For my last flight of the year I wanted to make it to the Bahamas so that next year I could launch on a grand tour of the islands as I continued to move south in the Caribbean. My chosen destination for this was Nassau, given that it hosts the largest airport and that airport is rendered by a TropcialSim addon I purchased as part of a 15-airport pack for the Caribbean in a sale on SimMarket. I did a check of the weather and although things were a bit rough around Miami I was just going to be passing by so didn’t expect to catch the worse of it. I climbed back into the SkyMaster, ran through my preflight and got taxi clearance to the active behind a Southwest airliner taking off. I pulled up to the hold short and radioed the tower for clearance but they had me hold for arriving traffic a few miles out. While that traffic was approaching another aircraft announced landing intentions and ATC gave them clearance. Then another. These aircraft were like 3-5 minutes out each but ATC wouldn’t slot me inbetween. Finally after holding for almost 15 minutes waiting for three aircraft to land ATC cleared me for takeoff.
Cloud cover was low so I only cruised around 1,000 feet and the light rain stopped a few miles from the airport. I had my comms tuned to the CTAF that Marathon was part of so when I neared the airport I realized I was about to cross the landing paths of incoming aircraft and swung a bit more northward to pass west of the airport, then I crossed over the runway to get back to the eastward side of the keys. Around this time things started to get a little bumpy and I had to throttle back from 160kts to 140kts in case of sudden severe turbulence as 160kts is just under the yellow arc. From this point on I was mostly 140-150kts depending on how the air was behaving. I had a few more bumps before arriving offshore of Miami and turning east to vector towards Bimini, the western-most islands of the Bahamas. Clouds remained low and closed in to overcast with only about 10nm visibility, but not rain.
The leg to Bimini was a bit tough since I don’t use autopilot. The horizon was very unclear thanks to the low cloud cover and reflection of the water so it was hard to know when I was banking slightly unless I kept an eagle eye on my instruments. I was tracking a VOR vector from the Miami area even though Bimini has its own VOR so when I finally arrived at the island I was about 2-3nm south of it. But still not too bad, I wanted to see whether I could hit a target from a vector since the majority of these islands don’t have their own VORs for me to vector in on. I then vectored outbound from the Bimini VOR to my next leg, which would put me in the middle of the Berry Islands north of Nassau and let me vector south towards the airport along the main runway heading for an easy straight-in approach or pattern entry.
However about 20nm into the 80nm leg to the Berry Islands from Bimini I noticed lightning quite frequently off in the distance. I pulled up the REX weather radar and it didn’t show any thunderstorm activity ahead of me. I checked the weather at Nassau on the web and it didn’t give any indication of thunderstorms. I pondered over whether I could head south and try to swing around the storm and then head north to Nassau but I had no information about this storm, like the direction it was headed it. I could run into it on my way north to Nassau. What the hell was this storm even doing here? Well, I figured it was just because this was the Bermuda Triangle after all, and sudden storms are known to coalesce. Given the Triangle’s reputation, once I started seeing lightning light up my cockpit and hearing thunder I did an about-face and headed back for Bimini!
There’s a small airstrip on Bimini that can handle my aircraft easily so that’s where I put her down once I got back to the island, leaving the storm behind. The airfield is not supposed to have a control tower but it did, no doubt a mistake on the part of the author of the Bahamas Airfield Package I downloaded to get better renditions of all 64 airports in the Bahamas. I notified the author so hopefully when I climb back in the cockpit next year there will be an update that removes the tower frequency. I didn’t deal with the tower I just disabled AI traffic and landed. I had been wondering though as I approached and passed Bimini earlier why I hadn’t heard any action from it on the CTAF.
Until next year…