It was a little hazy and with the morning sun the views of Florida from above were a little drab. One nice thing we had was a decent tailwind that was giving us over 150+ knot ground speeds towards paradise. After Melbourne (MLB) our route took us out over the open ocean towards Freeport (ZFP), Bahamas. Miami Center called up and asked us to change altitude to either 7,000 feet or 9,000 feet. I chose lower since the ride was great, there were no clouds to try to get over, and descending 1,000 feet would give me a chance to fly a little faster. Yup, I really couldn't wait to get to paradise. Even though this leg from MLB to ZFP is 139 miles we were only out of sight of land for only 12 minutes! Not bad at all.
As we approached Grand Bahama Island and Freeport, you could see some clouds starting to build, but none that would give us any issues. After Freeport, we turned a little left and our route to North Eleuthera took us south of Grand Bahama Island, by Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), and just off the south end of Great Abaco. As we descended through 3,000 feet, we canceled IFR with Nassau Approach and began our visual approach in to the North Eleuthera International Airport. The entire flight was very smooth with only a few bumps as we crossed over land just prior to landing.
We taxied up to White Crown Aviation and were promptly helped with securing the plane, refueling, and clearing Bahamian Customs & Immigration. We only had to unload personal items and in no time our passports were stamped and cruising permit issued. The Customs & Immigration officials as well as the FBO staff we really friendly and helpful which started my dad's first visit to the Bahamas with the great impression it deserves. Now that we had successfully made it to our first stop in the Bahamas, it was time to slow down and just do what we wanted. So, we delayed our departure to Staniel for an hour while we went across the street and had some great cheeseburgers with fries and my dad got his first Kilik!
After a nice lunch, we loaded up and took off for Staniel Cay (MYES). Even though altitude is you friend in the event something happens in flight, my plane had been performing flawlessly and I really wanted to enjoy the scenery of the Bahamas on this leg a little lower. We flew across the short span of open water and down the Exuma Islands chain at 1,400 feet. It truly is a sight to behold. I never knew there were so many beautiful shades of blue! Forty minutes later we had made the straight in approach to runway 16 and landed at Staniel Cay. They had given me a frequency of 122.975 to call the yacht club to be picked up, but I didn't try it till we were on the ground and I didn't get a response. Next time I will try it from the air. No worries though, I took out my handheld marine radio and successfully got a hold of them on CH 16. In no time Jason arrived with a golf cart and took us to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, our home for the next 6 days.
We checked in at the bar with Joan and as we waited for our room we enjoyed the first of many rum punches during our stay! After a few drinks and some appetizers, we were shown to our cottage, the Orange or #3 Cottage. We quickly got our bags inside, found the chaise lounge chairs on the porch, and yup, fell asleep. After our naps, we got up and took a walk around the area in search of some fruit juices to make our own rum punch. The island is remote and a little desolate, but the people are great and we enjoyed just looking around. We tried the Pink Store to no avail and head back towards the airstrip the "main" store. It really wasn't any better stocked, but we now had some sodas as well as orange juice to go with the cranberry juice and rum we brought with us. We stopped by the church on the way back, but I never did find out the history of the bell behind it.
There are no TVs or phones in the room. The only TV is at the bar which usually has The Weather Channel or ESPN on. If you really need to be in touch with the rest of the world, wireless internet is available for a small fee. My dad had purchased a phone card and we used the pay phone to call home to let everyone know we made it fine.
We got back to the cottage and cleaned up for dinner. I had read that the food was good, but they were wrong. It was beyond great! We had done the all-inclusive plan so your dinner choice has to be in by 5:00pm everyday for dinner at 7:30pm. When dinner is ready, they ring the bell in the clubhouse. Dinner starts with a soup, first night was Conch Chowder. Next were salad and then the main course. And yes moms, I ate ALL my greens every night! We both ordered lobster and holy cow are these things huge! It was so much that my dad couldn't finish his. That's OK, I finished it for him! Dinner was completed with a choice of desert. Wow, we'll get a four course meal every night? This is rough.
With really full tummies, we went back to the cottage and sat on the porch for a while and talked before turning in for the night. My Dad started a journal for this trip and wrote his daily experiences in it every night. I always enjoyed reading it before the lights were turned out. It had been a long, great day and now it was time to sleep. I can't wait for to tomorrow to explore this place!