figured we would be a bit farther along by now but a
very nice hostess took out food order early so we could eat as soon as the restaurant opened at 1200. In the mean time, we
toured a few of the rooms and the grounds. Already we were amazed at how different each of the islands is: each has its own
pace, people and flavor. The consistent thing is that all of the Bahamians that we have met are very friendly and laid back.
Lunch was another amazing experience. We had a variety of dishes
from Cheeseburger in Paradise to grilled grouper sandwiches to grilled grouper César salad. All were good and the self serve bar (for alcohol and non-alcohol) was a hoot. Trish did a little additional
retail therapy and we all left full and happy.
Fernandez Bay is a small
resort nestled on the beach in and amongst the trees. There are 18 bungalows, basically the same but each a little different.
The bathrooms are private but outside – how cool!
Stop 5: Rock Sound, Eleuthera: To the north a small way is Eleutheria Island with 3 large runways.
We started at the southern most, Rock Sound. The settlement to Rock Sound is a short 2 miles from the airport but we were
already bucking against 1400 and we had to be back by 1730 so we would not be flying at night – prohibited where we
were going and very dangerous to boot. We bypassed the settlement but did get a Passport stamp for our “comfort stop”.
We will be back to explore this settlement on the next journey.
am not sure the issue I had with Rock Sound in remembering the name. I felt like my Mother when she would forget one of the
kids’ names and she would go through what we called “roll call”. That was me with just about every radio
call to Rock Sound. I think I called it everything but Rock Sound: Rock Island, Rock Harbor, Rock Star, Rocky Road, Rock Point, Rocky
Horror Picture Show …. Well, you get the idea.
6: Governors Harbor Our last stop for the day. We had enough time for a tour of the area and we found
a cabbie born and raised here for the job. He was perfect and gave us a great history of the area and took us to the main part of downtown
for some snacks and more retail therapy. There is one road running the whole of Eleuthera from north to south and Governors
Harbor is in the middle. It was the original government center.
downtown was quaint but active with old turn of the century (not 20-21) homes, small shops and a beautiful old church and
harbor capable of supporting cargo container ships. There was a ramp where the local fisherman display and sell their fresh
catch. We completed our tour and headed back to the planes. We needed to be in the air by 1600 in case the wind had not died
down as forecast. We had strong winds all day but they were to diminish. We needed 50 minutes but allocated 1.5 hours so we
would not miss our 1730 target arrival time – just in case.
low over the water – about 1000’ AGL (or is that AWL). Our reward was seeing some shark, beautiful colorful reefs
and a Regal Cruise Lines ship puttering northward. We plopped back in at Stella Maris with time to spare, relaxed, rejuvenated
and in awe of the Bahamas.
When you stay at one island then do not go
immediately to another, it is hard to see just how different each of the islands is. All of the people are friendly; all of
the scenery is beautiful; the food is good, the service is great but the ambiance and character are different. Some places
are more laid back than the others but none are “bustling”; some are quaint and charming; some are quiet; others
are serene. All are amazing!
We are half way through the Challenge.
I can’t wait to see the next treasures that await me!!
Stop 7: Freeport: "Just ask
and considerer it done." is what our cabbie told us when we landed in Freeport for stop 7 on the Bahamas Pilot Challenge.
Vern and I flew over today in N831BB bringing the planes' owner and some of her friends on an afternoon junket. While they
went off on their way, we decided on the Banana Bay restaurant: a place where we have not been as of yet.
This Easter Sunday was beautiful although we had the
killer Headwinds on the trip over. Since I was the co-pilot this time, I got a different view of the arrival and got to see
some of the large cruise ships in dry dock on the base to final turn for runway 6. Vern then made a picture perfect landing
and we were whisked through customs and ushered into our cab in no time flat. Our cabbie was big, hulking fellow with a sweet disposition. He recommended Banana Bay Restaurant on the beach to the east of the airport. We
had to meet back at the airport by 1530 to get the plane ready for the owners to depart for home so we Appreciated that the
cabbie was not impacted by those headwinds. His ground speed was greater than ours!
Banana Bay is a small
tropical oasis on the water. Between the heat of the day and the gentle breeze, the temperature was just perfect. There were
so many great choices on the menu that we decided on a selection of banana bread, crab and tomato salad, fish fingers and cracked conch pigeon pea rice. Judging by the look on the waiters’ face, that was a lot of food.
started with the "slice" of banana bread ..... a whole loaf. OOPS, I think we will go home as cargo. The remainder
lf the meal was equally as grand: generous portions and scrumptiously delicious!
We waddled down to the beach
for some R & R after lunch, watched wind surfers, kite boarders and beach goers and snoozed for an hour or so
until it was time for our rocket ride back to the airport to pick up our passengers and head back to the States. With kicking
tailwind this time, the trip back was quick although some afternoon clouds started rolling in keeping us fairly low across the pond. Customs at PBI was fast, although they did have a look at
my left over banana bread that I refused to give up; and we were back at Lantana to drop off the plane and passengers and head back for
home before dark.
.... And as usual, my only complaint is that our time there was waaaay to short.
GREEN TURTLE CAY - MEMORIAL WEEKEND 2011 PHOTOS
Stop 8: Treasure Cay ...
and speaking of "treasures", Memorial Day weekend 2011 is a jewel of a weekend for a little getaway. Wild Mama
and guests headed out for a little more R & R before the last push before the race (and the last time that Wild Mama
will be flying before leaving for Iowa City). Fifteen Grasshoppers and guests swarmed to descend upon Green Turtle Cay for the Grasshoppers fly-out Memorial Day weekend. The weather was perfect with sunshine
a-plenty for weekend. Although the planned rendezvous at Treasure Cay did not come off as expected - some coming earlier and a ferry not running as expected
- we all managed to locate one another by Saturday afternoon and started the weekend festivities with dinner together at the
Green Turtle Club Resort. Since we were among the early arrivals, we opted for the golf cart tour of the town of New Plymouth.
Vern, Carrie, Ed and I all piled into the golf cart for a wild ride through the streets. Some roads are paved; some not, so
it was a bumpy ride but a blast, none-the-less.
Sunday was not a day of rest for any of us. We gathered in our golf cart and pick-up truck caravan and went beach hopping
across the island. We started with snorkeling at Gilliam Beach near the town of New Plymouth. While there was not too much
marine life to see, the water was clear and calm and the company was, well... not so calm, but loads of fun! Lunch soon followed
at Pineapples on the beach in town where we all enjoyed an assortment of tropical and not-so-tropical libations and other
beverages before rejoining the caravan back to the ocean front beach.
The wind had picked up a bit by the
time we hit the second beach stop. Some of us tried to snorkel out to the reef but strong wave action and a wicked undertow
stopped us short. We opted for a calmer spot at Coco Beach. This third and final beach stop was the best - bath temperature
water, shallow and very calm. There was ample marine life for the snorkelers and lots of soft bottom for those opting for
the afternoon leisurely soak. We capped off the water adventure with the resort swimming pool before joining the bunch at Terry's lagoon side room for happy hour and snacks. Our
final evening meal was back in New Plymouth at McIntosh Restaurant where the food was outstanding, the service came with a
smile and the company and conversation was lively and entertaining .... Carrie is still laughing over Vince "hearing
Stop 9 - Marsh Harbour: By Monday morning, we decided the weekend
could not end so abruptly so we decided to Island hop: first to Marsh Harbor for a little extra fuel. Marsh Harbour was extremely crowded with all the departing traffic heading out back to the states. This is the first
time I had been there since they installed the new taxiway. Wow: what a difference! Even with the volume of traffic, the flow
was good. Three plane loads of us tanked up (that's AVGAS) and scooted out through a small rain shower just off the coast.
Enroute to our next stop, we passed the Disney Cruise Line private island, Castaway Cay with the cruise ship docked at the
island. It was funny to see how the ship dwarfed the island.
Stop 10 - Great Harbour, Berry Islands:
I had never been to the Berry Islands and we were hungry; so we opted for lunch on the beach where we discovered THE best
hamburgers (go figure in the Bahamas) and THE best conch fritters. Unfortunately for Linda, there was no fresh conch salad
anywhere to be found for the whole weekend. We lounged around for the better part of two hours at the little beach restaurant
that was a short walk across the street from the airport. You could watch the planes turning downwind to base, listen to the water lapping against the beach and relax
after a hard-playing weekend. All too soon, however, it was time to head back to the states. With tanks and bellies full, we all departed back for home.
Our trip was so much
fun that we are planning a "conch salad tour" at some yet to be decided date. We will scour the islands looking
for THE best conch salad. Please be on the lookout for information and think about joining us this time! I am seeing that
stops 11 and 12 are near and we are almost finished the challenge!
July 2, 2011: Coming down the home stretch .... I
feel stops 11 and 12 just an island hop away. Wild Mama is almost ready to be de-winged so we are making her last
run before she undergoes her major repairs and renovations. Watch out this July 4th weekend for us to make the final run for
the Bahamas Pilot Challenge.
We jumped out of bed at 0500 to check the weather - we are allexcited that we will be able to complete the Challenge
today .... or maybe not.
August 5th 2011: Second
attempt at completion. We have booked the Small Hope Bay Resort in Andros for the weekend to make the final 2 stops of the Bahamas Pilot Challenge. We learned that there are already 2 pilots
who have completed the Challenge so we will not be the first .... but we will have had the most fun!
Thanks to Emily, the second attempt has failed. We will make our third attempt at Andros onAugust 19th.
Fingers crossed that third time is a charm.
19th: We finally made it to Andros Island after 2 other faled attempts for weather .... and we were fearful that
this might have ended the same way. At 0400 we were up looking at the weather since there was a storm brewing around the Bahamas.
Once again, it was right in our path; but time was on our side today. It was a rapidly moving system that in short order headed north over Grand Bahama Island, leaving us with a few white puffy's and a smooth ride at 5000'. Stop
11 - San Andros: With smooth sailing all the way, we let down as we broke the land overthe island. We departed
from Nassau Center as we dropped below 1500' on final approach. This is the island I was waiting for: lush greennery, few
inhabitants and remote settlements dot the whole of Andros. Our welcome to San Andros was typical Bahamian - warm and friendly greeting from Josh who ushered us to Customs.
Our agent was THE BEST yet - he was so friendly and accomodating and whisked us through in no time at all. Ours was
the first Passport Challenge he had seen (meaning there are lots of pilots out there missing a great stop). The airport has
no fuel but it did have an outsanding maintenance facility at West Air. The runway was in decent condition but do not look
for the numbers as they have long faded off. We were back in the air in a jiffy and headed down the coastline toward Fresh Creek in
the centralpart of the island. We stayed relatively low - about 800' so we could see the houses and small resorts that dotted
the coast. This part of the island is very marshy and wet - not enough land to weaken any approaching hurricanes in spite of the massive size of the island by comparison to the others in the Bahamas.
No too long out of Fresh Creek we heard both Vince and Tamra on the radio coming to join us.
12 - Fresh Creek: We held our breath until we made the touchdown: not because of any piloting or mechanical
issue but because we did not want to say or do anything to jinx getting our final stamp for the Pilot Challenge. As Vern chirped
in the landing, we breathed a sigh of relief and high 5'ed our accomplishment! Now we can relax and enjoy the weekend.
The cab fetched
Vince and Donna along with Vern and I for the short ride to the Small Hope Bay Resort. The Resort is right on the water with
a fresh sea breeze blowing all day long. The ground are well kept and raked sand. We knew instantly we were home when Renaldo
greeted us with: "The first thing is to come to the bar, relax and have a drink." This resort is all inclusive with an open bar filled
with alcoholic and non-alcoholic concoctions and things to make concoctions. Kate made me a "Wild Mama" - a new
concoction with mango chunks, pineapple and coconut... non-alcoholic, of course. Renaldo finished our tour of the grounds
and showed us to our rooms. All of the rooms are appointed with the Androsia www.androsia.com fabrics - bedspreads, curtains, decorations, etc. We settled in for lunch waiting for Tamra
and Ron to arrive before we set off on bicycles to the Androsia Factory and Shop. We knew the factory was closed and we were
quite disappointed to miss the tour; but the shop was full of the Androsia products - all batik fabrics made right there on
Andros. This is a one-of-a-kind fabric shop.
We headed back to the resort after our retail therapy excursion for some "chillaxing";
as the Small Hope Bay folks call it. We decided on a scuba dive for the next day but since none of us had been diving for
a while, we by-passed the group dive in favor of a refresher and a no-brainer 15' dive in the shallow reef nearby.
water was perfect for our dive - both at the beach where we did the refresher and in the shallows for the dive - a warm 86
degrees. We puttered along behind Frederico, our instructor/guide, looking at the Trumpet Fish (we were on Trumper Reef),
snapper, Parrotfish, Christmas tree worms and some of the biggest lobster I have ever seen (save for that female I caught
and had to release in the Keys several years back). We all finished with the confidence to dive the Blue Hole to 100' after
This was my first Blue Hole dive and this one was spectacular. We descended over a lush coral garden amidst
a school of Atlantic Spade Fish, gathered at the rim then continued our descent through the hole. We dropped into a crevice
where we could see perfectly well with the light from above as we peered into the darkening water below us. This Blue Hole
had a ceiling collapse so we were able to remain with no overhead environment yet see the seemingly bottomless hole below
us. This is a live Blue Hole where the fresh water still intermingles with the sea water. On days where the tide is just right,
the retreating fresh water leaves white strings (that we endearlingly called "Snot"that are sulphur eating bacteria
that disintegrate immediately upon contact. University of Miami scientists have tried to capture the "Snot"; but
it will not survive the trip back to the lab so it remains largely a mystery but one worth a personal investigation. Unfortunately
for us, the tides were not right for "snot"; viewing but we were quite content with the standard Blue Hole. We finished the dive with a safety stop meandering through the coral gardens enroute to the standard safety stops on the way
back up to the boat. Wow: what a great dive! Exhausted but happy we came back, showered and headed back for dinner. We started each
evening with appetisers with, among other things, really, really good conch fritters. The conch DID NOT just make a 50 yard
dash through the batter - it was actually sticky enough to grab the conch for a tasty snack. All of the meals were outstanding
but this one got me good. There was rum cake for dessert. I can recall trips to Grand Cayman for their special rum cake which
I really enjoyed. I decided to have a lighter dinner of a cabbage, mushroom and onion mix, then go straight to the rum cake.
What I did not realize was that the raisins were soaked in the rum. As I was munching away, I commented to Vern that I seemed
to feel the cake "going to my head";. About 30 minutes later, I was convinced of it and actually got drunk
off the slice of rum cake. It would seem my tolerance for alcohol is zero!! I made it an early evening after watching the
dive video as I was in need of sleep to shake the foggy feeling. Sunday morning came and I was refreshed and ready to go but certainly not ready to leave. The staff at Small Hope
Bay were all so friendly and made you feel as if you were their lifelong friends coming for a visit. The accommodations were
rustic but clean and comfortable - you lacked nothing. We headed off to the airport with Tamra - Vince and Donna staying behind
now that Vince has the faster plane. Tamra and Ron took off for San Andros in their quest for more Pilot Challenge stamps and Vern and I were heading for home in N739MM - our borrowed Cessna
172. All was great until we hit the customs snag: the blue phone at the airport could not reach ANY customs office. We were
more than 45 minutes. I finally emailed Jeff at the resort who got a call off to Customs for us. Right before we were ready
to leave, a local customs agent, Mr. Andrews gave us his phone to call so we could confirm our arrival and out squawk code
- we discovered that the US agent gave Vern the wrong code! Finally in the air we had a quick flight - tailwinds all the way
- and cleared customs at Kendall Tamiami before the final leg to LaBelle. We are the third pilots to complete the Bahamas
Pilot Challenge. Many thanks to Pilot Mall for creating this fabulous opportunity for us to see the Bahamas - we
look forward to more trips to even more places in the future .... plus a return to Small Hope Bay Lodge.
Nassau Trip Photos
Bonus Stop: - Nassau: (December 2011) Departing out of LaBelle we were disheartened to look off in the distance to see a cloud covered sky. We had filed for
VFR at 7500' the night before and we were wondering if we would be able to make it to 3500' for the trip o Nassau, especially
with Nassau reporting 2800' broken. We’ve flown low before so this will be nothing new.
We remained under 3000' with flight following until ATC told us to climb to 3500 to avoid oncoming traffic. We obliged and
headed up to a crosswind approaching 28 kts. At least it was not a headwind.
This was my first flight in Wild Mama since she came back from the paint shop earlier this week. Circumstances necessitated
Vern flying her back home on a perfect cloudless afternoon, while I was stuck with the 12 hour drive back from NC to FL. Today,
however, was different. I was the proud pilot of a beautiful, fresh painted aluminum bird and we were headed out over the pond to our island paradise neighbor to the east.
In spite of our cloudy departure, the clouds broke up over the pond allowing the sun to expose
the azure blue waters for which the Bahamas are famous. Even though the winds aloft were quite strong, the water below barely
showed a ripple although we could see an occasional disturbance in the water that we surmised was a big fish coming to the
surface for a brief look-see. As we passed over Bimini we would see the meandering coral reefs dotting the white sandy bottom
intertwining flashes of color in the clear waters below us. It is amazing that we still something new and beautiful each time
we make this flight and how we never get tired of this breathtaking beauty such a short distance away.
Our first stop to clear customs and go shopping was in Fresh Creek on Andros Island. I had ordered a pile of shirts, fabric
and stuff from Androsia (www.androsia.com) and I had to come make my pick up. I had not seen the new fabric in red yet and
it was beautiful. I was pleased. The aqua color turned out to be a deep aqua instead of the light aqua but it was very pretty and a good aviation blue shade. We gathered our goodies
and headed northeast to Nassau.
I had heard that Nassau was quite busy but we must have hit
at slack tide. It was very windy with the flags and wind sock standing straight out at a bit of a gusty cross wind. We jumped
in behind a Caravan on final and landed on the numbers only to find that we had a long taxi to exit on B taxiway. Now we know.
Since we already cleared customs in Andros, all we had to do was check in, join our Junkanoo group and head to the hotel.
Another plane load of 3 fellows pulled in behind us and we understood that "the other planes" were on the way. We
were ushered into a limo for what should have been a relatively short ride to Paradise Island but the starw market had burned
to the ground just this morning and the traffic was still backed up and jammed with curiosity seekers. After an hour of good
lively conversation with 3 other pilots, we arrived at the hotel.
We took it easy for the afternoon:
after all, we were not in the island time zone. I turned on island brain and did nothing productive. What a nice change. We
met our group for dinner at the Poop Deck Restaurant. The 12 planes that were supposed to show dwindled to 2, the bulk of
the Bahamas flyers this week going over to the new grand opening of the Freeport FBO; so the lucky five of us, accompanied by Greg Rolle, ate our
fill at the Poop Deck. We were greeted at the door with an ice filled tub containing fresh caught hog fish snapper and lobster.
You could pick your fish, sides and make a meal. We all had the fish, Vern and I sharing a gigantic hogfish and still not
able to clean our plate. I vote this the best fish I have eaten in a long, long time.
We had a leisurely morning and wandered over to Atlantis for the day. I had been to
the Seaquarium there many years ago and wanted to go back and also see thewater park, Aquaventure, that I had missed before. The
Seaquarium is themed (shockingly) “The Lost City of Atlantis”; and has an archaeological dig and the basic Seaquarium
with a predators pond where visitors walk through a glass tunnel under the predator pond enroute to Aquaventure. Cross over
a series of rope bridges and through the lush tropical gardens at Atlantis, we finally reached the 141 acre Aquaventure. We decided on the lazy river at Aquaventure; although the river
was not quite as lazy as one would have thought. There is an initial period of extreme laziness followed by rapids, waves
and the “Power Tower” slides and waterfalls. We spend over 3 hours with our butts planted firmly in the inner
tubes floating along until the coolness of the breeze overpowered the warmth of the water and we were forced to seek dry towels
and warm clothes. . . and food.
Murray’s Deli had caught our eye the other day so
we decided a nice deli sandwich was in order. I immediately spied the carrot cake and knew we were eating here for lunch.
We each had some variation of a Reuben Sandwich and a “slice” of cake (Vern went for the red velvet) that was
sufficient to feed 4 people …. That is 4 people per slice. Needless to say, we doggie bagged the cake for home. We
rolled ourselves back to the hotel for some relaxation before dinner – I think digesting actually might be a better
Greg and our other pilot friends, Rick, Tom and “J”
(to protect his identity) met us in the lobby for some pre-dinner drinks and conversation. Greg decided it would be good to
show us some local color and took us to Awakee area where there are numerous little stalls that are restaurants or small eateries
serving only one or two items. We all started talking about the upcoming conch salad tour and thought it good to do a little
taste testing.After wandering about for a bit we ended at Goldie’s
to sample the conch salad, conch fritters and grouper fingers. The grouper fingers were a hands down favorite – lightly
battered and sweet firm meat. Mmmmmm. The conch salad was really good, although Greg and J preferred theirs a bit spicier. Karen, our server, brought some hot peppers that J drizzles
on the passed to Greg who dumped the whole lot in his conch salad. We were not really paying too much attention until Greg
suddenly got quiet, started sweating and became wide eyed with the fire burning in his throat from the hot peppers. I guess
they were spicy enough now!Greg took us over to the Twin Brothers
for what we all agreed were meatier conch fritters. I personally liked Goldie’s batter better but the conch chunks were
evident in the Twin’s fritters so we all gave them 2 thumbs up. Again stuffed way past the gills, we rolled ourselves
into a cab and headed back to the hotel with amost delightful cabbie. He firmly maintained one hand on the wheel, one on the shifter, one of the phone and one of the horn,
artfully negotiating the narrow Nassau streets to get us home safely. We passed out shortly thereafter from our sugar high
and food coma.
Sadly, Sunday morning came and we regained
consciousness in time for breakfast at the hotel and one last chat with Rick and Tom. We had enjoyed their company tremendously
throughout the trip and will look forward to more aviation adventures with them and their families. We said our good-byes
and took a cab for the 3 minute ride to the airport. Ceilings were low so we left out at 1500’, staying under the intermittent
ceilings into KFXE, Ft Lauderdale Executive. Even low, we enjoyed a 15 kt tailwind and cruised quickly over the rough seas.
This was our first time there and it is a must for a return. We were in an out efficiently and enjoyed pleasant chatter throughout
the inspection process.
The final leg to X14 was uneventful
although a bit bumpy. We remained low and the winds pushed us along at 158 kts to LaBelle. As we turned final to land on 14,
we heard traffic calling “low approach on 32”. I was too high on the approach anyway and elected to go around,
to find the traffic heading straight for us and set up better for landing. I was darn glad to have all of my HID lights as the
oncoming traffic could see us – what a shame he did not thing to put his landing lights on so I could recognize him
easier. Once he departed the area, I plopped in for our final landing.
We had a great intimate group this trip and were fortunate to get to know several new to us pilots with whom we can
continue to share aviation adventures in the future - remind me to tell you about Michael J Fox in the bushes next time I
see you.. Thanks to Greg and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for another great vacation!