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.
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.
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.
|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!|
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|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.
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
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.
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.
|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.|
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
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.
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
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 Bahamas....no large cities, no large
hotels, just the smaller more laid back out islands.
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
the photos in the row above. The photos below were taken by Vic
as we landed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -10...you just need to not
bring NEARLY the amount of clothes and un-needed items that we did.)
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.
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)
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.
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 out...you 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.
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/pink...at 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.