My husband and I have spent the last three weeks living aboard Troubadour, our elderly (but still agile!) Tartan37 sailboat, cruising the Exumas, an island chain in the Bahamas, with our boat buddies from Nova Scotia, Mike and Barb Turney on Nelleke. We’ve pulled into marinas from time to time to hook up to electricity, take a hot shower, hunt down groceries and access the Internet … but mostly we’ve stayed “off the grid” and “on the hook,” swimming, snorkeling and exploring these pristine islands and their gin clear waters.
I was thinking as we sailed out of Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Marina – which caters primarily to the mega motor yacht crowd rather than the sailboater – that other than the presence in the village of an old high-school buddy and the jaw-dropping beauty of Thunderball Cave (where scenes from both movies of that name, as well as the closing sequence of Splash were shot) that there wasn’t much to keep us in Staniel Cay.
Five miles further south, we sailed into the large protected harbour of Black Point and I had a revelation. The harbour was jammed with sailboats and trawlers of all makes, models, sizes and descriptions. What drew these cruisers – more than fifty by actual count – to this tiny village on a remote island in the middle of nowhere?
The answer is simple: a Laundromat, hot showers and free Internet. The village also had the foresight to install a town spigot that provides free water for cruisers – elsewhere it can cost up to 40 cents a gallon. Several restaurants offer fresh Bahamian cuisine – we dined at two of them -- but Lorraine’s Café is the go-to place, not only for free wifi, but a good meal, fresh bread and clean clothes. When our outboard engine decided to act up, who do you call? Lorraine, of course. Her cousin would stop by on his way through the harbour that evening.
The Laundramat, taken from the dinghy dock!
Last October, Eric Carey, chairman of the Bahamian National Trust made this ill-advised and erroneous statement about cruisers: “They come down there they anchor and they pay absolutely nothing and they come fully stocked. Half of the time they don’t even spend $5 in the Bahamas and what do they eat? Our fish.” Clearly, Mr Carey has never visited Black Point. Sailors crawled over the island, dropping money right and left at the Laundromat, Adderley’s Friendly grocery, the bakery – fresh coconut bread to die for! – Lorraine’s and Deshamons’s restaurants and even at the extended happy hour we just happened to attend at Scorpios where the rum punch will knock you sideways if you’re not careful. Three kinds of rum, I observed as the bartender poured, including Fire in De Hole Exotic Rum.
If you build it, they will come, I thought. Black Point got the memo.