The adventure I'm going to tell you about today took place in August 2022 while we were flying through the Bahamas.
Our time in the Bahamas was almost up, and the 5intheSky crew was looking to fly to an airport of entry to get stamped out of the country. We had our sights set on making it to Matthew Town, Inagua. This was even one of the few times we booked a hotel in advance! Unfortunately we never did make that reservation...
As anticipated, the weather had been a problem flying though the Bahamas. The weather changes quickly, and its not uncommon for dark storm cells thousands of feet tall to form quickly and without warning. Alongside the thunderstorms, the cloud base always seemed to be low whenever we needed to fly. We also noticed that by late morning or early afternoon the winds also picked up, which just added to the list of things to worry about.
So, we left our hostel in Nassau early in the morning to try and stay ahead of the weather. It started out just as forecasted, a nice clear day with a high cloud base and tailwind (which is always nice, especially so when flying over stretched of water). From Nassau we flew to Rock Sound, Eleuthera to refuel before continuing on to Stella Marie, Long Island where we refueled again. Leaving Stella Marie we picked up a headwind, but that wasn't what was concerning us.
Up ahead the cloud base seemed to get much lower, very quickly. There were massive storm cells forming behind us and en-route to Matthew Town. To top it off, our engine was way hotter than it should have been.
The GA8 AirVan has twin oil coolers. Being built, tested and flown in Australia under extreme heat, it is meant to withstand extended climbs in high temperatures. For the first time, we were noticing that the engine temperature was much higher than it should be, making climbing near impossible.
From Stella Marie we flew and landed in Springpoint, Acklins. The airstrip had no one there and a few aggressive dogs that were (luckily) stuck outside out the airport by a big gate. The gate was chained up and had razor wire at the top which also meant we were stuck in the airport, with no one around, despite the airport having a full (locked) terminal.
We had a decision yo make. We could wait and camp by the plane in Springpoint, or continue on. Given the weather and our engine, we did not want to fly and hour over open water to Matthew Town, but we really did not want to stay in Spingpoint. After walking around the airport we finally managed to get one bar of cell service. Very slowly, we loaded the weather. It was forecasted to get worse.
Seeing an opening in the clouds, we decided to fly to Mayaguana, Mayaguana. Whether of not there would be anyone there, we weren't sure but we decided to go for it.
The flight to Mayaguana was uneventful, yet stressful because of low clouds and uncertainty. Finally arriving in Mayaguana after a ~30 minute flight we found the airport to be empty. The apron had plants growing through the gravel covered asphalt, but the 6,700ft runway was not in too bad shape.
By the apron there was a small concrete shed and bathroom block that I was surprised had running water in one tap. The actual terminal was abandoned.
I was preparing to spend the night on the abandoned terminal floor and eat trail mix for dinner until we could head out the next morning but after canvasing the area, we saw a sign for a car rental. The airport was in the middle of no where, so we decided to just call the car rental place, se if the number was still active, and see if there was a hotel on the island.
Lucky for us the number was active, but just not for a car rental anymore. The lady that answered the phone said she would send people to get us though, before hanging up. Still unsure of what to expect, we got our backpacks ready and waited.
10 minutes later, a rusty old pickup truck came rolling down the road, loaded with barrels of diesel. We pilled in the back, sitting next to machetes, oil and other various tools.
Driving to the only hotel on the island, we shown where the flamingos cross the road every day consistently. No, that is not a joke, the flamingoes walk across the man road twice a day, in the morning to get out to the point and again in the evening to come back into land.
We were also told about the authentic pirates well, which the town is named after. The well was dug by pirates in the 16th century, and it now surrounded by rocks to preserve the site. Local legend says that pirates always returned to Mayaguana because they buried treasure there. Many people believe the treasure is still buried somewhere on the island, waiting to be uncovered.
Mayaguana is one of the least visited islands in the Bahamas! It has around 200 full time residents, and any tourists that come have to fly themselves or charted a flight. The beaches are beautiful, untouched and pristine. With wildlife everywhere, I expect there to be snorkeling tours, boat tours and more there eventually.
Because of our long day, we did not go out to see the well, but if you're ever on the island give it a trip! We arrived at the hotel, ate dinner, and passed out happy to not be sleeping on the ground.
Leaving Mayaguana the next day was no issue, and we flew to Matthew Town, surrendered our General Declaration, paid the exit tax and continued on to the Dominican Republic. Our engine was still acting strange, but that's a story for another time!