Home > Trip Reports > Dennis Millsap > My Bahamian Adventure
My Bahamian Adventure.......Mon
by Dennis Millsap
I don't post a lot on this list, but I have to share my latest adventure with you. I'm blessed to live in the great state of Alabama and even more blessed to have a machine like my RV. My cousin lives in Merritt Island, FL and his birthday happened to fall on the 5th of July. So, when I called him a couple of weeks ago, I said, "Here's an idea....Let's celebrate the 4th, then we'll celebrate your birthday, then on Sunday the 6th, we'll blast off and fly to the Bahamas, what do you think?" He agreed and we were set.
On the morning of the 6th, we took off and flew directly south to Fort Pierce, FL. From Merritt Island it took exactly 24 minutes and 4 gallons of fuel (aren't RVs great). We filed our International Flight Plan with Miami and got ready for flight over open water. The briefer at Miami was hillarious. I told him that I had never flown to the Bahamas before and I wanted to get it right the first time. He said,"You don't have to worry about the Bahamian Air Force shooting you down.....Make sure you get your RETURN trip right!"
With our U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets on board, we took off south toward West Palm Beach. We climbed to 8,500 ft. and worked with Miami Approach on the way down (not the friendliest bunch...). About the time we reached West Palm airspace, we made a left turn and headed for the Grand Bahama Island. There's a term called "Auto Roughness" that applies to small aircraft flying over water. It refers to the all the "funny" noises that airplanes make as soon as they get out of sight of land.... We never encountered Auto Roughness, N464DM was a real trooper. We overflew Freeport to land at Marsh Harbour Int'l on the Abaco Island. Don't let the "Int'l" designator fool you. It's a 5,000 ft uncontrolled airport that it far rougher than Moontown's (3M5) turf runway. The Unicom channel was 122.8...Sound familiar??? Anyway, we landed and marched right up to customs. We filled out our declarations and our C7 Cruising Permit to allow us free passage amoung the Islands of the Bahamas.
We jumped in a nearby taxi and the girl driving asked where we needed to go. My cousin said, "I dunno, take us to a hotel that have reasonable rates and a pool." She was stunned, "You don't have reservations??" He just said, "Nah, there's bound to be something available after the holiday weekend." He was right, we got a room at the first place she took us. Rooms were $120 per night for double occupancy. While we were there I studied the Bahamas Guide that I bought at Fort Pierce. It had an ad for a place called Walker's Cay. It's a 100 acre island on the north end of the islands. We wanted to head south, but tropical storm Claudette was in the way. So, I called Walker's Cay. They had room, but we had to call Ft. Lauderdale to get the pilot's package deal. We got a room with landing fees and tie downs fees waived. We got breakfast and dinner for two days and two nights stay all for $198 each.... Not bad...
So, the next day we took off and headed to Walker's Cay. Thirty-five miles of open ocean and it wasn't on my GPS. We found an island, but it didn't have a runway, maybe it's the next island on the horizon?? Sure enough. 100 acres is small on the ground, but smaller from the air. The runway was ROUGH, but the RV handled it in stride. We decided to go fishing the next day and diving the day after. We fished until our arms were literally sore from catching too many fish (really!). But, during our fishing trip we reconsidered the diving trip. We hooked over a dozen LARGE sharks while we fished and decided that diving wouldn't be a great idea. I know, fly over open ocean in an airplane built in the garage, but no diving??? A man has to draw lines somewhere. So, the next day we lounged around the pool.
To prepare for the return trip, I bought a $14 roll of duct tape and put 12 inch letters on my airplane.... Only required for entry into the U.S. We took off and contacted Miami Radio for our discreet transponder code. We flew back over West End Grand Bahama and then on toward West Palm and then Fort Pierce. We checked in through customs and then fueled up.... We had flown from Marsh Harbour to Walker's Cay to West End then to West Palm and Fort Pierce. When we filled up, we had burned 14 gallons!
Did I mention that RVs are wonderful? What other airplane would let you take off from Montgomery, Alabama in the morning and allow you to eat lunch in the Bahamas??? We had a blast. If you haven't been, you've gotta do this!
For those of you who might be planning a trip to the Bahamas, I highly recommend the book 2003 Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide (ISBN 0-9660854-6-9), and to order your US custom's decal well in advance. I ordered it online, and had to pay for the express shipping to get it delivered to my cousin's house enroute.
If you decide to go, you can invite me.
Dennis "DiceMan" Millsap