On the way to the SOAPA Key West Meeting
of May 18 - May 21, 2005

by Ernie Martin

Introduction and Overview

The Skymaster Owners and Pilots Association (SOAPA) is holding its 2005 meeting in Key West from May 18 to May 21, 2005, with the option of a Miami stop-over the previous night. If you can come into Miami two days earlier, I've arranged for a two-day, one-night trip to the Bahamas. The Bahamas trip (along with the meeting and the Miami stop-over) was posted in the Message Board of Kevin's Skymaster Website and the following overview is excerpted from there (or you can go directly to Details if you read the posting recently).

I will pick-up at TMB and MIA (for those coming in commercial) on Sunday afternoon, May 15. On Monday morning we'll review preparations and procedures for over-water and international flights and depart from TMB. It's a one-hour flight over turqoise waters to a small Bahamian out-island whose beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. We've got a relaxed schedule penciled in for Monday and for Tuesday morning, and we'll be staying at beachfront townhouses (around $75 per person). After lunch on Tuesday we depart for TMB to catch up with those just coming into Miami.

The remainder of this page provides additional details on the Bahamas trip.


Many of these details (Miami FBO, hotel) are similar to those for the Miami stop-over, so you should read that page first. I will be there to greet you for your arrival at TMB on Sunday at 2-3 PM. We leave for the Dadeland Hampton Inn at 3:30. Pick-up at MIA for those flying commercial is 4:30 PM.

Sunday evening. We'll go out on the town and savor some of the Miami food (I'll borrow more cars if mine aren't enough). This will be kind of a precursor to the see-Miami-like-a-native evening two days later.

Departure. You can get a feel for the trip, one I make every couple of weeks, by looking at the figure. We're going to Great Harbour Cay (GHC), an hour east of Miami. Bimini, with a 5,000 ft runway, is roughly halfway to our destination. On Monday morning I'll pick up at the hotel at 8:30 AM. We'll start with a briefing covering over-water flight and international procedures. The nature of this flight (twin engine, short distance, etc.) does not really warrant taking special preparations for over-water flight, but we'll do it anyway (you can get a headstart by going to the Ditching: Avoid & Prepare page). The international procedures are especially important after 9/11 -- before that, a mistake might have gotten you a slap on the wrist from the FAA, but now a mistake on the return trip puts you at risk of being shot down by an F-16 (don't be alarmed, only the most incompetent and inexperienced of pilots run this risk and no one has ever been shot down). You can get a headstart by going to the Bahamian Flight Procedures page. After the briefing, we'll take off around 11 AM. We're never further than 50 nm from land, so, by regulation, we don't need life jackets. But I won't fly without them and, between the jackets I own and those I can borrow, I have enough for 18 people (more can be rented at TMB).

Landing at GHC. The airport (MYBG) has a paved 4,500 ft runway. We'll go through Bahamas Customs; forms are provided at the airport and are simple (click here for sample), costs are minimal (an $8 landing fee per aircraft) and there are no tie-down fees.

Documentation. The documents you need to enter The Bahamas are equally simple: whatever you need to re-enter the U.S. If they're good enough to get back in the U.S., they're good enough to enter The Bahamas. This is what U.S. citizens will need:
a U.S. passport (expired is OK but bring a photo ID if it's old), or
an original birth certificate if you were born in the U.S., along with a photo ID.
If you're a foreign resident or have questions, call or visit your nearest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. Please note that if you fly your Skymaster, you must also show, upon return to the U.S., aircraft registration, your pilot's license and your medical certificate (Bahamas won't ask for any of this).

Activities/Lodging. Once out of the aiport I'll give you a brief tour of the island, known not only for its gorgeous beaches, but also for extraordinary fishing, especially flats fishing (you can learn more about GHC by clicking here). First stop is drinks (the ones with the little umbrellas) and lunch at a beach bar. We're free in the afternoon to just lounge on the beach or rent a boat for fabulous fishing and snorkeling or we can probably arrange a boat trip to the enigmatic Blue Hole. Dinner is at an informal place with wondeful dishes. We're lodging at the Beach Villas, right on the beach (click for picture). Lots of time next morning for more activities, then lunch and a 1 PM departure for Miami to catch up with those just coming into Miami.

Fees and Costs.There are no fees. I'm pleased you all are coming to my neck of the woods, and I'm happy to add this option to your Key West meeting. The only costs are those you pay for hotels, meals, etc. If the size of the group is manageable (meaning: I can handle them with my cars/SUVs), there will be no ground transportation costs; if not, some of you may have to pay for shared cabs. You need to make the reservation at the Dadeland Hampton Inn as indicated in the Miami Stop-over Page. I will make the hotel reservations for the group in GHC once I know the size of the group, and I will contact you when there is a need for you to provide a credit card to Tropical Diversions, the Ft. Lauderdale firm that handles the Beach Villas*.

Registration. If you're going to join us for this great trip, please send me an e-mail promptly. Let me know:

  1. How are you arriving (commercial or in your Skymaster)?
  2. Who is in your party?
  3. Expected time of arrival.
  4. If coming in your Skymaster, any seats available to take attendees who flew commercial into Miami to The Bahamas and back? (Passengers will be expected to share fuel expenses with you.)
  5. Any lodging preferences in GHC (see footnote)?
If you're coming commercial, it's particularly important that you contact me immediately. There's room for three (3) in my Skymaster and I'm hoping that there will be room in other Skymasters, but, if there's more demand than seats, we will accomodate people in the order that they contacted me. You can e-mail me at . If there are questions or matters better handled by phone, feel free to call me at 305-665-8352. Unless I'm out of town (or flying) I'm there most of the time, with 10 AM and Mon-Thu 7-9PM a virtual certainty. If I'm not at that number you may try my cell phone at 305-562-0565.

* As noted, the Beach Villas in GHC are townhouses. Costs vary depending on size. The smallest has one bedroom which is an open loft overlooking the living/dining/kitchen area and costs around $110; this may be suitable for a couple or two (good?) friends travelling together. A 2-bedroom unit might cost $200, but it could handle two couples. You may wish to indicate, in your registration e-mail to me, what your preferences are. First pick in terms of accomodations will be given to the earlier registrants.

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