Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Break 2012 - The Flight To Treasure Cay, Bahamas

It's hard to believe that another year has gone by and it's Spring Break again.  We took off on Saturday morning, St. Patrick's Day,  headed for our favorite getaway.  This time I removed both middle row seats and the refreshment console.  This gave me about 45 extra pounds to play with, but unfortunately it left my wife without a cup holder.  Oh well, at least it's only a 2 1/2 hour flight!

My wife usually gets up way early when we travel somewhere so I was quite surprised when my alarm went off at 6:30 am to find her still sound asleep!  The plan was to leave the house around 8 am to be wheels up around 9 am.  Luckily most of the packing was done the night before, so as I left to take the dog to the kennel, Kristi finished getting the girls ready and we met at the airport and managed to take off about 15 minutes after 9 am.  Not bad at all.

I filed IFR and revived a clearance to Treasure Cay (MYAT) via Radar Vectors, direct Ormond Beach (OMN), direct Melbourne (MLB), direct Freeport (ZFP) direct at 8000 feet.  I had filed for 7000 feet, but didn't mind the little higher altitude assigned given the favorable winds.  One thing about our clearances continue to stump me; I appropriately file an odd thousand foot altitude, but seem to always get an even thousand foot altitude assigned until turning towards Freeport then I am either offered a climb or decent to an appropriate altitude.  It makes no sense to me, but it works.  With the plane loaded to max gross, N424RM leapt in to the air and we were quickly cruising south around 155 knots at 8000 feet.

The weather was great the whole trip down with a few scattered clouds below us.  Just after crossing Freeport I could hear ATC frustratingly trying to vector a plane for traffic.  In a few seconds it turned out I was the conflict the other guy couldn't maneuver as requested for and I was asked to turn right to a heading of 180 degrees.  The controller continued to have some frustrations with this other guy and asked me to turn another 20 degrees right.  At this point I'm now getting frustrated because I am heading back towards Florida instead of my destination!  I kindly, but firmly requested to know where this traffic was I was be vectored all over for and was finally cleared to turn back towards my destination.

On the leg towards (ZFP) Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

As we descended for Treasure Cay, I cancelled IFR with Miami Center and switched over to the CTAF of 122.8.  For the first few minutes, all the traffic in the area seemed to be calling inbound for Marsh Harbor so I was glad my arrival would have me not dealing with a lot of other planes.  Well I jinxed myself.  In short order about 5 other aircraft called up with at least 2 joining me inbound from the west, one inbound from Marsh Harbor, and one departing the field.  Except for the one departing the field I was the closest inbound, but one of the planes behind me was a Cessna Citation Mustang that I knew at some point would be overtaking me.  Sure enough as I descended through 2500 feet he call out passing me low and off my left.  It was a cool sight and I easily followed him into the left hand traffic pattern for Runway 14.

The winds were low, but the approach and landing was just as challenging as ever.  I kept my speed up on final, as I have learned the hard way to do at this airport, and found the typical wind shear over the runway.  I let the plane ease herself onto the long 7000 foot runway and taxied to the ramp.  The ramp was full so I promptly taxied in to one of the few remaining tie down spots left and shut down.  Mr Sydney Hart, our favorite taxi driver, saw us land and promptly sent over one of the linemen to help us out.  With what literally seems like a ton of vacation luggage, getting some help from the local ramp guys is some of the best money spent.

Left downwind for Runway 14 at MYAT.  Green Turtle Cay off the right wing.

We cleared Customs & Immigration without issue.  I was a little surprised to see the Customs guy open a few pieces of our luggage to inspect.  It caused me no worries, I had nothing to hide, but they had never done that before.  We were quickly loaded up in to Sydney's taxi and headed for the condo.  Now it was time to find my Dad and get some rum punch!

So the family left the house around 8:30 am, we flew over 350 miles in a little over 2 1/2 hours, and arrived at our condo in paradise at about 12:45 pm.  Life is good!

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