Stateside Errands and Small Plane to Paradise

I’ve had a whirlwind of travel lately. A bit too much for my liking, actually. When I’m back in Florida for visits with friends or family, and the ever-present island errands, I’ve described how hectic these Stateside visits can be. My latest trip last week was the most hectic yet!

On Monday, I took a morning flight from the island to Florida. Upon landing, I hopped in my little beater car and drove a few hours to meet friends who were visiting Florida on their kids’ Spring Break.

At dinner, with Theresa (and Kevin behind the camera).

Theresa and Kevin are both dear friends of mine from law school who have blessed the world with three sweet, rambunctious boys.

This snuggle made every minute of the drive worthwhile!

After an enjoyable overnight and morning together, I hopped back into the car on Tuesday and drove another couple of hours to spend the night with my grandparents. A delightful visit! Back into the car Wednesday morning and another couple hours drive back to Florida’s southeast coast for island errands.

What do I mean by that? I mean, EVERYTHING I can’t accomplish on the island itself and need. On Wednesday afternoon, that included:

  • buying a fuel filter for my beau’s truck at Napa Auto Parts,
  • West Marine for boat shoes (strike out)
  • stocking up on meat products from an Omaha Steaks store,
  • dropping by my dad’s to put the meat in the freezer,
  • Outdoor World for boat shoes and flip flops (score!)
  • annual visit to my Stateside doctor,
  • far too long in a Target store,
  • back to my Dad’s for chatting over a glass of wine, then blog work at the counter while he cooked dinner.

Thankfully, I see my family often these days because this visit was far too short! After spending the night, I hugged my dad good-bye and was back on the road Thursday morning by 7:00am:

  • to my Mom’s to transfer the frozen meats to her freezer,
  • dermatologist for my first checkup since living in hardcore sun (a good report, phew!),
  • Lowe’s for closet organizers,
  • banking,
  • PetSmart for dog food,
  • IKEA for more home storage solutions,
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond for miscellaneous,
  • haircut,
  • dentist,
  • grocery store for island food,
  • meeting with tax guy,
  • back to my mom’s to consolidate packing, check computer and get ready to return home the next day.

Normally, these errand-packed days would include a trip to the veterinarian within 48 hours of departure to complete Angel’s immigration paperwork. However, on this relatively short trip, I’d simply left her at home on the island with my beau.

The next morning, Friday, I loaded my trunk and back seat and hit the road again. First, was a several-hour appointment at Home Depot with my mother to complete a custom order for bathroom cabinets/sinks/counters/faucets/hardware for the island. Then I hugged my mother good-bye and headed to the private hangar where I would take a shared charter service flight back to the island.

I unloaded everything onto a scale in the hangar – 235 pounds of stuff! Given that I am only allowed 35 pounds before paying $1.50 per pound overage, this was an expensive trip. However, I was stocking up for several months, and it was still cheaper than buying it in Nassau or shipping it over from the States.

When Stateside, I mostly raid my mother’s closet, so this pile doesn’t even include much personal packing.

After I was all checked in, my brother, who works nearby, met me for lunch at a restaurant down the street. Again, too quick a visit, but better than nothing and we’ve enjoyed seeing each other a lot these days!

After lunch, I headed back to the waiting room next to the hangar until time to depart. No counters, no intercoms, no security lines, no ramps – everything small and simple. A staff member led us on a short walk outside to the plane.

A single engine Caravan.

Yup, that’s it! I climbed up the 3-step ladder attached to the door and entered the plane.

Nine seats, plus pilot and co-pilot seats. On this flight, I sat in the single seat behind the pilot (left side).

If you think this is a small plane, trust me when I say that it is not! I suppose I’m comfortable from having grown up in small planes with my family and making this particular flight frequently.

Anyway, we all got buckled in and took off. Finally, I was heading home.

Flying southeast and leaving the Florida coastline behind.

After flying about 90 minutes, we landed in Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas. The island where I live is too small to boast a customs/immigration office, so I have to clear in through an island, like Andros, that does have such an office.

Entering the building, I waited my turn in line to see the Bahamian Immigration officer.

I enter the Bahamas on a tourist visa. In the past, visitors could get months at a time on their visa, even as long as six or nine months. But, like many places, Bahamian immigration seems to be tightening, and I’ve been denied long stays on a couple of occasions. (That means, I return to the States earlier than planned, then re-enter the Bahamas on a new visa.) In part, it depends on whether a Customs and an Immigration officer are on duty, or if the Customs officer is serving both roles because Customs does not have authority to grant beyond 30 days. Ultimately, it’s all at the discretion of the Immigration officer and his or her mood that day!

This time, I don’t have any Stateside trips scheduled until August, so I asked for 5 months, smiled and held my breath. The Immigration officer carefully thumbed through the stamps in my passport before simply stamping his approval. Yay!

I contained my excitement and turned to the next podium to see the Customs agent. She formally started to ask me standard questions (where was I going, was this my first time). In answering, I chatted about going to Regatta (shorthand for the national sailing championship next month) and cheering on our local boats. She broke into a smile, wistfully exclaimed she wished she could go this year, directed me to dance enough for both of us, and that concluded her questioning!

Back outside, I climbed onto the plane and settled in for the short ride the rest of the way home.

And THIS is where things turn truly magnificent – the aerial views of the turquoise swirls of water, white swirls of sand and intricate chain of small islands are simply indescribable. These pictures – taken on a hazy day and through reflective glass – can’t even begin to do it justice, but I’ll let them speak for themselves . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we neared home, I peered down at neighboring islands, where various friends live, recognizing those particular islands by their shapes, position in the chain and structures built upon them. Finally, we descended even lower and approached the 3,000 foot airstrip.

I told you the island was small! From the air, the landing strip seems to take up most of it!

There’s no airport or Air Traffic Control, so the pilot just scans the sky and listens to the radio for other pilots in the area, as well as radioing his approach. Landing a plane is no small feat in any conditions. However, landing on a short runway, especially on a windy day with strong cross-winds, has terrified more than a few pilots new to the area. Experienced pilots crab their way on in, and landings are usually fairly smooth and uneventful – just the way we like ’em!

Home, sweet home. (The blur in the photo is from the moving propeller.)

We touched down, and I smiled. Climbing out of the plane, I saw a variety of friends at the airport, giving rides to their family and friends, sending stuff on an outgoing plane, picking up stuff from an incoming plane – it’s quite the hub of activity. I saw two friends who came to get stuff I was carrying for them. I also quickly ran over to hail the return of dear neighbors who, after a long absence, had just arrived by private plane and were piling their immense cargo into their truck.

Similarly, my beau and I loaded my haul into the back of his truck, then headed home where Angel noisily greeted me with squeals and yips, and I happily began the process of unpacking, putting everything away and settling into home.

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