Bimini 2018 by RV-14

Father/Daugher Spring Break in the Bahamas with long x/c Private Pilot Training

"The Times they are a changin'" as Bob Dylan would sing.  This aging this is catching up with our family.  Gone are the days of pulling the kids out of school and heading on Spring Break somewhere.  Yeah, our school is one of the weird ones.  In the course of their young lives, they almost never had a year where school was off for a whole week for spring break. They only got a Fri-Mon break.  As David Dennison, our idiot in chief would tweet, "UNFAIR!".  But now it's gottent to a whole new level of worse.  With one in College and one in High School, we no longer have even a week in common where the kids are both off.  Add to that, working for a company that for some reason thinks Spring Break time is a good time to have a major software rollout and PTO freeze?!?  So we rolled with the scheduling punches this year and since only 2 of us could get away, it was the perfect opportunity to utilize our 2 seat RV14!

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March can be an unpredictable travel month, with weather systems moving thru every few days that can keep you from getting to your destination. With this in mind, we planned our departure a couple days in advance of our bookings on the island of Bimini, a small area in the Western region of the Bahamas.  I booked us for Bimini because of one thing and one thing alone....Hammerhead Sharks.  Danielle and I wanted to get some SCUBA diving in, and I was shopping for an island that I could book with little lead time, get a reasonable deal, and do some good diving.  I didn't care if the hotel was the best, or if the food was fantastic, or anything else.  I just wanted a comfortable place to sleep, and some good SCUBA diving.  Bimini happens to be an area where Hammerhead sharks stop by as they migrate, and early in the year is the time to go see them.  It also is the shortest water crossing you'd have to deal with, but allows you to get out of the US for a short time.

Our departure day we had to pull up and leave a little early, to beat incoming weather from the West.  The photos above show snow on the ground in the Northern region, and then as we got down into the Tennesee area we had full overcast skies and some small areas of rain.  With Danielle still needing some Simulated Instrument time, we figured she'd get a bit of time on this trip to work that requirement off. I gave her some climbs, descents, turns, and course interceptions and she polished off 99% of her remaining Simulated instrument time on the vacation.

Getting into the Northern pat of Georgia, we were losing our sunlight with a nice sunset.  You'll notice below that I have a couple of EFIS screen shots. Those are showing some ghost targets that I was getting in various places.  For some reason, flying with ADS-B around Atlanta is one of the areas where I've always had the worst ghosting, and this being the first big trip with the Echo UAT, I wasn't surprised to see the Echo ghosted as well.  By Northern Florida we were pitch black nighttime flying and watched the city lights of Jacksonville go by on our way to Leesburg.

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Once we made Leesburg ahead of the weather, we had a couple of days to play while we waited to cross to Bimini for the day of our hotel reservations.  We spent one day at the Kennedy Space Center.  Danielle got to see the space ships close up, and sit in that mockup of the shuttle.

Then we hopped down to our buddy Lenny's house to see them before moving on to Ft. Lauderdale the night before the ocean crossing.  We threaded our way between a MOA and the Orlando class B area.  There's JUST enough gap there to squeeze thru without talking to anyone, while still flying at a decent altitude.

When we got to Lenny's, our buddy Ed and family was also there with his RV-10, so we joined everyone for a couple hours on the beach.

As we traveled, we decided to make a little video to share:

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The day of our crossing was a bit stressful in our planning.  The weather forecast wasn't great.  At times the non-aviation weather apps said Bimini's winds would be 25 - 35mph.  That's enough to make you worry when you only have one runway to land on.  And to add to the stress, you have to file eAPIS with Customs to do the trip, so it's not like if the winds are too bad, you can just fly back to Ft. Lauderdale.

As it ended up, we could see the cloud ceiling was very thin, even though KFXE went IFR for a while.  But it didn't LOOK that bad, so I filed an IFR plan and we headed out.  As it turned out, we didn't end up in IMC at all through the whole flight.  It was VMC all the way.  Our APRS tracker even tracked us all the way to the island.

Bimini isn't a super developd island.  We prefer that to the bigger built-up places.  The people there were very nice, and everything we really needed to do all worked out like clockwork.  You have to land, go thru customs, then immigration, then take a taxi to the boat dock where a water taxi takes you to North Bimini, where another taxi takes you to your hotel.  That's a lot of taxi work for maybe 2-3 miles of actual distance!  But soon we were at the hotel and had some very excellent food.   We stayed at the Bimini Big Game club.  It's really not much of a hotel when it comes to luxury, that's for sure. The floors are just troweld cement, our toilet paper holder was broken and our toilet run on until I fixed the float, but other than that, the bed was very comfortable and the room had plenty of space.  We ate most meals at the bar and all of the food there was really good.  One trip we did take to a pizza place up the island a ways, but the pizza there lacked pizazz.  It was less flavorful than any pizza I'd had in the US, although it LOOKED incredible.

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Above are a couple of pics of the dive boats we were on, and a bar that I remembered from being in Bimini in the early 90''s called the "Sand Bar" and the inside is filled with beach sand.  I couldn't belive it was still there!  This is also the site where the ending scene from Silence of the Lambs was filmed in 1991, so we got to see that building too.  Otherwise, we basically ate, hung out and walked beaches, and SCUBA dived for a few days.

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The SCUBA Diving was pretty good.  The first day was the waviest, and we did a couple of reefs to get warmed up.  We did see Eagle Rays, sea turtles, and some reef sharks on the first day.

Day 2 was our Hammerhead dives.  Getting the hammerheads to show up took a bit of time by Sean, our dive leader.  It was hard not to feel sorry for him in the water suffering the cold for a couple of hours to bring in the hammerheads.  But in the end his efforts were rewarded as we got to see numerous nurse sharks, there were 5 distinct Hammerheads that showed up, at least one Bull shark, and a Lemon shark.  The highlight of the dive though was seeing a bottlenose dolphin come swim down near us and pass by.  Never seen one of those while scuba diving before!
The final day we did another couple reef dives, and then it was time to relax until our trip home.

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Flying home was a marathon against the weather.  We made the crossing and cleared customs, and then just kept right on moving.  Along the way we monitored our EGTs a lot, because one was slightly low and we had had a slight engine miss on the water crossings.  We stopped in Florida thinking it may be a spark plug issue and I checked that cylinder and it was OK.  Did an inflight mag check and it was also ok, but the engine didn't sound 100% right.  It wasn't until our last leg that I could hear enough difference to know what we were up against.  We had a cracked exhaust pipe.  Once I figured that out, since we weren't getting any CO alerts in cruise and had flown for a few hours already, we kept moving for the last 2 hours of the trip and kept ourselves in front of a storm and made it home.  The exhaust on the RV-14 is a tricky system with the pipe coming up and over the nose gear and thru a belly tunnel.  I had a crack at about 25 hours when the shaking that the engine does on startup caused the right pipe to whack the inside of the tunnel which cracked a ball joint in the pipe.  This was basically a failure caused by the same thing, as we did have a rough hot-start in Florida once.  But the crack progressed over the flight until we realized what it was.  To combat this happening again, I've done a couple things. One is to lower the pipes slightly, to give just a little more side clearance in the tunnel.  The other thing is to free up the ball joints. Mine had seized up pretty tight, and without any flex, all the force is transmitted to the pipe when it hits the tunnel.  One other thing too was that I cut the metal tubes in the exhaust hanger a little shorter. They're 2 metal tubes joined by rubber hose. This will give a little more flex to the system if it does hit anything.  With those changes it hopefully will be good again.  We just passed 200 hours on the end of this trip.  Our exhaust isn't the stock Van's exhaust, because when I built, Van's didn't have it available yet, and theirs is a 4 into 1 system that may be too restricting for the IO-390 to fully breath.  Mine is 2 systems of 2 into 1.  The complication is that now you have just a little extra width to fit into that skinny tunnel.  If I have another crack I'm switching to the newer Vetterman system which just exits the cowl in front of the landing gear, preventing the need to run these into the tunnel at all.  All in all though, we had a great trip with 19.8 hours of flying round-trip, and that was at pulled back LOP cruise speeds.

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