Paradise Lost

Date: 25 March2018

Location: Anchored off Sandy Point, Clarence Town, Exuma, Bahamas LAT 23° 06.347 LON 074° 56.829

Weather: Partly Cloudy, High 70’s, Windy NNE 10 – 15 Knots

We arrived at Lee Stocking Island on Monday 19 March and dropped the hook on the west side of the Cay in Gin clear water. Off to the east of us about half a mile away we could see a fairly extensive group of buildings. Of course, my intrepid crew quickly launched Sea Tigger and marched right past a warning sign that I would have sworn said “No Trespassing – Violators will be Fed to the Sharks”. However, my Binoculars must have been out of focus because, according to the crew, it really read “Trespassers Welcome – Enjoy your day Plundering, Hiking and Coconut Collecting”.

The facility was once a thriving Marine Research Center but lost its government funding in 2012 and now might qualify for a scene in a Tom Clancy book. All the buildings and outdoor specimen collection tanks were in various stages of disrepair – some with leaking roofs and crumbling porches along with the concrete containment walls starting to give into the elements. For some reason the people seem to have departed in a hurry – that is if they departed at all. File cabinets still in place, reports and case studies left on the desks, fixtures, computer monitors and furniture abandoned. Everything from trucks, support vehicles, a backhoe (Captain Brian checked – the keys were missing) and several diesel generators where parked in the compound. Research equipment, dozens of aquariums and jars of laboratory chemicals were still on the shelves. Nearby a large wind driven generator (interesting in that the base of its tower support is hinged to raise and lower by winches and cables) was still on site. The skeleton of a solar farm (panels had been removed), the communication radio antennas, fuel tanks and pumps were still there quietly rusting away.

Nearby was a nice 4,500 x 250 foot asphalt runaway that one could just visualize a DC-3 coming in on short final with its load from Columbia. Has a few “pot” holes in it now but wouldn’t take much to get her back in shape. The Quonset Hut hanger off to the side was starting to cave in. There was a separate workshop with a forklift parked nearby (yep, he checked – keys missing in that one too) along with a large tool / storage shed.

They hiked south down the runway then over a small hill and down to the shoreline where they found several nice (in the day) homes with full wrap around porches that you could sense were used by the power brokers to enjoy Cuban Rum and Cigars while overlooking the ocean and making deals. One house was surrounded by a bunch of coconut trees just full of ripe nuts waiting for the crew to knock them down and bring back to enjoy. (Side Note: The battery reciprocating saw came in handy when it was time to peel the husks and cut them open for the meat and milk.)

Strangely, just as the crew got back in Sea Tigger and started their trip to come back, the wind picked up to 25 knots and extremely choppy waves built up. Dare I think the island was trying to tell them it wanted them to remain – maybe for a long time?

The crew did make it back and the next morning it was off for an overnight passage to Clarence Town, Long Island. Great sail for the first part of the trip around the north point of Long Island but had to crank up the engine in the early morning hours when the wind eased off and finally died. We arrived at sunrise and anchored outside the breakwater to await the last of rising tide before entering Flying Fish Marina to top off the diesel tank and allow the crew to grab an early lunch. My 8 ½ foot draft prevented us from staying in the Marina overnight which was just fine with me. So after we both got our fill, we went back out to the anchorage which, in my opinion, turned out to be an amazing blessing. I believe this was the most picturesque spot we have dropped the hook in the Bahamas so far. We were less than 150’ off a sandy spit of shoreline (appropriately named Sandy Point) in 17’ foot of incredibly clear, calm water. We were protected by a reef 400’ to the East with the waves crashing over the rocks and spraying up in the air. There was only one other boat in the area, “S/V Nauticuss” who was single handed by Ross Pegg (says he was a Naughty old Cuss). Invited him over for sunset drinks and snacks. Turns out Ross has ventured around the Horn “many years ago” courtesy of the US Navy.

Next day, The Admiral, Capt Brian and Capt Ross headed out to explore the town while Robert stayed behind to rest up. They wandered the town and visited a couple of local churches. Story about these church’s is that Father Jerome, who originally built a Monastery called The Hermitage  (now mostly in ruins) on Cat Island up on Mount Alvernia (at 206 feet it’s the highest point in the Bahamas), was quite the fellow. He left Cat Island and relocated to Long Island where he built St Peter and Paul Catholic Church using the same stone construction technique as The Hermitage yet he made it bigger and stronger. At some point he converted to the Anglican Church so he moved over about a ½ mile and built his 3rd Church – St. Paul’s Anglican Church which is still in operation today.

The local store in town had a few items but no fresh veggies so we found Ernest, the towns “Taxi Driver / Island Tour Guide” who is truly a credit to his community. He met the crew at the government dock and took them to the next town north to a grocery store that met all of the Admiral’s requirements for produce and the Captain’s requirement for Chocolate. In all, Ernest took them by 6 stores; grocery store, wholesale beverage store, (2) liquor stores, a hardware store, an auto parts store, and a general merchandise store. Seems like his job was to promote the local economy by taking cruisers to all the local establishments.

After dropping them back in the center of downtown Clarence Town (population 68 when everyone’s relatives from out of town are visiting), the scouting group went by Rowdy Boys Bar and Grill to make reservations for the Friday night’s Pork Barbecue Festivities. Then they hurried back to Paws to unload provisions and then headed back up to shore for Happy Hour and the Meat. It was a great evening swimming in the Bars pool and talking to a local fisherman that had to be Hemingway’s lead character in “Old Man in the Sea”. Then they ate supper with what seemed like all 68 people in the town including a group from Thomasville, GA and a few over from Florida along with their bikes. The people with bikes were pedaling the island down and back (covering about 160 miles). For some reason they stood the entire evening.

Captain Brian also got a close up look of a traditional Bahamian Sailing Scull that won the recent Long Island Regatta but is now up in the hard next to the Bar. The winning trophy is proudly on display at Rowdy’s.

The following day Captain’s Robert and Brian did some snorkeling around the area looking for Lobsters and Conch. Admiral Joyce did a fantastic job of following them in the dinghy without running them over once. Robert found a King Helmet Conch which is a rare sight with its bright red and orange coloring but not good eating. They were unsuccessful finding any bugs but fortunately The Admiral came thru once again with grilled chicken, cabbage slaw, rice, and topped it off with a real treat of frozen homemade coconut rum pudding.

Tomorrow we weigh anchor and depart for our final stop in the Bahamas at Great Inagua and the Flamingo’s.

Joyce and Brian Clark
S/V Pawsitive Latitude
+1 239 898 7646
Facebook – The Saga of S/V Pawsitive Latitude

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