The ultimate flying vacation                                                                             

Background picture, Treasure Cay Abacos Island Bahamas

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Welcome to Bruce & Diana's vacation travel log
April - May 2007

This vacation has been in the planning since April last year, when I floated the idea during our Baja trip. Diana I and had flown our Cessna 185 to Mulege, along with my brother Pat flying his Cessna 206. Over margaritas I suggested we plan another flying vacation April 2007 to Florida for Sun N' Fun then out to the Bahamas for some island hopping; Diana thought I was nuts!

A few months later Pat called and asked if I was serious about the trip East. I was and he was in. Through the Internet we garnered everything needed. Bahamas and Caribbean pilot guide, maps and a number of internet sites dedicated to flying the Islands.

April 13th: It's Friday, finished my last Atlas trip Wednesday and spent the last two days getting ready to depart south. Installed the Dynon D10A EFIS, this should be a fun toy and added Shark Gills (engine cooling louvers}. With all the heat this IO-520 produces we will need the extra air flow, especially in the warmer weather.

April 14th. Time to fly south. I departed Birchwood 7am. Weather is good today, lucky because it's been crap all week. Checking weather the coast route was a bad idea so inland I headed, direct Whitehorse 4 hours, clear customs refuel then off again. This next leg was the long one. Direct Penticton BC. 7 hours. With the belly tank and running the engine lean of peak, 10.5gph, I have an easy 7-8 hour range. With the ceilings being 11,500 and just scattered clouds. I had planned to RON in Penticton. I was an hour out when I flew over 100 Mile House and thought if I stop here I save a cab ride into town. The runway at 100 Mile House is in town and with only a 300 yard hike to a motel I called Pacific Radio, canceled my flight plan and land. The motel folks are use to this. I showed up on foot with just a small knapsack and the gal says you must have landed at the airport. Had a good dinner and slept and by 6am and I'm ready to continue.

April 15th. I could have used wing covers, the 185 is covered with frost, I'll be delayed. With the sun coming up I tail the 185 in to the sun. With the dark painted wing tops the sun makes 15 minute work of clearing the frost and by the time I finished breakfast across the street, the wings were dry. No fuel here but I still have 26 gals, plenty to continue to Penticton. It's a clear morning flying the Frazer and Okanogan Rivers. I'm in and out of Penticton in 20 minutes headed to Spokane. I had called US customs before crossing the border. I breezed through the paper work, paid for this years border sticker. I checked fuel prices, $4.89 gal, too high. Headed south to Rosalia, 26 miles and fueled at $3.85. Two hours later I'm in Boise. 15 hours of flying Birchwood to Boise.

                         Saturday BCV                                        100 Mile House Frost                                                 Okanogan Valley

April 16th. If your wondering why I'm alone. Diana can't get off until the15th so I'm getting a head start. It's Monday 9am I'm at Moxie Java in Boise. Kim picked Diana up at the airport and they just walked in. Were meeting Pat at the aircraft in 30min and headed across the Rockies today.

Were headed towards weather, 4 hours Meeker Colorado $3.45 gal fuel. Were planning our stops where fuel is cheapest. Pat spent hours online at AirNav finding good deals. Last 2 hours it's oxygen at 14,000 above the weather. The overcast ends and we avoid a building thunder storm on descent and get some great canyon and rock formation pics of the Green River. Second leg 3 hours to Kit Carson, Colorado. Turned in to 4 hours for Diana and I. We couldn't get over the Front Range, winds had  dead air sinkers. Had to go all the way to Laramie before we could climb high enough to get over the weather, 15,500. Easy from there, quick fuel stop and on the Goodland, Kansas for the night.

   Green River                               Meeker Colorado                                        Flying high                                   Pat & Kim over the Mississippi

April 17th. Were headed to Nashville. It was a fight out of Goodland, low overcast for the first hour, after it's beautiful flying east across Americas  heartland, high clouds and a slight headwind. In and out of Mountain View, MO, fuel & go, 2 hours to Humphreys, TN. More cheap AV Gas and 30min to Nashville and the John Tune Airport.

We're all looking forward to an evening in music city and were not disappointed. Downtown Honky Tonk Row on Broadway. Ribs and Catfish at Rippey's, about the best pork dry rub ribs We've ever had. We ate well!. We slipped in and out of a half dozen clubs enjoying Bluegrass, Honky Tonk, Country and Rock music. Mid week and you would think it's a weekend. We had a great time.

April 18th. Last day for travel to get to Sun N' Fun!  Left Nashville about 10:30 and headed for Homerville, Ga. A great place to go for cheap gas, $2.79 gal. Get this, it was the Homerville City Manager there manning the pilot shop helping with the fueling and providing great food for all the pilots who happened to stop by. The city is trying to promote General Aviation into their city. We take off heading for Lakeland and as we approach within 30 miles we discover it will be another hour before they let us come in. So, an unexpected stop in Zephyrhills airport, yet another very friendly and helpful group of people, 16 miles NW of Lakeland. We top off there and head to Lakeland. There are specific arrival procedures for getting here, so we lead the way with Pat and Kim glued to our tail. This actually made it more difficult for Pat. He would have been fine coming in on his own, but following us did complicate things just a bit for him. We wanted to arrive together to ensure we were parked next to each other.

Now one must remember that we have been chased by storms the entire trip. Here in Lakeland it appears that it will catch us. The only other time Kim has been to rained the entire time.  In her mind the jury is still out on the benefits of Florida. Sure enough we set up camp, get dinner and are back enjoying an evening beverage under overcast skies and the wind picks up, we have lightening and rain! Not being lightweights we stay out getting a bit drenched before retiring for the evening. The 3 of us have decided that if its rainy and dreary the next day, we are going to ship Kim home...

April 19th. All night long the wind whips our tarp against the tent, rain does quit at some point, but we wake early to very overcast skies and wind. Back to sleep for a bit thinking this is not going to be a fun day...Low and behold and hour later the sky clears and it's nothing but sunshine. Off to the air show we go.

A long day of checking out exhibits and watching the daily air show. First day is deemed a success and we patiently await for tomorrows activities. More then.

                Morning wake up                         Enjoying the air show                             Our Camp                       Pat & Kim and one loaded Cessna 206

April 20th.   More  time spent checking out the exhibitor booths, new and old airplanes. On Friday night they have a night time air show. None of us had seen one of those before. It was fantastic! Formation flying and some limited aerobatics. Lots of lights! The evening was capped off with a great fireworks show. Diana hasn't seen fireworks in the summer at night for 31 years!

Bimini and Abaco Islands

April 21st. & 22nd  Airborne from Lakeland by 10:30 and off to the Bahamas! First stop, the Bimini Islands. Just a mere 35 minutes of flying across water.....60 miles out from the Florida coast. We land at South Bimini, clear customs and catch a taxi to the water taxi dock. Then onto the water taxi and over to North Bimini. We find Blue Water Resort and check in. Two rooms on the west side of the island. But, the wind is still with us and snorkeling seems out of the question for now. Wandering around town in our rented golf cart offers lots of amusing time for all. Dinner that night at Sara's End of the Road Restaurant, fun place. While in Bimini we tried raw conch and cooked conch.....interesting raw, but much better cooked. A bit of beach walking and swimming...and a lot of visits to local watering holes.

                Over water leg                                        Dreadlocks                                      Diana                                                    Treasure Cay Golf

April 23rd - 25th.. On to Marsh Harbor in the Abacos Islands. We enjoy the flight and over fly Grand Bahamas Island and the Northern part of Abacos Island. Beautiful light blue water. In Marsh Harbor we have a 3 bedroom house rented for 3 days. What a great place. Stop at the grocery store and fish store for the nights dinner. Hog fish, Stone Crab and Red Snapper cooked on the grill. A lot of wine, three cooks in the kitchen and a dinner lived not just prepared, beats any 5 star restaurant.

Tuesday we hope into the car and head to Treasure Cay for bit of golf. Had a great time,  just didn't play well. Oh well, first game of the year. Still too windy for much swimming and too rough out for snorkeling. The wind has to die down, sometime...

             Hog fish dinner                                      On the beach                                               Nippers                                      On the FishBone
 Our second day on the Abacos we took the ferry to the outer islands and a day on the beach. World famous Nippers, great food, great people and it's on the beach! We spent the day and found what we flew 40 hours for, Island Time! It's somewhere between cool water, warm sand, a nap on the beach, cold beer and the family you share it with. In the moment it's almost missed but in the memories it's remembered and treasured... Had a great time meeting other folks enjoying their adventures and sharing stories. Stayed late, missing the ferry back to March Harbor but caught a ride on the Fish Bone.
I apologize for the gap. We left the Abacos and headed for The Eluthera Islands but my laptop power supply decided to find a new home! I hope it's happy, I wasn't...

April 26th - 28th..

Thursday we depart Marsh Harbor, had to fly low and revisit out previous days excursions, along the beach and a fly by of Nippers!! It's only 1 2 hours to our next adventure and we fly it at 50' and hardly see a soul, what a kick. Were headed to the third of four Island chains we would visit, Eleuthera.. Eleuthera is a very long skinny island group and the most eastern. Heading east if you miss it, next stop Africa. Can't miss it today, clear and 100 miles visibility. The wind has finely dropped below 10kt, it's been above 20kt the last week, nice change.

Our destination, Rock Sound. A not so small 7000' airstrip in the middle of Eleuthera Island. There are no other aircraft here, it's strange because there is large aircraft support equipment, air stairs, power carts and tugs but there all rusted, it's almost an airport ghost town. Seems a Spanish tour group flew 747's here in the 80's. Were off the beaten path now, no hotels, no resorts. We found the Bahamas the cruise ships and tourist never see.

 My Brother Pat and I in his C-206                  Thunder ball Grotto                         Eluthera Island coast                               Tarpin Bay

At Tarpum Bay we had two beach cottages, but how to get there? So few aircraft land here that when the cottage owner saw us fly by she sent a car.

We found the Bahamas the cruise ships and tourist never see. Our beach cottage is just that and 50' from a small sandy beach surrounded by coral and just deep enough for a lawn chair and Kalik Beer in hand. Cob and Kim were off exploring the village while Diana and I found Island Time relaxing in the lagoon.

Next day we take a side trip to Staniel Cay. Diana and Kim fly the 185 while I joined Cob in his 206. It's another low level cruise for 45 minutes across the islands, capes and logons. We find a local nice enough to give us a ride and rent a boat and directions for the day. Were headed to Thunder Ball Grotto. This was a filming location for one of James Bond films. We were all amazed. Didn't seem like much at first. We anchor off a small Island, put on our snorkel gear and head to a small overhang. As we approach we can see under and there is 6" of clearance into a cave that opens into a cavern, it's interior lit by holes in the ceiling letting in shafts of light illuminating the pool and enhancing the contrast and colors, it's effect was dramatic. Hundreds of fish in schools combine a collage of colors. Were mesmerized and just float along taking in another National Geographic moment!

More to see though, someone suggest finding local wildlife and we did, pigs and not just any but swimming pigs as it turned out. As we headed towards a beach these porkers came out to greet us, except they expected a snack and when we didn't have one they attempted a boarding. It was close till we got the outboard in gear and repelled the borders. Continuing our exploring we were on a quest for an out of the way Cay and lunch at a local marina. We found it and as were motoring in we notice large shadowy shapes. It isn't till we dock we see them move, sharks, 5' to 8' Nurse Sharks. Were not swimming here!

               Diana and Kim                                  Thunder Ball Grotto                                Repelling borders                               Shark under our boat

Back in Tarpin Bay it's our last night before heading towards home. We find a small local place overlooking the Atlantic for our last dinner together for a while. It's our time to look back over the last two weeks and the flying vacation of a lifetime all four of had the privilege to experience together. Diana and I look forward to the next time!

Our last flying day together, were in formation again, north to Marsh Harbor to top off our tanks then across the northern island and Grand Bahamas and our longest over water leg, 80 miles to Ft Pierce Florida where we clear Customs back into the USA. The last thing I expect was a customs officer who didn't even come out to look at our aircraft, especially here with all the drug problems. O well, I'm not complaining.

    Our Bahamas Cruising Permit stamped at each port of call,  pictured before surrendering it at our last port of call at North Eluthera before departing to the US.

Cob and Kim are heading to the Florida Keys to check it out and Diana and I are heading to see her relatives in Sarasota Florida before heading back to Alaska. Cob and I plan to look for each other on the radio tomorrow, they'll be heading back to Boise, so will listen up.

Diana and I spent a very important two days with her Aunt and family before beginning our 5 day trek back home to Alaska.

Our first day heading home we enjoyed a beautiful flight along Florida's Panhandle and the Gulf of Mexico, then Louisiana and the surprisingly rugged and wooded Arkansas. After a fuel stop in Fordyce AR it was on to Hot Springs AR for the night. Diana and I were both surprised to find this large city had a small home town feel within the valleys and hills it filled and the historical sights it held. People were friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening there.

By 8am we were airborne headed West to Denver and two days with my youngest sister Theresa and Dan and their two monsters, Daniel and Mikayla . With a check online of AirNav, we have fuel prices along the route. It's another fantastic day and in the early morning not a breath of air or a bump as we take in the roiling hills and glassy lakes of Arkansas. Before long we climb on the plains and farmland of the Midwest and the bread basket of our nation. Taken as a whole as the hours unfold it's a spectacle to behold as we cross from state to state.

Occasionally I we give a call for Cob and Kim while Diana and I take turns flying. Just before we descend for fuel we connect, their 30 minutes behind us and our fuel stop is cheaper so the press on. We meet up at Sterling Colorado and caught up with what we have each been up to these three days. They spent the night just 50 miles from Little Rock. We split up for the last time as we head off around different sides of a thunderstorm, there headed to Boise and will be at Denver's JeffCo airport in a hour.

It's great fun with Theresa and family. We catch up on what's been happening with school, sports and the like and enjoy a backyard BBQ. Next day we take the kids on a flight see around Denver's Front Range and give Daniel lesson at the controls and a weightless rollercoaster ride, great fun and no upset stomachs!

         Flying the Front Range                      Mikayla gets some air                           The final leg home                             Landing at Birchwood

May 2nd we get an early start. Were looking for ward to the next few days flying through Canada and getting home. Our vacation has gone by too fast but no dwelling on that. we've a summer of flying in Alaska to look forward to. A quick fuel stop in Choteau Montana and by 5pm we've cleared customs in Calgary and headed for Rocky Mountain house Alberta for our last night on the road. This is a great stop for transiting aircraft. The local flying club has a airport car. After securing the 185 and loading the 1976 Lincoln Town Car, in a cloud of oil smoke head to the Holiday Inn. The Canadians are friendly and direct Diana and I to a local stake house for Alberta beef and British Columbia wine, you won't readily fine California wine here.

Our last day is a long one and gets underway early. It's a foggy day and off we go IFR for the first hour till conditions clear, no VFR on top in Canada. After three hours were in the Trench headed north, scud running in more weather to Watson Lake our first fuel stop. Weather is improving, by 3pm were enroute to Northway. We have a good view of Whitehorse from 8500, usually this is our last stop before Alaska but we had enough fuel with the belly tank to fly all the to Northway. 6pm the customs officer is waiting to clear us. 20 minutes after adding 30 gallons, just enough to get us home were airborne. Diana fly's our last leg home and the end of a very successful flying vacation. With high clouds and familiar surroundings we chat about the fun weeks past, the work weeks ahead and plan for a summer flying floats...

81 hours and 45 Takeoff and landings from Alaska to Sun-n-Fun the Bahamas and back. Were grateful to be home safe and sound.

And that's our story and were sticking to it!

Hope you enjoyed it. Diana and I sure did, especially sharing it my older brother Pat and his very young trophy wife Kim...



Performance Data: Sun-n-Fun Fuel Log 2007 This link will open the fuel log in excel format.

We used to help plan our fuel stops in the US, it's a free service. We found it invaluable in searching out the lowest fuel prices. Every morning we'd put in our intended route, define the corridor and get accurate fuel prices with which to plan our fuel stops. It saved us hundreds of dollars.

If your interested in some of the performance aspects of our trip, you'll note from the Skywagon Page, Diana and I have added many modification to our Cessna 185. Many are designed to save money as well as increase performance and efficiency. The IO-520 engine with the 3 blade prop, upgraded from the IO-470 with the 2 blade would normally increase fuel consumption. However we also installed GAMI Injectors and using the EI-6point EGT/CHT we operated 50LOP (lean of peak) for 95% of the trip. Average fuel consumption for the entire trip 11.4GPH. I figured the fuel savings alone paid for the GAMI injectors.

If your interested on LOP operation here are my observations from this trip.

I would climb at 110 knots 24/24 (24" MP/2400 RPM)  with EGT 100 ROP (rich of peak) Fuel at about 18GPH, cowl flaps open. My cylinder temps, depending on OAT, 390f to 370f.

At about 5000' I'd level and set 23/2350 and lean to peak then continue to lean till the last cylinder that peaked was about 40f-50f LOP and resume climb 110 knots decreasing with high altitudes. Fuel flow now 10.6 to 10.8 GPH, decreasing of course above 7000' (max altitude for 23" MP). Cowl flaps positioned to keep CHT 350f to 370f.

Operating ROP I would have to keep cowl flaps full open with so much heat being developed. LOP even in the climb I had to close cowl flaps to keep cylinder temps up. Oil temp would also reflect this, 10f Cooler LOP.

I also did some comparing in cruise of ROP and LOP operations, CHT and FF (fuel flow). Operating LOP results in about a 8% loss of BHP (break horsepower) 21/2350 ROP 50f, FF 11.5GPH, results in the same TAS, about 130 knots, as 23/2350 LOP 50f, FF 10.8GPH. CHT is also 15f to 20f cooler operating LOP with a net savings of .7 GPH.

The engine runs much cooler and saves fuel when operating LOP, what's not to like. I have found though, the loss of BHP when operating LOP it's tough to do when your heavy. With the higher BHP needed when I'm heavy there is a larger loss of BHP when trying to operate LOP and I can't stay on step but otherwise it's a great way to save fuel and increase range.

Additionally, I noticed when changing the oil at the end of this trip, which had been 45 hours since changing. The oil was not near as black as usual. I contribute this to LOP operations. Carbon is what turns oil black and adds to engine ware. LOP resulted in less carbon blow-by and less particles in the oil. Only 1 qt was added since the last change.

The main concern is damaging cylinders by overheating and I agree you need to monitor LOP operations closely, if your at a high power 24/24 you could get EGTs high enough to possibly cause problems if a cylinder was to stay at it's peak EGT, so be careful.

I should add a disclaimer. Don't operate LOP because I do. It is not a practice recommended by TCM and I don't want to be responsible for someone ruining their engine. I you operate LOP, it's at your own risk, so know what your doing...

Of note we did not have a single maintenance issue with the 185, it ran flawlessly. The oil and filter were changed at Sun-n-Fun, 35 hours on, so before the engine is cooled after landing Birchwood I'm draining the oil and sending it in for analysis, which came back normal!



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