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This Eletter, THE GREATEST OF ALL IN SCOPE AND VOLUME, and all the fantastic photos of storms, critters, & vast varieties of vogue, vivid verdant and virid vistas for voyeurs of varying valetudinary vanities; the voluminous vanguard of voyaging vagabond valkyries vindicating visceral viewpoints of viable value; and venues vouchsafed vivaciously for vacationing and visual vestige of virtuous vitality:

<http://www.ciekurzis.org/Family%20Islands/Family%20Islands%20Part I.htm>


Family Islands - Part I


While in the Bahamas, many times political speakers have referred to an area as the "Family Islands". They have done this in Andros, Eleuthera, Abaco, and elsewhere; trying to make the places sound quaint, local, and friendly. I have not seen a distinction for the term, as many of the places, albeit remote, were obviously set up for tourism and commercial activities. I have now seen the origination of the term and its true applicability. The cruising guides (US or UK produced) and the weathermen call them the "SE Bahamas" - simply describing their relative location. Others refer to them as the "Out Islands" (again, a term thrown about loosely - businesses in Nassau are named that, also), but these places are truly islands of the family. Not completely 'untouristed' but where a tourist is still a valued novelty; islands where the economy is dependant on the family business of fishing, farming, construction, government affairs, and various other local activities. [The Government actually defines ALL Bahamian islands other than New Providence (& Paradise?) as the "Family Islands"!]


As I mentioned in the last eletter, the Family Islands of the southeast Bahamas stand alone in the Atlantic Ocean; they have aragonite, stromatolite, and coral reefs near them, but no extensive bank surrounding them. The ocean plummets to over a thousand meters deep just a few miles from their shores, with a few exceptions.

The Acklins group is a kind of circle formed by Acklins & Crooked Island and Long Cay. The inside of this area resembles a bank and is called the Bight of Acklins. Cat Island also has a bight that measures 30 nautical miles along its SW shore, out 6 or 7 miles. Long Island is unique as it is actually joined to the Great Bahama Bank and has a protected bight navigable to Windigo about the same size as Cat Island. Good thing too, for that is where we experienced the persistent Tropical Storm Noel.


Hurricane Noel.


Noel quickly formed directly south of us and the "official" forecasts drew Noel's track to be directly across us on the 29th of October. The next day, they suddenly changed the forecast and arced Noel around Windigo's location, and closer to the US. So we stayed put and thought we would enjoy some rain to fill our water tank.


As I made the "official" track from position reports released by the US Government, it followed this second "unusual" forecast (disputed by other global models). Position reports issued during the next days [30 OCT and another from 01 NOV] had NO clouds on the satellite photo in those spots. If one looks at satellite photos from each day, it appeared to have barely moved for much of the early days, and was centered well away from the "official" track, with no clouds whatsoever at the "official" coordinates they spewed forth. Do I not know enough about weather to figure out how a named Tropical Storm can have no clouds around its declared position? Compare the photos from the two dates and you figure it out!


But there were more problems with the "official" reports. Having access to raw satellite photos, raw weather data from Nassau and other Bahamian stations, and the evaluation the weather of Chris Parker, a weather-router for the Caribbean Weather Center & THE weather guru for cruisers in the Atlantic - we realized that the National Weather Service was relaying incomplete [read: wrong] data. (Chris said, "There is NO WAY the storm is where the NWS says it is.")


We were at Long Island, and Noel's "official" track was never within 150 miles of us. We had 25-knot winds for three days, gusting to 30 knots. Then a day of 35- knot winds. The day it passed Nassau (160 miles from us), we experienced 40-knot winds with gusts to 50 knots. These winds continued well past the calm time in Nassau, when Noel was over 200 miles away from us. So we took a beating by staying far from the 'reported' storm and having the worst conditions cross directly over us.


What about reporting the conditions well away from the "center" of a storm? Can the NWS not see that winds much greater than the center of 'their' storm have consequences? It seems once they name it, they can say whatever they wish. [Note: Did you know New Orleans NEVER experienced hurricane force wind in Katrina? In fact, it was not even steady tropical storm force; The only disaster there was the decades of refusal of the administration to allow the Army Corps of Engineers the money to do their job. Other things(war?) were more important than the failing levee system . . .]


I have great respect for the individual forecasters at the NWS. They actually "sign" each report, discussion, and analysis they produce, and over the years I have chosen favorites. But they do work for the government, and must comply with 'orders'. Why would the government 'order' forecasts AND actual tracks to be misleading? Well, my friend Jim on Dianji has a (conspiracy) theory that involves the threat of Hurricane Watches and Warnings that cause sales to dramatically increase at say, Home Depot in Florida (batteries, plywood, generators, etc.). Home Depot happens to be MAJOR sponsor of The Weather Channel.

FEMAs budget is dependant on need and it is the end of the hurricane season and the US has not taken a hit. Seems that the Terror? that keeps the sheep in line can come from a lot of made-up sources.


Once again, we are reminded that we are on our own. Knowing this fact is preferred than believing that there is support, until a situation arises that proves otherwise. My advice is that we should ALL check our resources so none of us are stranded when the next "storm" arises.


Four days of steady rain DID fill our water tank, thank you.


The Character Of The Land.


Right after Noel, "flooded" would be a good description.


The Good Peoples.


The HMBS NASSAU was anchored across the entrance of the Clarence Town Harbour when we arrived. The first thing Karin says is, "Do you think they are blocking us from coming in because our visa is expired?" [We had applied for an extension in George Town, but were refused, so our last few months in The Bahamas were spent running from the law . . .] They were actually at Long Island to assist in the aftermath of Noel, mostly transporting supplies to flooded settlements.


We found people in the Family Islands to be generally more sincere and engaging, perhaps because of the cruiser being a less encountered entity and welcome as a true visitor to their remote homes.


In addition to seeking out the older folks with their family and island history stories, I found it interesting (and easy) to engage the community leaders on the smaller islands = the businessmen that keep each island going in a good direction. On Long Cay there was Mr. Rose; and Copland Rolle on Acklins. The Gibsons and Scavellas keep north Crooked moving.


When Ansil Pratt told me of the Lucayan descendants living in Cartwrights, Long Island, and other stories were told how some of the Indians evaded the Spanish enslavers in the depths of the Family Islands, I commenced a search for a living Lucayan.


The Trip. [MAP]


Sailing between these islands could not be done on a calendar schedule, but only with a 'weather schedule'. The trips crossed sections of open ocean approaching 10,000 feet deep. Swells felt here are created as far away as Europe & Africa, and local wind conditions can whip up nasty chop in the unprotected seas. To traverse safely, with minimum discomfort and strain on gear and rigging, destinations must be chosen with the pattern of weather given first priority. [Weather details in Cruising Notes.]

Population Of The SE Bahamas

These 'Family' Islands are approaching the verge of development; only one has hosted projects which has caused an increase in population since the 1963 census. The remainder have initially lost a large number of people, and then a few have shown recent growth. Compare the following census numbers of these traditional communities based on fishing, basic subsistence farming, and one industrial town with the insane tourism results of the larger central and northern islands.



Abaco population from 1963 to 2000 increased from 6,490 to 13,170. Today's estimate is 18,000, nearly triple the original census (and may indeed miss many thousands of Haitian immigrant workers, some legal, some not).

Grand Bahama Island, including the city of Freeport, grew from 8,230 in 1963, to 46,994 in 2000. Today we find well over 50,000 residents, over six times the 1963 number. (Windigo has no where to anchor there, so we have skipped this landlubbers domain.)

New Providence & Nassau had 80,907 in 1963, growing to 210,832 in 2000. Today you will count well over quarter-million people living there, soon to be quadruple the 1963 census. [Many thousands of illegal aliens dwell there undetected, whereas in the Family Islands, the crew of Windigo was recognized and known ahead if time in each new place, as we anchored!]




Long Island, 2000 census = 2,945

A decrease from over 4,000 inhabitants in 1963; with recent development the population has stabilized, and may increase due to the islands proximity to the Exumas.


Besides weathering Noel here, we walked and cycled the entire island, from the Columbus Monument on Cape Santa Maria and Newton Cay in the northeast, to Gordon's at the southern tip. Roads were flooded, especially in the central-south section, and would not have been passable if attempted the previous day. This family (going for a walk/wade?) told me that two days previous my entire bike would have been under water; right after Noel, there was 5 to 6 feet of water on the road. The yards of many homes and businesses will remain flooded for weeks.


The owner of this greenhouse says he only lost "one or two" plants; that they may survive under [fresh] water for several days (that they can somewhat 'breath' the oxygen in the water). But he was moving them later, as the water receded, to a drier and sunnier place. He was skeptical of any government assistance to compensate for damage from the storm. (Although The Bahamian government has a widespread, established Nation Insurance Board, there is no insurance available for agricultural concerns, but they are currently working on it - which means expect something in a decade or two.)


My cycling partner and farmer, Ambrose, has another opinion that rang more true as the days progressed. He also expected minimal damage from the flooding (these people really prepare for these things) and only lost a few banana trees. He fully expected the government to recompense him for new plants and provide support such as fertilizer to recover from the storm. When we stopped by Clarence Town on the other side of Long Island, traveling from Rum Cay to the Acklins Group, we first saw the Bahamian Defense Force ship, the HMBS Nassau, anchored there. [In fact, the large navy vessel was directly across the entrance channel to Clarence Town! So much for 'security zones'.] The ship was there delivering fertilizer(!) and providing basic needs and transportation for Long Island. [They also assisted Karin in the recovery of her personal cockpit beanbag when it blew off Windigo and headed for shore prior to our assembling Pedigo. They weren't even curious if it was a bag of money or drugs as they simply brought it back for her uninspected.]


The Columbus Monument at the north tip of Long Island is an ironic celebration of the arrival of the Europeans. Although I believe Columbus was basically a pretty good guy on his first voyage - fair with his crew and honest with the natives - his reports back home led to the invasion of the Americas by the Spanish conquistadors; and the devastation of entire races and tribes of peoples including the Lucayans in The Bahamas, and the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans of Central & South America, and other countless Taino and Caribe tribes. On his subsequent voyages, however, Columbus began the enforcement of requiring 'tribute' from any adult Indian [14 or older]. Initially this was a small quantity of gold, but then evolved into other things = 25 pounds of cotton, indentured servitude, etc. Failure to pay was usually met with death.


No group succumbed to the Spanish bastards faster than the gentle, peaceful Lucayan farmers and fishermen. In no more than 25 years, after enslavement and relocation, there was no trace of the original Bahamian Indian' society. Unable to cope under imprisonment of slavery in Cuba and Haiti, the men perished from punishment or suicide; and the women and children left behind couldn't sustain their civilization alone. So the plaque dedicated to the arrival of this onslaught is disturbing. Read more about the original Indians of the islands in the concise article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taino


But wait, there is a tiny glimmer of survival at the end of the story. Although I have searched in vain for any remnants of Lucayan society in The Bahamas so far (other than 'touristy' museums of Lucayan lore), here in the Out Islands there are said to be traces of the lost peoples. Some surviving Indians hid away for generations, and today their ancestors may carry a bit of their DNA into the future. The first such place I found said to contain ancestral Lucayans is Cartwrights, a settlement between Clarence Town and Deadmans Cay. The outward appearance of the residents would suggest this to be possible, and is demonstrated by their easy living in a difficult environment.


The naming conventions mentioned in the previous eletter continue on Long Island, if not oversimplified. The towns are not only named after the founders, they ARE the names of the founders. Austerely: Gordon's, Mortimer's, Gray's, Cartwright's, Rose's, Berry's, Tait's, Bain's, Seymour's, Simm's and so forth. For the capitol city, they got fancy, and called it Clarence TOWN.


Rum Cay, 2000 census = 100? (official numbers combined with San Salvador)

The population numbers experienced a sharp decrease in the 80's to the 1963 number. currently, about 60 people live in Port Nelson, and perhaps a couple dozen are in Sumner Point and scattered on the island. Developments may hold population steady as much of the desirable island is available and is fairly close to the end of the Exumas.


Weather caused us to take a circuitous route to the Acklins Group, stopping at Rum Cay in the way; actually we didn't even plan on going to the Acklins now, but had great conditions to go from the north tip of Long Island to Rum Cay, through Clarence Town back on Long Island, and on to the Acklins.


Excellent snorkeling here. A five-mile hike across the island from Port Nelson to the north coast past abandoned cattle roaming through mostly untouched land. A modern marina and waterway system extending somewhat inland to a giant salt pond (actually named a "salt LAKE") and enjoyable to explore. Another anchorage at the NW corner of the cay provides another magnificent vista both above and below the water.


Rum Cay must be rather peaceful for their police station is actually a "police station wagon"!



Another area supposedly inaccessible to sailboats drawing seven feet, the Acklins Group proved to be a magnificent cruising grounds. Beautiful, protected anchorages; friendly, accommodating people; and TONS of bonefish, if you are into the fishing thing. We entered the Bight of Acklins from the west, traveled the shallow waters inside, and departed through a path for vessels drawing under five feet. It all can be done if you pay attention!


Long Cay, 2007 population = 20 adults, 7 children

1975 estimate, from resident Hilroy Knowles = 60. At the turn of the 19th Century, there were over 2,000 souls living in Albert Town! Long Cay is likely to remain barely populated for the foreseeable future.


The westernmost island of the Acklins group, it bridges the gap from Crooked Island, on it's north tip, to a string of cays that extend to the south tip of Acklins Island, closing the Bight of Acklins. The main entrance to the Bight is around the south tip of Long Cay.


We found out all about the cay from Hilroy Knowles, a now permanent resident that has lived elsewhere in The Bahamas on-and-off for his 42 years. He has returned to live with his father, Bruce Knowles, the greatest guitarist in Albert Town, and continue the island traditional forms of subsistence: fishing and small-scale farming. He raises goats and is able to "scoop" wahoo from the ocean at will [the advice he offered will be used - I hope it is enough to change my fishing (mis) fortune].


Hilroy has spent periods of a time living in Nassau and working as a charter fishing guide. In fact, we were instantly recognized as those "crazy boaters with the pedal dinghy" from his seeing us in Nassau in April. How crazy are we when he proceeded to take detailed notes of Pedigo's construction for possible replication [something done no less than a half-dozen times during our travels here].


Welcoming us into his patio, Bruce Knowles regaled us with stories of a crowded, bustling Long Cay of long ago. A time when the largest church south of Nassau was full of parishioners, and the local farming of cotton, sisal, madeira bark, and cascarilla bark and the herding of goats and chickens was large-scale. Today, the bark of the cascarilla is still sent to Italy from here and Acklins Island for the production of Campari.


We also met Stephen Rose, a former mailboat captain and now the Bahamas Electric Corporation manager on Long Cay, he is the financial and philanthropic leader of the island today. He runs the tiny Ready Money grocery store and has several construction projects under his belt and underway, which have provided quality housing for some Albert Town residents. He also owns most of the 2,000 goats on the island, but Hilroy is starting his own herd that he says will rival Mr. Rose's in short order.


Our tour here is photo-detailed below, in Karin Takes A Hike.


Acklins Island, 2000 census = 423

The number of residents has plummeted during the 70's & 80's from over 1200 in 1963. Seems stabilized for now.


On Acklins, we found the prettiest, most colorful, and best maintained "straw market" buildings so far in The Bahamas. These groups of small vending shacks exist in every major settlement on every island. Only the one in George Town is used daily, the remainder are used only for special holiday dates and parties, such as Regatta or Independence Day.


Hanging out on Acklins for a few days, one has a chance to personally view a majority of the entire population! Upon interacting with them, a true sense of the Family Islands develops. Many older residents, although well- traveled, have always lived here. Some middle-aged folks have returned, after education and employment elsewhere, such as Hilroy Knowles from Long Cay has done.


The first Acklinite we came upon was Mr. Heastie, the patriarch of Spring Point. He gave me a colorful description of the route to Atwood Harbour for my cycling trip that day, only after telling me there was no way I could bike there. Upon my return from the 80-mile trip there, I was gathered onto the deck of the local bar for regurgitation of the details of my adventure.


The story was heard by a few men, including the owner of the fine drinking establishment, Copland Rolle, who was named after a US judge that briefly incarcerated his father just before he was born. The name had an effect, as Copland ("Coby") lead a very interesting career as a Bahamian Police Officer; first moving up the ranks quickly and serving on almost every island in the capacity of chief or senior officer. Then, in 1981, he was assigned to be the personal bodyguard for Sir Lynden O. Pindling, the first Prime Minister of The (Independent) Bahamas; a post which he stayed at until Sir Pindling's death in 2001. Now "retired" and living back in his birthplace of Acklins Island, Coby runs his tavern/store/bakery/social center, which happens to be immediately adjacent to the police station . . .


We encountered more friendly Acklinders (perhaps some with a trace of Lucayan ancestry) throughout the island, just not very many at a time, with less than 400 people spread across 70 miles of island. Civilization is concentrated at Spring Point, with tiny settlements scattered about, such as Chesters and it's slowly progressing Community Center (I hope construction didn't really start in 1702!).


There are the bone fishing lodges in the north: Chisholm's in Chesters on Lovely Bay and Garron's in Pinefield; and traditional Bahamian settlements all the way down to Salina Point, where we stopped as we sneaked out of The Bight of Acklins along route recommended only for vessels of less than five-feet of draft. Windigo once again negotiated the shallows without incident.


Crooked Island, 2000 census = 341

People have fled Crooked Island in a steady flow since the 1963 census counted a populace of 788. The trend continues.


We explored Crooked Island from both inside the Bight, and from an anchorage at Landrail Point, on the northwest tip of the island.


To access the western end of the island, we anchored as far north as possible with our draft, and left very early to ride Pedigo 8 miles further up to Turtle Sound and to the dock at Church Grove Landing. From there, Karin took another LONG hike, and I rode the 37 miles to the eastern extremity of the island and back.


On the 8-mile Pedigo ride back to Windigo, we chatted with an American couple on a charter bone fishing boat. The charter guide was none other than Shaky McKinney, an acquaintance of our friend Mark, and who showed great interest in Pedigo as a design for a more efficient bone fishing vessel.


Whew - a non-stop day, starting at 0400hrs. to coincide with the tidal current, and collapsing back aboard Windigo ten hours later. We certainly slept well that night.


Upon leaving The Bight of Acklins through the shallow southern route, we sailed up to Landrail Point at the northwest tip of Crooked Island to explore the western half of the island. It turns out that this is area of the most 'action' in the Acklins Group. Andy Gibson, the local BASRA coordinator and his son Niko greeted us from their fishing boat as we arrived and welcomed us to the hospitality of the Mormon city (EVERYthing is closed in Landrail on Saturday!).


Pittstown Point Landing (a mile north of Landrail), a brand new, well-managed, growing resort at the very tip of the island promises to attract many types of tourists. They have 'preserved' the first Post Office of The Bahamas at this resort by building a restaurant/bar AROUND the old building! We met up with Shaky McKinney again, who is based out of The Landing, and the purveyor of a local exotic-drink: Mark once saw dozens of his famous "shakes" sold to tourists in one sitting at the airport. An amazing feat on sparsely populated Crooked Island!


Shaky introduced us to David, the manager of the Pittstown Landing, and David showed us the trailhead to the 16th century British fort called "Marine Farm". The ruins are at the top of a densely-wooded hill across the long curve of the Marine Farm Salt Pond (named for the Marines that once manned the fort). The fort protected the north end of the Crooked Island Passage, that provides access to Cuba, during the active piracy years of the Spanish Main. The fort has three hundred years of growth in the ruins, but I found 4 of the 6 four-ton cannons that are scattered about the encampment, and they still bear the markings of the Royal Marines. [See Cruising Notes for exact positions for the trailhead and fort]


We also went exploring for the fabulous local caves, but after two days of searching using vague directions, all I could find were the group of "lesser" caves. So if you go looking for caves on the north shore of Crooked Island, the ones at | N22?49.960' W074?18.150' | are unimpressive and mosquito infested (although the rest of the hike was bug- free!).


I met Reggie Moss cycling to a cemetery on the central north shore of the island to cut the grass there. Reggie also works at the Pittstown Point Landing. It turns out he is Andy's half-brother and told us of his sister's restaurant, Gibson's. We went to eat there, and it turns out "Willie" Gibson is a tremendous cook! She has had professional training, but first learned her way around a kitchen from her mother, Marina Gibson.


Marina is actually named after the fort and Marine Farm Salt Pond and is just as much of a landmark here. She has been a businesswoman in Landrail for 40 years, and although she says she only wanted to contribute to the community, has become no less than world-famous. She still cooks for Willie, although says she is "semi-retired"; between her businesses, community work, and traveling, is more active than most. She delighted us with stories of her history, including her connection with Evans Cottman, the out-island doctor of the 40's & 50's. Dr. Cottman lived with her family for a few years while practicing medicine on Crooked Island. The remoteness was too much for his Abaconian wife, so eventually they moved back to Abaco where he built his 'Castle in the Air' that we saw in Marsh Harbour.


Another Landrail family are the Scavellas, who run the best store, gas station, and fuel & water delivery. Started by Daisy and now run mostly by her son, Kenny, these are clean, well-run and fair establishments. [See Cruising Notes for a description and photos of how we filled our tank with free water carried from their gas station.]





The majority of these islands are below the Tropic of Cancer, so joining the full variety of lizards and larger mammals are creatures and flora of the tropical desert. Desert cacti are not only present, but abundant, along with true desert dwellers such as the giant yucca. Thick, meaty vines now accompany the thinner, tenacious ones that make our hikes through the bush so wonderfully abusive.


I found a few tarantulas washed onto the road on Long Island, and Karin found a larger spider on Rum Cay which alerted me to their presence here. [Generally, small critters are first discovered as roadkill prior to seeing them living in their habitat.] The number of snakes and crabs increased, as does their size.


Cattle, sheep, and goats left from abandoned ranches were seen on many islands and are said to be on every Family Island. A few wild horses hid out here and there, but are rarely seen directly like their kept brothers.

Besides the Greater Flamingo, which we saw along Long Cay after Karin's Hike, other birds spotted in the Acklins group were:

White Tailed Tropicbird, White Cheeked Pintail, Zenaida Dove, Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Mockingbird, Pearly-Eyed Thrasher, Thick Billed Vireo, Bananaquit, Stripe Headed Tanager, Black Faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, many types of Egrets, and of course, the ubiquitous Magnificent Frigatebird.


Other Activities.

The Architecture Of Father Jerome

John Hawes was a diverse and productive man that did not stand still for any of his youth. And when he did finally "retire" in The Bahamas he shone as a prolific designer and builder.

In an age and place when communication and transportation were limited and productivity was slow to match, Englishman John Hawes, who lived from 1876 to 1956, showed a unique drive an ambition from his start. Born of an affluent family, he began schooling as an architect, but suddenly switched to theology and was ordained in the Church of England and traveled to The Bahamas in 1908. He went from island to island repairing Anglican (and other) church buildings and administered a flavor of religion that showed no distinction between black or white, rich or poor, and shook things up a bit I am sure.


He must have taken to sailing, also, and traveled to Canada with his unique missionary skills. In 1911, he went to Rome and converted to Catholicism. As 'Father Jerome', he went to Australia where he spent 25 years practicing his St Francis of Assisi flavor of religion to the bush peoples.


In 1939 he returned to his favorite place, Cat Island. From there he directed building projects for four other churches on Cat Island and five churches on Long Island, both Anglican and Catholic. Well known in the area, as noted in the Abaco eletter, Father Jerome was consulted by Evan Cottmann for the construction of his "castle-home" in Marsh Harbour.


His sturdy designs appreciated the force of the storms and featured thick-walled masonry buildings that are in pristine condition today after decades of pounding from hurricanes. The beauty of the structures come from an interesting blending of the simplicities of Romanesque, Celtic, and Greek Isle architecture.

Karin Takes A Hike

Not as in, "Karin, TAKE A HIKE", or going for a long walk on a short pier; closer to taking a short walk on a Long Cay - necessitated by the fact that although it might be 'long' (over 9 miles, tip-to-tip), the only path goes across it's skinny width and runs about a mile end-to-end. So what do you do on an island with a total population of 27 and one road? Take a hike!


It was quite a Pedigo ride as the shallow water kept Windigo anchored 3/4 of a mile off shore. Then the 'channel' was very narrow and shallow even by Pedigo standards! Once ashore, a large block of concrete serves as a dock from which a 'ferry', which is actually a 17' runabout, makes biweekly trips to Crooked Island, 12 miles up the Bight. This is the "South Side" of Long Cay, and used to host a large settlement. The ancient jail building along the road [in the center of this picture] is one of the few ruins left - now they don't even have a "police station wagon" like Rum Cay!


The unimproved 'road' [I seem to be using these marks a lot to show loose interpretation!] runs fairly straight across the cay from the dock on the east, inside the Bight, to Albert Town on the west, on the ocean coast. There are rolling hills making the way interesting and the vistas breathtaking; but along with the beauty laid a patch of thorny goatsheads! A rickety platform that once supported a light stands on the highest point along the road. Climbing to the top allowed Karin to view Windigo anchored off in The Bight.


The path was wet, from what I assumed was the rain from Noel, but Karin carefully navigated the high ground, keeping her shoes dry. Further along it was outright flooded, and her previous efforts were for naught. We found out later from our friend here, Hilroy Knowles, that Noel caused the first flooding of this road here since 1976. I guess it was an event more major that even we imagined! (Even with the severity of the storm and extent of the flooding, not one life was lost in The Bahamas, a testament to their preparedness and ability to take care of themselves - how different than the massive whining one hears from minor inconveniences cause by storms in the US.)


Once in Albert Town, Karin walked among the widely spaces homes and along the beach that we had sailed along just the day before. Also in Albert Town, are the remains of the largest Bahamian church south of Nassau, now much too large to be supported by the 27 residents. Bruce Knowles played his music for her, and told stories. On the return trip, details are noticed that were overlooked on the first pass, and the trip passes quicker as she chatted with Hilroy, who walked with her.


So after returning to Pedigo, we were inspired to pedal north along the coast to investigate an osprey nest on a wrecked Haitian boat. Further north, we encountered a flock of flamingos wading in the shallows. Even our nearly silent Pedigo caused them to take flight briefly so we could see the contrast of their black wings with their pink bodies.


Such is the usual activities at a small place we visit, a bit of exercise, sightseeing, socializing, and interaction with nature.


Girlie Stuff.


Dealing with a nice time in the smaller islands has it's ups/downs/ins/outs and many, many challenges. My first requirement when approaching a new anchorage was we had to be as close to land as possible and secondly doing whatever was possible to keep the boat rockin' in only ONE direction [fore & aft] and thirdly, see if there was any water available on the island.


Because these islands were small it was very easy to walk the whole thing or least make it to one of the small communities. But after all the hiking and exploring there was always the challenge of keeping the boat in tip top shape or in "bristle fashion". I never wanted to divide the chores up according to gender because we started our journey working together on most projects and both just doing what needed to be done to live comfortably in a small space. After watching Kevin do dishes, wash clothes and do a basic clean up job . . . well, lets just say that I think I'll stick to doing the traditional "women" chores aboard Windigo.


Let me tell of the challenges of just the normal everyday stuff like washing dishes. Remember that having/using water is always an issue. The less fresh water you use the longer you can go without having to beg, borrow, and steal some. So doing the dishes goes like this:



Washing clothes is another drawn out process. The only laundry facilities I found on these islands were at the marinas and if they let you in you will be paying at least $3 to wash a load and another $3 to dry. I'm sorry, but washing our undies would have us looking for jobs sooner than later. So what I do is use one of our blue storage/rain barrels which we carry on the bow of the boat. I used to use our Igloo cooler but found the barrel to be more stationary and holds a bigger load. I use regular Tide as the other ones with bleach or softeners added don't dissolve in the seawater as well. I've also tried other brands but they didn't dissolve at all. Anyways, use a little less than 1/4 cup in a half barrel of seawater (add bleach for whites) and let clothes soak in that overnight. During this time if we are not sailing then I step on the clothes to simulate agitation. Empty water off clothes and use sea water for two rinses. Use fresh water for the third rinse and you can even put in a little softener but they usually come out fairly soft without. I found if you hang your clothes out at sunset, they are usually dry a short time after sunrise the next day. There have been other times when we've pulled into a rather exclusive looking area and I've found great joy in hanging out our laundry during the day. We look like total trailer trash and don't expect to get welcoming looks from the neighbors.


Taking a shower also takes some consideration. Kevin has very oily skin so just a dip in the salt water is good enough for him but with my baby-sensitive skin, I need to take extra care . We found a body wash that works great in salt water called Gel?Vitabath. Then I use a fresh water rinse, condition my hair and realize that all is well with the world - again!


Mold and wetness is a constant battle but I seem to have gotten a pretty good handle on it. I use a mixture of fresh water, bleach and dish soap. I keep it in a spray bottle and when I see a problem area, just spray it on and wipe off. It works great on the wood but you should lemon oil the wood after it dries. It's so important to get ALL of the mildew out of the boat because it spreads so fast. On sunny warm days I open closet doors for airing and take the contents outside to dry out. Our closets and drawers are all lined with cedar; we also have many bags of volcanic rock and containers of calcium carbonate for sucking up the moisture in closed areas, but these must be maintained also.


There's also the issue of keeping everything in their place which seems to be the biggest problem we have on Windigo. When we are sailing we have to have everything secured so no matter how far we heel over nothing is flying around. Now when you are anchored you want to be free to use "your stuff" and even let it lay about for awhile but because we are moving around a lot now this last part tends to cause problems. It never fails as soon as we are underway all of a sudden we hear a crash inside the cabin. Oh no! The oven door just flew open and hundreds of batteries are now on the floor along with plates, glasses and pans. Oops! There goes the Waterpik out into the hallway. Darn! The welder just put another dent in the wood floor. I finally made a list of last minute "to do's" and make myself adhere to this ritual before pulling up anchor, but it seems I always miss SOMETHING (so much for lists!).


These are just a few daily chores but there's also the cooking, sewing jobs, keeping metal polished (green is really an ugly color on metal) and all the sanding and sealing of wood, dealing with the extraction of sand and salt, etc. I wondered why I was never this busy with household chores when living in suburbia. I finally realized that we live 100% of the time in ALL areas of the boat. I can't just shut a door and forget about it because it's right in your face everywhere you turn.


I love this life with Kevin, our boat and the adventures we have and wouldn't change it for anything right now. Putting it all in perspective makes me realize that these "chores" keep me, an overly energetic person, busy when the Captain just wants to rest and relax. I think it makes him tired just watching me flit around doing my girlie stuff but he knows that I'm also willing to join him on bike rides, hiking, and checking out the local scene. There's always time to rest when your dead so I'm going to live life to the fullest while I'm still alive and kickin'!


Cycling Notes.


I ventured out onto Long Island from two anchorages: to the north from Simms (before Noel) and south from Grays Bight three days after Noel. If I would have gone one day earlier, the water would have been over my entire bicycle. (Two days earlier, this family told me I would have needed my snorkel!) As it was, the water covered the road in dozens of places, sometimes running across like a rapids, sometimes flowing down the road like a river. Then there were places it just was there forming a lake extending over roadside properties and far into the bush. Even the land-based police became 'marine' cops! This was the first day the road was passable by larger vehicles, although some cars attempted the shallower areas.


When sailing The Bahamas, a boat skipper must 'read' the water for it's depth and bottom conditions. On this cycling trip, reading the water was an important skill to have, along with knowing right-of-way rules and how to deal with the wake of a larger vessel. There were also floating hazards, and the occasional fish [which I didn't try to catch with my horrible fishing luck ;-].


After this incredible ride, I maintained each bearing on the bike with penetrating oil without disassembly, patiently and carefully saturating each mechanism with first a thin, then medium oil. {Note: my land-based bikes were usually maintained with dry lubricants, but this is totally ineffective for our sea-going rides. ALL metal surfaces are treated with an oil or grease as a barrier to the seawater and salt air. This usually causes more wear for land-based bikes because of the abrasion of collected dust and dirt particles adhering to the oil. At sea, the parts would rust away long before any dust could wear then out!}


There was some flooding remaining on Rum Cay, and with the extra time it had sat there, it had mixed with the salt ponds on the island making it a bit briny. Unwilling to subject my bike to that, I needed to portage my bike across dozens of "road ponds". The 15 mile ride took quite a while and was a strenuous workout!


The next place to haul the bike ashore was Acklins Island. As with every other island, there are plenty of "white roads" in addition to the main thoroughfare; these are best ridden on a mountain bike, although my Moulton negotiates them adequately. The giant road improvement project began in 1998 was funded partially by the EU; the island was paved tip-to-tip, but the specification details were a bit underestimated so some sections of roadway have succumbed to heavy rainfalls and have been eradicated. They are planning to fix it . . .


Crooked Island was a blast to ride, but the 16-mile round trip on Pedigo from the bight for the eastern tour made for a long day! The main road is just as new as the one on Acklins, but is in better shape with less use and better drainage (there were still flooded sections). Quite hilly for The Bahamas (as Acklins was) with breathtaking vistas of the ocean and vast tropical island scenery. We rode several miles of the unimproved roads to explore less-traveled sections of the island.


Accessing the roads from Landrail was much easier, with a very nice unused boat ramp immediately to the north of the boat basin. The primary roads are nicely paved, and with a bicycle able to negotiate the rougher roads, it is possible to cycle all the way up to Gun Bluff on the north shore. Locals told me to ignore the gate and ominous sign, so just push you bike through the south end of the fence and enjoy. (From the house on Gun Bluff, the beach is right down the stairs and there is a few miles of scenery and exercise to get to the caves mentioned above = be sure to get EXACT directions to the "good" caves!)



Cruising Notes.

A Word On Weather Information

Coastal cruising can usually be done on your schedule, with only the worst days preventing an intended trip. I once continued a novice sailing course in Tampa Bay straight through two days of 40-knot winds caused by Tropical Storm Dennis; it was very doable in the protection of Tampa Bay and a great learning experience for my sailing students in controlled conditions. Out in the ocean it can be deadly at worst and very, very annoying at best. Everything is amplified out here, so doing everything properly is important on the best days and absolutely essential in days of adverse conditions.


To avoid adverse conditions, the perfect policy is to be very patient. A complete understanding of your vessel is imperative to predict the outcome of it's interaction with existing conditions. Once the limits of your tolerance are discovered, the detection of where existing conditions lie with reference to those limits is necessary. In most cases, the boundaries of your limits will be narrower than those of your vessel, if you have chosen and maintained it suitably. The best weather information to this end, that is readily available for this area, is the National Weather Service "OFFSHORE WATERS FORECAST". The study of these reports, over time, will give you an understanding of what you and your crew can tolerate. [Note: although highly accurate, these reports WILL NOT tell you the exact conditions at your location, but you can certainly learn to get a feeling for what it is like and what is coming.]


Besides relaying the current conditions, the "OFFSHORE WATERS FORECAST" will paint the picture of future conditions. Again, not perfectly forecasting the weather for 'You', but trying to give you a notion of what will happen. Listening to, or reading, the "SYNOPSIS" and the "DISCUSSION" every day will teach you what to expect as you observe the actual situation around you. These weather products are distributed in many ways. Although many marinas and agencies rebroadcast these products throughout The Bahamas, the Wx frequencies on the VHF radio only work for inland and coastal cruising. Out here you will need a SSB radio to get the original reports. IT IS ESSENTIAL.


The best cheap equipment is the Grundig Yacht Boy 400PE radio, available at West Marine and Radio Shack, among others. $150 will allow you to tune in to these NWS products and hundreds of other useful programs.

I have a comprehensive updated list of useful SSB frequencies for the Atlantic & Caribbean that I will share, or the Wx frequencies are published at: HYPERLINK "http://www.nws.noaa.gov" www.nws.noaa.gov.


[On SSB radio everyday is THE cruiser's weatherman for the Atlantic, Bahamas, and Caribbean = Chris Parker. Listen to him for free, or sign up for his personalized program at http://www.caribwx.com/.]


Equipment on the more expensive end of the spectrum involves a SSB transceiver, antenna & automatic tuner, and packet modem all interfaced together and into an onboard computer. The acquisition of a HAM operator license would put you in the most advantageous position to send and receive email from your vessel at sea, request and receive not only weather information, but actually access the text on any known URL, and do this anywhere, anytime, for free.


There is one more source that I would consider essential to help you to understand weather, and that is Bruce Van Sant's The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South: The Thornless Path to Windward. More of a cruiser's 'Operator's Manual' than a cruising guide, the methods described in this book are what work not only in this area, but anywhere people sail small boats to and fro. [It is also and excellent cruising guide for the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Spanish Virgin Islands.]

The Harbours Of The SE Bahamas.

Here is a synopsis of the places to stay:


Alligator Bay, Simms, Long Island, Bahamas N23o28.460' W075o14.106'

Even Windigo could get fairly close to shore here, unlike the other anchorages in the bight of long island.

Tucked in close with moderate east wind, there was a barely detectable swell. Great holding sand bottom in the two locations we stayed despite what it says on the chart. Excellent access to shore at landings, beaches, and old docks. Very small town, but has a store.


Thompson Bay, Salt Pond, Long Island, Bahamas N23o21.589' W075o82.310'

This is where we withstood Tropical Storm Noel for four days. Actually felt quite secure until the wind went west of south; then there was a bummer of a swell. Outstanding holding in sand. Again, excellent access to shore. Larger town with some services; no marina.


Grays Bight, Long Island, Bahamas N23o16.644' W075o06.909'

A bit shallow for Windigo, but with a normal draft, one could get in close to the boat ramp / dinghy landing. In closer, the protection would seem to surround you on three sides, but completely useless for west winds. Holding a notch below the previous two anchorages, but still good sand. It seems that a restaurant bar has just closed at this location. Not much here except great access to the road.


Hog Cay, Long Island, Bahamas N23o35.598' W075o20.563'

An open anchorage subject to swell, even though we tucked in quite close to the south edge of Hog Cay. The swell goes right to shore with a north-to-northeast wind; probably slightly better in calmer southeast wind and untenable in SE to NW wind. Nice holding in sand. Great access to Hog Cay at a dock.


Calabash Bay, Long Island, Bahamas N23o39.436' W075o20.426'

An anchorage protected to the west by some coral, but an open anchorage nonetheless with swell. A boat able to get closer than our 7' draft allows could be more comfortable. Again, it is probably fine in calmer southeast wind but totally nasty in SE to NW wind. Great holding in sand. A short dinghy ride into Hoosie Harbour which is totally protected and very shallow and a great ride around the mangroves and sand bars. Down towards the bridge on Galliot Cay is a very nice dinghy dock right into Seymours, not exactly a teeming metropolis, but is does have a bar and nice streets to walk around on. The road to the north takes you to the mile-and-a-half to the Columbus Monument and a navaid that once was gas-powered, but now is a self-contained solar-powered unit; it sustained damage in Noel. The road to the east takes you a little over a half -mile to the secret bridge to the Newton Cay beach.


Port Nelson, Rum Cay, Bahamas N23o38.822' W074o50.815'

You can get closer here than most people try, probably because they are scared by all the coral on the chart = it ain't that bad, just do it in good overhead light. Lots of sand to lay your anchor away from the coral heads [which make for AWESOME snorkeling ? check out the stuff between Cotton field Point and Monroe Beach]. There is a swell here, but it was almost gone in the north wind we experienced; Might be worse in south winds. Rum Cay has stores and restaurants, but it is a small, remote settlement. The small marina (trying to be upscale & expensive) is modern and was expanding and dredging when we were there. There are dinghy beaches, a Government Dock with room for your dinghy, or do what we did and take it into the marina and up the canal and tie up at the first low bridge (you can get under at low tide, but watch out when it rises!).

Paved roads along the shore by the settlement, but the one that goes across the island to the north beach is mostly dirt (& mosquitos!). It is over four miles to the other side, so bring water and a bite to eat.


Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas N23o06.277' W074o57.054'

Interesting access to the east shore of Long Island at Great Harbour (the name might be a little generous). The best anchorage is up under Strachan Cay which keeps you out of the way of the traffic to the Government Dock (or do what the BDF ship did and anchor right in the middle of the entrance!). Lots of coral here, but also lots of thin grass patches on sand = use good light to anchor and you can get close to shore and be about 1000' feet from the gorgeous raging ocean breaking on the reefs, without a tremendous amount of swell (but some). Clarence Town is the capitol of Long Island, but does not have running water yet; the packing house on the west end of the harbour has good cistern water and a hose that nearly reaches the beach. Nice dinghy landings, little stores, restaurants, and a really cool church building designed and built by Father Jerome you can see from anywhere in the harbour.


Long Cay, Acklins Group N22o34.729' W074o19.810'

Windigo had to anchor ? of a mile from the shore off the jetty and dock at the end of the road that runs to Albert Town, but with a normal draft, one could anchor half as close. The "dinghy channel" leading to the dock is VERY narrow and VERY shallow. There are stakes marking it, and it is mostly a soft, sandy bottom; but the tidal range here is less than half of the normal difference in The Bahamas. Depending on wind, the tide changes little more than a foot in the Bight of Acklins.


Camel Point, Acklins Island N22o26.607' W074o00.213'

We tucked under the abandoned government dock at the tip of Camel Point for protection of the strong north-to-east winds the fronts were delivering at the time. Although only a couple hundred feet from the shore, it was a 1/3 mile Pedigo ride to the jetty and the road for the dock. Nice private dinghy landing. A healthy walk to Spring Point at 2+ miles, the gas station where we purchased the cheapest fuel since Marsh Harbour is less than 2 miles from the dock. A long way to walk, but a very short jaunt on a bike!


Jamaica Cay, Acklins Island N22o22.975' W074o06.771'

We spent a night here in this open-water anchorage with protection from the east in moderate weather [up to 20-25 knots]


Cotton Bay Cay, Acklins Island N22o12.716' W074o12.440'

We needed to play the tides as we worked our way down to the southern end of Acklins, so we anchored here one night to have the highest water possible for sailing around Rokers Cay on our way to Salina Point. An anchorage similar to Jamaica Cay, we tucked in to the reef [which is shallower than the charts say] which provided excellent protection in steady easterlies.


Salina Point, Acklins Island N22o13.797' W074o14.558'

We found a "hole" very close to shore that was subject to a little wind-chop from the east wind, but afforded as good of protection as we could expect on the east-west shore. Although there are coral heads everywhere between Jamaica Bay and Rokers Cay, and they extend far to the north, this tiny area is very clear and we had no problem exiting the Bight by sailing directly out, a little north of west.


Landrail Point, Crooked Island N22o48.451' W074o20.622'

Although I didn't get as close to shore as I predicted [a little game I play with myself = try to pick the EXACT anchoring spot from scouring the charts ahead of time] this was convenient enough to make many trips to shore and carry over 700 pounds of water and the bicycles (twice). I used an anchor bridle to point Windigo into the (major) swells from the north, and the anchor held us sideways on the marl in 20+ knot wind for several days.

There is coral everywhere here, but the ocean floor plummets a couple hundred feet les than a mile from land, so most of it is harmless. The ones close in are NOT harmless. There is one marked on the chart that I thought ahead of time I could actually get in behind; but the swell is still prevalent close in, and the chance of dragging into it did not seem worth the challenge of getting in there. We just had to avoid the breaking waves during certain tidal flow as we dinghied ashore past it.


If you happen to anchor closer to Pittstown Point Landing, or take a walk up there, you may find a wireless signal for the i-net. There were four keys in use when we were there; try them and connect.


Access to Marine Farm Salt Pond is right across the road from the boat ramp just outside and to the north of the basin. We portaged Pedigo across the road and up the very shallow slough into the Salt Pond. The tides in the Salt Pond run SEVERAL hours behind the ocean tides = very weird {I think it has to do with rain water runoff supplying the Salt Pond}. If you wish to explore the Marine Farm fort, head north to the dinghy landing / trailhead = N22o49.2923' W074o20.3866'. It is a short hike up the hill on a easily negotiable rock path [some overgrowth]. The bugs weren't bad. A 1000' up and you will happen upon a cannon or two. These are in excellent shape, with forged markings and engraved numbering completely legible. The remains of a fort structure is at = N22o49.2746' W074o20.1666', with another a couple hundred feet to the north. More fun than a geocache! Trying to imagine what it was like 300 years ago; trying to get a view of the Crooked Island Passage they were guarding.


There hasn't been free running water, or even readily available cistern water since we left Clarence Town. We filled our tanks during Noel, but the usage of drinking, laundry, boat maintenance, and showering has drained our tank to a minimum level. With the remote islands of San Salvador and Conception ahead before we get to Cat Island, the need to resupply was upon us. The girl in Scavella's store offered access to the UNpotable water from a faucet at the gas station. With stress on the non-drinkable part, we treated the water fully with iodine and chorine, and we used a two-stage particle filter prior to filling our tank. [ALL our drinking water is drawn at the sink through a sediment / activated charcoal filter that removes particle down to 5 microns, cleanses it of Giardia & Cryptosporidium, and any foul taste or odor.]


But the processing wasn't nearly as involved as was transportation. The gas station was a couple 'blocks' down from the marina basin, and the free boat ramp we use is just on the other side of the basin. Kenny Scavella was gracious in allowing us to borrow his wheelbarrow to cart our 2 five-gallon jugs to Pedigo. We had our 2 thirteen-gallon barrels lashed on, so four round trips to the faucet fills the barrels and leaves the jugs full, enabling us to bring over 35 gallons of water each Pedigo trip.


So a dozen round trips to the faucet and three round trips with Pedigo brought over 100 gallons water to Windigo for free. The alternative would be to weigh our anchor; negotiate the coral heads into the basin; tie up to the dock wall in the basin (with LOTS of fenders as the surge is strong even in the basin); have Kenny truck potable water (which we treat with chlorine and filter in any case) to Windigo; pay Kenny for the water and trucking AND pay for the use of the basin; cast off and negotiate our way out of the tiny basin and around the coral heads back to reanchor. Considering the cost and effort in doing that, it was an easy decision for us to spend the time dinghying the water.


Don't neglect to stand a diligent watch in the Crooked Island Passage;

?between Long Island & the Acklins Group past Rum Cay & Conception Island to San Salvador & Cat Island.

We had typical crossings, encountering six vessels in our vicinity.


Now that you have followed us THIS FAR, you will enjoy reading about the remaining Family Islands are covered in the next Eletter, the last report from The Bahamas.


See where Windigo has been:

Enter Windigo's callsign: W3IGO

(and zoom in when it starts tracking)


Where we are right now:



Our permanent and EXACT address:


Capt.KL & Karin Hughes

S/V WindigoIII - PMB 365

88005 Overseas Hwy. #9

Islamorada, FL 36033-3087


Text-only Email addresses aboard Windigo, checked daily:


[reliable communication]


Email addresses checked when at a land-based computer

(infrequently, but good for attachments):





And of course, the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue: