My dad woke up early on Thursday so he could make pancakes for his granddaughters before they left for school. We loaded up the truck and headed off to the airport around 9 am. After a few more preps at the hangar, we were wheels up a little after 10 am and headed for Orlando Executive (KORL) to meet up with the rest of the participants. The flight down was very smooth. We were vectored around for a while in Orlando's airspace and got a few minutes of actual IFR as we punched through the layer of clouds during our decent. After a good crosswind landing, we taxied up and shutdown at the FBO.
Showalter Flying Service continues to be a huge supporter of Bahamas Habitat and let us use their big conference room for our briefing and lunch as well as giving us a $1/gallon discount on fuel! We spent lunch enjoying some great deli sandwiches and discussed the next leg to Governors Harbour (MYEM), Eleuthera, The Bahamas to help those that were making the amazing flight for the very first time!
After lunch and everything filed, we all loaded up and crowded the skies towards The Bahamas. We were able to help take some of the donated items that had been stored at Showalter looking for a chance to get delivered to Eleuthera. I think we were about the 3rd or 4th plane to take off out of 12 or more going. We were cleared via radar vectors to MLB then ZFP then direct at 9000 feet. As we were handed off from controller to controller, they kept asking us what was going on with all the planes heading to Governors Harbour. The flight over was beautiful as always and a little over 2 hours later we were buzzing Camp Symonette and making an uneventful landing into MYEM.
We unloaded and secured the plane, cleared Customs & Immigration, met up with Abe, the Executive Director of Bahamas Methodist Habitat, and helped load all the stuff into the big school bus as the rest of the group arrived over the next hour. With everyone safely accounted for we arrived at Camp Symonette in James Cistern to settle in for the 4 day event. Dinner was wonderful and it was so much fun to see familiar faces and catch up since last year. It was also great to meet new folks and make new friends! After a wonderful dinner, a brief about the work projects for the event, and a long day of flying, it was time to retire to the luxurious Cat Island Suite and get some much needed sleep in the awesome bunk beds! It didn't take long to find out that half of the 8 guys in our room were pretty big snorers and they could not carry a tune! No worries, I listened to my iPod and fell asleep listening to music instead.
My dad and I chose to work on a house in Hatchet Bay that needed some rebar work done. The house will be for one of the local senior citizens that is currently living in a local seniors' home. Her kids are paying for the materials as they can afford it and the Bahamas Methodist Habitat is providing the labor through groups like ours. We had a good team between my dad, Katherine, Greg, and myself which was led by the amazing KP! We got busy pulling forms from previous days and then assembling rebar forms that will be used for the exterior headers. It was pretty tough work, but we developed a pretty efficient system once KP showed us what was needed. We enjoyed some cloud cover most of the time, but after lunch the sun came out in force! I stayed on my dad to make sure we both drank plenty of water and stayed up with the sunscreen. During the afternoon union coffee break, we disappeared down the road to Twin Brothers Restaurant & Bar to enjoy a Miami Vice that KP had told us about earlier. It is a virgin blended strawberry daiquiri and pina colada. Definitely a cool tasty treat! At the end of the day we picked up the other 2 teams and headed to Rainbow Bay for a little beach time and swimming. The water was pretty cool, but it felt great. I snorkeled around a bit and found a lot of beautiful sea life including a Queen Angelfish, a stingray, and some huge Sargent Majors.
The next day we chose to work another half day and then do some flight seeing with plans to have lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. At 8 am we loaded up the bus and headed back to Hatchet Bay to finish some roof framing on a different house. Once again we found a rhythm and routine and made short work of what was needed. At noon we headed back to camp, got cleaned up, and headed for the airport. Bill Rutkowski, who flew his Mooney down, offered to buy us lunch if he could just ride with us. Sounded like a great deal to me! Bill, a CFI, flew right seat with me while my dad comfortably flew in the back where he could stretch out and enjoy the views.
We made the short 15 minute hop up to North Eleuthera (MYEH) to top off with fuel at White Crown Aviation so we would have enough for the afternoon's cruising and our flight home. After a fairly quick turn, we were back in the air headed for the north end of the Exuma Island chain. The views of this area are breathtaking. After cruising low for about 45 minutes in the comfort of air conditioning and enjoying the scenery, we made a straight in approach to the Staniel Cay Airport (MYES). We chocked the plane and started the 15 minute walk to the yacht club. I couldn't wait to get some cracked conch! When we got to the club we were disappointed to find out that the power was out on the island so of course the kitchen was closed! Oh well, what do you do? Well, you get Dad a nice cold Kalik and a Coke for yourself since you're flying! So we looked around a few minutes, finished our drinks, and walked back to the plane. We headed straight back to Governors Harbour detouring a little to overfly the area where my dad and I would be staying for an extra 2 days after the event. We all met back at the airport on time and headed back for our last night at the camp. I suspiciously asked Bill if he knew about the power being out since he graciously offered to buy lunch. He just smirked. I'm on to you Bill!!!!!
We all got up the next morning and enjoyed an amazing breakfast and then held a small Sunday service led by Abe and Brenda before the first group headed to the airport. We stayed behind to help clean up a bit and watch a few of the planes follow the standard departure procedures from MYEM. The procedure is basically just take off, stay low, overfly the camp, and then be on your way! Simple! Here is a video of three of the departing planes:
We took the 10 am bus to the airport, said our goodbyes to Abe and the rest, called for a taxi and headed to Pineapple Fields Resort on the other side of Governors Harbour. Mr. Tommy Pinder was kind enough to pick us up. He took us to the grocery store to get a few things, gave us an awesome tour of town, and took us to our condo. We got there a little before 11 am. Our condo wasn't ready, but no worries; Tippy's was opening for lunch in a few minutes! We walked over and I got a tasty rum punch and we ordered some of their huge conch fritters! Once our condo was ready, we changed into our swim suits and headed for the beach. Dad started strolling down the beach looking for shells and I started snorkeling the beautiful reef right off the beach. Dad didn't find any big shells, but I saw some beautiful reef structures, a few Trunk Fish, a Spotted Eel, and a Great Barracuda! That night we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Tippy's. Dad had the chicken stuffed with crab meat and I had their lobster and shrimp pasta. We called it a night and enjoyed our first night of sleep with no snorers!
The next day we went for a long walk on the beach headed back towards Governors Harbour. We walked for probably more than 5 miles total enjoying the various beaches we found and looking around the rocky points we passed. We walked passed then returned to explore the grounds of the old Club Med. It was wiped out in 1999 by Hurricane Floyd. We were surprised to see the landscaping still maintained and found out that another group has purchased the property with hopes of rebuilding the area after they finish the marina area on the other side of the hill in Governors Harbour. On the way back we found The Beach House Restaurant and Tapas Bar and enjoyed an awesome lunch with an amazing view. They have a great lunch and dinner menu and it was nice to find them open since Tippy's is closed on Mondays. After lunch we walked back to the condo and took naps. When we got up, we took another walk on the beach and enjoyed pizza for dinner that we ordered from Tippy's the night before.
It was hard to believe our trip was over. We got up the next morning, took a little walk, packed up, checked out, and had Mr. Pinder take us back to the airport. We were wheels up around noon, properly flew the departure procedure (twice just to be sure), and climbed up to 8000 feet for the flight to Fort Pierce (KFPR). Climbing through 6000 feet we were easily able to contact Miami Center to get our clearance. We were cleared as filed: direct ZFP BR62V ANGEE direct. We bucked a 30+ knot headwind, but it was smooth ride. The weather back was decent for the most part since the cold front was still up around Orlando (which we would have to deal with later), but the surface winds were very high and forecasted to remain that way. Sure enough, as we were on final for runway 28L, the winds were 200 at 23 knots gusting to 32 knots! Yeehaw! It was a challenging landing to say the least, but we made it safely on the ground, and taxied over to clear US Customs.
|Flying the MYEM Symonette 2 Departure Procedure. Thanks for the picture Dave!|
After sharing some joyful political banter with the CBP agents, we went next door to the Airport Tiki to have lunch and check weather for the flight home. The bad news was the winds at Fort Pierce were still the same, but the good news was the precipitation associated with the cold front was starting to diminish and break up. We finished our lunch, paid the fuel bill, and hopped back in the plane. Taking off with a crosswind is a lot easier than landing in it! We were quickly airborne and northbound in the clouds at 7000 feet. It was a fairly smooth ride with occasionally minor chop and finally a tailwind! We had light to moderate rain for maybe 10 minutes or so. Nothing bad and it was nice to have the plane get a little bit of a rinse off! The winds were pretty high and gusty at home as well, but at least it was almost in line with the runway. I made my best landing in days and taxied to the hangar.
We unloaded the plane, closed the hangar, and headed home to my eagerly waiting family! My dad and I really enjoyed the time we had together and all the people we met. I am happy to say that my dad asked me if we can go again next time. Absolutely!
|Read the sign!!!!! It just might be true.......|