Governor’s General Cup Caribbean Air Rally 2015
We owe this wonderful Caribbean adventure to our dear hosts and partners
April 8th – April 20th
April 8 through April 21, an armada of 24 planes and teams from 5 Canadian Provinces and 5 US States, and a team from Switzerland embarked on a 13 day adventure across the Bahamas Islands working their way to Puerto Plata, then across Puerto Rico heading towards St-Eustatius for a fishing tournament, two days later to Martinique, The Island of Flowers and Air Rally official turning point; proceeding from there three day later to Dominica and finally they reached Antigua for a sailing Regatta and Trophy Award Ceremony. April 19 the 24 planes landed in Arroyo Barril exceptionally turned International for the occasion.
It all started at Banyan Flight Services FXE with a briefing. The 24 planes were divided in 3 squadrons
YELLOW TANKER squadron RED BARON squadron and the GREY WOLF squadron
A team leader was assigned to each group. Departure times were allocated. YELLOW TANKERS were first to take off on the morning of April 8. Considering the amount of planes this year webinars took place months ahead of the start date to make sure the participants were well aware of all the procedures and challenges ahead and nothing would be left to improvisation. Crossing 9 borders, moving 24 planes in the course of 12 days had to be as smooth as possible this is why this year, the Committee was composed of 8 members including expert Caribbean Rally flight masters: Steve, David Camil & Richard.
After the briefing of the afternoon we all met at the Ocean Sky Resort on the Beach
DAY ONE: WEDNESDAY APRIL 8
First Leg: Fort Lauderdale KFXE → Exuma Intl. (MYEF) 282 NM :
Odyssey Aviation FBO fuel stop
Odyssey Aviation has arranged for a quick turnaround fuel service.
We are up to the task said Shervin !
20 minute turn around: parked, filled, paid, customs clear and go !is now Air Rally top rated Bahamas FBO !
Exuma MYEF to Puerto Plata Gregorio Luperón InternationAl Airport MDPP 374 NM
Planes started to land in POP around 3:00 PM. A few planes flew straight without stopping in Exuma. We attempted to fill the planes. Process was slow and we learned that in POP it is best to use Cash instead of Credit Cards if we want to expedite.
The hotel Piergiorgio in Sosua is located only 15 minutes from the airport… After a long day of flying we were happy to arrive in this Mediterranean style hotel overlooking the ocean ! Very quiet and relaxing place; we were the only guests there. After an experience in DR all inclusive resorts, we learned that nothing beats a place we can call home and where the only disturbance is created by the waives hitting the rocks.
Piergiorgio Palace Hotel is set on a cliff overlooking the Sosua Bay. It was built by an Italian designer, no wonder it offers the perfect setting for love and romance with little isolated terraces overlooking the ocean and the Sunset.
DAY TWO: THURSDAY APRIL 9
Damajuagua Waterfalls Jeep Safari Adventure.
Accompanied by professional guides we explored the Dominican Republic Countryside! Stopping on the way to pick essentials: Rum and cigars! going though back country roads, crossing rivers, streams and sugar cane fields to finally reach
the Damajuagua spectacular Falls
No rest for our young pilots Joel and Paul (invited Mentorees*) who stayed behind with Camil, President Organizing Committee to fill up the Flight plans for every pilot so they could be handed to the Tower that same afternoon. Puerto Plata Aviation authorities and Aerodom authorized the delivery of all the flight plans one day prior to departure. Flight plans were brought in and inspected one by one to make sure no error would cause a delay for the fleet on the next day’s departure for St-Eustatius. We sincerely appreciate the efforts and work contributed by IDAC personnel and tower as well as Aerodom MDPP to help the Air rally organization. On return from the safari, pilots returned to the airport to fill up planes.
Ready to go for the next leg !
DAY THREE: FRIDAY APRIL 10
Puerto Plata MDPP – Aguadilla PR TJBQ 209 NM fuel stop
Aguadilla TJBQ – Sint-Eustatius TNCE 245 NM
Another long day Flying. This time the scenery changed from sandy beaches to green mountain tops covered with lush tropical vegetation. Never heard anyone complain about spending too much time over such an amazing display of natural beauty.
Refuelling in Aguadilla allowed for a quick custom and refuelling turn around.
Welcome to Sint-Eustatius!!! We landed well prepared for an authentic experience
Most of you think that the Caribbean experience is all about beaches, rum punch by the pool and a room with ocean view!
There is more than meets the eye ! It is about people, it is about going back into time it is about authentic and unique experiences all different from one island to another. Statia is a perfect example.
Statia is a little island that might restore your faith in human nature” Toronto Star travel article by S.Wikens.
Statia is for visitors like us looking to discover the true identity of the Caribbean islands through its people and find the remains ofhistoric monuments that tell the stories of distant days. St Eustatius has more historic ruins per square mile than any other Caribbean island. During the 1700s, Statia’s capital, Oranjestad was Caribbean richest port . The island was called then the “Golden Rock” In 1776 the government of Statia brought the wrath of England upon this tiny nation after recognizing the newly independent United States by firing an 11-gun salute to a passing US warship. Today the island counts approximately 3,000 inhabitants. A lot of history remains amongst which the Slave House, built in the 1720s.
We enjoyed a stroll around the old city street, amazingly well preserved and so clean: 300 year old houses, warehouses, inns and pubs, shops, old whore houses, it is all there. The town is quite; perfect way to immerse and let our imagination bring us back into pirate’s times. After admiring the great view from the Old Fort we stopped for a drink at the Cool Corner Bar & Restaurant and then on to the lovely restaurant : Ocean View Terrace .
Remains of history are also found at the bottom of the ocean: More than 100 sunken trading ships lay off the shores of Statia: submerged anchors, cannons and pottery making Statia a very interesting place for adventurous divers. Most of us stayed at the Old Gin House a restored 18th century building Built of old bricks used by sailing ships as ballast, this historic landmark once housed a cotton gin . Others, stayed at the Golden Era hotel next door and set right on the water’s edge.
DAY FOUR: SATURDAY APRIL 11
Sint Eustatius Air Rally highlight was the fishing tournament organised with the local fishermen. We walked to the Pier only a few minutes away and were assigned a boat. Four boats left with around 6-8 people onboard.
And the winners of the Fishing Tournament ? Team of Martin, Mario, Jose, Keith ! received the great trophy !
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL ! the trophy award was followed by a lunch buffet and all you can eat lobster. A lot of effort was put into this activity and we thank Francine, Charles, Teena and Sint Eustatius fishermen association for providing the group with such a unique experience. Authentic experiences like these create unforgettable memories.
Thank you Carlyle Tearr for inviting us there, we appreciate all your hard work handling our group of 24 planes. FD Roosevelt airport is highly recommended to pilots who want to visit the Caribbean islands, whether it is for a fuel stop along the way (great fuel prices & service) or a couple of days enjoying Statia ! Tearr Aviation Services NV (email) contact Calysle Tearr 1-721-520-1558 who will provide you with all you need and more !
DAY FIVE : SUNDAY APRIL 12
Sint Eustatius (TNCE) → Martinique (Aimé césaire Airport TFFF) – 208 NM
An easy and great flight into Martinique ! The French pearl of the Caribbean, the Island of Flowers
Martinique is part of France, much like Hawaii is just another state of the US.
Martinique has been the Air Rally home for 5 years now ! and every year brings a unique experience always as wonderful as previous.Martinique is one of the Caribbean’s most enchanting destinations. Visitors adore the French island for its gastronomy, its touch of French class, its music, and the availability of fine French products.
The YELLOW TANKERS were launched first, then the RED BARONS, and the GREY WOLFS. The weather was ideal, no troubles and the 22 planes landed in Martinique for three day lay over. It all started with a wonderful welcome reception at the airport.
Check in at the hotel La Pagerie, a very convenient and comfortable 4star hotel located in the quaint and colourful little village of Trois Ilets, popular for typical French cafes, boutiques, restaurants and a marina. The ferry to Fort de France departs from there on a regular schedule allowing for a quick hop to the capital of Fort de France.
Beach party ! organised by the Comite Martiniquais de Tourisme for Air Rally participants at the “Petibonum”restaurant
Famous chef Ferdinand was already working his magic on the beach of Le Carbet
We all tried a hand at the Pétanque game with Martinique Club members who demonstrated their capacity to kick any ball too close to the “cochonet”, we noticed they made every effort to make the ladies win.
When the drums showed up totally unexpected then the party turned wild !
Catamaran sailing on board the KataMambo up the Northern coast to the historical City of St. Pierre watching the dolphins along the way. The boat departed from the Marine located near the hotel. It was a perfect day !
The City of St-Pierre was destroyed in 1902 by a volcanic eruption, it was the capital of Martinique. Mount Pele eruption was the deadliest of the 20th century killing over 30,000. Saint-Pierre was rebuilt among the remaining ruins.
And there they were !The dolphins !
Now lets have a taste of Rum! which one is better ?
There are 10 different distilleries spread across Martinique’s 425 square miles!
You would need a month to experience all the Rum varieties available in Martinique! Visitors are invited to take the Route du Rum, a tour of each distillery with insightful information on the island’s rhum production methods which begins with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice taken directly from the cane. Martinique rums are more comparable with fine cognacs and offer a variety of natural flavors. Martinique Rums are the only rums in the world that have been granted the prestigious Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation awarded by the French
It was a great relaxing day, stopping for snorkeling and enjoying great lunch of fresh fish and fruits and salads prepared onboard
In the evening we enjoyed a walk around the little boutiques. stopped for a “Pierade” diner, pieces of meat cooked on a hot volcanic stone…OUUU ! how inappropriate ! Photo courtesy of Maria Kent Blog
DAY SEVEN : TUESDAY APRIL 14
Another beautiful day in Martinique !
Today, we will visit Fort de France. A few steps to the marina to catch the ferry crossing the bay to The Capital city (only 7euros). This modern city offers elegant restaurants and chic boutiques in the Galleria mall and the historic and urban attractions. Above is the Schoelcher Library. Mr. Schoeler donated his private library of about 9,000 books. He was a humanist and a famous opponent of slavery who fought all his life for abolition.
We walked to a central park “Place de la Savane” with palms patways and statues including one of Empress Josephine. Architectural attractions of the city include 1638 Fort Saint Louis, the Palais de Justice, and the Cathédrale Saint-Louis
Empress Josephine statue, Josephine as you know was Napoleon’s wife.
The statue was beheaded as she is quite unpopular for supporting slavery
Not to forget a tour at the outdoor/indoor market . Some of us enjoyed a tour across the sugar canes and banana plantations appreciating the tropical nature around
Thank you for the great hospitality Martinique ! It was again a wonderful experience and we look forward to returning soon !
DAY EIGHT : WEDNESDAY APRIL 15
Martinique TFFF – Dominica Melville Hall Roseau TDPD : 60 NM
The leg this morning is only 60 NM. In normal circumstances this would appear an easy hop. This leg required more peparation and briefing and precise guidance than any other. The objective was to leave enough time between planes so they would not jumpack the approach circuits waiting for planes below to clear the runway and park. Richard, Bonanza formation flying specialist did a fantastic job getting everyone coordinated and safely landed.
This is what the Dominica Douglas Charles airport looked like after all the Caribbean Air rally planes landed (below).
We enjoyed a warm welcoming reception at the airport and took the kids for a tour of our planes. Then a 45 minute bus ride across country side roads and there we were at the Atlantic View Resort, impressive ! built on the side of a mountain overlooking beautiful nature all around.
Photo: Maria Kent
Dominica is one of the most naturally bountiful places on Earth. Culture preserved, a diver’s dream and hiker’s paradise. Volcanic peaks, boiling waters, waterfalls, rushing streams and rainforest canopies. Here no need to work to eat, just reach out to avocados, apples, limes, cocoa, mangoes and enough root vegetables to feed an army . From streams and rivers to natural springs and bubbling mud baths, to cascading waterfalls and a vast array of flora and fauna. Onboard small embarkations we paddled along the Indian River passing by one of the remaining sets of the Pirate of the Caribbean movie
Photo: Maria Kent
Dominica is home to the Caribbean’s first long trail which passes through the Carib Kalinago Territory, home to indigenous peoples and the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Kalinagos (Caribs) are survivors of the first inhabitants of the island. Over two centuries, the Kalinagos (Caribs) managed to repel the invaders and due to their courage and bravery they survived. In 1903, their territory expanded to 3700 acres and was called the Carib Reserve; the Carib Chief was officially recognized.
DAY TEN : FRIDAY APRIL 17
Dominica TDPD → Antigua TAPA 100 NM
This was to be one of the most interesting flying journeys. Grey wolf squadron took offf first then the amphibians in threes, taking off one after the other. We flew over Montserrat still active volcano and as we approached Antigua we got to enjoy the beautiful sight of antique sailboats and ships getting ready for the Regatta taking place the next day.
It all started at the airport. on arrival, with a wonderfull buffet and reception. We are so spoiled that, like last year, we did not expect anything less than having the customs officer attend to our group right there in the hangar, while having a great time enjoying the food and the lovely company ! Neil Forrester, president of the Antigua Hotel and Tourism association and other tourism officials welcomed the group and we all staged a group photo.
Antigua is famous for its 365 beaches and a great yachting destination. Saturday April 18 happened to be The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta day, hosting between 50 and 60 yachts every year such as classic ketches, sloops, schooners, and yawls. We were ready for the challenge onboard 4 sail boats we embarked on a race of our own enjoying the company of all these magnificent sail boats and dedicated crews.
To our surprise this was the real thing ! We got to actually compete against each other, cutting through the waves moving from starboard to port, flying over water, changing sail’s direction to grab the Wind, coming close to taking a dip ! Darrell and Neil flew over our heads onboard the YAK. What an exciting day !!! We were so proud of ourselves ! This was one of the most interesting activities of the Air Rally.
After the race, we went for a visit of Antigua interesting sights such as Shirley Heights, an historic British military observation point perched high on a mountain offers fantastic views of Antigua English harbour and Nelson’s dockyard.
The day ended with the Finals celebration at the REX hotel restaurant on the pier.
The Governor General’s Cup was awarded to the youngest team:
Surrounded by Team Leaders: Richard Schmidt and Bryan Pound, both Mentors to two Young commercial pilots: Joel Alvarez, flying PIC onboard Bryan’s Cessna 340 and Paul Lachance flying PIC onboard Richard’s Beech Baron 55. Here together.
Second place, we had the team from British Colombia, whose challenge started wen they left home in Abbostford flying VFR over the mountains and reached Fort Lauderdale in two days to meet up with the rest of the teams. A fantastic crew:
Third place: A great crew again ! the Opie Family from Michigan
The trophies and the ceremony over, we jumped onboard the taxis for a night out in the Capital : St John’s. Shopping is excellent in St. John’s. Duty-free shops abound at Heritage Quay and the lively harborside public markets are the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays. There are a number of Cafes in all kinds of settings, in the city’s center or at the water’s edge over looking the sea or on the quayside at English Harbour.
There is a great choice of restaurants, but we ended up at the casual C&C wine bar and restaurant enjoying simple and delicious food, great service and atmosphere. Jose tested his Karaoke talent and we joined him for a dance.
We had a wonderful time in Antigua and we look forward to next year !
DAY TWELVE : SUNDAY APRIL 19
Antigua (TAPA)- Aguadilla (TJBQ) 316 NM – Fuel stop
Aguadilla TJBQ – Arroyo el Barril MDAB 137 NM
Arroyo Barril, located on the southern part of the beautiful peninsula of Samana on the Eastern side of the Dominican Republic, was our final destination. This small airport is domestic so special arrangements were made to provide customs for the Air Rally crews. We still had to deal with the NO FUEL issue. Aware of this fact, many of us stopped in Aguadilla, PR, our favorite fuel stop, providing quick turn around including customs clearance.
A large delegation including Dominican Republic aviation Authority IDAC and media where there to great us all. A troop of Folkloric dancers performed for us and we were invited to join in. A large table was set up for the officials and formal addresses were made. It is indeed rear that so many private aircraft originating from Canada, US and Europe land in Dominican Republic so efforts were made to acknowledge this important event.
To our surprise, the owners of the fuel company had come all the way from Santo Domingo to provide 100 LL to our planes so we would not have to stop for refuelling in Dominican Republic on the way back home, saving a lot of time..
Arroyo Barril was selected as it was the only option to access, in a reasonable time, the lovely town of Las Galeras were we were to stay 2 days. We had picked the beautiful hotel : Villa Serena, an ideal place to relax and spend the last days of our Caribbean adventure. Beautifully decorated, great restaurant and grounds.
It was again a wonderful adventure ! A video of the 2015 adventure is on the way.
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