John & Anne Wiley

2013/03/27

Carib Be In :)

Well, we went for it as you guessed. Took off from St. Augustine and flew over the fort we’d only seen from afar yesterday.

0699 St. Aug. Fort

0699 St. Aug. Fort

Also over the tourist part of town we’d wandered the night before while waiting to meet up with sweet Lettie and cool Roy for dinner. Turns out this is the oldest town in the country, and they have some fascinating archeological digs going on dating back into Spanish, French, English and American history.

0715 Tourist Quarter

0715 Tourist Quarter

Then down the coast at 1,500′ to 2,500′ intending to land at Vero Beach to top off fuel and take a stretch. Pretty constant light turbulence, but from what I’d seen forecast for winds aloft I thought it would be worse higher and with more crosswind slowing us down. I was so busy wresting with up/downdrafts I almost blundered into this restricted area over Cape Kennedy.

0742 Rocket Science

0742 Rocket Science

Since winds were plenty strong even low, we decided to just go for it and pay half again as much for fuel on the islands. That turned out to be a good decision, because once we started a gradual climb we were out of the turbulence by 5,000 feet. Again we picked up an express ride at higher altitudes, and up at 12,500 mid-crossing we topped out about 170kts. We were surprised how close both the island and the mainland looked from that high at mid-crossing. The crossing took only a few minutes before we passed this tip of Grand Bahama Island and turned descending toward Freeport.

0762 Landfall

0762 Landfall

Florida had several thick smoke plumes from what appeared to be agricultural burns, and over the island they spread into a high smoke layer that hung over everything.

0763 Smoke High

0763 Smoke High

I quickened our descent to get below it for a better look at the island, only to find that they had fires of their own feeding the layer. Luckily downwind of our turn back toward the airport after touring the town.

0816 Expected Colors

0816 Expected Colors

Down here the colors were more what we expected from the tourist pix we’ve seen. Before long the friendly and helpful guys at ATC had us on the ground. They had me land with a strong and gusty quartering tailwind, but that just made it more fun for me. 🙂

Also wanted me to taxi clear to the end of the long single runway and then all the way back to the customs office at the terminal. Maybe the connecting taxiways were unusable, or they just like you to burn gas. I never did ask what that was about, but wished the tower had told me in advance so I could have landed at the end to look around longer and shorten the taxi.

Update: Pilots can find more details on flying the Caribbean in this thread I started on POA.

Waiting for us on the ramp was the super friendly, soft-spoken and helpful Daron who kindly posed with us for this documentation of our first Caribbean landing. If you ever land there, please tell him you saw his photo here and treat yourself to his disarming non-posed smile. 🙂

0057 Darren & Admirers

0057 Daron & Admirers

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