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MBahamas Bound (Round II)
by Dennis Millsap
Bahamas Bound (Round II)
A couple of years ago I decided to do something I’d never done before. I decided to fly my RV-6A (N464DM) to the Bahamas. Yeah, it was a little weird flying an airplane I built in my garage out of the country, but the trip was outstanding! I studied everything I could about the trip, I read everything I could get my hands on and prepared for the rigors of international flight. Then we went and found there were NO RIGORS. In fact, the flight was uneventful (the best kind of flight to have). It was not hard at all to do and my cousin and I had an absolute blast.
So, in July of this year my cousin, Neil, called again and said, “Are you ready to go back to the Bahamas?” My response was, “Sure, when are we leaving?” Well, he works for United Space Alliance and is a manager on the space shuttle program. And, he said he could leave as soon as the shuttle launched. So, I sent my boss a leave request (I’m active duty Air Force) and went on the US Customs website to order my Customs decal. It came in the mail two days later and I was ready to go. I watched with the rest of the world as the shuttle sat silently on the launch pad. The engineers scurried around trying to troubleshoot a low level sensor in the fuel tank. Neil called and said he would have to scrub our launch as well. So, I thought, “It’s O.K., now I can stay home and work on the RV-10 in shop, it will be great.” Then on Friday night about 11:00 P.M., Neil called and said, “Hey, it’s going to be several days before the shuttle will launch and I think we can still go, can you be here in the morning?” Now, I live in North Carolina and he lives on Florida’s Space Coast, but I own an RV, so I said, “Sure”.
After an early morning launch I was at Merritt Island (COI) before noon. Note: The TFR had been lifted by this time, but don’t forget to check TFRs before you launch, because flying into the Shuttle’s TFR will make you famous! We spent the rest of the day enjoying our time with his wife and kids, volley ball, basketball, bowling, and dinner. Sunday morning dawned beautiful and full of promise, it’s time to go flying. We strapped on the airplane and flew to Fort Pierce (35 minute flight) and chowed down on a LumberJack breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Once we were topped off and the airplane was full of fuel, we called Flight Service and filed our flight plan to North Eluthra. Don’t get freaked out about an international flight plan because it’s the same one you normally file with the FAA, but they ask two additional questions: (1.) Do you have floatation devices on board? (2.) If yes, what color are they? We used the U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets out of Neil’s boat, we never had to use them thankfully. Then we took off and headed to West Palm Beach International while climbing to 9,500. We got flight following and then asked for a left turn to 090 and West End, Grand Bahamas. It’s 60 nautical miles from the Florida coast to the Bahamas. I used to think that was a long way, but that was before I calculated everything in “RV Time”. To put it in perspective, I flew back from Oshkosh in August and I flew over Lake Michigan to Indiana, the distance from shore to shore was 103 nautical miles (not straight across), so the Bahamas trip is looking like less and less of a big deal.
We flew over the Grand Bahama island and then cut the corner and flew straight toward Sandy Point on the Abaco Island, then VFR direct to North Eluthra. We landed in North Eluthra (Unicom 122.8) and topped off with fuel again, we had burned 18.6 gallons. Did I mention I LOVE RVs? We took a water taxi (O.K. it was a tiny little boat that didn’t look sea worthy, but it helps my feelings if call it a water taxi) over to Harbour Island. There we met with Neil’s friend Wayne. This brings us to the REAL reason we decided to come the Bahamas at this time. Wayne works as a Yacht Broker and every year the brokerage firm he works for sponsors a Bahamas trip for their clients. So, we came to hang out with the Yacht guys!
At first we were just “strap hangers” since we didn’t have a boat, but then the armada moved from Harbour Island to Green Turtle Cay. Neil went with Wayne in the boat and another friend, Dan rode with me in the plane. We took off from Eluthra as the flotilla departed the island. We did a couple of low passes to take pictures then headed to Marsh Harbour. We were told we could take the water taxi from Marsh Harbour to the Green Turtle. But after we landed we started taking some pictures. One of the pictures was a make of Abaco. As I snapped the shot of Dan with the map, I noticed how far it was from Marsh Harbour… It looked like Treasure Cay would be a LOT closer. So, we loaded up and took off for Treasure Cay. We did some sight seeing along the way and then touched down at Treasure Cay. We grabbed a taxi to the waterside where we waited for the water taxi to come. Luckily there was a place to get a beer and relax. We finally caught our ride over to Green turtle and then got a room to wait for the rest of the crew. We had left around 8:00 A.M. and even with the stop in Marsh Harbour, we were at Green Turtle before noon. We waited for the “yacht bunch” to show. We waited and waited… We were starting to get worried about 7:00 P.M., when the first of the boats rounded the point. I knew RVs were fast, but compared to boats….please! So, when they finally started docking (19 boats in all), several folks asked how we had gotten there so fast. I said, “Well, we were in the airplane and we took a few pictures of the group from the air.” One woman said, “Were you in the little red plane? So, you’re the Red Baron?” Now, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but the Red Baron?
We had a terrific time and I think next year I’m going to bring a white silk scarf with me on the trip!
The Red Baron