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Conch Salad Tour Photos


2016 Bahamas Conch Salad Tour - January 29-31 .... We're off!SheriffTour/stuartspix.jpg
After several days of rain and a stalled front, we were wondering if we were going to ave to re-schedule te tour again. Buut Mother Nature cooperated with us and the skies cleared early this morning, just in time for departure. Wild Mama was whees up exactly at 0800 as planned. What was not planned, but most appreciated, with the 31 kt tailwind that we had most of the way over. Typically we get the headwinds heading off shore. In a short 50 minutes we arrived in Bimini behind N313JW, our first guest to touch down.
 
We were promptly met and, after a quick customs clearing, we were off on the cab and water taxi ride to Alice Town, home of Steuart's Coch Stand. Our group was divided between the conch salad and the conch/loster mixed salad. Both were quite yummy. I think the other stands have a hard act to follow.
 
 We took a tour of the island after the salad and stopped by Chalres Bakery for some Bimini Bread and Coconut bread. It smelled so good andit was fresh out of the over. It smelled so goos that we eah got our load cut so we could munch on the warm break on the trip back to the planes. An unplanned stop but a good one.
 
We all departed in rapid fire and make the hour long trip over to North Eleuthera. The waters were a little more clam and you could see some of te beautifl clear waters that the Bahamas is famous for. The wind was still quite challenging to land, as the cross winds were up - not as much as Bimini because the wind sock was still intact at North Eleuthera whereas they were shreadded in Bimini! Some free time this afternoon and more conch for dinner.
 
The grop spread out for a bit of free time. We took off with another couple on a golf cart to explore the island and go find the famouns pink sand. Dinner and  tasting number 2 was at Valentines on North Eleuthera. We had a variety of tidbits for dinner, basically h'ours dourves but what a great sampling. We started with some of the best chicken wings imaginable, followed by a veggie tray, conch fritters, conch salad, coconut cracked conch and coconut balls and topped with lobster quesadillas. We were collectively so stuffed that the appetisers became dinner. We all waddled off in a food coma and headed for our roomss for a long day of flying tomorrow.
 
Bright and early Saturday morning we boarded the water taxi for the trip back to the airport. We loaded up fr the hour long flight down the Eleuthera and Exuma chains to Exuma where we were to have our 3rd conch sampling. This part of the trip was probaly the prettiest, the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas dotted with coral reefs and little islands jutting out of the water. We all went indifferent directions, exploring some small piece of paradise that revealed hidden treasures to the lucky beholder. We opted for a more direct route  at a relatively low level.

Big D's was stop number 3. We had a long ride to the restaurant but it was well worth the drive. We made a quick stop along a road side stand for some fresh coconut water, a refreshing break, then shortyly thereafter arrived at  Big D's. The put on an amazing and very informative demonstration about extracting the conch, a little conch information and interesting bits and pieces. We learned about conch pearls and how to tell the age of a conch. In addition to the conch, the flyers got a variety of lumch items including THE best gouper fingers known to man kind. This did not start out as a full on food tour but it quickly became apparent that we all liked to eat, sample island specialties and truly enjoy the island experience. Our lunch was over all too quickly and it was back to the planes for the last short hop to Stella Maris.

Upon arriving at Stella Maris, we were greeted by the staff and given a short time to relax before the band, conch salad and conch fritters. My personal favorite for the conch salad, Stella Maris added a twist of pineapple for a sweet flavor. Mmmmm. But then the conch fritters, ahh, yes, those tender, meaty conch fritters - THE meatiest of the islands. Once again. dinner was filled with our finger foods, conch salad and grazing. 
 
We got to sleep in a bit Sunday morning before the 0900 departure from Stella Maris. Most of us headed to the Berry Islands for hamburgers and fishburgers - we simply could not pass up one more food stop - before clearing customs and launching out back across the pond to the mainland FL. It was an awesome trip with an amazing group of flyers. 



Abbreviated itinerary:
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 January 29th:  AM depart FL airports for MYBS Bimini; clear  customs then transfer to Stuart’s Conch Shack for 1st conch salad tasting.PM departure to MYEH North Eluthera, overnight  Valentine’s  Resort for a rum punch hour and conch party for 2nd conch salad tasting.
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January 39th:  AM departure to MYEF Exuma and transfer to Big D’s for 3rd conch salad tasting and lunch.PM departure to MYLS Long Island, Stella Maris overnight with rum punch hour and conch party with 4th conch salad tasting.
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January 31st:  AM departure and scenic flight to MYBG Great Harbor, Berry Islands for lunch and clear customs for return to US.
 

 








                                                                              *           *          *         *          *         *      2012    *          *          *          *           *           *

Pilot Mall has issued a challenge again for 2012: visit 12 of the 20 Bahamas ports of entry in the year 2012 to be entered in a drawing to win some really great prizes. Well, all you need to do is say the word "contest" and Wild Mama is up for the task! Read on to see how Wild Mama and her crew do in the 2012 Bahamas Pilot Challenge. We took 4th place for 2011 sooooo ...  Game on!!!!
*   *   *   *   * 

2012 Stop 1 - Andros Island: Fresh Creek:Returning to one of my favorite places in the Bahamas, I was delighted to have a Bahamas newbie with me. Kelly Hayden is a recent 12Andros1.jpgFSU graduate with degree in textiles and she wanted to learn more about the industry. The Androsia Batik Factory www.androsia.com has its factory on Andros Island so for a girls day out, it was perfect.

I fetched Kelly from Fort Myers on a scuzzy Wednesday morning. Although the wind was really whipping out of the east, it seemed to leave the crud behind (those darn high pressure systems). The forecasts were for unusual MVFR over Nassau so we decided to file IFR for the trip over. With the reduced visibility, I almost felt IMC heading out over the Everglades. We were vectored down to the Keys before making the direct turn to Fresh12Andros2.jpg Creek. The cloud bank was solid until we broke out over the ocean, then it scattered an w=dwindled down to nearly nothing until we approached Andros Island. The forecast winds held true today: we climbed to 9000' to (oddly enough) avid the worst of the wind which was reaching 30 kts much lower. We sported only 10-15 kts of headwind but were able to keep up a healthy 145 kts over the ground. We managed to keep in contact with ATC in Miami until the hand-off at 2000' to Nassau - we were only 10 miles out and under the cloud deck so we finished the trip VFR. Kelly got to see some of the blue holes that surround Andros and, being a diver, commented on how cool they would be to see.

12Andros3.jpgJeff was going to meet us to give us a personal tour but he was waylaid in FLL and (imagine) hit severe headwinds on the trip over this morning in his 172. Most unfortunately for Jeff, he could not get up to 9000' and had to settle for the 30 kt headwind leaving his 172 creeping along at a top speed of only 70 kts - Jeff said he could swim faster! With Jeff delayed we headed to Small Hope Bay for some lunch and a walk around the beach. The sea breeze was quite still and Kelly and I were both quite surprised how smooth our flight was considering the winds that we felt on the surface.

Jeff finally made it and we headed off to our tour. He was quite knowledgeable about the textile business and I think Kelly got quite an education about the process and all of the other incidental stuff that goes along with a garment manufacturing business that they do not teach in school. Jeff gave us the benefit of his 38 years in the business - quite fascinating to learn about piece-meal pay, employee management, fabric purchasing and the whole gamut of manufacturing12Andros4.jpg stuff.

We started our tour in the print and pattern room where the ladies lay out of the print on plain while cloth. They use the special molds, dip them in 12Andros6.jpgwax and press the waxy mold into the fabric. Next the fabric goes to the dying area. The colors are mixed according to a very precise formula then hand dyed in a systematic fashion that puts just the right amount of dye on to the fabric. Then the dye is set into the fabric and the bolt of fabric hung outside to dry in the sweet Bahama sun. Once the bolt is ready, it goes in to the cutting room which is filled with patterns for the various garments that Androsia produces. The fabrics are selected and cut and sent to the sewing rooms where the ladies produce the finished garment. The last process is the inspection and packaging. Each item is inspected by the cutter, the presser and the packager before it is shipped out to the customer or sent to the retail outlet for sale. Wow - what an experience. I had no idea how much work was put in to making my little airplane shirt!

Thrilled with our experience we finished our shopping (of course) and headed back to the plane for the trip home. The nice part about making the return trip the same day was that12Andros7.jpg we knew the wind would be behind us. We loaded up, said our so longs and launched into the clouded sky. We hailed Nassau approach but could not 12Andros8.jpgcomplete our climb-out over 1800' until we broke over the open water and received our clearance. We climbed to 6000' and were whooshed along at 175 kts for a quick 45 minute flight into Kendall-Tamiami where we cleared customs. With feet dry, we remained relatively low for the last leg staying above the worse of the bumps with the 91 degree heat but well enough below the clouds to have a pretty good flight. In all we flew just over 4.5 hours, got a good education and ate a hearty meal. Life is good.











Where shall we go for Stop 2?

Androsia 2012 Photos



August 2012 in the Bahamas: Wild Mama  is now rested and ready to go again. She has been in the hangar waaaaaay too long and she is looking to fly. August in one of our annual Bahamas trips and this year promises to be a good one. Stay tuned for more to come. Blasting off on August 16th ..... and away we go!SheriffTour/BAH20121.JPG

Stop 2 - Freeport: This is the second stop in the Bahamas Challenge 2012 but the first stop on out week long junket across the island chain. We are traveling with the group of Bahamas Aviation Ambassadors and Gateway FBO representatives for the annual FAM.We had come up in the morning from Tavernaero and the view along the coastline from 800' was amazing. We met up in Banyan at FXE for our initial briefing for the hop across the pond. We are 9 aircraft in all and about 40 people on this trip. SheriffTour/BAH20122.JPGWe blasted off a bit late and under a deck of clouds but the shoreline was beautiful. 

We made it to Freeport before the rains hit but got soaked in the deluge that followed us to the Pelican Bay where we had a fabulous lunch and round table discussion about customs and immigration. Our departure was a bit delayed by theSheriffTour/BAH20123.JPG rain and our turn out was a little more radical than normal as we had to skirt the uncharacteristic localized down pour that seems not to move. Although a quick stop, we enjoyed lunch  and learned a few new tidbits about customs.

Stop 3 - Great Harbor, Berry Islands: After a 30 min hop we touched down in stop 3, Great Harbor Cay, Berry Islands. This is our SheriffTour/BAH20124.JPGovernight stop and used to be home to many of the rich and famous including the Rat Pack who frequented the island many years ago. But hurricanes claimed many of the historic buildings and Berry Islands haven been in a state of rebuilding, now opening several Villas, boutique hotels and private homes to welcome visitors to the poiece of paradise. We made a brief general tour of the island before making our way to our villas to refresh before the evening affair. We were housed in a small but well appointed villa in the beach Villas. The layout was quite interesting in that the bedroom was up in the loft area and serviced by a set of "attic stairs". The room was comfortable and had all we needed... just an interesting layout.

We had dinner at Rock Hill restaurant consisting of a great fish buffet and a youth Junkanoo parade. We were exhausted from a long day so we made our way to be early. 




 Stop 4 - Exuma: Our day 2 overnight stop is in the lap of luxury in Exuma at the Grand Isle Resort. All I can say is "WOW"!!!! But first, let me back up and tell you about our flight from Great Harbor to Exuma: we skirted the Nassau airspace at 550' msl or more appropriately above sea level. The waters in this part of the Bahamas are some of the most beautiful to overfly. Just south of Nassau is the top of the Exuma chain which is dotted with small islands, small settlements and even smaller airports. There are some restricted airports with runways as short as 1300'. We snapped some pictures but otherwise just kept flying admiring the array of colors in the water. Upon our arrival at Georgetown, Exuma we were ushered to the Grand Isle Resort .... did I say WOW?!!!! This is one of the most opulent places that I have ever stayed. The villas are 2 story with the bedrooms on the lower level and the living area, dining area and kitchen on the top floor, both sporting an exceptional ocean view.  The rooms are bigger than most homes; are very well appointed and have everything one could possibe need. It made it difficult to want to leave the room but we were called to Stocking Island for conch salad, beach and lunch ... a real tough choice. After the day at the beach and to me, some of the best conch salad (in stiff competition with the conch salad of Stella Maris) we headed back to freshen up for cocktails in the penthouse of Grand Isles and dinner and entertainment at Sandals.

The Sandals dinner was a buffet with all of the trimmings complete with the band and Junkanoo entertainment. There was also a rather enjoyable "fire dancer" who was a bit of a comedian on the side. After a late evening we headed back to for some much needed rest.

Stop 5 - San Salvador: Departing from Exuma we joined up with the "Bahama Beezer" LSA for a little photo session over the blue Bahama waters. Then the short flightSheriffTour/1BAH201210.JPG SheriffTour/1BAH201213.JPGout of Exuma over Conception Cay and in to San Salvador produced even more spectacular scenery. There were many rather shallow coral reefs that we were able to see as we crossed Conception and can on in to San Salvador. We made a quick stop at the Riding Rock Lodge before heading out for lunch of cracked conch, fried snapper and Bahamian peas and rice to die for, before making a tour of the island with "Snake Eyes" to learn about the history of the island. There are many lake on San Salvador that do not support life. They are not really fresh but do not reacdh the ocean to get the salt water marine life to come in. We learned about the endangered San Salvador iguana and th elocal efforts to save the species and re-populate the island. We learned about the history of Colunbus' discovery of the island and early settlers. The island is not very populated but is one of the best scuba diving areas around with shallow reefs and walls ranging from 40' down to the low 100' range - good for all levels of expertise. Lastly, we took a tour of the local light still manned. It was interesting that they have to cover the lighthouse beam with a skirt each day, lest the sun focus on the crystal lens and start a wildfire.

With the heat beckoning us back to SheriffTour/1BAH201211.JPGthe hotel, we had a time to relax and hit the warm waters of the beach before our final FAM dinner at the hotel.

The final FAM dinner is always lots of fun with pilots and passengers telling adventures of the islands. We had a little adventure with our passenger: Greg Rolle, the Bahamas Tourism trip coordinator, asked us at the last minte if we could take a passenger and, of course,SheriffTour/1BAH201212.JPG we agreed. Not wanting to fly over gross, but not wanting to insult anyone, we gentle needed to address the weight issue but did not want to directly ask to offend our passenger so I emailed that weight was a consideration in any small plane and to "pack light". Much to our delight, Sieska was quite small AND heeded the admonition to pack light. It was her first trip in a small plane and she was a delight to have on board as we toured her beautiful country. Thank you all for a fabulous, entertaining and informative trip. 



 




 

Stop 6 - Stella Maris: Stop 6 is a 2 day rest and recovery from the hectic schedule of the past 3 days. On our first day we managed to muster enough energy to walk down to the tide pool, sit in the sand and order lunch. Past that, it was sit on the balcony and watch the day go by.
 
By Monday we had a bit more energy and headed off to spend a day diving and snorkeling. The reefs off of Long Island and beautiful and the dive sites are relatively shallow and an easy dive. Most unfortunately, we had a large rain cloud park itself over our boat for most of the day so the colors were not as vivid as usual. Oh, darn. But the day was a good one anyway.
 
I finally saw the dreaded Lionfish in the Caribbean waters where it most decidedly does NOT belong. The dive master did not spear it because of the reef shark that was hanging around and the danger to the divers with blood and food in the water. There were quite a few conch and 2 huge lobsters that we left to keep growing along with the largest hogfish that I have ever seen. The reef was obviously healthy and not overfished.
 
Tuesday morning before departing we encountered a gentleman named Eric who was on a mission to save and protect the coral reefs and in particular the conch. There are concerns that there has been a lot of poaching from the Dominicans and the conch supply will be depleted if action is not taken soon. We had an interesting chat about the consequences to the local man on the street in the Bahamas as conch is a staple food of the Bahamians ... not to mention pretty yummy for the rest of us. I believe I have has conch something each day of my stay in the Bahamas.
 
Stop 7 - New Bight: The last trip to New Bight came with a rock in my prop so I was very careful about landing particularly nose high and chopping the power immediately to avoid a repeat of the last time. Success. We touched down in New Bight a mere 23 minutes after departure from Stella Maris for the passport stamp and a little look-see around the airport. We followed a departing commercial Sky Bahamas twin turboprop Saab 340 and headed off to the northwest again for the next landing.
 
Stop 8 - Rock Sound: The southern most AOE for Eleuthera, we dropped in to the airport after another relatively short flight of 20 minutes. We have not yet stayed at Rock Sound but the airport is nice and the people friendly. We made a comfort stop for the restroom and some snacks and water and made our way back to Wild Mama for departure.
 
Stop 9 - Governor's Harbor: Our stop here was quite a delight with the most friendly customs agent we have yet to encounter. She was cheery and most helpful, making the recommendation for a place to stay on our return trip. We have many who want another outing and we are scoping out the terrain for the next hotel and place or places to lite for a few days. This is on the list!! Note: there is NOTAM for the gas - none until September 30th here.
 
Stop 10 - North Eleuthera: Touching down at North Eleuthera we were greeted by the friendly folks White Crown Aviation. This airport has fuel and a really great Pilot lounge with computer services. The lady at the desk recommended Coral Sands on Harbor Island. Pictures looked great. We made note of that and made Note a $25 facility fee with no fuel purchase. We still had a ton of Avgas left so we happily paid the $25, got our customs stamp and headed back on to the ramp where we were greeted by the same Sky Bahamas fight that departed before us at New Bight!
 
Stop 11 - Chub: The flight from North Eleuthera to Chub was the longest leg at 77 nm and ended up being the most interesting. Although we spent the bulk of the trip over water just east of Nassau some nasty weather was brewing and a water spout dropped down right in front of it. I saw the beginning of the spout peaking out of the cloud and made a sharp left to avoid it wrath. We passed beside it with no ill effects but that was the closets I have ever come to seeing a spout up close and personal. OK, tick that off the list - hopefully never again.
 
Flying back over the Berry Islands, the waters became the deep blues and varied hues again. We dropped into chub and walked into customs for our stamp and chat with the customs officer who was headed out to lunch. (Note lunch 12-1 and the office is closed). Also note a $20 facility fee and the lack of a blue phone. No worries for us ..... off for the final leg of our journey to Bimini!
 
Stop 12 - Bimini: With all of the storms behind us, we cruised on in to South Bimini after 2:27 total flight time and 6 landings. The last leg is a 2 night stop for us at the Bimini Big Game Club.. This is our first time spending the night here and we are anxious to see the island. We settled into the room - very nice and roomy. We are over looking the pool just behind the marina. I headed straight for the pool which was MY bath temperature. Ahhhhh. After a little R & R, we got a golf cart and headed off to town to explore. We stopped at Stuart’s Conch Salad for a taste and to add another spot to the list for the conch salad tour.. Mmmmmm good! With bellies full again, it was time for a rest.

We spent most of the second day exploring the island by golf cart. Not that the island was so big - at points is is less than1/4 mile wide; but the slow speed of the golf cart coupled with the shear beauty of the island made our trip quite lengthy. There are many parts of Bimini where the average man lives - those are typically no on the water and, well, they look like any other neighborhood., Then toward the north and east part of the island are new exclusive homesites with a view of the bay and ocean out each side of the house. Spectacular!
Once we left the beautiful part, we headed to the southern part on North Bimini and toured the Bimini Museum and headed to Captain Bob's for a local flavor lunch of curry chicken and rice. We followed lunch with guava duff, a Bahamian pastry; this being the best recipe that I had sampled yet at the local bakery aptly named "Taste of Heaven". The balance of the day was quite lazy again, wandering about the Bimini Big Game Club and lounging around the pool. Tomorrow we head home to prepare the house for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac but tonight, we savour our last night in the Bahamian paradise. 



Thursday morning we boarded our water taxi for the ride back to South Bimini and the airport for the flight back to the US. The water was flat and the air calm for our 30 minute flight. We touched down at KFXE, cleared customs (Bimini bread and all) and headed off to home. We have completed the 2012 Bahamas Pilot Challenge - and another great challenge it was. Thanks, Pilot Mall, for organizing this awesome adventure!

==========================================================2011==================================================================== 
First Stop: Bimini OK, this one Wild Mama sat out and let her crew go in, dare we say, another airplane. Fellow 99 and pilot, D, has never flown to the Bahamasbimini1.JPG so she was in for a treat. She came to LaBelle to pick up Terry in her Flight Design CT Light Sport plane. (Such a cute plane we can't wait to see what it becomes when it grows up!)

bimini2.JPGThe day was perfect with relatively clear skies - except for the pollutants, smoke and haze - relatively warm for the dead of winter and sporting a gentle breeze. The day was calling out for a fun flight. D arrive around 0900. We filed out flight plan and shot off into the blue. We climbed out to 5500' and headed eastward toward Ft Lauderdale to break out over Big Blue. There were many fires - probably burning sugar cane - across the vast farm fileds and northern Everglades adding to the hazy view below. But above it was clear, cool and smooth air.  It is an interesting transition from the swamp to the city: a line of demarcation that cannot be missed, with the city being sandwiched in between the swamp and the sea.

We crossed the coastline about 45 minutes after our departure. We were on flight following and had good communications with Miami Center. D had done flight following many times before but never across Big Blue. In no time, Bimini was in view. You could see the bimini3.JPGplump south island first then the skinner north island appeard. The water was crystal clear and the colorful buildings made for a welcoming sight. The runway at Bimini is long and has no taxiway so caution is needed to be sure that it is clear before landing. We circled the island to check for traffic and wait for a plane to back taxi before setting up for our landing. We were not too upset because the circling view is magnificant. The water in between the two islands was so calm that it created a false sense of our altitude and an illusion of there being no water - just a sandy spot to land - until a light breeze ruffled the glassy top.

bimini4.JPGAfter a brief round of high five's and hugs for D's first hop across the Pond, we sauntered into customs, filled out our paperword, stamped the Bahama's Challenge Passport and headed off to lunch. We were ushered into the bus and water taxi for the short ride to the North Island and to Cap't Bobs for lunch. We were the first lunch customers at this little roadsidebimini5.JPG cafe. The service was excellent and the food was typical Bahamian - filet of grouper, cracked conch and Bahamian rice. With full bellies we reversed course on the water taxi and bus, made our calls, boarded our winged steed and headed back out across the Pond to Kendall-Tamiami for US Customs.

The return flight at 6500' was another smooth ride although the haze over the US coastline completely obscured the horizon making us look sideways to find it. Miami approach brought us straight in and Kendall-Tamiami ground gave good bimini6.JPGprogressives to get to the Customs building in the center of the airport. The Customs folks could not have been nicer. This is my second stop there and they are two for two on the nice side and have earned my vote as the #1 port of entry for the east coast.

Our last leg was the rough one. The day was now warm and the air over land bumpy, especially in an LSA; but we endured the quick tripbimini7.JPG and plunked down on the LaBelle runway having made D's first complete crossing and earning my first stamp in the Pilot Mall Bahamas Challenge Passport. Only 11 more to go!

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Bahamas procedures
File eAPIS for BOTH outbound and inbound flights
File international flight plan 1-800-WX-BRIEF
Open flight plan in air with Miami radio 122.35, 122.4, 122.2, 122.65
Get flight following to Bimini on 126.8 or 132.45
Close flight plan at altitude on 126.7, 126.9, 127.9
Land at Bimini and clear customs (forms C-7 Bahamas immigration)
File flight plan on phone at airport
Call Customs KTMB 305-969-7511 (1 hour notice required)
Open flight plan with Miami radio; get Tx code 126.7, 126.9, 127.9
Get flight following with Miami Center 128.6 (or last frequency used for FF - write them all down as you go)
Arrive TMB - close flight plan 122.3, 122.55, 123.65 or on
ground
Clear customs
bimini8.JPG
Trip Stats:
Total trip for Diana in the CT: VNC-X14-MYBS-TMB-X14-VNC     -    5.1 hrs / 22.5 gals = 4.41 gph 

See all trip pictures HERE.

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Second Stop: Stella Maris   Stop 2 on the Bahamas Pilot Challenge brought Wild Mama and crew into Stella Maris on Long Island. This time, Wild Mama did make the2011SM2.JPG excursion with Susan Carastro and her twin Cessna in tow.

 

Unlike the morning before, this morning was bright and sunny over LaBelle so we departed early to hook up with the twin. Some early 2011SM1.JPGmorning fog wafted through the farm fields of inland south Florida but the coastlines were both clear. We touched down at Lantanna around 0800, met up with the twin and were off with feet wet by 0850.

 

It was odd to see so many clouds over the water once we broke the coastline. The clouds were spotty but there until Andros where a thick layer blanketed the whole island. We climbed out to 7500’ and settled in with a nice little 10 kt headwind. We were still clipping along at 150 kts which was not so bad.  We stayed with the 310 in tow most of the trip – note Wild Mama outrunning the twin!!!!! 2011SM4.JPG

 

The winds across the water were light with barely a ripple and no white caps at all. The water was a crystal clear royal blue with all other hues of blue mixed in around the islands and the coral reefs. This is the view that we long to see in the Bahamas. In a short 2:10 we were approaching Long Island. We tried to cancel the flight plan on 126.7 but could raise no one. Stella Maris suggested Georgetown on 118.0 and that worked just fine. (Note to self for next trip.)

 

The winds were light and straight down the runway coming over the threshold but we caught a couple of wind warbles from the ocean 2011SM3.JPGbreeze making us have to come in wing low to compensate. Touchdown went well and we taxied off to the ramp. The Stella Maris FBO was warm and welcoming and customs was dutiful with a sense of humor. The taxis were awaiting our arrival and the resort was a short ½ mile.2011SM5.JPG

 

The resort is lovely and tropical. There are no TV’s in the rooms and there is an open door policy which was really nice as we did not have to 2011SM6.JPGworry about house keys. The breeze coming through the room was almost enough to knock us over so there was no need for A/C in spite of the 85 degree temperatures.

 

We headed to the Moonshine Bar for some lunch and sunshine. Yummy Panini’s, salads and virgin mango daiquiris hit the spot before our trip to the Oceanside tide pool. We spent the remainder of the2011SM7.JPG afternoon soaking up sun before our traditional rum punch reception. Ya gotta love the Bahamian hospitality!

Long Island has been a great base of operations for our five days stay. It was the perfect spot for island hopping but the island was also big enough, and the resort offered enough to do that you did not feel trapped.
 
Much of our time was spent relaxing as we all seemed to need a break from the hustle and bustle of life back home. But other times were spent exploring. Bicycles were readily available to check out some of the local things close to the resort, or for the more adventurous, longer from the resort. We had a snorkel cruise on Wednesday that took us out to LI1.JPGthe reef to the west. The reef was about 10' deep and perfect for a snorkel trip. Even I - the biggest cold woos ever- jumped in the 78 degree waters for a swim. The water was refreshing and the sun warm enough that the cold was not so bad. The corals were pristine, the water crystal clear and the visibility unlimited. We saw all sorts tropical fish including the lion fish which w brought here from Pacific waters and has no known predators. Our day on the water was perfect.
 
Our final day here we decided to become island experts, rented a car and set out to explore the 85 mile long island. LI2.JPGSince our resort was near the north end, we started there, heading to the monument of Columbus. Judging by the road we were first to discover the monument to Columbus since it was built. The views were spectacular, but unless you are p for a slow, bumpy ride, Columbus is best seen on final approach to runway 13.
 
After our trek we needed some water, so we stopped at a little convenience store under expansion. Vince and Donna had bicycled here the other day and raved about the strawberry ice cream cones. Most unfortunately, they were out as they failed to catch the once a week supply boat, but they were kind enough to hand dip some chocolate ice cream for us all. Refreshed, we pressed southward.
 
LI3.JPGSalt Pond offered an interesting tease: a beautiful double bay just past the HSC. We made a brief stop at the well stocked grocery and what not store for some snacks, water and a file to dress my prop where I picked the rock at New Bight, and seek further directions. The waters were quite rough today so the serene scenery in the photos was not to be had, but the shoreline was pretty, save for the myriad trash and debris scattered in the grasses leading to the beach. We all wanted to grab a trash bag and start picking. The shoreline on the ocean side is quite rugged the whole way down the coast that we have seen thus far, with hills and dunes leading to the beach areas. The harbor LI5.JPGside, to the west of the island and leeward of the prevailing winds, had much calmer waters, sandier beaches and more opportunity for a not-so-challenging swim on a high wind sort of day. We enjoyed the walk out on to the point at the twin bays and kept heading south. Once again, we are travelling on island time and half the day is gone, far short of our intended destination.
 
We passed Dean's Hole opting for lunch as it was nearly 1300 and we were starving. Clarence Town had several restaurants, a bakery and was looking mighty fine for a place to stop. We "followed the signs" to restaurant row, completely bypassing the downtown area off to the south on the main road. After a piece we knew that this car load of pilots got off the magenta line and had to do a 180. We got back to the marina to find the Outer Edge Restaurant. Salvation at last!
 
Either the food was really good or we were really hungry but we all enjoyed our lunch, none of us wanting to share. There was an old church nearby that we spied and, of course, had to investigate. We squeezed our way through the spires up to the top to open up a spectacular panoramic view of the harbor of Clarence Town. Satisfied, we were off the the blue hole.
 
Dean's Blue Hole is said to be the deepest in the world at 662'. It is nestled on the rocky ocean side of the island and has an underwater caving system that Mark Ashley would love to explore. The water was a rich cobalt blue and the sign warning of a drop off was quite accurate: it went from LI6.JPGseveral inches to the bottom in less than a foot. We had wanted to swim but the winds were still whipping enough that cold would have set in before we hit waters edge.
 
By 1500 we were again heading north back to the resort. It was a leisurely ride back and quite enjoyable. We learnedLi7.JPG that the best stuff is off of the main drag. All of the little settlements are on the side streets. We also learned that signs are not as easy to decipher as we thought. But the island was fun and the adventure is another for the books.
 
All of the food at the Stella Maris resort was outstanding. Wednesday night was Bahamas’ night with tropical fare. Tuesday night was a rum punch party with a buffet complete with steak and mahi. The virgin mango daiquiris were lushes and all of the people were over the top friendly. One from our group was delayed and missed our private rum punch party so they comped her meal the next day. You could not ask for better service.

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Stella Maris Trip Photos - Click HERE

Stop 3: San Salvador   Today was the big adventure day to go out and work on the island hopping project. The original goal was conch salad but we 2011SM21.JPGdiscovered quite rapidly that getting to the island was easy: getting to the conch salad was another matter. The best was no where near the airports so we revised the plan to look for the next resort for our next Bahamas jaunt. There was a small resort near the airport at San Salvador. The airport itself was great – a huge long runway that was really nice and plenty of ramp space. Coming in to land we saw a beautiful resort from the air so we decided to look at that one. In no time at all we walked to Club Med and met Fox, the security guard soon-to-be our tour guide.

Club Med was amazing with lush, lavish grounds, well appointed lounges and public areas and lots of activities in the all-2011SM22.JPGinclusive resort. Each of us found something to our liking. For me, it was the diving, Donna loved the beaches, Trish spied the comfortable massage huts on the water and Vince liked the French aerobics. Joe like the whole thing and Vern liked the peace and quiet. For a resort that was 87% full, it was serene and hardly seemed that a sole was anywhere around. We all voted that this was a place to which we wanted to return. Passport stamped we pressed on.

2011SM23.JPGStop 4: New Bight, Cat Island. With such an awesome day to fly we wanted to hop to as many places as possible. Fernandez Bay Resort has been advertising at Sun-n-Fun and I have never seen it so today was the day. We took another short 20 minute hop to arrive at New Bight, Cat Island and in less than 1 mile the cab took us over to Fernandez Bay. It was already 1130 and we were getting hungry. We were operating on island time and figured we would be a bit farther along by now but a very nice hostess took out food order early so we could eat as soon as the restaurant opened at 1200. In the mean time, we toured a few of the rooms and the grounds. Already we were amazed at how different each of the islands is: each has its own pace, people and flavor. The consistent thing is that all of the Bahamians that we have met are very friendly and laid back.

Lunch was another amazing experience. We had a variety of dishes from Cheeseburger in Paradise to grilled grouper sandwiches to grilled grouper2011SM24.JPG César salad. All were good and the self serve bar (for alcohol and non-alcohol) was a hoot. Trish did a little additional retail therapy and we all left full and happy.

Fernandez Bay is a small resort nestled on the beach in and amongst the trees. There are 18 bungalows, basically the same but each a little different. The bathrooms are private but outside – how cool!

2011SM25.JPGStop 5: Rock Sound, Eleuthera:   To the north a small way is Eleutheria Island with 3 large runways. We started at the southern most, Rock Sound. The settlement to Rock Sound is a short 2 miles from the airport but we were already bucking against 1400 and we had to be back by 1730 so we would not be flying at night – prohibited where we were going and very dangerous to boot. We bypassed the settlement but did get a Passport stamp for our “comfort stop”. We will be back to explore this settlement on the next journey.

I am not sure the issue I had with Rock Sound in remembering the name. I felt like my Mother when she would forget one of the kids’ names and she would go through what we called “roll call”. That was me with just about every radio call to2011SM26.JPG Rock Sound. I think I called it everything but Rock Sound: Rock Island, Rock Harbor, Rock Star, Rocky Road, Rock Point, Rocky Horror Picture Show …. Well, you get the idea.

Stop 6: Governors Harbor   Our last stop for the day. We had enough time for a tour of the area and we found a cabbie 2011SM27.JPGborn and raised here for the job. He was perfect and gave us a great history of the area and took us to the main part of downtown for some snacks and more retail therapy. There is one road running the whole of Eleuthera from north to south and Governors Harbor is in the middle. It was the original government center.

The downtown was quaint but active with old turn of the century (not 20-21) homes, small shops and a beautiful old church and harbor capable of supporting cargo container ships. There was a ramp where the local fisherman display and sell their fresh catch. We completed our tour and headed back to the planes. We needed to be in the air by 1600 in case the wind had not died down as forecast. We had strong winds all day but they were to diminish. We needed 50 minutes but allocated 1.5 hours so we would not2011SM28.JPG miss our 1730 target arrival time – just in case.

We remained low over the water – about 1000’ AGL (or is that AWL). Our reward was seeing some shark, beautiful colorful reefs and a Regal Cruise Lines ship puttering northward. We plopped back in at Stella Maris with time to spare, relaxed, rejuvenated and in awe of the Bahamas.

When you stay at one island then do not go immediately to another, it is hard to see just how different each of the islands is. All of the people are friendly; all of the scenery is beautiful; the food is good, the service is great but the ambiance and character are different. Some places are more laid back than the others but none are “bustling”; some are quaint and charming; some are quiet; others are serene. All are amazing!

We are half way through the Challenge. I can’t wait to see the next treasures that await me!!

Stop 7: Freeport:   "Just ask and considerer it done." is what our cabbie told us when we landed in Freeport for stop 7 on the Bahamas Pilot Challenge. Vern and I flew over today in N831BB bringing the planes' owner and some of her friends on an afternoon junket. While they went off on their way, we decided on the Banana BayFPT1.JPG restaurant: a place where we have not been as of yet.
 
This Easter Sunday was beautiful although we had the killer Headwinds on the trip over. Since I was the co-pilot this time, I got a different view of the arrival and got to see some of the large cruise ships in dry dock on the base to final turn for runway 6. Vern then made a picture perfect landing and we were whisked through customs and ushered into our cab in no time flat. Our cabbie was big, FPT3.JPGhulking fellow with a sweet disposition. He recommended Banana Bay Restaurant on the beach to the east of the airport. We had to meet back at the airport by 1530 to get the plane ready for the owners to depart for home so we Appreciated that the cabbie was not impacted by those headwinds. His ground speed was greater than ours!
 
Banana Bay is a small tropical oasis on the water. Between the heat of the day and the gentle breeze, the temperature was just perfect. There were so many great choices on the menu that we decided on a selection of banana bread, crab and tomato salad, fish fingers andFPT2.JPG cracked conch pigeon pea rice. Judging by the look on the waiters’ face, that was a lot of food.
 
He started with the "slice" of banana bread ..... a whole loaf. OOPS, I think we will go home as cargo. The remainder lf the meal was equally as grand: generous portions and scrumptiously delicious!
 
We waddled down to the beach for some R & R after lunch, watched wind surfers, kite boarders and beach goers and snoozed for an hour or so until it was time for our rocket ride back to the airport to pick up our passengers and head back to the States. With kicking tailwind this time, the trip back was quick although some afternoon FPT5.JPGclouds started rolling in keeping us fairly low across the pond. Customs at PBI was fast, although they did have a look at my left overFPT4.JPG banana bread that I refused to give up; and we were back at Lantana to drop off the plane and passengers and head back for home before dark.
 
.... And as usual, my only complaint is that our time there was waaaay to short.

GREEN TURTLE CAY - MEMORIAL WEEKEND 2011 PHOTOS



Stop 8: Treasure Cay   ... and speaking of "treasures", Memorial Day weekend 2011 is a jewel of a weekend for a little getaway. Wild Mama and guests headed out for a little more R & R before the last push before the race (and the last time that Wild Mama will be flying before leaving for Iowa City). Fifteen Grasshoppers and guests GT3.JPGswarmed to descend upon Green Turtle Cay for the Grasshoppers fly-out Memorial Day weekend. The weather was perfect with sunshine a-plenty for weekend. AlthoughGT5.JPG the planned rendezvous at Treasure Cay did not come off as expected - some coming earlier and a ferry not running as expected - we all managed to locate one another by Saturday afternoon and started the weekend festivities with dinner together at the Green Turtle Club Resort. Since we were among the early arrivals, we opted for the golf cart tour of the town of New Plymouth. Vern, Carrie, Ed and I all piled into the golf cart for a wild ride through the streets. Some roads are paved; some not, so it was a bumpy ride but a blast, none-the-less.
 
GT2.JPGSunday was not a day of rest for any of us. We gathered in our golf cart and pick-up truck caravan and went beach hopping across the island. We started with snorkeling at Gilliam Beach near the town of New Plymouth. While there was not too much marine life to see, the water was clear and calm and the company was, well... not so calm, but loads of fun! Lunch soon followed at Pineapples on the beach in town where we all enjoyed an assortment of tropical and not-so-tropical libations and other beverages before rejoining the caravan back to the ocean front beach.
 
The wind had picked up a bit by the time we hit the second beach stop. Some of us tried to snorkel out to the reef but strong wave action and a wicked undertow stopped us short. We opted for a calmer spot at Coco Beach. This third and final beach stop was the best - bath temperature water, shallow and very calm. There was ample marine life for the snorkelers and lots of soft bottom for those opting for the afternoon leisurely soak. We capped off the waterGT4.JPG adventure with the resort swimming pool before joining the bunch at Terry's lagoon side room for happy hour and snacks. Our final evening meal was back in New Plymouth at McIntosh Restaurant where the food was outstanding, the service came with a smile and the company and conversation was lively and entertaining .... Carrie is still laughing over Vince "hearing voices"!
 
Stop 9 - Marsh Harbour: By Monday morning, we decided the weekend could not end so abruptly so we decided to Island hop: first to Marsh Harbor for a little extra GT1.JPGfuel. Marsh Harbour was extremely crowded with all the departing traffic heading out back to the states. This is the first time I had been there since they installed the new taxiway. Wow: what a difference! Even with the volume of traffic, the flow was good. Three plane loads of us tanked up (that's AVGAS) and scooted out through a small rain shower just off the coast. Enroute to our next stop, we passed the Disney Cruise Line private island, Castaway Cay with the cruise ship docked at the island.GT6.JPG It was funny to see how the ship dwarfed the island.

Stop 10 - Great Harbour, Berry Islands: I had never been to the Berry Islands and we were hungry; so we opted for lunch on the beach where we discovered THE best hamburgers (go figure in the Bahamas) and THE best conch fritters. Unfortunately for Linda, there was no fresh conch salad anywhere to be found for the whole weekend. We lounged around for the better part of two hours at the little beach restaurant that was a short walk across the street from GT7.JPGthe airport. You could watch the planes turning downwind to base, listen to the water lapping against the beach and relax after a hard-playing weekend. All too soon, however, it was time to head back to the states. With tanks and bellies full, we all departed back for home.
 
Our trip was so much fun that we are planning a "conch salad tour" at some yet to be decided date. We will scour the islands looking for THE best conch salad. Please be on the lookout for information and think about joining us this time! I am seeing that stops 11 and 12 are near and we are almost finished the challenge!

July 2, 2011: Coming down the home stretch .... I feel stops 11 and 12 just an island hop away. Wild Mama is almost ready to be de-winged so we are making her last run before she undergoes her major repairs and renovations. Watch out this July 4th weekend for us to make the final run for the Bahamas Pilot Challenge.AndrosWx.JPG

We jumped out of bed at 0500 to check the weather - we are allexcited that we will be able to complete the Challenge today .... or maybe not.

August 5th 2011: Second attempt at completion. We have booked the Small Hope Bay Resort in Andros for the weekend to make the final 2 stops of the Bahamas Pilot Challenge. We learned that there are already 2 pilots who have completed the Challenge so we will not be the first .... but we will have had the most fun!

Thanks to Emily, the second attempt has failed. We will make our third attempt at Andros onAugust 19th. Fingers crossed that third time is a charm.


August 19th: We finally made it to Andros Island after 2 other faled attempts for weather .... and we were fearful that this might have ended the same way. At 0400 we were up looking at the weather since there was a storm brewing around the Bahamas. Once  again, it was right in our path; but time was on our side today. It was a rapidly moving system that in shortAndros1.JPG  order headed north over Grand Bahama Island, leaving us with a few white puffy's and a smooth ride at 5000'. 

Stop 11 - San Andros: With smooth sailing all the way, we let down as we broke the land overthe island. We departed from Nassau Center as we dropped below 1500' on final approach. This is the island I was waiting for: lush greennery, few inhabitants and remote settlements dot the whole of Andros2.JPGAndros. Our welcome  to San Andros was typical Bahamian - warm and friendly greeting from Josh who ushered us to Customs. Our agent was THE BEST yet - he was so  friendly and accomodating and whisked us through in no time at all. Ours was the first Passport Challenge he had seen (meaning there are lots of pilots out there missing a great stop). The airport has no fuel but it did have an outsanding maintenance facility at West Air. The runway was in decent condition but do not look for the numbers as they have long faded off.

We were back in the air in a jiffy and headed down the coastline toward Fresh Creek in the centralpart of the island. We stayed relatively low - about 800' so we could see the houses and small resorts that dotted the coast. This part of the island is very marshy and  wet - not enough land  toAndros3.JPG weaken any approaching hurricanes in spite of the massive size of the island by comparison to the others in the Andros5.JPGBahamas.

No too long out of Fresh Creek we heard both Vince and Tamra on the radio coming to join us.

Stop 12 - Fresh Creek:  We held our breath until we made the touchdown: not because of any piloting or mechanical issue but because we did not want to say or do anything to jinx getting our final stamp for the Pilot Challenge. As Vern chirped in the landing, we breathed a sigh of relief and high 5'ed our accomplishment! Now we can relax and enjoy the weekend.

The cab fetched Vince and Donna along with Vern and I for the short ride to the Small Hope Bay Resort. The Resort is right on the water with aAndros6.JPG fresh sea breeze blowing all day long. The ground are well kept and raked sand. We knew instantly we were home when Renaldo greeted us with: Andros7.JPG"The first thing is to come to the bar, relax and have a drink." This resort is all inclusive with an open bar filled with alcoholic and non-alcoholic concoctions and things to make concoctions. Kate made me a "Wild Mama" - a new concoction with mango chunks, pineapple and coconut... non-alcoholic, of course. Renaldo finished our tour of the grounds and showed us to our rooms. All of the rooms are appointed with the Androsia www.androsia.com fabrics - bedspreads, curtains, decorations, etc. We settled in for lunch waiting for Tamra and Ron to arrive before we set off on bicycles to the Androsia Factory and Shop. We knew the factory was closed and we were quite disappointed to miss the tour; but the shop was full of the Androsia products - all batik fabrics made right there on Andros. This is a one-of-a-kind fabric shop.


We headed back to the resort after our retail therapy excursion for some "chillaxing"; as the Small Hope Bay folks call it. We decided on a scuba dive for the next day but since none of us had been diving for a while, we by-passed the group dive in favor of a refresher and a no-brainer 15' dive in the shallow reef nearby.


The water was perfect for our dive - both at the beach where we did the refresher and in the shallows for the dive - a warm 86 degrees. We puttered along behind Frederico, our instructor/guide, looking at the Trumpet Fish (we were on Trumper Reef), snapper, Parrotfish, Christmas tree worms and some of the biggest lobster I have ever seen (save for that female I caught and had to release in the Keys several years back). We all finished with the confidence to dive the Blue Hole to 100' after lunch.


This was my first Blue Hole dive and this one was spectacular. We descended over a lush coral garden amidst a school of Atlantic Spade Fish, gathered at the rim then continued our descent through the hole. We dropped into a crevice where we could see perfectly well with the light from above as we peered into the darkening water below us. This Blue Hole had a ceiling collapse so we were able to remain with no overhead environment yet see the seemingly bottomless hole below us. This is a live Blue Hole where the fresh water still intermingles with the sea water. On days where the tide is just right, the retreating fresh water leaves white strings (that we endearlingly called "Snot"that are sulphur eating bacteria that disintegrate immediately upon contact. University of Miami scientists have tried to capture the "Snot"; but it will not survive the trip back to the lab so it remains largely a mystery but one worth a personal investigation. Unfortunately for us, the tides were not right for "snot"; viewing but we were quite content with the standard Blue Hole. Andros9.JPGWe finished the dive with a safety stop meandering through the coral gardens enroute to the standard safety stops on the way back up to the boat. Wow: what a great dive!


Exhausted but happy we came back, showered and headed back for dinner. We started each evening with appetisers with, among other things, really, really good conch fritters. The conch DID NOT just make a 50 yard dash through the batter - it was actually sticky enough to grab the conch for a tasty snack. All of the meals were outstanding but this one got me good. There was rum cake for dessert. I can recall trips to Grand Cayman for their special rum cake which I really enjoyed. I decided to have a lighter dinner of a cabbage, mushroom and onion mix, then go straight to the rum cake. What I did not realize was that the raisins were soaked in the rum. As I was munching away, I commented to Vern that I seemed to feel the cake "going to my head";. About 30 minutes later, I was convinced of it and actually got drunk off the slice of rum cake. It would seem my tolerance for alcohol is zero!! I made it an early evening after watching the dive video as I was in need of sleep to shake the foggy feeling.Andros10.JPG


Sunday morning came and I was refreshed and ready to go but certainly not ready to leave. The staff at Small Hope Bay were all so friendly and made you feel as if you were their lifelong friends coming for a visit. The accommodations were rustic but clean and comfortable - you lacked nothing. We headed off to the airport with Tamra - Vince and Donna staying behind now that Vince has the faster plane. Tamra and Ron took off for Andros11.JPGSan Andros in their quest for more Pilot Challenge stamps and Vern and I were heading for home in N739MM - our borrowed Cessna 172. All was great until we hit the customs snag: the blue phone at the airport could not reach ANY customs office. We were more than 45 minutes. I finally emailed Jeff at the resort who got a call off to Customs for us. Right before we were ready to leave, a local customs agent, Mr. Andrews gave us his phone to call so we could confirm our arrival and out squawk code - we discovered that the US agent gave Vern the wrong code! Finally in the air we had a quick flight - tailwinds all the way - and cleared customs at Kendall Tamiami before the final leg to LaBelle. We are the third pilots to complete the Bahamas Pilot Challenge.


Many thanks to Pilot Mall for creating this fabulous opportunity for us to see the Bahamas - we look forward to more trips to even more places inAndros12.JPG the future .... plus a return to Small Hope Bay Lodge.

Nassau Trip Photos




Bonus Stop: - Nassau:
  (December 2011) Departing out of LaBelle we were disheartened to look off in the distance to see a cloud covered sky. We had filed for VFR at 7500' the night before and we were wondering if we would be able to make it to 3500' for the trip o Nassau, especially with Nassau reporting 2800' broken. We’ve flown low before so this will be nothing new.
 
We remained under 3000' with flight following until ATC told us to climb to 3500 to avoid oncoming traffic. We obliged and headed up to a crosswind approaching 28 kts. At least it was not a headwind.
 
1nassau.JPGThis was my first flight in Wild Mama since she came back from the paint shop earlier this week. Circumstances necessitated Vern flying her back home on a perfect cloudless afternoon, while I was stuck with the 12 hour drive back from NC to FL. Today, however, was different. I was the proud pilot of a2Nassau.JPG beautiful, fresh painted aluminum bird and we were headed out over the pond to our island paradise neighbor to the east.
 
In spite of our cloudy departure, the clouds broke up over the pond allowing the sun to expose the azure blue waters for which the Bahamas are famous. Even though the winds aloft were quite strong, the water below barely showed a ripple although we could see an occasional disturbance in the water that we surmised was a big fish coming to the surface for a brief look-see. As we passed over Bimini we would see the meandering coral reefs dotting the white sandy bottom intertwining flashes of color in the clear waters below us. It is amazing that we still something new and beautiful each time we make this flight and how we never get tired of this breathtaking beauty such a short distance away.
 
Our first stop to clear customs and go shopping was in Fresh Creek on Andros Island. I had ordered a pile of shirts, fabric and stuff from Androsia (www.androsia.com) and I had to come make my pick up. I had not seen the new fabric in red yet and it was beautiful. I was pleased. The aqua color turned 3Nassau.JPGout to be a deep aqua instead of the light aqua but it was very pretty and a good aviation blue shade. We gathered our goodies and headed northeast to Nassau.
 
I had heard that Nassau was quite busy but we must have hit at slack tide. It was very windy with the flags and wind sock standing straight out at a bit of a gusty cross wind. We jumped in behind a Caravan on final and landed on the numbers only to find that we had a long taxi to exit on B taxiway. Now we know. Since we already cleared customs in Andros, all we had to do was check in, join our Junkanoo group and head to the hotel. Another plane load of 3 fellows pulled in behind us and we understood that "the other planes" were on the way. We were ushered into a limo for what should have been a relatively short ride to Paradise Island but the starw market had burned to the ground just this morning and the traffic was still backed up and jammed with curiosity seekers. After an hour of good lively conversation with 3 other pilots, we arrived at the hotel.
 
We took it easy for the afternoon: after all, we were not in the island time zone. I turned on island brain and did nothing productive. What a nice change. We met our group for dinner at the Poop Deck Restaurant. The 12 planes that were supposed to show dwindled to 2, the bulk of the Bahamas flyers this 4Nassau.JPGweek going over to the new grand opening of the Freeport FBO; so the lucky five of us, accompanied by Greg Rolle, ate our fill at the Poop Deck. We were greeted at the door with an ice filled tub containing fresh caught hog fish snapper and lobster. You could pick your fish, sides and make a meal. We all had the fish, Vern and I sharing a gigantic hogfish and still not able to clean our plate. I vote this the best fish I have eaten in a long, long time.

We had a leisurely morning and wandered over to Atlantis for the day. I had been to the Seaquarium there many years ago and wanted to go back and also see the5Nassau.JPGwater park, Aquaventure, that I had missed before. The Seaquarium is themed (shockingly) “The Lost City of Atlantis”; and has an archaeological dig and the basic Seaquarium with a predators pond where visitors walk through a glass tunnel under the predator pond enroute to Aquaventure. Cross over a series of rope bridges and through the lush tropical gardens at Atlantis, we finally reached the 141 acre Aquaventure. We decided on the lazy river at Aquaventure; although the river was not quite as lazy as one would have thought. There is an initial period of extreme laziness followed by rapids, waves and the “Power Tower” slides and waterfalls. We spend over 3 hours with our butts planted firmly in the inner tubes floating along until the coolness of the breeze overpowered the warmth of the water and we were forced to seek dry towels and warm 6nassau.JPGclothes. . . and food.8nassau.JPG

Murray’s Deli had caught our eye the other day so we decided a nice deli sandwich was in order. I immediately spied the carrot cake and knew we were eating here for lunch. We each had some variation of a Reuben Sandwich and a “slice” of cake (Vern went for the red velvet) that was sufficient to feed 4 people …. That is 4 people per slice. Needless to say, we doggie bagged the cake for home. We rolled ourselves back to the hotel for some relaxation before dinner – I think digesting actually might be a better term.7nassau.JPG

Greg and our other pilot friends, Rick, Tom and “J” (to protect his identity) met us in the lobby for some pre-dinner drinks and conversation. Greg decided it would be good to show us some local color and took us to Awakee area where there are numerous little stalls that are restaurants or small eateries serving only one or two items. We all started talking about the upcoming conch salad tour and thought it good to do a little taste testing.After wandering about for a bit we ended at Goldie’s to sample the conch salad, conch fritters and grouper fingers. The grouper fingers were a hands down favorite – lightly battered and sweet firm meat. Mmmmmm. The conch salad was 9nassau.JPGreally good, although Greg and J preferred theirs a bit spicier. Karen, our server, brought some hot peppers that J drizzles on the passed to Greg who dumped the whole lot in his conch salad. We were not really paying too much attention until Greg suddenly got quiet, started sweating and became wide eyed with the fire burning in his throat from the hot peppers. I guess they were spicy enough now!Greg took us over to the Twin Brothers for what we all agreed were meatier conch fritters. I personally liked Goldie’s batter better but the conch chunks were evident in the Twin’s fritters so we all gave them 2 thumbs up. Again stuffed way past the gills, we rolled ourselves into a cab and headed back to the hotel with a10nassau.JPGmost delightful cabbie. He firmly maintained one hand on the wheel, one on the shifter, one of the phone and one of the horn, artfully negotiating the narrow Nassau streets to get us home safely. We passed out shortly thereafter from our sugar high and food coma.

Sadly, Sunday morning came and we regained consciousness in time for breakfast at the hotel and one last chat with Rick and Tom. We had enjoyed their company tremendously throughout the trip and will look forward to more aviation adventures with them and their families. We said our good-byes and took a cab for the 3 minute ride to the airport. Ceilings were low so we left out at 1500’, staying under the intermittent ceilings into KFXE, Ft Lauderdale Executive. Even low, we enjoyed a 15 kt tailwind and cruised quickly over the rough seas. This was our first time there and it is a must for a return. We were in an out efficiently and enjoyed pleasant chatter throughout the inspection process.

The final leg to X14 was uneventful although a bit bumpy. We remained low and the winds pushed us along at 158 kts to LaBelle. As we turned final to land on 14, we heard traffic calling “low approach on 32”. I was too high on the approach anyway and elected to go around, to 11nassau.JPGfind the traffic heading straight for us and set up better for landing. I was darn glad to have all of my HID lights as the oncoming traffic could see us – what a shame he did not thing to put his landing lights on so I could recognize him easier. Once he departed the area, I plopped in for our final landing.

We had a great intimate group this trip and were fortunate to get to know several new to us pilots with whom we can continue to share aviation adventures in the future - remind me to tell you about Michael J Fox in the bushes next time I see you.. Thanks to Greg and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for another great vacation!

... it's all about the plane!

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