The Berrys, Bahamas

Great HarbourAs you possibly noticed this was a wonderful weekend for flying. I took advantage of that by flying with some freinds from work down to the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. It was about 3 hours and I put a stop in at Boca Raton for fuel (always a good idea). We spent a 3 day weekend down there and flew back Sunday.

We left out of PIE at around 7:30 on 17L and flew straight out over the top of Albert Whitted and stayed VFR below 1200 until clear of the class B and then climbed to 5500 to clear the layer of scattered clouds and also get to some nice smooth air. We picked up a tail wind of around 20 knots which made us feel like we were in a Cirrus at a fraction of the cost and almost the same speed. We landed at Boca Raton which is a Great stop. I phoned Mike using my headset gizmo and he looked up the cheapest fuel FBO which was Avitat and we stopped there. Boca has an abundance of Ferraris and Rolls Royces driving around the apron. The FBO was awesome and had cookies and all sorts of drinks with a really nice pilots lounge to check the weather and file an international VFR flight plan. We filled up with fuel and headed out to the east. Approach was too busy to give flight following so I just kept on the frequency and flew out VFR. The tail wind was still there and we made great time to Chub Cay where we climbed to 3500 feet to contact Nassau Radio 32 miles away to close our flight plan then dropped down to 1000 feet and flew along all the little islands that make up the Berrys, ending in Great Harbour our destination. I did all the calls on 122.8. Marsh Harbour is by far the busiest airport out there. We landed on 31 and pulled up to customs. It is a private airport so you have to pay $8 landing fees. The customs guys are about as freindly as customs folks anywhere and about half as speedy but we were on island time so no matter. We caught a taxi to our rental cottage. It was a splendid place with a fine view. Their were 2 resturants on the island that we frequented. The Beach Club on the main beach and then the Marina Pool Club. Both had great burgers and cold Kalik.

Things to do differently next time:
* Take provisions. You are allowed $100 of provisioning per person. Some coffee would have been a nice touch.
* Leave earlier in the day. We left at around 7:30 but the cloud build ups get going early down here so getting out really early would save you from having to climb like a homesick angel to get over the nastys.

Things to do the same:
* File pireps. Whenever you drop in a PIREP then Flightwatch will always give you whatever information that they have for your route of flight. More important from my perspective is the sky conditions at the destination airport. I am looking for clear broken few or scattered. That way I know if I come up to some clouds I can just pop over the top of them where the visibility is better knowing that when I get to the destination airport I will be able to drop through in VFR conditions. Admittedly this is risky business and should also take into consideration the trends and temp dewpoint spread. Takes me back to my earlier comment leave earlier in the day and you wont have to worry about this.
* Stop for fuel at Avitat at Boca. They cut us some slack with the weekend fuel rate even tho it was only friday. They were very nice about having us stop there for fuel even tho we only took 15 gals and the other planes that we parked next to took 2000 gals. Nice facilities too. Flying overwater with low fuel is about the least fun thing I can think of doing in a plane so getting those tanks topped off was awefully comforting.
* File international VFR from Boca. This worked well.
* Keep the oil at 6.5qts. The oil temp was noticibly happier with that much oil in there vs 6 qts which I did in the past.
* Preprinted the customs forms and filled them out before the flight.
* Used NRST WX on the GPS to check available weather sources in the route of flight. My Garmin 196 does a great job of presenting this information in a useful and relevant way.
* Run the engine at 2500. I feel a really good sweet spot in the engine at those RPM. She is very happy there.
* I leaned to 1380 on the temp rather than lean until she runs rough and then rich 5 turns. This latter strategy had me at 1420 or so on the temp. My fuel consumption was 7.7 gph vs 8.2 gph but I attribute that to a lot more taxi and hold short on this trip than previous. The point is I can run the engine a bit cooler without any apparent penalty in fuel consumption.

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