Cuba today! Hopefully. We make the short flight from North Palm Beach airport to Fort Lauderdale Executive airport without an issue and under visual conditions. There we pick up two things. A rental emergency life raft, complete with awning and satellite beacon and Graeme Plant, who flew in commercial since he didn’t want to sit in the back of a small plane going across the US.
We then launch under an international, instrument flight plan with prior permission to land in Havana. How cool is that? We hope we filled out all the forms correctly because it would be embarrassing to be shot down. We fly through white puffies over the everglades, then climb from 6,000 to 10,000 feet when they get a little bumpy. Once out over the water the clouds dissipate and the first of the bright cobalt water appears that I’ve been waiting about a year for.
We did it – we flew all the way across the country and we are now heading out over the ocean.
Mark and I wear life vests we purchased for this trip that are light, comfortable, easy to get out of the plane with and inflate with a pull of a cord. Graeme in the back keeps a bulky kayaking lifevest handy as we figure he’ll have time to don it, whereas Mark and I will be busy if something goes wrong.
We have one issue where Havana Center (Cuban ATC) has us routed the same as a commercial airliner, which is WAY out over the ocean before coming in on approach. However they are friendly and accommodating and reroute us almost direct to Havana once we enter Cuban airspace.
Although it is an exciting and much anticipated flight, it is one of the shorter flights of the trip at just over two hours. If we started from Key West it would be 90 miles and much less than an hour.
I am absolutely thrilled to talk to Havana Tower with a Cuban accent (her, not me), as she clears me to land in Havana. We land, taxi by some old Cuban airliners and park at the private terminal (we are the only plane there) where we have more than 20 security, customs, health, airport and who-knows-what staff who take turns trying to explain to us what to do next and how much to pay.
They don’t speak much English and we don’t speak much Spanish, but the universal method of payment works well enough – I hold a stack of cash in my hand and have them take what they want. That doesn’t work as well in Mexico when you are alone in the airport Comandante’s office, but here I think it works with set fees and several people watching.
Soon we are out in a taxi (old cars everywhere!!) to Old Town Havana to check in to our Airbnb apartment. Yes, Airbnb works well here. Although most businesses are government run, the regime now allows some small private restaurants and privately rented rooms.
We walk around at dusk and are enthralled. Tomorrow – Havana!