FIRST LEG: Broward County Intl. Airport, Fort Lauderdale, to West End Airpt., Grand Bahama I. 70 mi. E (all distances statute miles). U.S. Customs & Immigration (hereafter called C&I) departure procedure quick and simple. Smallpox certificate needed for re-entry, also yellow fever certificate for re-entry if going to certain South and Central America areas. Essential carry copy of current International Flight Information Manual (CAA) and Radio Facility Charts & In-Flight Data for Caribbean & South America (CAA) for this and other rules and vital data. West End Airpt. smooth, partly surfaced, two runways, 90-100 octane fuel. No hangar space; tiedown space with some ropes. Essential carry own tiedown equipment in Caribbean. All Bahamian C&I fast and friendly. Hotel is Grand Bahama Club, 35� per passenger by taxi. Hotel making big pitch for private fliers from U.S. with swimming, fishing, new golf course. About $30. NOTE: Average aviation gasoline price 50� per U.S. gallon through Caribbean, S. & C. America, when credit cards used. Shell, Esso, Texaco principal suppliers for entire route. (Get international credit card from each. Domestic cards not honored. Folly to pay cash.) Check ahead for current small-airpt. fuel facilities at major terminals in area, e.g., San Juan for Virgin Is.
SECOND LEG: To Oakes Intl. Airpt., Nassau. 150 mi. SE, passing Berry Is. en route. [NOTE: OAKES has closed since few weeks ago. Use Nassau Intl., formerly Windsor Airpt. Nassau tower VHF 118.1, paved runway, all octanes, all facilities.] Nassau expensive like Florida but much nicer, more to see and do; worth it if you've got it. We stayed at Pilot House Club, about $25 each. Other places from Royal Victoria Hotel, $20, to British Colonial, $50. (Remember, food included in these averages, whether European or American plan.) Car rentals about $10 daily. SIDE FLIGHTS: Rock Sound Club, Eleuthera I., 77 mi. E. Long, smooth gravel strip nearby; buzz club on way in and they send car. Golf, pool, tennis, cottages, fine food, $30 double. Same deal on Andros I., 35 mi. W of Nassau. Buzz Lighthouse Club en route Andros Town Airpt., 2 mi. out.
THIRD LEG: To Chatham Field, Montego Bay, Jamaica, 470 mi. S via Camaguey, Cuba. Chatham airpt. has huge, single, paved runway, tower 118.1, all octanes, minor facilities, tiedowns. C&I airline-oriented, exacting & poky with private planes. City handy to airpt., hotels $20 up, mostly up. NOTE: We overflew Cuba this trip due to schedule, but understand they are now going out of way to woo back U.S. fliers, many of whom scared away by once-excessive red tape and/or recent political events. Govt. probably can't do much about latter, but says it has cut down drastically on former. It's nice to be missed.
FOURTH LEG: To Palisadoes Airpt., Kingston, 80 mi. SE. Main Terminal, two paved runways, tower 118.1, all facilities, all octanes, tiedown about $2, weather bureau. C&I better than Chatham. City half-hour taxi ride; cost us $15; advise haggling before boarding taxi. Myrtle Bank very nice; pool, brass band in garden, $20. NOTE: Numerous copies of General Declaration form required for landings and take-offs everywhere on route, with crew, passenger and cargo manifests, same as airliners. Forms available at most U.S. airpts. of entry and exit; not available en route. Take at least dozen for each planned stop.
FIFTH LEG: To San Juan, P.R., 700 mi. E. NOTE: On this leg, a stop would normally be made in Haiti and/or Dominican Republic. You must have prior diplomatic clearance to land in or over fly either Trujilloland or Haiti. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc, Box 5960, Washington, D.C., arranges these and similar clearances, required in all S. & C. American countries, for members at cost of cables and phone calls. ITEM: Catharine Howser runs AOPA's flight dept., which has current gov. charts at cost—all Caribbean maps are World Air Chart scale—and supplies AOPA's own version of Gen Dec form, as well as free booklets and tips from members who have flown route. AOPA does nothing you can't do yourself, but they make things much easier.
San Juan has two airpts.: Isla Grande and International. Isla Grande has tower 118.7, single large paved runway, hangar, no charge for tiedowns, Cessna, Piper, Beech sales and complete service. This is the old municipal airpt., smack in middle of town, very convenient. However, you must first land at International, tower 118.3, big new airline terminal, for C&I clearance. All subsequent flights in and out of Isla Grande must clear International—even if merely going to nearby Virgin Is. Big pain in neck. Don't bother retracting gear; International is 8 mi. E, and you barely have time to switch frequencies. U.S. C&I officials here better than Jamaican, worse than Bahamian. Wide range of hotels in San Juan, from very cheap to very posh. We stayed at Congress, $7 for comfortable double with bath, occasionally sneaked around to ritzy Caribe Hilton ($30 for bed and board) to use pool. Puerto Rico very pleasant and one of best tourist bargains in whole Caribbean. SIDE FLIGHTS: Big airpts. at St. Thomas, St. Croix; little dirt strip N center Vieques I., few feet from beautiful beach. NOTE: This strip not on charts. Avoid restricted Navy field on S shore.
SIXTH LEG: To Montserrat I. and Blackburne Airpt., 280 mi. SE. Sod strip, 3,000 ft., no tower, tiedown space, 130 octane fuel when available. No landing fee, no parking fee, C&I procedure delightful.