Thursday, February 19, 2009

Key West to Cozumel

January 8. Leaving Key West, with the Tortugas off my right wing. We had a 15kt tailwind, so delayed climbing high into less favorable winds. There were plenty of boats around, and the plane was running smooth. The countries I would be landing in or flying over were given their 72 hour notice, with explicit flight plans. Miami Center told me I could take the shortcut right over the western tip of Cuba.

But an hour later I was handed off to Havana Center, and she told me to turn to a heading of 270 degrees and stay on that course for the next 100 miles. So much for the shortcut. I have heard that some people drop leaflets which drift over the country. One such plane was shot down. So I obeyed Havana Center.

10,500', 96kts indicated, with a ground speed of 114kts. Life is good! We are approaching the intersection 55nm ahead which Havana Center told me to fly to in order to avoid the "inner" Cuban airspace. The outer Cuban airspace goes half way to Houston, and apparently does not pose a problem. Boats were frequent, and I had a 406mhz EPIRB (the boater version of an ELT), life jacket, marine radio, and a 30 to 1 glide ratio. The distance from the west tip of Cuba to Cancun is 100 miles. At the half way point, I would be at the furthest distance from land, or 50 miles. I transited that stretch at 12,500', and therefore could glide 60 miles. So I was very comfortable making this journey.

Closing in on Cancun, the clouds started to tower, but as you can see, it was no problem to steer around them.

Crossing the coast into Cozumel (MMCZ). 3.5 hrs, 382nm. Cleared customs, immigration, El Commandante del Aeropuerto, flight service to close the flight plan, fuel (cash only), immigration (he forgot to stamp one document), flight service again for some unknown reason, and then I was free to leave the airport. Got a motel room a block from the water, and then lucked into a cheap seat in a snorkle boat, and snorkled for 2 hours. What a great way to loosen up! Even got to go face to face with a rather large moray eel. All in all, a day to remember.

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