Bahamas 2009

Returned 4/21/09

This trip was a very unusual trip for us, in many ways.  First of all, it was the first major trip where we didn't take our kids along.  It was also our first international trip involving flight outside of US airspace, and our first long trip where we spent considerable time coordinating flights with multiple aircraft.  It was a very rewarding trip to accomplish though, as we got to see and experience these unique flights in a way that no airline traveler could.

Traveling without the kids was a little heartbreaking for me, seeing all of these things without having them there.  I've always been a person who liked to share experiences, especially with the kids, and to see all of this without them made me realize that we now MUST go back...soon.  I think the Bahamas will be a destination for us again in the not too distant future.  It also pumped me up for another trip I've always been interested in....the Cayman Islands.  Both of these destinations are ones that should be relatively easy to get to by air.

For those considering travel to the Bahamas, here is a link you may want to take a quick peek at:
Tim's Bahamas Flight Planning Documentation
I compiled some of the forms, and info, so that the others on the trip could all get the proper paperwork in order.  But while a flight to the Bahamas is best done with some pre-planning, I found that it also is not so onerous that you should be too uptight with the planning.  The most important thing you should do is get a U.S. Customs sticker on order well in advance, as it can take 4-8 weeks to get the sticker.  You'll need that to re-enter the U.S. after your trip.  We did find that we did NOT need to permanently affix it to the aircraft though, and instead left it in a plastic pouch, taped or attached to the inside baggage area door.  When the baggage door is swung open, it is then within the required 18" of the airplane entrance.  Despite our preparation though, they did not visually check for the sticker in our case...we simply needed to fill in our number on the customs forms at re-entry.  Regarding the Radio Station Licence, and Restricted RadioTelephone Operators Permit, these are 2 that I have often read aren't checked for, but are required.  I don't think it's worth the risk of not obtaining them, however, so we complied.  The Radio Station License is good for 10 years.  The Operators permit is good for your lifetime.  So the fees are not a large burdon if you are able to afford the trip in the first place.  With those things ordered and on hand, there really isn't anything else that you would HAVE to do before heading out for the trip.  If you cross via KFXE, I'd suggest a stop at Banyan FBO.  They have an absolutely huge Pilot Shop, where you can buy (or rent) rafts, life vests, or pretty much any flight accessory or part that you could possibly need.  We picked up our Mustang MD3085 (These have a comfortable neoprene collar) life vests in advance and got a great deal on them, so we had nothing we critically needed at that point.  Legally you must have life vests for each person on the plane, but our Part 91 operation does NOT require a life raft. (although it is advised, we chose not to for space, money, and weight reasons)

I'll quit with the background info now and go on inline with the photos and explain the trip a bit.

This trip involved 3 planes.  Myself and Andrea flying RV-10 N104CD, Ed Hayden and his wife Sheila flying from Oregon in RV-10 N929EH, and Vic and Carol Syracuse flying their RV-7A N84VC from Atlanta.  For us, it was a big trip, covering approximately 3500nm over the course of the vacation.  Ed and Sheila ended up flying more like 7800+nm by the time they were done, covering 50 hours of flying time!  Vic and Carol had it the easiest, living right next to Florida.

On the trip we found APRS tracking to be extremely handy.  Using an iPhone or iPod Touch, or laptop, we could always keep track of where the other trip members were, and know what weather they were about to face, and what time we could expect them.  Ed faced significant weather during the pre-Bahamas portion of the trip, and it was very comforting to have live tracking while we watched him coming across the U.S.  It was easy to tell when he was landing at an airport, or when he approached worse weather.  I also got to use ForeFlight Mobile software on my iPod Touch during many periods of time on the trip to get instant weather pictures and see what might or might not be possible for Ed to make it to Florida.  (Note: 5/1/09 Foreflight just released version 2.3 which allows downloadable approach plates that are stored locally, which makes it such an extremely convenient bit of software that I can almost recommend an iPhone or iPod touch and Foreflight as a great tool for any pilot, it also has full-screen rotatable maps, super quick access to all various weather imagery, online flight plan filing built in, and all sorts of great things.)

Ed's trip started out with legs from the Portland area to Salt Lake City area, then down to Phoenix, and across to College Station, TX.  That's where he got stuck for a few days by those nasty storms that alwas seem to start in the TX region.  A front came by and ran over him, trapping him behind the weather for a few extra days.  With a couple of shorter hops to New Orleans, and then St. Augustine, he was finally able to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale.  Watching the live track was very interesting for us as we awaited their arrival.

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Regarding APRS tracker range, if you notice the screenshots above and below, you can see a direct comparison between Ed's 8 Watt APRS transmitter, and my 300mW (much lower power) transmitter.  Check out the flight going over to Andros island and you'll see that Ed's was trackable for maybe 10 minutes longer than mine on the trip over water to the Bahamas.  So the added power output definitely helps reach further, but given the rest of the track plots from the trip, it probably isn't of major significance in most cases.  In the HAM world you're supposed to use the minimum power required to get the job done, so I don't mind the trade-off having only 300mW of power.  But 8W isn't an enormous amount of power either, so if it helps you get coverage in the high-lands or in areas where you need it, that's great.  Vic has the SPOT messenger, which worked great for tracking the whole time.  It has the benefit of being satellite based, but the drawback of not being remote mounted, and it requires an annual subscription fee.  It also only gives updates in 10 minute intervals, making it harder to watch for live-tracking.

Our track plot was much less interesting.  A quick jaunt from Wisconsin to Atlanta, then down to Cedar Key Florida, Leesburg, and Key West, back up the keys to Ft. Lauderdale, and across.  We did not have any tracking after reaching the Bahamas, but as we neared the U.S. again it was working.  You can see that the 2nd to the last day we were able to leave late in the a.m. from the resort in the Bahamas, and make it in multiple hops over 1250nm for the day, ending up in St. Louis.  If we wouldn't have had bad headwinds to deal with, it would have been easily possible for us to add on only a little more than 2 hours and do the complete distance in a single day.

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These screenshots are the Seattle Avionics Voyager software shots of our flight plan.  Voyager contained all of the airport waypoints for the Bahamas, too, although it doesn't display the non-US airports by default as far as I can tell. Once the waypoint is entered, it shows up on the plan though.  It was very very accurate again for planning legs and times, being usually within 2 to 5 minutes of the actual flight time between airports.  Once again on this trip it saved me considerable money, (and could have saved us even more), allowing me to make impromtu stops for fuel at convenient times.  When you start Voyager, it downloads fuel prices for the U.S. and when you run it in-flight you can see the nearest airports and the fuel prices.  When we were flying VFR we just wanted to start heading home and make fuel stops as needed.  Voyager in-flight allowed me to pick airports with fuel at the lowest prices, paying under $3.00 per gallon at a couple different locations.  That's actually how we ended up at KSYI on our return trip.  Nice little place, Shelbyville.

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Departure Day

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We didn't rush to get out of town too early, as the day's flight was only going to be about 5 hours or so long. My first task was to climb under the panel and unplug some equipment I was using for some avionics integration software testing that I was working on, hence the reason for the feet sticking out the doors.  We flew down starting out VFR at 9500', with a nice little tailwind, sucking down 10.5gph.  Our initial conservative plan was to fly to Crossville, TN  (KCSV) and pick up some cheap fuel, where our initial predictions had us at 19 gallons remaining upon arrival at KCSV.
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As we got closer to KCSV, we were doing great on fuel, and there was a little weather to deal with at KCSV, but getting into Atlanta wasn't bad.  We decided to grab an IFR clearance as we saw clouds on the horizon and wanted to stay high for best economy, making sure we'd have plenty of fuel even while stretching our plan's range.  We were unsure of fuel availability at Vic's airpark, so we punched in an alternate stop at 4A7, and continuing on to Mallard's Landing.  The Chelton's showed that at the current fuel burn of 9.3gph we could make about 250nm extra distance past our final destination, and just shy of 1.5 hours of extra time.  Now I know that when I need to come down, the fuel burns will go up...usually to around 13.5gph, but I also knew that I could stay high for a while, and throttle back and run LOP on the way down at reduced power if I needed to extend my range.  The computer though was telling me that I'd arrive with fuel to spare, and I wasn't afraid to change destinations if something significant changed, so I pushed on.
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As we neared the Chattanooga area, they gave me alternate routing into Atlanta, going to Rome VOR, TIROE intersection, and then on.  This brought back memories to a long-ago trip around nasty weather in Atlanta, in my early IFR ticket days, where I got the same routing, but things were MUCH harder in those days.  Punching in the alternate routing everything still looked good, showing we'd expect 13 gallons remaining at 4A7...enough to continue to GA04 if all was well.  As we got our stepdowns we got to blast into the marshmallow tops of a layer of clouds, and you could feel the muggy air start to fill the cabin once we got underneath.
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After landing at 4A7 and using the audio panel's cell phone connection while we back taxiied we heard we could get fuel at Vic's so we popped up and headed to his field, where he caught these photos of us landing.  Upon arrival we still had 10.2 gallons remaining from our departure from home.  The RV-10 has fantastic legs if you can fly it LOP!

Getting into Flordia and Heading to Key West

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In the morning we got up and checked on Ed.  He was stuck in College Station, TX with things not looking so good.  The intention was for him to leave there today and catch up with us in Northern Florida, but a major storm front ran right over his airport by the time we were taking off, stranding them for what turned out to be 3 days.
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N104CD and N84VC took off and headed for Cedar Key Florida just to check the place out as a time waster.  While in-flight we pulled up the storm picture on the WSI/Chelton's to see what Ed was facing.  As you can tell, there was little hope for geting out of there at this point.  Many tops were at 55,000' and there was lots of HAIL in the area.  We flew along VFR in smooth skies.  Cedar Key was kind of a neat little airport right on the Gulf, and had a great seaside restaurant where we had a fantastic lunch.  Other than that I'm a little confused why everyone seems so pumped up about that area as a destination.  I think if you are looking for a cool place to fly for lunch, it's perfect.  Other than that it looks a little sleepy for the young crowd as a vacation destination. We did see dolphins swim by from the restaurant, though.
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While at Cedar Key we decided to give David and Mary Maib a call, knowing that they had just moved to New Smyrna Beach and would love to connect.  We didn't know what to do with the rest of the day, only that we needed to stay in Florida to avoid the bad weather that was coming our way from Texas.  A little talking and we decided to just head to Key West for the night, so we called David back and sure enough, they'd love to meet up and join us.  Leesburg Florida is a common stopping place for us, being the airport surrounded by all the codgers, senior citizens, and old-timers in our family, and it is also a good mid-way stop between David's and Cedar Key.  We also needed to pick up some SCUBA gear from my dad.  So it was decided to meet there and continue from that point on.
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When David and Mary arrived in N380DM, we finally got to see that beautiful plane up close.  David used to be based up by me near Minneapolis, but they just retired and moved to Florida.  The plane is painted with some great color and design, and looks just fantastic.  Enroute to Key West you can see we had some fun flying along taking photos above the puffy scattered layer.  Flying next to other planes, in loose trail, is a great way to make time go by as you travel X/C.
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As we came down the Western side of Florida we crossed the everglades and then made the hop over the gulf out to Key West to save time.  As you can see the sun was starting to go low on the horizon and we got a much better view than the photos do justice.
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We got a cab from the airport and checked in at "The Eden House", which is a very unique hotel.  There are pictures below in the next day's photo set.  The hotel has very very small rooms, all with just double beds.  This would have normally drove me crazy but for the purposes of this stop it actually was great.  The pool was comfortable and warm, the setting was very nice, and the staff was fantastic...far better than any chain hotel you normally stay at.  At $165/night the rooms were far from cheap, which would be about the only down side...but it was a convenient walk to all of the things we wanted to see while in Key West.

Flying the Keys to Ft. Lauderdale

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While in Key West in the morning, we walked around for a while, and saw a couple of the common sights.  It's a neat area for some shopping and general touring.
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On the way back to the airport the Cab (van) driver gave us another slightly unusual experience. His partner was a young talking parrot who was the star of the ride.  Once we got packed up, N380DM went it's own way home, while N104CD and N84VC headed up the keys at 1200' or so.  It's a very scenic flight, and very smooth as long as you're on the upwind side of the islands.
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We flew VFR all the way, getting flight following as we got near the airspace.  With Miami Approach they wanted us "AT OR BELOW 500'"  while flying just offshore of the beach.  This provided an excellent view of the city and beach as we flew up the coast to Ft. Lauderdale.  If you're flying the Florida coast, it's very easy to just get flight following and stay low along the coast, and provides you with a lot of great scenery for the travel.  When we arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, we didn't know which FBO to go to, and although fuel was priced higher, Banyan had a good reputation so we went there.  It ended up being a great choice as they helped us get a good hotel deal, a rental car, provided all sorts of comforts while we were there, and has an awesome pilot shop.
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N84VC Heads to the Bahamas

As we got up the next day, it was easy to see that Ed wasn't going to make it. The night before he did make it to New Orleans, but had caught up with the weather and couldn't continue.  Today he set out for Florida, but again, the weather prevented him from coming South into Florida, so he was stuck in St. Augustine.  Vic and Carol decided that since we had reservations in the Bahamas, that they would set out on their own and get over there to start enjoying the islands.  Andrea and I used the day to relax a bit, I disassembled my fuel caps and cleaned/polished/lubed all the parts, and reassembled them to get rid of a pesky fuel leak from the center stem O-Ring, and then we met up with Lenny and Zsofia, another RV-10 builder couple from the area, for dinner and a walk on Ft. Lauderdale's beaches.  With Foreflight we could see that Ed was going to have weather prevent him from making it all the way, and we tracked him live on Lenny's iPhone and watched him arrive at St. Augustine.  Really cool stuff.  We stayed out late and then headed back to the hotel for some sleep to get ready for a big early morning in the A.M.  Lenny helped provide some tips for flying the coast to Ed for making the trip to Ft. Lauderdale in the morning.
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N929EH and N104CD Cross the Ocean

Finally, a day late for the plan, but in perfect time for some fun, N929EH arrives in the morning from St. Augustine.  The plane looked excellent taxiing across the airport after landing.  It didn't take too long and we had our plan together, ICAO flight plan filed, fuel topped off, and all the bags loaded and strapped in.  We donned our slim inflatable life vests and piled into our planes for the crossing.
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The first leg crossed right over Bimini near mid-point in the leg, and after a total of 1 hour put us at MYAF (Fresh Creek) on Andros Island for Bahamian Customs Check-in.  As you can tell, we flew higher for the crossing, but had a great view of the light blue Bahamas waters from the sky.  Over land it was a bit bumpy, but when you're over water it's often glass smooth.
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Bahamian Customs is quick to clear.  You need to fill in our C7A cruising permit, 4 copies, and then the Bahamas Immigration form, and then you're on your way.   It doesn't take long, and isn't too inconvenient.  MYAF doesn't have any fuel, but is rumored to be a great place to check customs.  Since our entire flight wasn't to be very long, we would not need fuel and just continued on to Staniel Cay.
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Here is where the real beautiful flying really gets going.  We flew along at 1000-1500' for most of the time.  The view is just incredible, and by RV-10 it doesn't take long to go from land to land.  Flying down the out-island chain is some of the most awesome scenery that you'll ever fly.  The waters were so clear that as we flew along, at one point we saw a shark as plain as day, swimming over a sandy shallow area.  We circled him for a photo but as far as I can tell the photos didn't capture it.  You saw dozens of boats filled with people anchored in the various bays enjoying the waters.  This trip was all about out-island large cities, no large hotels, just the smaller more laid back out islands.
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Arriving at Staniel Cay you find that the runway is in fine shape, and the approach to landing brings you straight down the center of the island.  The view is amazing as you come in to land.  The Staniel Cay Yacht Club resort where we stayed is visible in the last of the photos in the row above.  The photos below were taken by Vic as we landed.
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When you arrive, there is a golf-cart-taxi-train-thing that you pay $5/pp and will take you to the resort.  The islanders are very friendly, and are always ready to help you out.  Upon reaching the Yacht Club resort they were cleaning the daily fish catch and the sharks that live around the docks swarmed and ate everything that was dumped to them.  From the cottage deck or the local dock, sharks and stingrays were very often visible.
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Staniel Cay is a great location for some relaxation.  Staying there is unlike staying in a hotel.  The island has very few people, and maybe 10 or 12 cabins for the vacationers.  Most cabins are only inhabited by 2 people, although they have a few family cabins as well.  All of them are very nice.  As you can see, the cabin had a nice view, and everything we needed for a couple of days.  The rooms do lock, but you usually leave the windows all open and the breeze blows through keeping things always comfortable.  It's a stark contrast to the muggy heat we had in Florida and Georgia...the island breeze is refreshing day and night.  There is also a nice little pool that was a welcome relief to swim in after the flight.
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Enjoying Staniel Cay

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Staniel Cay is a perfect place to "Get away from it all".  It's a small island, where you live in your own small cabin right next to the yacht club.  Every morning you get breakfast there, and every night you meet for a great dinner.  There aren't many other options, but the food is fantastic so there would be no reason to even want options.  Every thing you do is just put on your room tab, so you don't need to carry money, just enjoy your vacation.  You can rent a golf cart and drive around the island, visiting various beaches for swimming or snorkeling.  They do offer SCUBA diving but we passed on doing it at Staniel Cay because the cost was higher than normal....$180 for a 2 tank dive as opposed to $110 at the next destination for us.  But after all the flying travel leading up to the arrival, it was very nice to spend the days a bit simpler...relaxing as much as possible and enjoying yourself.
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Heading to Stella Maris

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The photos above show the yacht club and us having breakfast the day we left.  After we paid our bills (they charge 5% Extra for credit cards so we paid via check), and packed up, we fired up the RV's for another beautiful flight down the island chain.  The trip was less than an hour, heading over to the Island of Stella Maris.
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One of the things I love doing when I fly with my friends is taking aerial photos of my their planes.  In fact for this trip I purchased myself a new Canon EOS Rebel Xsi with an IS 18-55mm lens, and another 70-300mm lens, and a couple of 16GB memory cards.  I did that for the sole purpose of taking better pictures of my pal's planes.  After flying down the chain with N929EH and N84VC, I figured it was well worth it.  With a polarizing filter in place for most shots, we got rid of a lot of window glare and took some great shots with the blue waters as a background.  They returned the favor and took some of my plane too.
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Arriving at Stella Maris they had the customary crosswinds, which were no problem for the RV-10.  We chocked the planes up and headed for customs and the FBO. They stamp your cruising permit every place you go with Customs.  Fuel wasn't too awful at $4.70/gal, so we topped off after tying down.  As you can see in the photos below, we are VERY glad we flew in RV-10's, as even with just two people you end up with a LOT of bags, especially if you are SCUBA diving and bring your own gear.  I'm not sure what we'll do when we bring the kids along, but I'm considering a belly pod....not for the bags, for the kids.  (actually, with a little better planning and prep, 2 adults and 2 kids should be able to squeeze in a just need to not bring NEARLY the amount of clothes and un-needed items that we did.)
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Stella Maris turned out to be a completely different style resort from Staniel Cay.  Stella Maris also has more of a hotel room feel, but they have cabins as well. Both are very comfortable.  We ended up in a cabin due to overflow on the hotel side.  I get the feeling that they kind of "wing it" in their room bookings.  Our cabin was very large, and included it's own swimming pool.  Very enjoyable.  Stella Maris resort is on a beach, but it's on the more rocky side of the island, the windward side, and you walk a block or so to the shoreline from the main hotel area.  Once again though, as you arrive and check in, you need no cash while you're there.  Every a.m. you have breakfast in their restaurant, and every night there is dinner.  If you go on a boat trip they'll pack you sandwhiches and things in a cooler for you, and basically take care of everything you want while you're there.  They'll even do your laundry, although it isn't cheap.  They have free bikes you can borrow for riding around the area, and they'll drive you and drop you at a snorkeling beach if you wish.
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Shark Dive Pictures from Tyson Alexander

For the Shark dive as soon as the boat reached the reef it was surrounded by sharks just below the surface.  You jump in with NO air in your vest, seeing the shark fins at the surface just like watching the movie Jaws, and plummet through the sharks to the bottom.  You back up a little from being directly below the boat and then they lower a chum bucket full of dead fish parts for the sharks to eat.  The bucket cut loose and fell to the bottom a little ways in front of us, and the frenzied sharkes chased it vertically all the way down, each trying to get it's head in the bucket.  After they finished emptying the bucket, they then cruise around the people, picturing us all as nice tasty pieces of seal just waiting to be eaten...but being much more timid than you'd imagine, they don't do much taste testing.  They're very aware that we're dangerous, so they keep an arms length away as they swim by.  It's an amazing dive, and one that's done almost daily in perfect safety. One thing that the pictures don't do well is show size and distance.  While water can have a magnifying effect on vision, using a domed camera lens and wide angle photo does the opposite.  So the photos make the sharks look further away than they really are.  There were many times that these sharks passed by just over an arm's reach away.  On my first ever shark dive, one actually swam into my camera as he came towards me.  So yes, you get to be nice and close to the sharks when you do these dives. :)

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Leaving for the U.S.

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We didn't take as many photos as we were on Stella Maris, being busy doing 2 days of SCUBA diving and one of snorkeling.  We did meet a great couple, Tyson and Cassi from Seattle while we were SCUBA diving the 2nd day.  They were great folks to hang out with and Tyson joined us on the Shark Dive.  (See photos above)
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After we had a slow morning and packed the planes, it was time to depart.  Our path took us back almost the same way, although it was rumored that we should try KPBI, a much larger airport, for U.S.Customs check in.  This is not something I'd advise or do again.  The flight was great, as usual, but KPBI has a few shortcomings.  First, it's a VERY busy air carrier airport, so there is a lot going on to get in there.  Next, their fuel is at least $1.25 to $1.50 higher per gallon than everyone else around.  Also, while you can clear customs and immediately depart with no issue, if you taxi to an FBO they will sock you with a $25 (I think) landing fee.  The original plan was to go back to KFXE, but someone who "does this every week" recommended KPBI so we tried it.  In the future I'd stick to the more normal ones...KFXE or KFPR....both of which are much lower for fuel price and more GA friendly.
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Regarding U.S. Customs...this is one area where the Bahamas really has us beat.  Down there they quickly helped you find the proper forms, you filled them out and moved on.  At U.S. Customs, everyone always hears that you WAIT AT YOUR PLANE and DON'T GO ANYWHERE.  Well, we did that, for a while...and then someone came out and told us that we should haul all of our bags inside. So we unloaded EVERYTHING, which was pretty inconvenient in itself, and hauled it inside.  If they would only do a quick inspection next to your plane it wouldn't be so bad, but they wanted it inside, so you have to share carts, squeeze into the lobby and get in line.  There, they don't help and tell you what to fill kind of have to wait for the person in front of you to have a problem and then hopefully they'll pass along what they learned. In our case that didn't happen, so we fumbled around a little.  Once we got the form filled in we got in line again, only to later be told we were missing another form.  Neither was very complicated, but with no help on what to do it was cumbersome.  They never did look for the sticker on the plane, but you still need your passport number and sticker number handy for the forms, so I highly recommend having those written down and with you.  Then, we finally made it to the inspection point, only to have them tell us we were good to go, after asking where we were from and a couple other questions.  So all of that unload and hauling was for nothing.  For that kind of inspection, I'd think they could much easier just do it at the plane and it would be better for everyone.
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After clearing customs we jumped in the plane and flew a short distance to a more reasonably priced fuel spot.  Florida was covered with areas of storms to avoid, but we got a ton of use out of our WSI in the plane.  Using that, plus the view out the window, we put on a lot of miles....about 1250nm this day.  Depending on the overall NEXRAD cell height, it may or may not be a bad flight under it.  We stayed at 3000' VFR, weaving in and out of areas of green/yellow/red/ one point flying right under a little red.  On days like this, with tops of only 20,000', you could easily see 20 miles of Viz, and see that all there was was a little scattered rain showers.  They were easily visibly identifiable, and very scattered, so knowing there was no lightning, you could comfortably fly between cells, or even through the lighter ones.  If we could easily see through to the horizon through a rain shower, we sometimes just pushed through it...usually that meant about 60-120 seconds of light rain at worst.  If we couldn't see through it, we avoided it altogether and flew around it.  As we pushed on, we used Voyager to find an quick fuel/food stop at KSYI for fuel under $3.00, and then kept going, weaving around a few more shower cells in Tennesee.  You can really put a lot of distance under you in an RV-10 in a day.  We just kept going and finally started to really pick up headwinds of over 30kts and it got bumpy down low.  We got flight following into the St. Louis area and I had one of my hardest (no, THE hardest) night landing of my flight experience, in very rough bumps, all the way to the runway.  The winds were gusting over 30kts and it was a quartering headwind on landing. Exciting but again, no problem for an RV-10.  Under normal flight conditions I was maybe just over 2 hours from home, but after flying for many hours I decided to put it down for the night and rest, and hope that in the a.m. it was better.  Why push on with what was 50kt headwinds in our home area at night.


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Well, the next day turned out to be no better for the weather.  We woke up and the winds were already at 30kts, and this time it was nearly a 90 degree crosswind on takeoff.  It was a sunny day, with a high (4500' or so) broken layer.  The takeoff was again better than expected considering such winds, but on climbout I knew it would be a long flight home.  Groundspeed was down to 69kts in the climb....and heck, we cruise at 169kts many times.  It was very bumpy under and in the cloud layer, but the RV-10 climbs quick and we were above it at 8500' in no time.  As you can see from the screenshots, we had headwind over 50kts (sometimes up to 55kts) for most of the trip, and groundspeeds were in the very low 100's....around 110-115kts much of the time.  It was glass smooth at 8500', but it was going to be a long ride.  Dropping down on the way into our airport, I came down early not knowing how broken the clouds would be at the destination.  That was a was widely scattered over KLUM, so an early letdown just meant more pain.  We cranked our seatbelts tight, and suffered through over 50nm of really rough flying, luckily arriving with mostly a direct headwind in gusty winds.  No problem landing and a couple hours later I was sitting at my desk at work, getting in touch with what the next few days would bring.  It was a very fun vacation with about 3500nm of great flying...pushing our hobbs over 480 hours of total time.  They should really call that 480 TFT....totally fun time!

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