Turks & Caicos/Bahamas Trip Report 2004

by Paul A. Rosales

This story was published in the April 2005 issue of EAA's SPORT magazine.

For our honeymoon in 1987, Victoria and I went on our first (boat) cruise that took us to Nassau, in the Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Coming from California, that was our first trip to the east coast and beyond, and we had a great time together! I never forgot how warm and what beautiful color the water was, and I knew that one day we'd return. Jim & Vicki Baker led a group of RVs, Gary & Carolyn Zilik and Laird Owens, to the Bahamas in 2001 but we did not have enough vacation time to join them on that trip. Jim put together another trip for RVs that was scheduled for early spring 2003 but the trip was eventually pushed back to April, 2004. That worked out well for all parties and especially us as I was able to 'bank' lots of vacation time to get away. In the end, we had 15 RVs, 26 people signed up, ready to fly to the Turks/Caicos & Bahamas! I set aside 3 weeks of vacation time for a trip that should take only 2 weeks with good weather. I planned one week of travel time from the west coast to the east coast and back, and one week to spend in the Turks & Caicos and Bahamas, no problem 'mon'! I can't thank Jimmyb enough for doing all the legwork on this trip as I don't think I'd have flown there otherwise. Mike Stewart also had a great website online that had all the information we needed in one place so, on my end, it was pretty easy getting everything necessary together to put all my 'ducks in a row' :-) Thanks guys!!! With all the necessary paperwork required to fly across the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) online, we printed/filled out everything ahead of time. I've been renewing my USA Customs decal yearly so I didn't have to worry about that. Survival gear consisted of two life vests that we planned to wear when flying across the open water. Flight planning across the USA was not a problem as we've flown from California to Florida several times and had fuel stops and overnights (in Dallas) with friends. We like flying to Dallas the first day as this puts us more than half way to Florida, and depending on the winds, we can make Dallas in 6.5-8.0 hours hobbs time. From there, Dallas to Destin/Fort Walton Beach is about 3.5 hours which we can make nonstop. Flight planning from the USA to the Bahamas was even easier as we flew our standard group profile, 'IFG': I FOLLOW GROUP :-) Having flown with numerous RVs on many trips, it's pretty easy to be a follower! If you fly there on your own, you can find all the information you need at www.bahamas.com/things-do/private-flying Another excellent resource is the Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide which we carried with us. So now we're off...

We departed the Rosamond Skypark on Wednesday morning, April 23. We could see that a front was 'brewing' and needed to get out no later than Thursday (Laird left SoCAL Thursday). Gary Sobek and Robin were planning on leaving SoCAL Friday. I don't know about that... Skies were clear all the way to Texas, and we had a very nice tailwind that pushed us along at 195-205 knots at 11.5K MSL to St. Johns (SJN) airpark near the AZ/NM border. We made SJN in 2.6 hrs, normally a 3hr flight, and we fueled then visited with Gary and Dale for a short while. They are good people there at SJN!

From SJN, we took off for Addison (ADS), TX. We climbed back up to 11.5K MSL and found our same tailwind. We made it to the DFW area with only one fuel stop at SJN and landed at ADS after 3.9 hrs. For those unfamiliar, Addison is located ~12nm northeast of DFW and is easy flying to when arriving from the north and departing to the east. The hobbs showed 6.5 hrs flight from CA to TX with only one fuel stop. WOW!!!! We love our RV :-) We got the plane tied down for the night, and our friend Curtis Clark drove a whole 0.2 miles to pick us up as he has a parasail business near the Addison Express FBO.

Curtis and his fiancÚ took us to dinner a local pasta house where we visited into the evening. After a good night's sleep and breakfast, Curtis dropped us back to the FBO, and we continued on Thursday morning towards Shreveport, LA under overcast skies. The runway at Addison is just off the horizontal in the first picture here;

The weather at Shreveport went to scattered clouds so we climbed up to 9.5K MSL and continued on overflying Jackson, MS airport.

Our first stop for fuel was at Clark County (23M) in Quitman, MS, however, the lady that ran the desk had a sign out for 'Gone to the Doctor'. We waited about half an hour, made a phone call to check on gas then departed for a 30nm flight to nearby Waynesboro (2RO), MS. Here we found two AG planes coming and going, and it was neat to watch them make SHORT approaches and see the truck load the plane's hopper with the turbine engine still running! Flight time from Addison to Waynesboro was 3.1 hrs.

From Waynesboro, we climbed back up to 9.5K MSL above the scattered layer and started talking with approach as we navigated the airspace north of Pensacola, FL eastbound. We landed at Daytona Beach's Spruce Creek (7FL6) another 3.1 hrs later. We were here for the night to visit and overnight with a Teacher-friend I used to work with. Here's a picture on final to RWY 5 with Daytona Beach in the background;

Trip stats from the West Coast to East Coast with a FP Sensenich, 180hp, RV-6A: 12.7 hours, 3 fuel stops, ~1940 nm traveled @ ~152 nm/hr. Builders, I'll say it again: Keep poundin' them rivets because this is SO worth it!

Friday morning, we visited with several RVs who were parked next to us as they were there for the first flight of an RV-8. I believe they said there were almost 20 flying RVs based at Spruce Creek with numerous others under construction.

After breakfast at Pepino's Fly-In Cafe, we departed southwest towards Clearwater to visit with and spend two nights at the home of a former co-worker, 'NAV BOY' Bob Coughlin. Bob wrote a LOT of Flight Management System (FMS) navigation code for the F-117 in the late 80s and early 90s. Bob picked us up around 1pm at Clearwater (CLW) airpark after less than an hour's flight from Spruce Creek.

We went out for a late lunch, walked along Clearwater Beach and visited the famous Hurricane Seafood Restaurant. After dinner, we drove back to the house for a great evening visit with the Coughlin's. Saturday morning, we borrowed one of their cars to drive back to Clearwater airport for the Airport Open House going on that day. The Coughlin's had a wedding to go to so we were on our own for the day. After spending some time at the show, we left on a 1 hour flight to Treasure Coast (FL37) airpark, near Ft. Pierce and Vero Beach. Treasure Coast is a beautiful skypark where you land on a well-groomed grass runway and taxi to your home. It's located just east of the northern end of Lake Okeechobee. Since we'd left Dallas, the controllers had been telling us that our transponder was 'intermittent'. Not wanting to be intermittent when crossing the ADIZ eastbound over the Atlantic Ocean, I'd called Bernie Kerr at Treasure Coast, and he arranged for me to borrow a KT-76A transponder to use for the week. Thank you very much Bernie! With Bernie away at Homestead flying ultralights, we flew a few minutes northeast to Ft. Pierce (FPR) where we had lunch at the Airport Tiki restaurant. I remember a sign there mentioning that it was voted by the Wall Street Journal as one of the 10 best airport restaurants or something to that sort...the food was good though! From Ft. Pierce, it was back to Clearwater, and we flew north around some restricted airspace skirting the southern edge of Orlando Class B airspace. I tried out the 'borrowed' transponder with them and it worked like a champ all the way into Tampa's Class B airspace to Clearwater. We drove back to the house, watched TV until the Coughlin's arrived back home from the wedding then ended the evening with ice cream. Sunday morning was spent giving rides to Bob's son Eric and few other friends, one of whom was a 10 year, 200 hour private pilot. You can imagine his grin after getting a ride in a RV after having rented all that time...I think he's looking for a kit ;-) We said our goodbyes, loaded up and headed out for Homestead (X51), FL, the 'jumping- off' point for the entire group. We climbed up to 9.5K MSL to get above the scattered clouds and flew direct to Homestead in ~1.5 hours, overflying Charlotte County (PGD) airport at Punta Gorda. Once again, approach had us 'solid' on the radar screen.

We let down through the scattered layer then set up for a left pattern to RWY 9 at Homestead (X51);

We had previously arranged to have lunch at Key West with friends Lizzie & Herb Poole, so after landing, we fueled then quick-turned back for takeoff. Gary & Carolyn and Laird were there to join us, engines running, so we took off as a flight of three along the Florida Keys. This is such a beautiful flight, and we were lucky enough to be flying this route for the second time, a first for the other two planes.

We were met by Lizzie & Herb at Key West (EYW), and we all went to Camille's for lunch. I recommend this Zagat-rated eatery to everyone who makes the flight to Key West! After lunch, it was back to the airport for a few pictures then another fun flight back long the Keys. Here's a fun picture of Gary and Carolyn :-)

We all did a touch-n-go at the only other public-use airport in the Florida Keys at Marathon (MTH).

Arriving back to Homestead, we found most RVs had arrived from points all across the states, but one good friend was not there...someone who'd left California on Friday instead of Wednesday or Thursday...someone who got STUCK behind a front: Gary & Robin! Unfortunately for them, they only made it to Gainesville, TX on Friday and that was it. The word was that they, along with Paul & Jana Stratman, would have to bypass the Turks & Caicos portion of the trip and meet us at Stella Maris Resort on Long Island, Bahamas where Mike & Michelle were to be married :-) Other RVers were there at the airport topping off the tanks for our morning overwater flight so after Laird caught a wing-ride with us, we parked with all the other planes and caught a van to the motel. The last picture here shows a ramp full of RVs.

Jimmyb gave everyone our final brief poolside to the pilots and crew of 13 RVs who were very excited for what lied ahead. Jimmyb arranged the 13 planes into 3 flights (name/home state);

After the brief, 22 of us then walked next door for a fun pizza dinner where we all had a fun time hangar-flying :-) I could hardly sleep that night I was so excited!

Monday morning, Bravo flight arrived to the airport around 7:30am. Alpha flight had been airborne for 30 minutes by then as the flights were spread out by time. This was done so that we wouldn't overwhelm the FBO ramp at Providenciales (Provo) in the Turks & Caicos. The maps on this website will give you a good feel for the location of Bahamas relative to the Turks & Caicos. The flight from Homestead (X51) to Provo was ~508 nm. We planned a stop at Provo (MBPV) for fuel since there was no fuel on the island of Grand Turk (MBGT), our final destination. Grand Turk is ~66 nm southeast of Provo, a short ride in an RV! Flying from Florida to Provo was not a problem fuel-wise flying our RV-6A.

So, finally, 1.5 years later, we donned our life vests then taxied out for the trip across the 'pond' on a vacation we had only dreamed about! We departed Homestead a little after 8am and were 'feet-wet' not long after takeoff. With Mike Stewart flying as Bravo Flight Lead, we all plugged in the ICAO identifier for Provo, MBPV. As I mentioned earlier, it's easy being a 'follower', and Mike took care of the flight plan for the group as well as doing all the talking on the radio to get us across the ADIZ. We climbed up to 9.5K MSL over scattered clouds that began at the Florida shoreline for as far as we could see. That's Mike in Lead, with Danny and a picture of Craig Moen and Christine Johnston in the RV-8.

It was actually quite comforting flying on top of the clouds since we do that a lot anyway. Water...what water?!? Those clouds resulted in lots of little islands down below so the psychological factors involved with flying over water were gone!!! The engine ran just fine as we flew over all the little islands :-)

I monitored Alpha flight's transmissions (each flight had its own, unique frequency) as we listened to reggae music on XM Radio Channel 101, as recommended by Danny Kight. We were flyin high 'mon'! Our 4-ship settled into a nice 'cruise-spread', 1/4 mile apart, and we had an uneventful flight for ~3.2 hrs to Provo. Here's a picture of the final approach (following an overhead) into Provo.

After taxiing to the Customs ramp, we found Jimmyb's Alpha flight parked, complete with red carpets :-) Bravo flight parked behind them, no red carpets...

Walking to the Customs office, we learned from Alpha flight that there was NO FUEL to be had...This was NOT good as we all had about 10 gallons of fuel and the nearest fuel was over 2 hours away...There was SUPPOSED to be fuel there as we'd called ahead before we departed Homestead! :-( ARGHHHH!!! Here are the THREE stories we received from the FBO...

  1. The fuel truck was broken and it would be over an hour to be fixed.
  2. The fuel in the fuel tank was very low level, and they had to have a special man come out to pump the gas out (possibly 1-2 hours after Bravo flight arrived.
  3. The manager said someone had called the USA and said their airport had no fuel for us (NOTAMed NO FUEL). Shell, the airport supplier, had run out of gas and would not buy gas from Texaco (the other fuel supplier on-field, unbeknownst to us) unless OKed by the airport authorities. She was trying to tell us that it was not her fault we showed up and they had no fuel.
It was about 12:00 noon, and my hopes of sipping drinks on the beach at Grand Turk, 30 minutes away, were squashed :-( There goes half a day of vacation... With time to spare, Alpha flight relaxed in the lounge while Bravo flight was shuttled to a nearby outdoor restaurant to have lunch. Check out this Yacht we saw:

While we were eating lunch, the FBO manager or somebody in charge finally decided that each airplane could buy 15 gallons of unstrained/unfiltered fuel. They made it known that they took NO RESPONSIBILITY for this and that we had to fuel our own planes using three 5-gallon containers that we had to carry from their special, private-reserve fuel tank; a square-shaped fuel tank, maybe 500 gallons, that was on a pallet lifted up on a fork-lift. The ON/OFF valve was somebody's thumb on the garden hose... So this is what Bravo arrived back from lunch to: Seeing Alpha flight carrying gas cans back and forth from the hangar to their planes with three people needed to pour the fuel: One to block the wind, one to steady the can and one to pour!

Bravo flight immediately started helping, and somewhere in there, a golf cart was 'allowed' to get the cans back and forth from the hangar. What a sight... Bill^^2 and Charlie flights (which included an RV-4) had arrived during the fueling but didn't need fuel. They had plenty of fuel as they had landed/fueled on Exuma Island in the Bahamas. We watched them depart as we continued fueling planes. Here's Charlie flight:

Eventually, 8 planes were filled with 3-cans each (15 gallons) using Laird's ripped-up T-shirt for fuel filters...Just another story for some late night hangar-flying! Bravo flight finally departed around 4:30pm with ~24-27 gallons in each plane's fuel tanks. Here are a few pictures of the 30 minute flight from Provo to Grand Turk. Check out the ocean's aqua-color water reflected on the bottom of Mike's plane;

Bravo flight landed at Grand Turk Int'l at ~5pm with Alpha, Bill^^2 and Charlie flights there and tied-down. The ramp looked real nice with 13 RVs on the ramp. This picture was 'stitched' together by Danny Kight;

There were kids at the fence admiring all the planes on the ramp and I later learned that our Bravo flight gave a nice 'show' with the fingertip low approach followed by an overhead arrival Grand Turk Int'l, something they don't see often around there...If I had more fuel, I would have considered giving some of the local kids Young Eagle flights :-) After securing the planes with some very nice steel, rebar, tie-down stakes that Jimmyb had made (the ground was a solid layer of coral material), we emptied the plane then took a picture of all our stuff we brought from California. I like these pics as they really show the utility and roominess of the RV aircraft :-)

Victoria wanted to bring her water-ski vest and so I did ;^) Of course, what would our vacation be without snacks, fins, snorkel and frisbees! Also included is our purple, soft-side ice chest, canopy cover, paperwork bag...we took it all :-) A taxi was waiting for us so we loaded up our stuff and headed to the beachside resort, The Osprey Beach Hotel. We had a second floor room, and all the rooms have patios facing the ocean. You could enter your first floor room directly from the beach, and those rooms first went to those signed up for diving so they didn't have to haul all their diving gear up the stairs, nice! After checking in, we found the group on the patio enjoying the last hour or so of sunlight, drinkin', eatin', drinkin'... having a GREAT time! We then enjoyed a nice sunset dinner to end our first evening of vacation, so very far from home.

Tuesday morning, Victoria was up at her normal early time and I was up at my normal late time (after 19 years on swings, I don't do mornings). The morning dive group was already out on the boat with me wishing I was with them (I'd always thought about getting my PADI dive card but hadn't) so Carolyn, Victoria and I went for a walk to check out the local area. The island is not really all that big so it we didn't have to worry about getting lost.

We found a small Internet cafe along the way so we stopped to send some e-mail to a few friends and family. By the time we returned, the divers (Jimmyb, Vicki, Danny, Bill, Tom, Heather, Mike) had returned, and it was then that I had a chance to visit with the owner/operator of Blue Water Divers, Mitch Rolling. I'd told him that I had always wanted to get SCUBA certified and that Sport Chalet was the only one nearby who could certify me...for about $800-$900, yikes! I'd even bought the PADI course and had studied the first few chapters. He asked why I hadn't thought about getting certified while there on vacation, and my response was, "I didn't know that I could!" Here it was Tuesday, midday, and we were leaving the island for the Bahamas on Friday morning. Was that enough time to complete the course? Mitch said that it would not be a problem completing the water-portions of the course before Friday but that completing the bookwork was all on me. Get SCUBA certified in the beautiful Turks & Caicos, hmmmm....the cost for the Open Water Certification was $400...that's about 5 days of substitute teaching when I get back home, hmmmmmmmmm....I'd have to study hard...I decided to go for it!!! The second dive of the day left at 2pm but Mitch wanted me to start at 1pm. Laird and Larry were there also for a one-time, resort dive. This was going to be great! After 1 hour of instruction in the shallow beach water, Mitch motored the dive boat right up to the beach at our hotel and picked up the rest of the group. Here are pictures of Laird and Larry getting ready for their first dive;

We all had a great time diving with Mitch, and at the end of the dive, just before coming up, Mitch had me do a few of the things required for the open water certification like taking off my mask, putting it back on then 'clearing' it. It was then back to the beach and relaxation time visiting on the patio :-)

For dinner, we all walked just down the street to a small, beachside restaurant for drinks and dinner. Mike and Michelle were honored with a free drink then were asked to play a game from 'down under'. The Australian bartender got it all set up then had Mike and Michelle pushing paper boats around with a straw then....WHAM! Did they ever get splashed as the bartender slammed his hand in the middle of the game catching them both off-guard! I know that our Aussie friend Christine Johnston (standing behind Michelle) had something to do with this!

Now that was FUN!!!!! Afterwards, it was another great evening enjoying each other's company, having a drink and smoking a nice cigar...

Wednesday started the day out with another morning of diving. After Mitch got all the certified divers in the water, we had a 10 minute lesson on equipment and such then into the water we went. Diving in the Turks & Caicos was just SO spectacular with so many colorful fish, coral and plants to see. I was able to borrow Danny's prescription mask that was nearly a perfect match and that made the diving even more enjoyable. Others met for breakfast/lunch at the Courtyard Cafe or lounged on the beach. Our very own Mike Stewart was able to 'hack' the wireless internet there at the hotel so in addition to performing some system maintenance and 'cleaning' up the network, he changed the server name to Team RV :-) Cool!!!!

Mike and Danny then went out for a little bit of beach cruisin'...

For Wednesday lunch, many of us went out on a boat for a picnic lunch on Gibbs Cay where we had a great chicken lunch with all the rum punch you could drink ;^)

We then put on the mask, fins and snorkel and played in the water awhile. Several Stingrays came and swam all around us. We were having such a fun time in the water with them when, we thought we heard, yes, no doubt...we heard the very familiar sound of...RVs!!!!! Out of the blue came Mike and Jimmyb, and I have to tell you that we were treated to absolutely the MOST SPECTACULAR airshow I have EVER been too, very up CLOSE and PERSONAL!

For at least 15 minutes, we were front-n-center for the Mike and Jimmyb Airshow! Larry and I were in the water all the while enjoying every pass, and loving life... Mike & Jimmyb: Thanks so much for the wonderful airshow! We ended the evening watching the sunset, eating Mookie pizza and listening to none other than our Dive Master, Mitch Rolling, bang out the tunes (he's 'gonna' be a Rock Star one day and even recorded a CD, "Into the Cool Blue".

Thursday, our last full day on the island, found me finishing up the water portion of my dive training with one more training dive to go (I'd completed 3 by now). We spent some more time on the boat after the others divers were in the water then we were both back into the water. One last 'school' session below the boat before ascending finished up my morning, and we were back to the beach by noontime. Once back on the beach, I had two more hours to study the PADI book before meeting with Mitch at 2pm to take the written portion of the test. I'd been studying for about 4 hours both Tuesday and Wednesday nights to be ready, and I can tell you, it can be done! I met with Mitch on the patio of the Courtyard Cafe (his office opens to the courtyard) and took my tests; I believe there were 4 knowledge tests then a final exam with 50 questions. I passed with an 86% which was just fine with me, and Mitch signed off my temporary dive card. I can't thank Mitch enough for the training and helping me achieve another longtime goal on becoming a SCUBA diver! After informing the gang of my accomplishment, they took it upon themselves to send me in for my first official dive, EAA hat and all;

Afterwards, Mitch drove me out to the airport and I was able to give him the RV grin! During the flight, my LASAR light came on indicating something wasn't right with the electronic ignition system and that I was running on my conventional mags (and not electronic ignition). After landing and doing a ground run-up, I determined that the mechanical portion of the right magneto was not working. The plane was running on the electronic ignition fine including the left mechanical magneto but not the right mechanical magneto. Normally, I'd fix it right away but we were a long ways from home so I decided that running with 3/4 of my ignition system would have to suffice until we got home. We departed Grand Turk Friday morning and the 30 minute flight back to Provo to clear customs and fuel was uneventful. The ramp at Provo had 13 RVs on it which filled most of the ramp, and this time, they have fuel available for everybody! Larry collected $30 for each plane for the departure tax, and got a ride to the tower to pay for us. After departing Provo and starting the climb towards Stella Maris, about 2.5 hours away, my LASAR light came on again, yikes! Ok, what to do...do nothing. In no way did I want to start troubleshooting the system in-flight by switching the key between magnetos. I made a command decision to climb up to 12.5K and then island hop all the way to Stella Maris. With most every island along the way having a runway, and with Laird flying along side, I decided to press on with the group. I know some will say I should have turned around, and that's fine; PIC makes all the decisions. We arrived to Stella Maris (MYLS), and were told to land towards the end of the runway rather than the beginning so that's what I did. I 'hovered' just above stall speed until reaching the last 1/3 of the runway and touched down, no problem, not bumpy at all! We taxied up to the Customs ramp for a nice, 'Kodak' moment;

Now what are the odds of having flown over 3000 miles from home, landing on one of the many Islands in the Bahamas...and bumping into friends from home!?! That's exactly what happened, and when I talk home, I'm talking "We park our plane across the taxiway from them at the Rosamond Skypark!" Say hello to our friends from the Skypark, John and Dani Wilson, who were also vacationing in the Bahamas....it was sure great seeing them so far from home!

Once again, after clearing customs which went fast, no problems 'mon', we taxied the planes to the 'North 40' where about half of us had something to tie-down to and half didn't. Ok, here's to hoping for NO BAD WEATHER! Oh yes, this is where we finally met up with Paul & Jana Stratman and Gary Sobek & Robin Vrachan. They were able to park their planes right next to the FBO:

With the planes all buttoned up, I got on the phone to Unison Industries, makers of the LASAR electronic ignition, and ordered two new LASAR magnetos along with a timing light. I requested FedEx-overnight-Saturday delivery to Fort Pierce, Florida, as we were told NOT to trust anything for next day delivery once it left the United States of America. Laird was kind enough to offer to shuttle me back to the USA, a 2.5 hour flight, in the morning (Saturday). I'd pushed my luck enough over water... We took a couple of taxis for the 5 minute ride to the Stella Maris Resort. Jimmyb had arranged for 8 of us to share the Dolphin house with 4 rooms, a swimming pool, AND a beautiful ocean view :-) We dropped our things in the room then walked up to the clubhouse for another round of drink, food and fun followed by a dip in the ocean-front pool....

Saturday was the big wedding day for Mike Stewart and Michelle Hurley, but unfortunately Laird and I would be flying back to Florida and would miss it :-( Saturday morning, Laird and I along with chase-plane Gary and Carolyn Zilik took off for Ft. Pierce (FPR) for a 2.5 hour flight that took us over Bimini Island. Our 2-ship arrival to FPR was cleared to land around 1pm, and we then taxied to Customs. Clearing Customs was, how did Laird put it...an unpleasant experience...you'd think that Americans coming home to America would be an 'un-event' but we live in a different world today :-( My magnetos were there behind the FBO counter, and with the Airport Tiki Cafe 5 steps away, we had a big, full, breakfast (something I'd missed). Afterwards, we fueled then Laird got on the phone to Flight Service and Customs to get us 'cleared' to cross the ADIZ as Jimmyb had done on his initial departure from Florida. Laird had all the necessary information on his laptop so he was able to get us into the system fairly quickly. Weather was going to be the same, nice! On climbout, less than 10 minutes after takeoff, Gary reported that his engine was running rough. We turned back immediately towards Ft. Pierce, and Laird again got the 2-ship cleared to land, runway 9. We taxied over to the empty (I believe) MICCO aircraft ramp where they had a nice, open, shaded parking area where we could look Gary's plane. Gary and Laird tore into the cowl as Carolyn and I watched, and after troubleshooting, they found one of the injector lines was finger-tight. After tightening that up, an engine run was performed, and the engine sounded fine from where I was standing. Gary 'deemed' the plane OK-to-fly. Laird was able to keep the Customs information that was already in the system so we took off for the second time, and we followed the coastline south for a bit to make sure Gary's plane was running fine. After 15 minutes or so flying along the coastline, Gary said "Let's turn on course" so we pointed the planes back to Stella Maris. I swear not 1 minute after he said that, Gary was back on the radio saying the plane was misfiring again...arghhhhh! As we had briefed before takeoff, should Gary have misfire problems again, we were to continue on with Gary returning since it did no good to have me in Florida with 2 new mags and my plane parked in the Bahamas. Gary assured us that he'd be fine as a 1-ship back to Ft. Pierce so Laird and I continued on towards Stella Maris :-( By this time, it was after 3pm, and we landed at Stella Maris Airport before 6pm. Though unable to attend, here are some pictures from Mike & Michelle's wedding;

Paul and Jana Stratman stood up for them. From what I heard, the book on the table is over 100 years old, and everyone who is married on the island signs the book...now that's a very old tradition! After a long day's flying to Florida and back, we were able to join them for a very nice evening dinner that was catered by a local eatery. Sunday was going to be my only full day on the island and our last day of vacationing in the Bahamas so we made the best of it. After breakfast, Victoria and I got our things together to go out on the dive boat for a Shark dive! Jimmyb had been talking about this for awhile! With the ink still wet on my dive card, I was able to join the group and go on the dive. Victoria went along to take pictures and get some sun. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all the pics from the dive as I'm still learning how to use our digital camera we bought before the trip :-( The shark dive was a LOT of fun, and the guys only spooked me once when they grabbed my leg. Also, I was swimming along with the group when Mike pointed for me to turn around so I did, and saw a couple of sharks swimming along closer than I would have liked! I then swam back to the center of the group ;^) I'm so glad that I'm now certified to dive! Once back at the room, I went for a swim in the OCEAN pool, located a short walk down the hill below the swimming pool. The ocean pool is open to the deep blue sea so with every wave, the water in the pool is refreshed and pushed out the other side. The depth depended on the tide, and when I was swimming, it was only about 3 feet deep. The floor of the pool is covered with some nice, fine sand. Here's the pool high then dry!

After the swim, I went back to the airport and got both my new mags installed and timed with help from Larry Schneider, Craig Moen and Gary Sobek, thanks! Sunday evening ended with all of us having dinner at the resort, and then back to the room to start packing...the week went by so fast! We also heard from the Ziliks back in Florida letting us know that they found a bad ignition lead and that they would see us back in the states. Monday morning, I took a few pictures while we waited for the taxis to arrive. While waiting, Team RV departed and flew overhead then into the sunrise...

After arriving to the airport, we loaded all our bags then staged the planes back to the FBO, and we all then cleared Customs for the trip home.

Tom Coggin, Steve & Heather, and Team RV departed earlier leaving 9 planes on the ramp. Here are the planes: Bill Bishop, Bill Hicks and Paul & Victoria;

Gary Sobek & Robin Vrachan, Craig Moen & Chistine Johnston, Rich & Pat Zeidman;

Larry & Gerri Schneider, Laird Owens and Jimmy & Vicki Baker;

And here are the proud pilots after Jimmy gave us our departure brief, Laird, Larry, Craig, Jimmyb, Bill and Gary;

After we all cleared Customs outbound, we loaded up and back-taxied the first group of 5 planes;

After departure, it was just was big gaggle flight back to the USA :-)

And for the second time in two days, we started our let down into Ft. Pierce. There was a front moving across Florida from the Gulf and we were on the front side of it. We knew that after we landed, there would probably be no more flying today. I believe that's West Palm Beach off Jimmyb's wing;

After landing, it was again back to Customs where we cleared in with the same two guys who'd 'worked' us two days before. We'd heard that the day before, somebody had something they shouldn't have had (not sure what), and Customs was backed up for close to 3 hours. I found it interesting that we only had to unload our clothes bags as I thought we'd have to unload the entire plane including tool bags, snorkel kits, etc. The Customs Officer also noted that we wouldn't be able to use our 'poor-mans-tape' for "N" numbers for too much longer... We were all cleared with Customs about 45 minutes after landing.

Sure enough, the rain came as we were eating lunch looking out the window we saw Craig Moen taxiing in the rain. He'd dropped off Christine at Miami as she was catching an airliner, and they cleared Customs in Miami. Bill Bishop and Bill Hicks RV-6As are parked in front of the Tiki room (below). They had decided to try and make the Panhandle enroute to Houston and they did. Craig is tying down his cover after the downpour;

We met up with the Zilik's who had since figured out they had a wire lead break inside their electronic ignition. I'm glad they found the problem. They, along with the Bakers, the Schneiders, Victoria/I, Laird, Gary, Robin and Craig decided to let the front pass so we decided to stay the night there in Ft. Pierce. We called, and the courtesy van from the Raddison picked us up. Warm chocolate chips cookies greeted us at the counter! We had dinner at a local Italian eatery a short walk from the hotel, and we all enjoyed one more evening together before flying off in different directions. It rained off and on all during the day so I'm glad we stayed. Tuesday morning, with clear skies, we had breakfast at the Airport Tiki Cafe then said our goodbyes. We, along with Laird, departed as a 2-ship for a short 15 minute flight to Treasure Coast.

I had to return the transponder that I had borrowed the week before. We landed on the grass strip, taxied to the house and left the transponder in the hangar with a thank you note. Here's a picture of Bernie Kerr's house (he wasn't home) and the runway.

From there, we started our 2000nm+ trip home to California, and after getting cleared through Orlando Class B, turned towards Tallahassee then westbound. We stopped for fuel at Crestview's Bob Sikes Airport (CEW) then continued on, crossing the Mississippi River awhile later;

We continued on with one more fuel stop at Rusk County (F12) airport in Henderson, TX then flew the last hour into the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We landed at Grandbury's Pecan Plantation (0TX1) and taxied right up to the backyard of Martin & Claudia Sutter's beautiful Skypark home. I'd checked in with them before leaving the Bahamas asking if we could stay the night and they said 'Come on down!' Total flight time from Treasure Coast to Pecan was 7.4 hours on the hobbs with 2 fuel stops.

We enjoyed a great BBQ dinner as we sat and watched the planes come and go...Living with your airplane with the runway just out the back door... I could get used to that real fast! I can't wait till we build our Rosamond Skypark home one day! Then you all could fly in and visit :-) The next morning, we were not in a hurry to leave as we would gain back 2 hours with the time difference so after a great breakfast the Sutter's cooked up, we loaded up for the flight across the second half of the USA. I've flown over Texas many, many times now, and I still find there are so many different colors that can be found along the way. Here's a nice picture of Lubbock Int'l (with reflections from our instruments);

After 2.2 hours on the hobbs, we landed at Portales (PRZ), NM for fuel.

With Portales located just inside the NM border, we continued on towards Payson (PAN), AZ which is located just about in the middle of the state, north of Phoenix and south of Sedona. Payson (Airpark) is high on the list of places Victoria and I are considering retiring to...in about 20 years ;^) This picture shows pretty much the weather we saw since leaving Florida. Just beyond the mountains in the distance is Albuquerque, NM;

The flight into Payson was 2.9 hours, and that's where we had lunch at the cafe that is elevated above the ramp overlooking the runway and Mogollon Rim. With the plane fueled, we started the final leg across the desert, passing over Lake Havasu and the Colorado River into California towards Barstow then into the Antelope Valley, near Edwards Air Force Base. Laird continued on another 20 minutes home to Whiteman (WHP) near Burbank, and we landed at Rosamond after 2.4 hours. It's always good to be back home! We were away from home for exactly 2 weeks. We flew 47.9 hours traveling about 6200 nm, and we burned 400.2 gallons of 100LL. Here's an overall trip log. This trip was by far the most rewarding trip we've ever taken, and we can't thank Jim & Vicki Baker and Mike Stewart for teaming together and getting us all off the ground! Flying with Friends is Fantastic!!!! We are hoping that this trip could be something we'll try to do every other year or so giving me enough time to save up the $$$ Keep poundin' them rivets as trips like this make it SO worth it! Paul & Victoria

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