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My oldest brother, Dan, joined Lucky Lady Too and I on our 35th leg since departing 9 years ago. I had decided to divide the Caribbean up into 2 legs; the first to be from the USA to St. Lucia. Our goal was to stop and see as many island nations from the air and on the ground and also to scuba dive in the more memorable sites along the way. We weren¡¯t out to hang on the beach but to keep moving and experiencing.
There are about 58 airstrips in the 20 island groups that make up the Bahamas. Lucky Lady Too gave us a bird¡¯s eye view from 1,000 feet elevation and safely delivered us to 15 different strips on 10 of those island groups. There are so many small islands in the Great Exuma Island group it looks like God threw a handful of marbles across the ocean. The deepest blue hole in the world (663 feet deep) is along the coast of Long Island. We stayed a different place each night including with friends of mine who have a home on the Bahaman island of San Salvador where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World in 1492.
From the Bahamas we departed Great Inagua Island to enter the Turks and Caicos at Provo where Lucky Lady Too was parked between a gaggle of jets arriving for New Years Eve. Continuing along the shoreline we flew over North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Ambergris Cay (Cay is pronounced ¡°Key¡±) to step back in time at Salt Cay. The coral was beautiful here. In 1962 the astronaut John Glen ¡°splashed down¡± off the western coast of Grand Turk.
The Dominican Republic has the highest peak and the lowest point in the Caribbean. It has the oldest church, the oldest fort and the oldest street in all the America¡¯s. The Zona Colonial section of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage site where Christopher Columbus¡¯s son, Diego, set the corner stone for the oldest cathedral in operation in the Americas in 1514. We landed in Samana where thousands of humpback whales migrate to birth and breed in the shallow waters of it¡¯s lagoon.
In Puerto Rico we landed at Isla Grande airstrip which lies next to the cruise ship harbor then made our way to the colonial town of Ponce. We stopped in Humacao on the east coast and then onto Culebra, an island north of Vieques where the US previously had a military base.
Next up was St. Croix, one of the USA¡¯s Virgin Islands where we stayed with one of Dan¡¯s 16 high school classmates. We dove at Cane Bay and saw a number of seahorses. This dive site was a ¡°walk-in¡± site, quite unique as most dive sites are reached by a boat. We flew onto St. Thomas and caught a ferry over to St. Johns where recently an estate had sold for $35 million. In St. Thomas we stayed at a historical hotel built in 1829 that had the largest collection of Amber in the Caribbean.
From the US Virgin Islands we continued to the UK Virgin Islands landing in Tortola and Anegeda. We wished to land in Virgin Gorda but since a Cessna crashed there on their airports¡¯ opening day they have restricted landing to only one airline. I radioed their tower and asked if I could land there if I begged. They replied ¡°NO, not even if you BEG and even if the price is WRONG!¡± The islands in this part of the Caribbean are so close to each other. From leaving Anegeda (British VI) we were able to clear customs in 4 countries in 4 hours and still had an hour breakfast in Anguilla.
From Anguilla we continued to St Maarten airport then to St. Martin¡¯s airport. Of the 7,000 islands in the Caribbean there is only one that is shared by two countries, St Maarten (Dutch) and St Martin (French). (I have now been told that this statement is not true as the USA shares the island with Cuba) The Sunset Beach bar is located at the runway¡¯s approach to St Maarten¡¯s Juliana International Airport. Hundreds of tourists come to ¡®duck¡¯ as the airplanes pass over their heads to land. And then on take-off they get blasted by the power of the jet engines.
St Barth has a most interesting short landing strip that starts in a valley between two mountains and slopes downhill to a topless beach (it¡¯s French).Here is a video of a pilot who wanted to park at the topless beach:
Here is a video of Lucky Lady Too landing at St. Barth:
Saba is small mountain island that has the shortest commercial runway in the world. Only one airline is allowed to land there so we flew with them over to Saba to dive in its marine reserve.
St. Eustatius was the Caribbean¡¯s major trading center during the 17th and 18th century. During this period England and France fought viciously over many of these islands. The Brimstone Hill Fortress on St. Kitts is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was traded back and forth between England and France. In St. Kitts we had breakfast at a sugar cane plantation that the owner¡¯s family had been there since the 1700¡¯s. St Kitts and Nevis are the oldest British colonies in the Caribbean.
In Antigua there were 3 cruise ships docked and Stanford¡¯s name was still on the signs at his bank and cricket grounds.
We wished to land in Montserrat but we were told that only one airline could fly there so we circled the active volcano on the east side of the island to have a look. We stayed upwind so as not to cause a problem for the engine on Lucky Lady Too from the ash cloud but were close enough to smell the sulfur.
Jacques Cousteau declared Pigeon Islands of Guadeloupe as one of the worlds top dive sites. The color of the coral walls and reefs with big schools of fish made it the best dive on this trip. Legend has it that touching the underwater statue of Mr. Cousteau will bring good diving for the rest of your life.
In Dominica we stayed at a eco-lodge in the rainforest and hiked to see the beautiful waterfalls. Rain and clouds kept us from seeing Mt. Pele in Martinique but we had a pleasant stay at a small beach resort where they were doing a photo shoot of Ms. Martinique. At the cathedral in St. Lucia we saw the Black Madonna and had a look at another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Pitons, two ionic towering peaks.
We parked Lucky Lady Too at a local aviation company in St. Lucia. My brother kissed her cheek and thanked her for flying us safely over 3,400 nautical miles of water; landing in 44 airstrips in 18 countries/territories over a month of travel thru the Caribbean.
So far¡ so good,
Bob GannonA few photos of this last trip:
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