Monday, September 14, 2009

Treasure Cay Bahamas - The Flight Home

As they say, all good things must come to an end.......for now. We had an awesome time in Treasure Cay and it was time to go home. Since the weather was forecasted to be very nice for our flight back to the USA, we were able to sleep in, have breakfast, and take one last walk on the beach. Sidney picked us up at our condo, Sandollar Dreams, around 10:00 am and took us to the Treasure Cay airport in no time. We paid out Departure Tax and cleared Bahamian Customs for our departure. You can view a list of the departure requirements here: To Leave the Bahamas

As I noted before, we had filed our eAPIS manifest for our return to the States before we ever left home. From numerous recommendations, we chose to clear through Fort Pierce, FL (KFPR). Just to be sure I had all my bases covered, I used the Blue Phone in the terminal building to call Fort Pierce Customs and notify them of our ETA anyway. The Blue Phones are great since you have a convenient, free way of contacting FSS and the various US Customs airport offices prior to departure.

As I headed out to pre-flight and load the plane, I talked to Demetrius, the same line guy from our arrival about getting some fuel. He immediately brought the truck to the plane, but let me know there was a small problem. The fuel truck's meter was broken. I have one of those graduated dipsticks so we agreed to take beginning and ending soundings of the tanks using my gauge to figure the amount. After the fuel was loaded, we had problem #2. The credit card machine was not working either and of course I didn't have enough cash left on me to cover the entire fuel load. Demetrius agreed to take all my card info and just charge it when the system was working again. It's nice to know people can still trust each other and yes, the charge went through fine a few days later.

With the family on board and the run-up complete, we back taxied on Runway 14 and departed to the southeast. We flew straight out and made it a slow climb while we checked out Treasure Cay from the air before turning west for the Fort Pierce. As we climbed through 7000' we contacted Miami Center and received our IFR clearance to KFPR via BR10L to ZFP (Freeport) then BR62V to ANGEE Int direct at 8000'. We enjoyed the beautiful views of the Bahamas below and were on the ground at KFPR in 1 h 30m.

We shut down in front the US Customs building and unloaded the plane in order to clear back into the USA. The customs agent was great and even though we didn't require stamps in our Passports for re-entry, he gave all us one anyway when he saw Abby was disappointed she didn't get another stamp in hers. Since we filed the eAPIS manifest, the only forms we had to submit was the US Customs Declaration Form. We cleared fairly quickly and I chatted with the agent about the eAPIS system. He gave me a card and asked me to provide feedback when I got home.

After we and the plane were cleared, the line personnel from Volo Aviation towed our plane to their ramp next door and fueled her up as we enjoyed a little lunch at the Airport Tiki. As we ate, I checked the weather for the leg home and it looked like we would have to do some weather routing, but we would be able to get home before thunderstorms arrived later in the afternoon and evening.

With tummies and tanks full, we departed for home. With the assistance of ATC, our stormscope, and onboard XM weather we made some minor deviations around weather near Melbourne and Orlando. Once we got to Daytona it was clear flying all the way home. As is the norm, we put our flying carpet back in its hangar, picked up the dog, and arrived home ready to go back to work and school. We better make this trip again sooner rather than later!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Treasure Cay Bahamas - Our Stay

Our condo was everything we wanted and more. The view and beach location was awesome! Once we unpacked our luggage and checked out the condo, it was time to get some lunch! One cool thing about Sanddollar Dreams is that included in the rental rate is the use of the owner's golf cart. Unless you plan to travel outside Treasure Cay extensively, the golf cart will be all you want and need. Our first stop was the Coco Beach Bar & Grill. You can find something for everyone to eat and drink, but for me it was Conch Fritters and a Pina Colada! Even better was to enjoy this right on the beach of Treasure Cay.

After lunch, we stopped across the way at the grocery store. The selection of food was excelent and we had no problem stocking up for our stay. One thing we did learn was if you see something on the shelves you like, buy it immediately. Treasure Cay is an active marina and if a few boats come through for provisions, you may find yourself without until the next delivery. The condo has a full kitchen with all the necesities as well as a BBQ grill so we enjoyed our PB&Js and steaks!

The best and main attraction of Treasure Cay is the beach. In the mornings my daughter and I would take walks along the beach enjoying the stunning views. Most of the time, we just hung out on the beach in front of the condo. Looking around, we felt we had the whole beach to ourselves. Wow, one of the best beaches in the world and barely a soul in sight, true paradise. A few times we ventured down to the south point of Treasure Cay beach. When you go there at low tide, you can wade the sandbar and find sand dollars, starfish, and even some shells. My daughter and I walked out to the little island off the point and found a nice little conch shell in the tide.

The other place we liked to hang out at was the Bahama Beach Club. They have a nice pool with a poolside bar and grill. Our condo owner has an account there, so were were able to enjoy those facilities and just had to pay off our tab before we left. Although we didn't try it, there is another dining option available at the Treasure Cay Resort & Marina in the Spinnaker Restaurant & Lounge.

I did manage to go diving one day. Treasure Divers operate right out of the resort marina. They took us to the Atlantic side of Great Guana Cay for two dives. Even though it was raining that day, I thoroughly enjojed my dives and saw great varieties of fish, coral, shells, and sponges.

We didn't explore outside Treasure Cay on this visit. Our 6 day stay was perfectly relaxing and enjoyable. There is more to do and see on the other cays in the area, but we'll save those adventures for next time!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Treasure Cay Bahamas - The Flight Down

The day had finally arrived. We are going to fly our plane to the Bahamas! A few more administrative items were needed before we departed. Even though filing a passenger manifest to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) via eAPIS was not required yet for the dates of our trip, I tried it out anyway. It really didn't do anything for us departing the USA, but it did make life a little easier when we came home. I'll talk about that more in another post. The last item was to file an ICAO (international) flight plan. An international flight plan can be filed and weather briefing received by calling an Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), but I chose to do everything via the Internet. I used to file my flight plan and get my briefing. Even though numerous flights to the Bahamas are flown daily on VFR flight plans, I chose to file IFR. The benefit to me was that I wouldn't need to worry about the ADIZ boundaries requirements or other procedural items since I would already be checked into the system and tracked like any other IFR flight. It really did end up being that easy. Other than having to file an IACO flight plan, you wouldn't have noticed anything foreign about the flight, the clearance ,or the controllers until we landed and there was a nice big sign welcoming you to the Bahamas.

I planned and filed to fly at 7000' direct down the coast to West Palm Beach and then make the turn east direct to Treasure Cay. Since this was our first trip to the Bahamas, I felt I needed to minimize the amount of time over open water and away from land. The clearance received was :

Depart KCRG (Craig Airport, Jacksonville)

direct OMN (Ormond Beach VOR)

direct MLB (Melbourne VOR)

direct ZFP (Freeport, Bahamas VOR)

direct MYAT (Treasure Cay Airport, Bahamas)

Initial cruising altitiude: 6000'
This would put us off the coast sooner and over open water longer, but would make the total flight time shorter. I know you can refuse clearances, but the routing was acceptable to me without hesitation. The plane doesn't know what terrain it's over, only you do! We launched under overcast skies and headed south. Just south of Daytona, we left the overcast behind and enjoyed a sunny blue sky with some fair weather clouds below.

We went "feet wet" near Melboune, FL and proceeded toward Freeport, Bahamas. At this point we were also directed to climb up to 7000'. A lot has been said about the phenomenon of "automatic rough" where you become overly sensitive to any minute sound changes while over open water and out of sight of land. As much as I kept a constant scan on all gauges and a tuned ear to the engine, I honestly never felt our plane run so smooth. I think she was happy about the trip too! Northwest of Grand Bahama Island, we started to see the gorgeous colors below that are made by the unspoiled waters and reefs. Forty-five minutes after turning away from the USA, we were over Freeport and would remain in sight of land until we arrived in Treasure Cay. With our destination in sight, we began our decent and I cancelled IFR with Miami Center since they do not have good radar and radio coverage around the Abacos below 7000'. I switched over to the CTAF and announced our position inbound. The Treasure Cay Airport does not have a control tower. There was one other landing aircraft prior to our arrival. No big deal, we'll fly a large slow pattern and enjoy the fabulous views!

Crosswing landings are just a normal part of flying, but I was surprised at the gusting winds just prior to touchdown that kept me on my toes. Treasure Cay has a nice, wide 7000' long runway so I was able to to keep the speed up a little to offset the winds and ease the plane onto Runway 14. The ramp and terminal are located on the southeast end of the runway. We taxied up, shut down, and unloaded the plane. They have luggage carts for you to use and the entrance for general aviation arrivals is on the north end of the building. The first stop is to fill out and submit a Bahamas Immigration Card for each person to clear immigration. Once that is done, you step around to the next gentleman and submit multiple copies of your declration form (C7A)to clear customs. Passports were the only other documents reviewed. Overall it was a painless process. Mr. Sidney Hart is the owner of Taxi #2 and the caretaker for the Sanddollar Dreams condo. As our passports were processed, Sidney was allowed to start loading our luggage in his taxi. Once we were all cleared, I went back to the plane and taxied her over to a tie down spot. There are cables available stretched across the ramp for tie down, but you have to provide your own ropes and chocks. With the plane safely secured and covered, we climbed into the taxi.

Sidney is a very kind gentlemen who gave us a tour of the area prior to taking us to the condo. He wanted to ensure we saw where the grocery store, restaurants, and other services were located so we wouldn't be lost on our first venture into town. After leaving our house around 8:00am we arrived at our new home in paradise less than 5 hours later. Can't do that on a commercial flight! Up next, all about our fun in Treasure Cay!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Treasure Cay Bahamas - Planning

After moving to Florida and realizing the dream of aircraft ownership, the next big goal was to fly to the Bahamas. Over time I scoured useful websites and forums on Bahamas flight planning, accommodations, regulations, survival kits, etc., and built a decent "library" to begin organizing our trip. Another really helpful tool was the Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide.

With numerous options, the first task was to decide where in the Bahamas we wanted to go. For our first over water and international trip I wanted it to be as straight forward as possible, and I wanted to go to The Out Islands. Kristi and I had vacationed in Nassau years before and I wanted something a little more laid back. Treasure Cay, located in the Abaco Islands, seemed to fit the bill just right. The airport was a Port of Entry and it was close enough to home that we could fly down nonstop.

Now we needed to look for accommodations. There really aren't any large hotel chains or resorts in Treasure Cay like you find on Nassau. The largest is the Treasure Cay Hotel Resort & Marina. My one requirement, if we could afford it, was to stay right on the beach. After a little more research I found Sanddollar Dreams. This looked like the spot!

Okay, now we got the where figured out, how about when? For Spring Break 2008 we made our first real trip with the plane and had a great time in Key West. We were planning to do the same thing this year, but I resurrected the dream files for the Bahamas and proposed an alternative to my lovely wife who said yes! So after contacting the owner of the condo and arranging the vacation time at work, we decided we would go from March 27th to April 1st.

With the dates set, the rest of the preparations were completed. We obtained our Customs & Border Patrol Sticker, got the FCC pilot and plane licenses, and bought life jackets and a life raft. The life raft is not required, but the one we purchased from Survival Products, Inc. weighs only 12 pounds and is the size of a large binder. Some of the other equipment we chose to take included a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and my marine band VHF radio from work. We already have a backup handheld radio for the plane, but if we had a forced landing on the water, I now had a radio to talk to ships as well. The requirements and other information for flying to and from the Bahamas can be found here: Private Flying - Bahamas. Next Post: The Flight Down!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Atlanta Trip - Day Five

The Flight Home

One of the biggest benefits of having our own plane is not having to live by anyone's schedule. Without feeling rushed, we were able to sleep in a bit, enjoy our last breakfast buffet, and check out in the late morning. After waiting for about 10 minutes for our cab, we were loaded up for the short ride back to the Fulton County Airport (KFTY).

Since I called Hill Aircraft & Leasing, the FBO, before we left the hotel, the line folks kindly pulled our plane up to the front and fueled it, as requested, so it was ready upon our arrival. The FBO allowed the taxi to pull onto the ramp and up to our plane which made transferring our luggage to the plane a lot easier. Kristi and Abby sat in the air-conditioned lobby of the FBO and enjoyed free popcorn and TV while I finished loading the plane and completed my preflight checks. Before we departed I settled up my tab with the FBO. The ramp fee and first night's tie down (parking) fee were waived because I bought fuel. I ended up paying $12.50/night for the other three nights and $5.80/gallon for fuel. Definitely some of the highest prices all around we've seen in our travels, but the service and facilities were great and it was definitely a worthwhile trip.

With everyone aboard, we started up and received our clearance back to Jacksonville: initially via radar vectors then direct Macon VOR then direct Craig Field (KCRG), our home drome in Jacksonville. After a short run-up, we departed Runway 26 for the flight home. We were initially vectored to the southwest, then south, and then finally towards home. The headwind we had 5 days earlier was now a wonderful tailwind and we averaged 155+ knots (178+ mph) at 7000'. Start-up to shut down was just over 2 hours.

With the plane safely tucked away in the hangar and the dog picked up from the kennel, we were all home again after an adventurous five days in Atlanta. I wonder where our Arrow will take us next?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Atlanta Trip - Day Four

Zoo Atlanta

My wife is pregnant so understandably she did not want to walk around the zoo in the Atlanta heat. No problem, it'll be a daddy-daughter day! We all had breakfast together then Abby and I set off for the zoo. We found ourselves using Atlanta's convenient public transportation again. MARTA's Route 97 ran right in front of our hotel and went to the zoo with no transfers! Abby wanted to sit in the back so we grabbed our seats and enjoyed the views of Atlanta. After a short 20 minute bus ride, we arrived right in front of the zoo just as it opened.

Our first stop in the zoo was the giant panda bear exhibit. From there we wandered through all the wonderful displays that were offered. We took the time to check out the baby warthogs and fed the parakeets next door. We rode the train, the carosel, and Abby even tried her hand at the climbing wall. After a couple hours it was time to stop for lunch and take a break.

We completed our zoo visit by seeing the giant pandas one more time and enjoying some quality time in the petting zoo area. Since we had a few minutes until the next bus would arrive, Abby played a while on their playground. We caught the 97 MARTA bus back to our hotel. During the ride back I caught a quick look at a Wyland's Whaling Wall.

We got back early enough to get a nap in and then the family enjoyed a really great Filet Mignon dinner at the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse located in our hotel building. Of course Abby had a grilled cheese sandwich. A quick check of the weather before bed shows we should have a nice flight home in the morning.

Atlanta Trip - Day Three

Inside CNN Studio Tour & World Of Coca-Cola

Friday started off the same as before. One piece of advice about the Embassy Suites breakfast buffet: Get the Fruit Loops quick! Since the whole trip is a treat for the family, we let our daughter have sugary cereal if she wants it and found out the hard way that waiting to get it will leave you without. Anyway, after another good breakfast we made the short walk up the street to the CNN Center for a tour.

Once inside the CNN Center, we made our way over to the tour desk to reserve our spots. Luckily we only had to wait about 10 minutes for the next tour to start. It was really interesting to see the various studios of CNN in action and you can catch a glimpse of some of the on-air personalities while you wind your way through the complex. The tour lasts just shy of an hour and unfortunately photography is strictly prohibited. The tour ends back on the ground floor of the center where there is a large food court that would make any mall envious. You can find just about anything to satisfy your hunger, so we did!

After lunch, we left the CNN Center and walked across Centennial Park to the World of Coca-Cola. Before your are set free to explore, you start off with a short presentation and movie. We found another 4D Theater here and enjoyed an exciting show on Coke's secret ingredient! Other parts of the attraction include large displays of Coca-Cola memorabilia, a mini bottling line, and of course the tasting room.

The tasting room is organized into clustered soda fountains offering tastes of various Coca-Cola sodas from around the world. Some tasted very sweet while others seemed, well, just different. When you go, be sure to find the Beverly. It is a definite must have experience! As you leave the tasting room to exit through the gift shop, don't forget to pick up you complimentary bottle of Coke.

Well we had enough sight seeing for this day so we walked back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool our in our room. Tomorrow the zoo!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...