Sun N Fun 2011 was going to be a great year. The celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation, The Blue Angels would be attending, our Stearman made the Sun N Fun 2011 poster, we had more pre Sun N Fun planning than years past, more Tiki hut antics and our buddy Rex had borrowed a professional camera for Coconut Flyers first REAL video. The old question, “What could possibly go wrong?” Well, to give one the best account I will have several blogs upcoming describing the event and the trials and tribulations as they came about.
Should have Known, Omen 1; Sunday afternoon, the day prior to our departure for Sun N Fun. We had just returned from “Wings Over Flagler” airshow/fly-in and knew we had a lot to do. Fortunately we had done some pre planning and had most of our Sun N Fun gear in the hangar awaiting someone to pack it up. We organized a packing afternoon which seemed to be going along smoothly. Right up to the point that Jon’s wife decided to take their golf cart home for something. Packing was going great until the phone rang and we were informed that Jon’s wife Lynn and somehow lost control of their cart and been thrown out. Now like most of our toys, Jon’s golf cart sits up high and goes very fast. Not a good combination. When we arrived on the scene Lynn was upset and her foot and many parts of her body showed the signs of the accident. Off to the hospital with Jon & Lynn. Lynn was admitted to the hospital and it appeared headed for surgery for some screws and pins and stuff to put her heal back together. Jon’s trip to Sun N Fun was not looking like it was going to happen. In the true Coconut Flyer fashion, we continued to pack for Sun N Fun all the while checking on Jon & Lynn and hoping for the best. Mike Burke had arranged to have his 1933 Curtis Travel Aire flown down on Sunday so he could assist in the transportation of our goods. Paige as always had seen to it that no one would go without food or beverage for the entire week of our camping adventure. By nightfall on Sunday the trailer and Coconut Flyer Ground support vehicle were loaded and awaiting an early Monday morning departure. Our planned Monday morning fleet launch would enable me to secure a place for Jon’s Stearman if later in the week he would be able to make it down for a day. Reports of possible weather moving in would have to wait until morning to see what the true situation would bring.
Monday, omen 2; Awakening early on Monday and ready for our big day began rather slowly. Mike Burke and our Buddy Ryan were on station ready to depart as well. Only drawback was lots of scattered showers and low ceilings. Paige also ready to depart did not want to get to Sun N Fun and have me not be there until late or not at all on Monday. With Mike and Ryan leading the way in their vehicle and calling in routinely with weather reports, Monday was not looking like a good day for our usual arrival. Our camping buddy Jeff Deaton from N.C. was also reporting that the rain was coming down and the Antique & Classic parking area was quickly becoming a swamp. Finally around 4pm, we scrubbed our mission for a Monday departure. Hey, we have the rest of the week, no big deal, right? Tuesday we will head out. We will not be stopped.
Tuesday; What’s a little weather? Omen 3; Tuesday started out not much better than Monday except the forecast was for the weather to begin to break soon. Finally around 1030am the ceilings had lifted to where I could head south. Paige had left almost an hour earlier and was reporting SOME blue skies above about 30 miles south. Mike, Ryan and Jeff were at the Lakeland airport and were reporting skies were clearing there as well. How did we do all this before cell phones? Off I went into the gloomy grey yonder. It did continue to get better the further south I went to the point that when I arrived at Sun N Fun skies were clear and the winds were calm. Now see, all this fuss over weather and it’s all gone now. Upon arrival we were directed away from our usual parking place in the second row due to swampy conditions. We elected to park and set up on high ground and move Mikes Travel Aire to high ground as well. This would be our campsite for the next 5 days. I went over and registered and like clockwork Paige arrived. The unloading and assembling of our Coconut Flyers Island Oasis had begun. By 2pm we were all set with our three Huts, housing facilities, food stores and blender. Now we just sit back and enjoy the airshow, our friends and most of all the airplanes as they arrived that evening. Turnout was down due to the weather from the day prior and a huge front covering from Mississippi to Virginia. So we enjoyed steaks on the grill and hanging out. A missing man formation was formed in front of the tikis in honor of Jon who at this point was learning the fine points of helping his wife negotiate around in a wheelchair. We were here with our friends and that’s all that matters for now. Why does everyone keep telling us about the weather that is expected on Thursday? That’s two days away and those guys are never right are they?
Wednesday; Weather is the topic of the day. Omen 4; Wednesday began as many Sun N Fun Days, early to rise, coffee on the grill and showers. The crowds are light but Paige has her routine and I just stay out of the way and enjoy my coffee. Before you know it Jeff Deaton stops by followed by Mike and Ryan. A beautiful morning but the talk is about the impending weather beginning possibly later on today. Lots of airplanes are arriving and Sun N Fun seems to be getting back to normal. Our Island Oasis will provide the backdrop for tonight’s annual Florida Antique Biplane Association (FABA) “Under the Wing Thing” with lots of food and good times and close to 80 people scheduled to attend this year. Bobby and Sue Wyatt have been hosting this shin dig for several years now. Always a good time. Still the topic of conversation as the airshow begins is the weather to the west and what time it will arrive. By 330pm we know the weather will be arriving soon and it does not look conducive to three tiki huts and almost 80 people. As the skies darken and the winds pick up, the last part of the airshow is stopped. Those FABA members that did arrive assisted in helping break down and secure our camp and the extra supplies we had accumulated for the “Under the Wing Thing”. Camp all battened down, 5pm and it’s still happy hour. People begin to come in as the rain begins as well. Tim Averet delivers Apple Tinis to tents and vehicles as we all seek refuge for the rain. The rain lets up and we all emerge for Cuban sandwiches and Crab cakes. Not a bad evening. That is until the rain sets in. And man did it set in. Paige and I had a fairly dry night with nonstop rain. Jeff Smith in his tent next door remained dry for the most part also.
Surely Thursday would be better, right? Stay tuned.