Picture it: Sunday afternoon and we are racing across the Yucatan peninsula so that we may leave Mexico and arrive in Honduras before sunset. Bart's plane leaves early Monday morning and he must be on it. No time for sightseeing or pleasantries with the local constabulary - we need to keep moving!
Our original plan was to depart Chetumal, Mexico, then head south down the coast of Belize awhile to a predetermined waypoint. From there we'd turn southeast toward the island of Roatan, Honduras, minimizing our overwater flight time. But nothing on this trip had gone according to schedule; why start now?
Straight line, it's about 160 miles or so from Chetumal to Roatan. There are some reef islands along the way, but we had no idea if they were big enough to land on, should the need arise to take on more fuel. Biting the bullet, we headed off on a direct-to course. We felt pretty safe, what with our life jackets, flotation-equipped helicopter, and the personal emergency beacon that we'd bought that would send a distress signal up to the satellites at the touch of a button (two buttons simultaneously, actually).
We knew that we had to achieve a groundspeed of about 100 knots to make the flight with comfortable fuel reserves. Pushing the limits is one thing when there are plenty of good areas on which to land and put in more gas. But you can't exactly do that over open water.Don't know if you can read the GPS screen, but it's showing nothing but blue outside the windscreen, with 83 miles to go and a groundspeed of 99 knots.
My previous Gulf of Mexico allowed me to make this flight without too much uneasiness. Difference being, in the "GOM" I always had "flight-following", i.e. someone watching over me and watching for my reported arrival at the destination. Crossing from Mexico to the Bay Islands of Honduras, we were really on our own. People were expecting us, and knew to come looking if we didn't show up, but Bart and I knew that if we went down in the water we'd probably be there overnight until the cavalry came. We hoped there weren't too many sharks down there.
We made Roatan with fuel and time to spare. Of course the issue of my expired passport came up again. This time, they just confiscated my old one and told me to bring the new one in when it arrived, have a nice day.
A huge welcoming committee met us at the heliport when we landed. Bart gave the landing to me, for I am familiar with landing on small platforms and could do it more smoothly and quickly than he (0r so he thought). Nobody wants to look like a newbie in front of friends and family. As it was, the floats completely blocked any view of the platform helideck. I took a stab at it and just plopped it down. Luckily, we did not fall off. Here is a shot of our island. The helicopter is on final approach, and you can just barely see the wooden pad at the near end of the island and the plant-lined walkway leading out to it. Here is another shot of the island with the heliport barely in view at the very left.Finally, here is a shot of the bird on the deck.And so we're here. Time to unpack, settle in and relax from a long, strenuous trip. Right? Wrong. No rest for the wicked, Monday would be a regular work day, and there is plenty of work to do.
So much for my vacation in tropical paradise! Now the fun really begins.