I was lucky enough to not have the duty at work so I could participate in this event. To make it even better, Monday was Washington's Birthday providing us an extra day to enjoy the Bahamas. Pete managed to make an even trade at work for his time off so we went ahead and booked ourselves a night at a local condo for after the Bahamas Habitat Fly In & Help Out Event was over.
When we got up Sunday morning, everyone was prepping for their departures back to the States. A cold front was pushing through northern Florida so most everyone opted to leave Camp first thing in the morning to safely get back to Florida before the weather. Pete and I hung around finishing our chores and chatting with the staff and one other couple who was delaying their departure. Pete humbly swept and mopped the men's wing rooms and bathroom while I took the easy route and stuffed all the used linens and towels into laundry bags and helped load them on a truck.
Jerry, our gypsy from New York, decided to stay behind with us to fly back home on Monday. He managed to get a cheap flight home from Jacksonville on Monday night so I was glad he would be joining us. Jerry also had rented a car the day before so now we had transportation to our condo and the airport! We packed up, said our thank you's & good byes, and left Camp around 11:00 am. Enroute to the condo we stopped to look at some properties that Jerry was interested in. Some places were very fancy and I think all had great views.
We checked in to our condo located in the Pineapple Fields Beach Hotel and got settled. This place is awesome! We stayed in a ground floor, one bedroom unit that had a king bed and a queen size sofa/sleeper. It came with a full kitchen, full bath, TVs, iPod stereo dock, front & back decks, and we even had a bit of an ocean view. The condo and furnishings looked brand new. The complex also has a good size pool to use and beautifully landscaped grounds. The price is very reasonable for the amazing accommodations.
After we got settled, first on the to-do list was to head across the street to Tippy's on the beach for lunch and...............some Rum Punch! I ordered some conch fritters as an appetizer and these things were the biggest I have ever seen. They were delicious as well and went very nicely with my rum punch! After we finished off the fritters, I had the Lobster & Shrimp Pasta in a Tomato Cream Sauce that was wonderful. The shrimp was good size and there were huge chunks of lobster just as big as the shrimp, if not bigger. Lunch was not inexpensive, but it was worth it!
After lunch we went back to the condo, got changed, grabbed our snorkel gear, and hit the beach. The condo also came with two beach/camp chairs which was very nice. Right off the beach was a lot of reef to explore. The water was a little cool, but I wore my shorty wetsuit. Pete just wore his swim trunks and survived pretty well! I probably spent well over an hour exploring the reef and taking pictures. It was very pretty and the conditions were perfect. When we got done, we stopped by Tippy's again for more rum drinks and went back to the condo to relax until dinner.
I took advantage of the down time to file the eAPIS manifest for our flight home on Monday. It has gotten a lot easier now that you can reuse old information to file. We walked back to Tippy's for dinner and found our spots at the bar still open so we sat down for dinner. The place was packed so I ordered some shrimp appetizers before our main course. Pete and I both ordered lobster tails and they were great! As usual with the local catch, the tails were huge. After dinner Pete and Jerry delved in to a somewhat lively theological debate. It was educating and entertaining for me. I quickly realized that debate topic is just as touchy as discussing politics! They threatened to keep the debate going during the flight home, but I promptly reminded them I can just isolate myself on the intercom, enjoy my music, and they could debate all they wanted by themselves!
I had a very restful night’s sleep in my huge king bed and when we woke up in the morning we walked down to the office/bakery/deli for some coffee and pastries. We could see the remnants of the cold front approaching from the northwest. The skies looked a little dark and I started to wonder what the weather would be like for our flight home. Never fear; the clouds arrived, it rained a little for five minutes, and it was clear the rest of the morning. After breakfast I spent an hour or so walking the beach. I think I'd lose some weight if we lived on the beach because I could make those walks every day without any complaints!
We loaded up the car at 11:00am, checked out and headed for the airport. As usual in the Bahamas, some services can be spotty. The Internet wasn't working that morning so I had to call the Flight Service Station from the airport to file our flight plan and then call Ft Pierce Customs to notify them of our arrival time.
We departed shortly after noon and had a pleasant flight back. Passing through 6000 feet I picked up our clearance from Miami Center and was cleared as filed (MYEM-ZFP-ANGEE-KFPR) at 8000 feet. We had to deal with 30+ knot headwinds enroute to Fort Pierce (KFPR), but I didn’t mind because it just meant I could enjoy the views of the Bahamas a little longer. We made an uneventful arrival in to KFPR and cleared Customs without issue. The officer was kind enough to settle a question that came up when we were at the camp. It IS OK to bring lobster tails back from the Bahamas as long as it is in season in Florida and you do not exceed the catch limit per Florida's regulations. It is currently 6 tails per person. I'll have to remember that!
After we cleared Customs, we went next door to the Airport Tiki and had some lunch. While we ate, the FBO brought our plane over from the Custom's ramp and fulfilled my fuel request. With our final trip bills paid we loaded up one more time and headed to Jacksonville. We cruised along under clear skies, but over an overcast layer. That necessitated an easy LOC Rwy 32 Circle to Land Rwy 5 approach back in to Craig (KCRG). We were out of the clouds and in easy visual contact of the airport just after reaching the final approach fix inbound. We landed and got everything unloaded. Pete took Jerry to Jacksonville International Airport to catch his flight home while I finished securing the plane.
It was truly an awesome trip. Everything went really well and the plane ran great. We met some amazing people and I finally got to do something good with the plane for others and it definitely will not be the last time! We'll see what comes up next. I can't wait!
Over 5 days we traveled over 1300 miles, put 10.5 hours on the plane, helped some great people, and had an awesome time. Yup, I do thank God for everything!