the weather was almost perfect VFR for the flight, and we had a little
tailwind, we filed IFR for 9000' for the trip down. You can see
from the Datalink page that there was a little IFR airmet area near our
route on the way down, and we did indeed end up in the clouds for a
while on the trip. I love a little enroute IMC time, especially if it
isn't freezing out. This was very close to freezing but we didn't
get any icing on the trip. The days following this, the weather was
much less agreeable for the flight, so we left early, planning to spend
one of the kids' birthday's down in Florida. You can see in the
photo below that I even decided to bring along a couple of SCUBA Lead
Weight Belts, about 35lbs total, utilizing the empty space under and
forward of the rudder pedals to store the weights and counteract some
of the more aft CG we had for the flight. There was no conflict
of weights with the controls, and the added weight wasn't that much
considering we were hauling a couple of kids.
got further into the trip our airspeed picked up a bit. With the
injectors balanced out real well now I'm seeing a little difference in
the airplanes performance vs. fuel flow. Previously I would
regularly see fuel flows UNDER 10gph, and TAS readings of between maybe
158kts and 164kts as a general average. Loadings, turbulence,
altitude, and many things can greatly affect the ultimate higher end
airspeeds you see on any one trip. With balanced injectors, I am
noticing that I'm seeing maybe .5 gph higher fuel flows as an average
for my x/c trips, coming in at maybe 10.5gph average while cruising at
8,000-9,000'. It might seem confusing as to why I would see
higher fuel flows, but to know what's going on you have to look at the
big picture. Previously I would lean the engine out, and when the
last cylinder finally came to > -25F LOP, some of the other
cylinders were getting quite a bit leaner. Also, I was usually shooting
for more like -40F LOP. Well, once you get really balance
injectors, they peak so much closer together that your overall fuel
flow may be a little higher, because you didn't have to go quite as
lean to get them all at > -25F LOP. Additionally, I am trying
to keep it more like -25 to -35F LOP, and not any further. So now
I'm burning maybe .5gph more than before, but I'm not losing as much
speed, either. On this trip I saw times where I was in the higher
160's, like 166-168kts while LOP. That's darn good! On the
slower legs, when I leaned it out more into the 35's and 40's, I would
be in the lower 160's, like 162-164 kts. So it's interesting to
get the feel for how an airplane can change with such a subtle change
in engine fuel flow performance.
Another cool thing is the above 2 photos showing a neat airport I flew over. A couple weeks before the trip, I actually had a dream about being invited to fly over to Jumbolair, John Travolta's home airport, and stop by for a visit. (Man would THAT be fun!) Well, as we were flying down almost to our destination near Ocala, FL, we ended up flying right over that airstrip! We did the trip with just one gas stop at Shelbyville, TN, a great little gas stop with one of the most horrendous courtesy cars, in about 6.5 hours...arriving early enough in the day to be plenty relaxed.
you can see some photos of the various Disney complexes. It's pretty
cool to see how there is often something you would never know existed,
just beyond the trees on the outskirts of the park.
over to the Bahamas you aren't over open water for all that long, but
it still pays to take the initial leg at something like 6000-8000' of
altitude to give you plenty of gliding time and radio time if you have
any issues. The island's are absolutely beautiful to see by the
air. Treasure Cay, our first destination, didn't have nearly the
in-flight scenery as the Exumas do, but they are still very
beautiful. There are always some lower level scattered clouds,
but also always is plenty of clear sky. The ocean stabilized many
weather factors too...often giving you plenty of good flying visibility
even if it means flying at 1000' MSL (I can't say AGL when there ain't
no "G"!!!!) One other cool effect is that it's often very calm,
non-turbulent flying, except if you're on the downwind side of the
island. You can get some turbulence off the rising air over an
island but by moving slightly upwind, you can have a perfectly calm
The photos above show some scenery and some pics of our plane that they got from the Katana, and the pics below show the Katana, as taken from our cockpit.
at Treasure Cay Airport (MYAT), we unloaded and went through Bahamas
Customs. Believe it or not, now days it's actually more of a pain
to go through Bahamas customs than it is in the USA. The eAPIS
filing seems to cut down on some time, although it adds some complexity
to your planning. Meanwhile, the Bahamas doesn't have any good
online system at all, and you actually have to fill out 4....4!! copies
of some of the forms. It doesn't take long, but they would do
well to have an online .pdf you could fill out and print and bring with
Getting to Treasure Cay Resort from the airport isn't hard...there are cabs there all the time. Plan ahead though because going back to your plane during your stay will cost you a pretty penny....figure on $50 or maybe even more, for every round trip you want to make to the airport. It's a 7 mile drive is all, but you're captive.
resort was pretty nice to stay in. We had some requirements for
the rooms during our planning. I wanted a King sized bed, with
plenty of room for the kind of late night activities that you do in the
the islands. I wanted Lenny and Sofia to have a King sized bed
too, because I didn't want them to miss out on the same. :) And,
I wanted a separate room for the kids, with twin beds, so we wouldn't
have to listen to fighting over who is hogging all of the bed.
What we got was perfect....a 3-story, 3-bedroom condo type room, a loft
up on top with a king bed and their own bathroom, the middle floor was
a complete kitchen and living room with a bathroom, and the ground
floor was 2 bedrooms, one with 2 twins, and one with a king, each with
it's own bathroom. Needless to say there was PLENTY of space and
it made it all oh so enjoyable. Up to 6 people can stay in the
unit for the rate, which we got for a 10% discount. As the resort
was not and all-inclusive deal, we spent quite a bit on food and other
things while we were there, but realistically it wasn't any more than
we would have at most places. The catch is that you only have 2
real restaurants and a bar to eat at, so you're captive while you're
there, to eat at their places...unless you rent a car and drive down to
Marsh Harbor, which will take about a half hour or so. The food
was great though, and we enjoyed it all. Having been there now,
I'd better be able to plan how to get around and what to do while on a
trip to Treasure Cay.
the big attractions for the kids at Treasure Cay is the beach. We
were told that the beach at our resort was actually the 10th highest
rated beach in the entire world, and I can see that being true. The
sand was extremely soft and fine and nice, the water was beautiful, and
it was a very nice place to relax. The kids loved playing in the sand.
were well prepared, after the prior diving they'd done, and we also had
recently rented the local high-school pool for a couple of nights to
get them used to their new gear before the trip. They had good
buoyancy control and did a great job keeping up! After we got our
dive done, Lenny and Sofia got a great dive in too, and then we took a
trip down the reef to see where some good dive sites were for the next
day, when we actually could rent our own boat. Unfortunately, the
winds didn't allow us to dive on the next day. On the return trip
by boat I got to stand back in the cockpit and look out at my family on
the deck of the boat, with their hair blowing in the breeze and smiles
on their faces...I knew exactly how they were feeling, as I have so
many good memories of doing the exact same thing. It was this
that brought me more happiness than almost anything on the
trip...seeing a new generation enjoying things so thoroughly as their
parents had in the past...and that made it even more enjoyable for us.
our next day hanging out on the beach some more, and then traveling
down by car to Marsh Harbor for some supper, and to explore the airport
(MYAM) because we had intended to land their and top off with fuel.
It's only about a 10 minute flight or so, from Treasure Cay.
Marsh Harbor is a happening place with plenty of stores, restaurants,
and ice cream shops. Definitely a nice place to fly into.
If you stay there though, you'll most likely want to boat out to stay
out on Elbow Cay, where you'll be on the barrier island with a nice
beach like Treasure Cay has. Our rental car, see below, wasn't
quite up to U.S. rental car agency standards. The headliner was
pinned up with thumbtacks, and the GPS would only display in
Chinese. Lenny did keep us constantly laughing though as he tried
to keep reminding himself to drive on the left side of the road, and
not use the windshield wipers to signal turns. :)
loaded up at the airport, we shot some photos of us by our baggage,
showing the difference between hauling capacities of an RV-10 vs.
Katana. It's amazing how much stuff you can fit into these
planes! We hopped in and flew over our resort beach, and then on
to Marsh Harbor (MYAM) for fuel. We fueled up at Cherokee
Aviation, an FBO that had lots of Cirrus airplanes there.
Apparently that week before there were dozens of Cirrus's there for a
clear of Marsh Harbor, it was time for some overwater crossing time to
North Eleuthera Island and then over some shallow water and scattered
islands on over to the Exuma chain. The Exumas have the most
incredible ocean scenery I've ever seen. We flew from island to
island, just off shore, looking at all the hundreds of boats camped out
in the lee of the island. We spotted literally dozens of sharks
and stingrays, easily visible from the air, and looked at the many sand
bars and reefs surrounding the islands, along with the deep blues of
the waters between islands, kept deep from the currents of the incoming
and outgoing tides. It is truly amazing scenery. For
everywhere I've ever dove in the past, tides really haven't had a large
amount of significance. If you're out in 60 or 100' of water, a
half mile off shore, you usually don't notice tides all that
much. But when you're boating and diving up an island chain with
many inlets like this, currents caused by tides will cause drastic
changes in how you plan. It is amazing to watch the incoming our
outgoing tides make the inlets flow like a rapids filled river...truly
amazing to see.
once again approaching Staniel Cay, we circled the island to get a good
view. The photo directly above with 3 islands shows Thunderball
Grotto's island, a very cool above and underwater cavern in the island
where James Bond was in the movie "Thunderball". We wanted to see
this by air before we landed, as we were definitely going to see it by
water very soon! Lenny got the single story Pink cabin, which was
exactly like the Blue one I stayed in last year. For a couple,
these cabins are perfect! They are awesome places to stay and the
whole thing brings a very relaxed atmosphere.
family stayed in the Key Lime cabin this year. It was completely
awesome for our family of 4! They have a spiral staircase to the
upper floor. Both floors have their own shower equipped bathrooms and
their own decks. The king bed is upstairs, and downstairs is a
double-twin bed trundle bed arrangement that is perfect for the 2 kids.
off the deck is always amazing, being right on the shoreline.
This year we also got another surprise option...they had a deal where
you could either pay the room rate (less 20% for pilots in their own
planes) plus your food, or pay on a different plan where you pay more
on a per-person basis but then the stay is an "all-inclusive" visit,
with all meals included, along with the use of a Boston Whaler boat
every day. We took the all-inclusive way as it looked like it
would save money (and it definitely saved any thinking about what to
eat and how much it cost), plus we could combine our 2 small boats into
getting one larger boat to share for all 6 of us. The food
arrangement worked out really well. There is only one place to
eat, but every day you have a great breakfast, and every mid-day
they'll pack you a cooler-box lunch for taking out on the boat with you
or to the beach. Then every evening you can have your pick over
very very nice entrees like steak, lobster, grouper, chicken, pork
chops, or more, and you can eat whatever you want. They also have
really awesome homemade bread, made by one of the island people...we
probably ate 5 slices a night per person it was so good!
afternoon we flew down to a fuel-equipped airport so that we could get
the planes topped off with fuel for the return trip, and also to do
some sightseeing along the way. Many little airstrips are on the
islands, and you can see mansions on some of them, owned by people far
more rich than I get to hang out with. Beautiful to see, that's
other thing that I remembered vividly from last year was the sharks and
stingrays that gather under the dock at the marina. They come to eat
the fish scraps from fish being cleaned by the restaurant folk.
We donned our wetsuits and snorkeling gear and decided to swim with the
sharks and rays, and the kids loved that. You could go right up
and touch them.
Staniel Cay's Dock Area
Staniel Cay's Restaurant
The view from our deck
with these pigs was far more fun that I ever imagined last year when I
was here, which is why last year I didn't even try. I now regret
that, as this was just a way cool time. These pigs are so
freakin' funny it's unbelievable. What an experience to remember!
some general pictures of hanging out at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
The pool is warm and comfortable, the food is great, the scenery is
awesome, and the stay is always relaxing. We were able to go to
bed earlier than I do while at home, yet sleep later than I do when I'm
at home...it was lots of excitement every day, followed by lots of good
rest every night!
we took 2 boats, a 17' and 13-14' way up to Conch Cut, a reef a few
miles up from the resort. It was a great dive site.
Interestingly, when we got the first 2 people out to dive, the current
was flowing OUT with the tides, but by the time we ate lunch and went
back to dive it a couple more times, the currents had shifted
directions and were now coming in. It was amazing that it made
such a drastic change. Definitely paying attention to tide tables
is required for diving in the channels of Conch Cut. It's also a
definite Drift Dive, so plan to bring a line and buoy to keep track of
the divers that are under water. You won't want to plan to stay
near an anchored boat on that dive
Then after doing that, we headed back to Thunderball Grotto, even though the tides were running and the current flowing. We slipped ourselves into the grotto and swam into the huge underwater caverns. You can explore it with snorkel equipment ok too, but for those diving, you can stay underwater and see much more. Even if you don't want to go on a dive charter, or take your own boat to a dive site, Thunderball provides an awesome diving opportunity!
way out from Staniel Cay, we flew up the island chain before turning
West towards Fresh Creek (MYAF) for clearing departure customs.
Below are photos of the conch cut area, and the reef is visible if you
know what you're looking at, popping up from the deep blue of the
first picture above, you can see the message that popped onto the
screen of my GNS-480. Nice to know you're going to fly into a Missile
range, huh? But the trip was for the most part uneventful. In the
screen shots below you can see the long range weather back at home,
which matches up pretty well with the iPhone Foreflight screenshots
towards the end of this page. Looks like it'll be a good ride
most of the way, with a little stuff at the end.
On the Chelton screen in the 3rd photo below, I turned on the Lat/Long position in the center of the MFD for the overwater flight. It gives you something to report to ATC as you're gliding engine-out towards the sea....an awesome feature for times like this. Looking good for the flight to KFXE. This year we went back to U.S. Customs via KFXE instead of KPBI. Both were acceptable, but KFXE seemed to be smaller and a little more organized. It still is a pain to unload all of your baggage, but with a properly pre-arranged eAPIS filing, and proper customs notification, it goes very quickly.
thing I love is when the designers of our airspace have a sense of
humor. Check out the 2nd screenshot below...when you're about
half way home, in the middle of the Atlantic between the Bahamas and
Florida, they stuck an intersection fix...and named it "SWIMM", as in,
if you stop here, you're going for a swim. Hillarious!
I had filed a DVFR flight plan, we were well on top of the scattered
clouds that seem to always exist, and it was busy airspace in talking
to Miami Approach for flight following. I knew that to descend
through the clouds I'd be making multiple turns to align with holes, so
asked them if I could do an IFR letdown for the remaining half of the
trip. This worked well and made it cool, but it also slowed me
down a little as rather than just descending at my own will, I was
forced to decend a little earlier and get routed out and around other
traffic areas a little further than I may have been, had I gone
VFR. But soon we were over the shoreline, flying just North of
Pompano Beach back down to KFXE.
clearing customs, we started our trip back up to KLEE to make a lunch
visit and stop for fuel. Once again, the amazing happend and we had
flight following almost directly over the Disney complex. How
cool is that...something I always wanted to do and we get to do it
topping off with fuel, we hit the skies again to keep heading for home.
Everything was going so smoothly, it was amazing. We were headed
directly towards the center of Atlanta Class B, and requested
overflight transit rather than being routed around. We'd had this
coming South on a previous trip. They won't let you do it at
8500' from how it sounds, but they dropped us down to about 4500' or
5500' and there is a corridor or something that they can put you
through...it takes you directly over top of KATL, so they can land
planes under you without you getting in the way. Another cool
addition to the trip...flying right over top of the Worlds Busiest
Airport, according to Atlanta approach. I didn't have the heart
to tell them that this was nothing, they should see KOSH in July. :)
screenshots show the flight parameters again, and all the airmets, as
we cruised homeward from our last stop. t seems that every trip where
you're flying 1000nm or more will
involve some weather in at least one direction, and this trip was no
exception. On our day we left the islands, we stopped for lunch
and headed home, but there were storms up by home that while probably
flyable, were not worth the effort. We'd have to fly in at night,
then deal with weather...at least it would be by our home
airport. We decided to scrap that idea and just take a nice stop
that we hadn't taken in years....Chattanooga. Tac Air North at
Chattanooga was a great facility to us on one of my first few trips to
Florida, so I decided to stop by with them again and get a car and
hotel. It gave us some rest, and a warm pool to swim in.
The turbulence airmet covered the last half of our trip, SFC to 8000 and then SFC to 10000. We cruised at 8500' for a while, then at 10,500' as it got bumpy at 8500'. That gave us a smooth ride most all the way. It's amazing how they know the altitudes that you'll find turbulence. On the way home, I remarked at how we fly so many legs of over 1000nm on our trips, yet there are SO MANY days a year that you can do this in clear skies, or at least VFR. An Instrument rating can help a lot on some trips, but it's just as amazing how many trips can be done VFR, if you're willing to take some unexpected extra stops or even days.