(Berry Islands, May 17, 2002 by Michael Craig, former owner of Bahama Villa)
Hey, I'm an adventurous kind of guy. I've laughed in the face of turbulence, smuggled sea shells past US Customs, and even survived Delta's rubber chicken. You could say I'd seen it all . . . almost.
I hadn't lost a propeller on a single-engine plane before. This was not - you might say - high on my "To Do" list. Neither was sky diving, sword swallowing, or playing Russian Roulette with a loaded chamber. I do have my limits. Falling from 8,000 feet in a winged Toyota Celica was definitely beyond them. You go down. Ka-Pow. That's it. I used to have nighmares about being a casualty in one of those "unreported first-hand experiences."
With hot-shot jock ex-fighter-pilot Bill Reister, however, I felt safe. He'd flown for many years and looked by all appearances to be still alive. . . so I said "What the heck" and climbed aboard. Sure, I'm a certified coward, but I'm also certifiably cheap. The temptation of a free trip to the Bahamas was too great to pass up.
The "Rose" is Bill's Lancair experimental 2-seater powered by a few hungry mice and rising hot air. It's small but comfortable, and I felt really cool with headphones cradling my scalp and a color GPS on my lap. The first leg of our journey was relatively uneventful - unless you count the occasional nausea and urge to yell "12 O'Clock High!!" every so often. We made it OK to Bahama Villa, spent a few quiet days, and then hopped in the plane and headed back. Then disaster struck.
You guessed it - Rose lost her prop at 8,500 feet. No, not one of two. . . the ONLY one! Fortunately, cool-headed Bill was able to throttle back, steady the tiny craft and glide her across the water onto a lonely landing strip despite my semi-appropriate shreiks, gasps, and fits of wild abandon. Hey! We actually landed on Big Whale Cay (a semi-deserted atoll in the Bahamas) and didn't have to ditch the plane in shark-infested waters. Magical Bill made a perfect 3-point landing - sans engine and propeller - literally dropping in on Kent and Beth, a couple of locals just returning from a grocery run to Nassau. Meanwhile, I checked "falling out of the sky" off my Do list.
Even more amazing: the beer was cold and Kent's Cessna delivered us safely to Chubb Cay Club where we eventually made it to Bimini, Ft. Lauderdale and finally Atlanta via Delta . . . rubber chicken and all. Bill returned a few months later to retrieve Rose, although Kent and Beth had long departed. These Canadian birds spend winters in their Bahamas cottage and fly home every summer.
Did I fly in Bill's plane again? You betcha. Hey, the worst is over. Now I want my own plane! All I have to do is convince my lovely wife Brigitte. Oh, Honey . . .
Photos and text © 2002-2008
by Michael Craig
All Rights Reserved