Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bahamas Flight - Part 2


 In part 1 of this serial blog, I announced our departure from Frederick to Ft. Lauderdale with a stop in North Carolina. After a scrumptious breakfast with a friend, we were on our way to the Bahamas. Flying to the Bahamas isn't ordinary as there are several rules to follow, but they are easy to heed. AOPA provides a good list here. There are also requirements to follow for importing pets, which I will describe in a later post.

Before departing, Bob had completed the eAPIS (electronic advanced passenger information system) required before crossing the border. I've received many questions about this and while Bob completed them both when we went to Canada and the Bahamas, I took a look and it's quite simple. First, you have to register online at https://eapis.cbp.dhs.gov/. Once logged on, you can create your crew and passenger manifest to be stored online where you can use it again. Before each departure or arrival you must create a new notice of arrival or departure. Your estimated border crossing time must be within 15 minutes or you'll have to update with flight service. That estimate and ensuring you have an internet connection can be the tricky parts of eAPIS. We experienced no problems.

It was a beautiful 1.2 hour flight (a bit of flight-seeing was thrown in) to our airport of entry, Marsh Harbor, MYAM in the Abacos. It was cloudy departing Ft. Lauderdale and it took some dodging to get to an altitude to remain VFR. Later, we found ourselves soaring over broken layers with sparkling glimpses of the ocean below. I thought I might begin to hear engine problems as every pilot tells tales of when flying over open water. But, I was tickled pink for our island adventure. 

Soon, Grand Bahama came to view and we reported when passing Freeport as requested by ATC. Camera clicks picked up pace as water turned a brilliant green and more islands, cays and sandbars were spotted along our route. It's no wonder that the Bahamas are on many a pilot's bucket list.

Marsh Harbor was busy, we could hear many aircraft in the pattern on frequency. A King Air was on downwind as we turned final. Many jets and multi-engine aircraft were on the ramp along with a few smaller planes mixed in. Apparently, Marsh Harbor has daily commercial flights from Florida as well. We unpacked and walked into customs which we cleared within several minutes. The catch-ya is they make you pay your fees when you depart, which is quite a buzz-kill. If you have a pet with you, they'll hold on to him/her while you clear customs and will be waiting for you upon exit. The agent with Turbo must have spoiled him, she said he recognized the word "treat"!
Our final destination was Great Guana Cay, a 40 minute ferry ride from Great Abaco. There are plenty of taxis awaiting you outside, just make sure that they bring you to the proper ferry dock as there are two. The taxi ride was $20 and the ferry ride on Albury's Ferry service is $17 one way or $27 round trip. Dogs need to be in carriers while on the ferry, but we got away without one. Although not knowing how lax your captain may be, call ahead and request one if you don't have one.

We started the morning by car, then by airplane, followed by boat and ended with...a golf cart! I will tell you all there is to know about paradise a.k.a Great Guana Cay in Part 3!

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