5.13.2011

Duncan Town | Ragged Island | Bahamas

We arrived in Duncan Town Ragged Islands Yesterday and will be here until Monday and then we will head North. All is well! Be sure to read the latest blog posts.

Don and Lana

Smith Bay | Cat Island | Bahamas

Smith Bay, Cat Island, Bahamas deserves a bit of special attention as there are some services that can be of great value to cruisers. Smith Bay itself is not a very large bay for anchoring. It is quite small and shallows out very quickly once you leave the channel to the concrete government dock where the mail boat arrives weekly. You could anchor there for storm protection but there is not much swing room. The cruiser anchorages are south at Fernandez Bay and north of the Smith Bay Channel. Both of these anchorages are clearly defined on the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas. We anchored at Fernandez Bay and took our Dinghy to Smiths Bay.
Just to the north of the government dock is The Bahamas Customs and Immigration office where you can extend your visa or get other help as needed. To the south of the Government dock is a Bahamas Department of Agriculture Packing House. This is a great place to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables at very reasonable prices. We were able to get pigeon peas, mangoes, onions, bananas, plantains, coconut, sugar cane, papaya, canned tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, cassava and more. We hauled away several bags of produce and spent less than twenty dollars. The same items would have cost at least double at the grocery. You must get to the packing house before the mail boat arrives and takes the local harvest to Nassau. We were lucky that the previous mail boat brought in a surplus of onions that had been grown on Andros. This government service is wonderful and I hope it continues in the future.
Next stop across the highway from the government dock is a group of small stores that include limited grocery, computer repair, insurance company and a few government offices. The grocery is where we purchased our water in five gallon bottles to top off our water tanks on Mary Rose. We were able to negotiate a very good price as we bought eleven bottles. They all fit in the dinghy and we were able to return the empties in one trip.
A short walk north along the highway will take you to Hallover’s Hotel, Restaurant and Bar. George B. Johnson and his wife Mavis are the owners and will take very good care of you. While we were there George shared his recipe for boiled fish with us. He showed us his garden and gave us some fresh picked Bahamian HOT PEPPERS! In turn, we gave George some Mexican dried Chiltipien Peppers. George was going to try to plant some of the seeds as the climate on Cat Island is quite arid, much like the area where these peppers are grown. We sat and talked with George for one entire afternoon and learned much about the history of this island and listened intently to his lifelong stories about his experiences growing up here. While we were there we met the Island Administrator. He is the top public official on the island and is appointed to his position by the Prime Minister. George was able answer our questions about an ancient Masonic Lodge we found in ruins on the south end of the island.





George was also personal friends with Miss Emily in Authors TownLana purchased some of Miss Emily’s straw work I took on a quart of her famous bush medicine called twenty-one gun salute. Be sure to see Miss Emily if you visit the island as she is a real sweetheart. The Kalik (Bahamian Beer) is very reasonable at Georges Bar and just the perfect temperature for a hot lazy afternoon of local discovery. George was a wealth of knowledge and we enjoyed talking to him and making a new friend. We encourage you to visit George and enjoy his sincere hospitality.

Simms Settlement |Long Island | Bahamas

We had just arrived at our first anchorage on Long Island after a full day sail from Conception Island. We had a pleasant crossing but the winds were starting to increase as we arrived at our anchorage just north of Simms at Alligator Creek. We tried to anchor just off the entrance to the government dock at Simms but there was little protection and the holding was poor. We set the anchor in the lee of a high bluff and settled in for some nourishment and a good night’s rest. The next morning we took our dinghy to shore at doctor’s creek to the south of our location but north of Simms. Doctors Creek Mini Mart owned by William Edgecomb and is located about one hundred yards north of doctors creek landing. We purchased a couple of soft drinks and listened to the interesting stories that William had to share. It seems that he had worked in the USA for NASA during the Apollo Space Program. He spoke of the astronauts by first name as though he were a close relative. William also served as an educator in the Bahamas, teaching primary school as well as technical college courses. We enjoyed our visit with him in his modest well stocked mini-mart attached to his house. We met William again later as we left the Blue Bird. He gave us a ride back to doctor’s creek and introduced us to his wife. He and his wife took us out back and showed us the cages where they kept their catch of land crabs. He gave us several crabs that we took back to the boat ant dined on later that evening.

We left the mini-mart and headed north to the Blue Bird Restaurant at the Simms settlement in our quest to find an ice cold Kalik. We walked into the restaurant and we felt as though we had just arrived at Grandpa’s house. As you walk in the door there is a large central table covered with a white lace embroidered table cloth. A chest freezer and an upright refrigerator line one wall that has some memorable photos and posters on it. A ninety degree turn to the right is a long counter with stools from end to end and just beyond is grandpa’s kitchen. Grandpa’s name is Mario Simms; yes the same name as the settlement.



Mario’s ancestors were British loyalists and founded this settlement in the 1700’s. Mario has a warm and welcoming smile and invited us to sit down. We ordered a couple of ice cold Kaliks and began to watch Mario work his magic in the kitchen. Mario moved with grace and precision as he glided from the sink to the stove to the counter and back to the sink. The stove was a large old six burner industrial type gas stove that anyone would be proud to own. There were several pots cooking one thing or another the entire time we were there. There was a pan of fresh fish on one of the counters that he was cleaning and getting ready to fry. The old cast iron skillet on the stove top was sizzling and full with fresh chicken that Mario had cut up himself. The kitchen was warm but still Mario turned the pedestal fan to blow cool air on us rather than him. Mario, you are a saint. The cabinet and sink were just like those you would find in grandpa’s kitchen, complete with a loose handle or mismatched hinge. He orchestrated the entire goings on in this busy little kitchen and waited on customers and never neglected to chat with us or anyone else. He never once seemed out of control or concerned about any of the multiple tasks that he was involved in during our visit. Mario gave us a comprehensive history of this tiny settlement and his experience as a child long before there was a paved road or electricity. The island was recently electrified in the 1990’s. Prior to this the only electricity was provided by private generators powered by fuel that was delivered by the weekly mail boat in 55 gallon drums. Mario spoke of a time when there were many more people on the island and they grew all of their own food and even raked salt from the salt pans on the island. There was no need for currency on the island as the residents bartered with one another for their needs. However, Mario told us that the chicken he was cooking was from the USA as the local population did not care for the wild free range island chickens. I explained that his free range island chickens would bring a premium price in the USA today. Mario lifts the lid off the cast iron skillet and takes out the chicken and places it in a large stainless steel bowl and then covers it with a towel. He reaches into another bowl and flowers more raw chicken before it goes into the skillet, all this time he is watching the rest of the pots and customers to make sure that their needs are met. He does this all with a since of gratification as though he feeding family. All you have to do is show up and ask him what he has and he will prepare dishes family style for groups of four or more at a very reasonable price. A lady walks through the door and orders a dozen pieces of chicken to go for her family dinner that night. Mario simply glides over to the bowl covered with a towel and fills the order. He takes the money for the chicken, returns with change and gives the lady a big grandpa hug. Mario has a face of a well educated, wise, gentleman that reassures you that you are safe and welcome here. We stayed here and admired this man for a few hours and then returned later in the week with another cruising couple. The other couple fell in love with Grandpa’s Kitchen just as you will when you visit the Blue Bird Restaurant in Simms, Long Island, Bahamas.

Long Island, Bahamas | Fishing Fleet | Lady Rovina






We spent several days anchored at Salt Pond, Long Island, Bahamas waiting for settled weather to voyage to the Jumentos and Ragged Islands on the southeast side of the Grand Bahamas Bank. Our anchorage at salt pond was near the fuel dock where we topped our tanks before leaving. There were many fishing boats at anchor, there with their fish traps piled high. There were several that arrived from the banks with as many as six smaller boats in tow. I learned earlier in the week from Mario Simms at the Blue Chip Restaurant (see separate post on the Blue Chip) that commercial fishing did not exist when he was growing up on Long Island. Now remember that Mario Simms is about 75 years old and lives in a settlement that bears his last name. His ancestors were loyalists that founded the settlement. Commercial fishing on Long Island is a recent development in terms of the history of this island. I was curious to learn more about this rather new industry and find out where and how they fished and what kind of fish they were seeking. Did they process the fish on the boats? Did they sell it locally or take it to the markets in Nassau?
My curiosity was peaked when a fishing boat pulling two smaller dinghies passed us on our initial leg from Salt Pond to the Water Cay in the Jumentos. The very same fishing boat was at anchor at Water Cay when we arrived, her name was Lady Rovina. This might give me a chance to meet the captain and get my questions answered. To my disappointment, Lady Rovina hauled anchor and left early the next morning. We also pulled anchor a few hours later and headed to Flamingo Cay a bit further South in the Jumentos Chain of Islands.
When we rounded the corner to enter the anchorage at Flamingo Cay a few hours later we were greeted with the sight of Lady Rovina at anchor on the north end of the anchorage. We worked our way close to shore in a quiet bay off of a beautiful sandy beach on this uninhabited Island. Only on e Island in the Jumentos and Ragged Island has a settlement on it and that is Duncan Town. There will be more on Duncan Town later in another post.
As soon as we were settled I took our dinghy over to meet the crew of Lady Rovina and ask them if they would sell us some fish since we had not had time to do any angling ourselves. When I arrived I received a friendly greeting and was asked aboard. When I inquired about the fish the Captain asked me ““How much you want? You cLane em yourself?” I assured him that I could clane them and 10 or 20 dollars worth would be plenty. I introduced myself to Captain Barry Knowles and he asked me to come aboard. He was curious to find out if I knew anything about electronics as he was having problems with a newly installed Single Side Band radio. I told him that I installed the one on my boat and would be happy to take a look at it for him. Between the two of us we had the radio working by the next morning with a few minor tweaks. When we were finished looking at the radio we walked back out to the stern of the boat and there was a bag of Lane Snapper and conch all cleaned and ready to go. “How much do I owe you?” I asked. “How about sometiing to drink was the reply?” I loaded the Snapper and conch into the dinghy and headed back to Mary Rose to deliver the fresh seafood to the Admiral and see what was in the liquor cabinet. We had a few choices but we decided that they most likely never get a chance to enjoy good Tequila and we had just purchased a bottle of 100 percent Blue Agave Tequila. That’s the good stuff!
I hopped back into the dinghy and headed toward Lady Rovina and her thirsty crew when a crew member of another sail boat that had just arrived flagged me down. The crew asked if I was going to the fishing boat to see if they had fish. I told them I was and they asked me to bring them some. Not a problem and turned to start the dinghy engine. Then the captain of the sailboat hailed me and said, “not to be picky but if they don’t have any Hog Snapper or Grouper you can just tell them to forget it.” I politely told him OK but thought differently to myself. I had a problem with his statement of “just tell them to forget it.” You see, Lana and I are of the mindset that you must be grateful for the gift you receive and then you will most likely get what you want. It seems to work for us and the other captain’s comment seemed a bit rude. These men were not workers staffing the seafood department at the local supermarket. They were the source of the raw material that ends up at the supermarket and on dinner plates in restaurants across the country. I label this kind of behavior as being borderline Ugly American. I arrived along side of Lady Rovina and gave the crew the bottle of Tequila and delivered the message from Captain Pickyony. They chuckled a bit and said seems like he may have a bit of an attitude. I agreed and wouldn’t you know it…………..there was no grouper or hog Snapper to be found. I delivered that message on my way back to Mary Rose. When I arrived the Admiral had two Snapper in the pan. We ate fresh fish or conch every meal for the next five days. Yes we even had boiled fish for breakfast along with some fresh island bananas and mangoes topped with fresh squeezed lime juice.
I spent a considerable amount of time talking to the fishermen and visiting their boat. Lady Rovina has a large galley and the there always seemed to be something cooking when I went to visit. The boiled fish displayed here is just one of the regular meals.






There was always activity, some were cooking, others hanging laundry, there fish to clean and dishes to do. There was always someone fishing even at anchor in the small harbor on the north end of Flamingo Cay or Fillimingo as it is called by the fishermen that frequent this lovely Cay. The small fish were “bruised up” and put into a bucket to be used as fish trap bait at a later time.



The fish that were large enough to eat but did not have market value were used for personal consumption and for friends and family upon return. Lana joined me on one of my visits and just sat in the dinghy in awe as six foot sharks, four foot barracudas, swarms of seagulls

and huge turtles swam around the fishing boat as Blair Blinton pulled in fish after fish on his hand line bated with fresh conch.
Blair has been fishing these waters for at least fifteen years and lives in Hamilton, Long Island. Blair generally works off the dinghy that is owned and operated by Daniel (Danny) Elija Burrows. Danny was kind enough to show me how to rig a hand line Bahamian style for still fishing. We tried it later and caught several fish at our own anchorage from the deck of Mary Rose V. Danny owned a mother ship at one time but now prefers to partner with Blair and fish the banks from the dinghy. He has been fishing these waters for 28 years. Danny gave us a rare close look at remora that he had just caught. This fish had been stuck to the huge turtle that was swimming near the boat and then released its suction cup to take the bait on Danny’s hand line.
Albert Miller from Simms, Long Island owned and operated the other dinghy that was supported by Lady Rovina for this fishing trip. Albert has been fishing for 22 years and partners with Brian Wilson from Burnt Ground, a settlement on the north end of Long Island. Brian has been fishing for 12 years and always had a smile on his face.




Albert and Brian came by to see us the last morning we were anchored at Flamingo Cay. They had at least two dozen conchs in their dinghy that would be used to bait the fish traps later out on the banks. Brian reached down and picked up to large lobster and gave them to us as a parting gift. Yes, lobster is out of season but a member of The Royal Bahamas Defense Force told me it is OK to take a few lobster (crawfish in the Bahamas) for a meal. Take no more than six or we will take your boat and you cannot take any to sell. So we felt reassured that it was OK to accept the crawfish from Albert and Brian. I asked Albert how much we owed him for the lobster. Albert replied. “you people just want to pay for everyting? It is a gift mon!” I explained that it was a wonderful gift and I felt like I owed them something for the work to get this food for us. In the end we accepted the gift and later watched Lady Rovina head west to fish further out on the banks as the weather was going to be quite settled.
Lady Rovina is owned and operated by Captain Barry Nowles
and his home is in Simms, Long Island. Barry has been fishing for 22 years and is very proud of his boat. Barry showed me the tool that they use to get lobster during lobster season. It is a hook that they use to drag the crawfish out of the hiding place. Once they have the lobster in hand they place it on its back and use the blunt end opposite the hook to kill them by jamming it into their chest. They are then put on ice until they reach the mother ship. The crawfish are cleaned on the mother ship and frozen the same day. Lobster is the main source of income for these men and their families. They all spoke of the difficulty of being away from home and family for weeks at a time while earning a living. Earning a living has become much more difficult as the state of the world economy has caused the wholesale price of lobster to fall by one half. Barry tells me that they will bring home twelve thousand pounds of lobster the first month of the season and only be away from home 10-12 days to make this huge catch. They use hooks and spears to harvest the lobster daily during the season.
Mario from the Blue Chip Restaurant told me that he uses the tail for bait as the crawfish head has the most flavor and best meat! Captain Barry also told me that they harvest about 400 bags of Lane shallow water Snapper during a fishing trip. There are about 45 pounds of Snapper per bag. The best month for Snapper is June when the moon is perfect. Barry and the rest of the fishermen would not disclose the definition of a perfect moon. Barry told me, “Fishing is like being a sniper, always keep your gun on the target and when they move you will get them.



On a perfect moon, one dinghy gets 20 – 30 bags of Snapper per day” This fishing crew tries to plan their trip so that winds are under 20 knots and they always head home for hurricane protection. There are also other reasons for heading home. These fishermen have a responsibility to take care of their family and others in the community. They take this responsibility seriously and show great concern for their friends and neighbors as well as their own family and property.
There is a lot to do in terms of logistics for a fishing trip on one of these boats. Food, gasoline for the dinghies, diesel for the mother ship, communications for weather, fresh water, fish traps, rigging, equipment and so much more. Each dinghy requires about 300 gallons of gasoline for the fishing trip. I saw cases of fresh water in gallon jugs aboard Lady Rovina. The traps are stacked on the top of the boat over the stern deck.

The entire crew splits the cost groceries equally. Each dinghy marks there catch with a different color string so that they know who the fish belong to when they are sold. After they are sold the captain of Lady Rovina gets twenty–five percent of each dinghies catch. Each dinghy pays for their own fuel expenses and the Captain of Lady Rovina pays for the diesel and other expenses of the mother ship.
We feel very blessed to have met these men and to have learned so much from them. We thank them for everything they did for us and we look forward to seeing them again in the future. I am elated to have been able to find the answers to my questions and satisfy curiosities.