Boy was I relaxed. Several days prior, Bob, Turbo and I flew to Florida, then on to the Bahamas. We had four days of sunshine and waves, but now it was time to go home. I expected the stress to flood back in, but a day full of flying, especially with part over beautiful waters, prevented that.
It was a quiet morning as it was New Years day, we took the first ferry off Great Guana Cay to return to Marsh Harbor. Customs was a buzz-kill, the lady Bob provided our forms to was an uncooperative grouch. Luckily, clearing customs was easy and quick beyond that. Then, we also had to pay which cost us more than the gas it took to flew there. Here's what to expect at Marsh Harbor:
$25 per person departure tax
$50 government tax
$5 service charge (Bob calls the fee for collecting the fee)
$12 facility fee - This was based on airplane weight. They automatically put us in the 3,000 piston single weight. Bob corrected them stating our aircraft is 800 pounds so it was dropped from 20 to 12. So if you are looking to save a bit of cash, make sure they have you in the proper weight category.
We departed from Marsh Harbor with a Bonanza shortly behind us. The ATC in the area does not have radar so we had to check in reports while flying. While flying out, you must create and activate a VFR flight plan and they will give you the appropriate frequency to use prior to crossing the ADIZ where you will pick up a squawk code and continue on your way to the US. The flight plan must be done in ICAO format. Our flight was clear until just miles from the shore where we started to encounter some clouds that required some dodging to reach our airport of entry, FXE.
Customs at FXE was super easy, but you must unpack everything from your plane for it to be inspected. The gentlemen were much nicer than the customs agents we encountered in the Bahamas. In unfamiliar with FXE, ask for progressive taxi instructions to customs as it's a small building and easy to miss.
We departed from FXE headed for St. Augustine (SGJ) for super cheap gas (from the city pump) and a $100 hamburger at the Fly By Cafe. Luckily we had filed IFR as we were in and out of clouds the entirety of the flight. We flew the ILS into SGJ just as it started to rain. The lineman we met was helpful in letting us pull the plane to an underhang so it would not leak and drive us on his golfcart to the FBO. Once there, we discovered the Fly By Cafe kitchen had closed so we spent time in the plush pilot room while awaiting pizza to be delivered. Hungry Howies to be exact, I haven't had that since living in Michigan. Yum! We also passed Area 51. Apparently, it's no longer in Roswell, haha!
Our original plan was to break the trip up and land again in NC. However, we were making great time due to tailwind and decided to make the return from SGJ in one hop. We averaged 190 knots over the ground. The flight from northern Florida through North Carolina was either in between overcast and undercast layers or IFR. Once the overcast disappeared we enjoyed a lovely pink sunset then clear skies when entering the DC area. Our flight time was exactly 3 1/2 hours. I did my first landing of the trip at FDK and it was beautiful, I might add. We were greeted by 36 degree temperatures as we put away the plane. Oh, to be back in the Bahamas!