Sandals Emerald Bay was perfect. I'll admit a few days were a little warm, but by midweek a nice breeze developed and some of the afternoon clouds provided some refreshing shade. On the day of departure it was a different story. We awoke to dark gray skies and rumbles of thunder nearby. After thoroughly scrutinizing the weather forecasts the night before, it looked best to just wake up when felt in the morning, make the 11:00 am checkout and hopefully take off around noon.
I got up at 6:30 am and got a nice cup of coffee and a croissant from the cafe and enjoyed a peaceful walk on the beach. I watched the weather move north through the area and found myself mostly alone during my walk. I strolled through some of the other areas of the resort taking pictures for our "scrapbook". I returned to the room and we took our time packing and enjoying paradise for a little longer.
Strachan's Aviation was there to meet us and help us to our plane. Once again, they handled EVERYTHING! He whisked us out to the ramp and I promptly began to pre-flight and load the plane. I gave Ryan our departure tax money,$25 each, and he ran it back to Customs for us and returned with the receipt
Unfortunately the break in the weather did not last and now Kristi and I were both hiding in the back of the plane trying to get the soaked plane cover rolled up and put in it's bag. That's when it hit me, in the great haste of breezing from the taxi, through the terminal, and out to our plane, I hadn't made the required call to US Customs to make notification of our arrival. Failure to do so could result in a fine of $5000! It was pouring and we were quite a ways away from the main terminal and I had no clue where the free "Blue Phone" for pilots was. So I looked straight in front of the plane at the brand new building of the FBO we didn't use, grabbed our umbrella and made a dash for it. So, thank you to Odyssey Aviation for not hesitating to let me use your phone to make my call even though we didn't pay for or use any of their services. I still got soaked, but not as much as I could have been!
I hopped back in the plane and a few minutes later the rain tapered off so Kristi climbed out of the back and joined me up in the cockpit. With the engine started and the run-up complete, we back taxied on Runway 12 for a right downwind departure After all that we actually took off 2 minutes early. Wow. Most all the weather continued to move north, but it appeared the clearer areas were to the west and it was. The route I filed for was ZQA ZFP ANGEE direct to Fort Pierce, FL (KFPR) where we would clear US Customs. I knew I would not be able to fly that route because of the huge thunderstorm over Nassau, but I also knew I'd deal with that once I established communications with Miami Center.
As we climbed through 6000' I was able to successfully contact Miami Center for my clearance. To my pleasant surprise we were cleared direct to ANGEE then direct to KFPR at 8000'. Center and I agreed we would still need to deviate west for a while, but we remained in the clear the whole time. We caught glimpses of some of the islands and beautiful waters from time to time. We could see the tremendous cell over Nassau that had ALL the planes in the area making constant deviation requests. As we passed over the north end of Andros and cleared the weather to our east, we were finally able to turn on course for ANGEE.
The route was pretty clear of weather after that and we had a nice and easy arrival into Fort Pierce. We shut down in front of the US Customs building and unloaded our plane. One of the officers was one we had checked through with a few times in the past. They did x-ray our bags this time, but the whole process only took a few minutes and they were truly pleasant as always to work with. We loaded up the plane and walked over to the APP Jet Center and Airport Tiki to put in our fuel request and get a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately the restaurant is going through some remodeling so the kitchen was closed, but the waitress did kindly make us some cold-cut sandwiches.
With a little break and some food in our bellies, we climbed back in the plane for our last leg home. Even though there was a huge thunderstorm to the west of Fort Pierce, the weather home up the coast was completely cooperative and the final leg of our journey was relatively short and easy. We arrived back into Jacksonville with clear skies and a little cooler temps. It didn't take long to get the plane unloaded and put away in the hangar. We had an amazing week, but were ready to get home and see our little girls. This was a trip we will definitely have to do again........soon!
So for this trip we flew over 1200 miles and these were our times from engine start to shutdown for each leg:
Jacksonville to Great Exuma = 3.9 hours
Great Exuma to Fort Pierce = 2.7 hours
Fort Pierce to Jacksonville = 1.6 hours