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Bahamas Cruise
2011
Norman's Cay Anchorage
~ Norman's Cay Anchorage ~
Norman's Cay, Exuma
The Sorry Lore of Norman's
(and a Story of a Moron)
We left the Allen Cays for a 16 nautical mile jaunt to an island with a scandalous past, Norman's Cay. A smattering of raindrops met us outside the pass, foreshadowing a big threat that hung overhead our entire journey. Thankfully, the clouds held until we were safely sheltered on the leeward side of the island. With the hook set just south of Skip Jack point, Don got the snubberThe snubber is used to reduce shock load on the anchor rode, especially on all chain rodes. on the rodeRefers to the chain or rope that attaches the anchor to the boat. the moment the skies truly burst, which sent him fleeing to shelter down below.

Alas, his progress was reversed at the bottom of the companionway as I led him back out with soap and sponge in hand. Fresh water freely falling from the heavens was no longer a cause for recoil; it was a fortuitous opportunity to bathe without reserve and I was not about to squander the gift. The cockpit quickly converted into a spa and the salt-encrusted crew got a thorough scrubbing.

The Story of the Moron
Once rainwater refreshed and dried, the cocktails were brought out, the tunes were turned up, and our day's distraction turned toward keeping watch as several other cruisers followed us into the anchorage. One particularly large power yacht and its skipper's bizarre method of towing a tender caught our attention to the extent that we really couldn't quite believe what we were seeing.

Forgetting the elementary physics of friction, missing the examples set by most every other mariner around, and heedless to the impedance he surly must have received at the wheel, this clueless captain's Carolina Skiff was tied off his stern – SIDEWAYS! Transom to tender's tip and tail, wide side to the waves, contradictory to chine design, and assuredly chomping to swamp in a chop – bass-awkwardly dragging it through the water S-I-D-E-W-A-Y-S!

Norman's Cay Dock
~ Norman's Cay Dock ~

But the mindboggling idiocy of this moronic mariner didn't stop there. The real spectacle began with his imbecilic anchoring techniques. For the sake of nautical novice readers, I'll forego a long, drawn out lesson on the most effective way to moor one's vessel. Suffice it to say that, though it involved more than the self-evident science of size, style, and gravitational suction, becoming savvy in the skill was not formidable. And this lamebrain lubber had totally missed the boat on that acumen.

Maniacal screams flew from the fly bridge at a reverberating volume so that all in the vicinity could hear. With no regard to wind direction, depth, or moored vessels nearby, the befuddled first mate was ordered to drop and lift the anchor (really nothing more than pushing a foot switch to engage their electric

windlassThe windlass is a special winch used to lower and lift the anchor) while the crazed captain throttled between full-speed and full-stop – never employing any of the principles for a proper set. His poor vessel bucked round and round like a rodeo bronco, successfully yanking up the anchor with every erratic maneuver.

Before long the frantic tyrant was convinced it was the fault of the terrain. They left the convenience of having the coast nearby and headed toward deeper waters – AND US! I told Don to strip down naked while I went below to crank up a hair band on the stereo because I wanted to repel this loon away from Re Metau by exhibiting a right, motley crew! The charade worked in short order fortunately and the fool's ship sailed right on by.

The Birth of a Seagrape
~ The Birth of a Seagrape ~

At some distance, our antagonist began his anchoring endeavors anew and a rerun of the previous performance ensued; the scurrilous skipper bellowing senseless commands from aloft, the lambasted lady toe tapping the switch on the bow. The moronic mariner eventually stormed down from his helm, all the while barking out a barrage of blame for…what?…not pushing the button right! He loosed the rode from the

gypsyThe gypsy is a notched wheel on a windlass that guides the chain., and released all the chain he had on board onto the sea floor. Don and I were astonished such an expensive yacht was in the hands of such incompetence and predicted that this was just the sort of nincompoop who'd propagate the opinions of poor holding throughout the Bahamas. Hopefully, his pile of links would do the trick in keeping him far away from our vessel.

Finding Our Rhythm
The day remained rainy and gray, just cause to sit back and relax. I couldn't quite describe the feelings of pure, unrestrained freedom and blissful peace when given the chance to live within one's own circadian rhythm. It went beyond an existence without abrupt alarm clock awakenings, long tedious rush-hour commutes, and irrelevant deadlines for meaningless pursuits.

Most all of the usual, mundane errands and distractions of a traditional existence on a civilized shore were removed from our schedules. And those that were still necessary occurred in new places and unusual ways – making them far less banal. It had taken us many years, but we were finally, truly living the romantic fantasy of this cruising lifestyle and the reality of it surpassed the dream by far.

The Island's Scourge
We arose the following day to bright, clear skies; perfect weather for exploring the island and discovering its notorious history. The cay's brush with infamy began with a member of Columbia's Medellin Cartel, Carlos Lehder who revolutionized the art of drug smuggling in the late 70s and early 80s. By employing private aircraft rather than human 'mules', Lehder's ability to quickly transport massive quantities of cocaine to the burgeoning market next door made him a kingpin in the cartel, and Norman's Cay provided the perfect launching pad from which to rein.
A Welcome at the Airstrip
~ A Welcome at the Airstrip ~

The rogue forcibly removed the entire population of Norman's Cay; including natives, home owners, vacationers, and cruisers – often at gun point; at least once reportedly via homicide. Under a bribed, blind Bahamian eye, he proceeded to build a domicile to accommodate his debauchery, as well as lodgings for his posse, dorms for his pilots and pistol toting protectors, and a kennel for their canines. The existing airstrip was lengthened for cargo planes full of Colombian snow, and radar scanned the skies for D.E.A. invasions. Norman's Cay was no longer welcoming.

As the stash of cash grew, so did the coked up despot's delusions of grandeur. Within a decade the murderous megalomaniac managed to make his way to the top of the Fed's most wanted list. Though many a Bahamian authority's pocket had been lined with Cartel cash, the U.S. ultimately forced the corrupt commonwealth's hand to confiscate Lehder's land. In 1987, the blackballed and busted billionaire was arrested in Colombia, extradited to the U.S., and sentenced to spend the remainder of his life behind bars – or so the story goes.

An Alluring Island
For Lehder, the attraction to Norman's Cay had been its strategic location; a short, low-flying hop to 'Blow' loving Miami. But to the natives and the sailors who'd been drawn there before, the island had so much more to offer. Aside from its exquisite, azure vistas of the Exuma seas and its flourishing vegetation and soft sandy beaches, the cay's peculiar shape enhanced its preferential position in most cruiser's plans.
Entrance to MacDuff's Beach Bar
~ Entrance to MacDuff's Beach Bar ~

Carved by nature into a large fish-hook of sorts, the atoll boasted a large, limpid lagoon within its protective boundaries. Though somewhat shallow, when the tide was right natural channels provided access to this perfectly sheltered haven. Additionally, pubescent pink conchs had been purposely transplanted there, and being pleasantly suited to the pool, had thrived to burgeoning numbers. The garden of queens in the lagoon, and rain-water filled cisterns scattered around on the land provided access to easy pickings for food and life sustaining, fresh water for drink.

The Consequence of Corruption
Sadly, what we discovered was a cay covered in the debris of a drug-addled era. Landing on a very dilapidated dock, we proceeded toward the airstrip, investigating every path and trail that probed into the jungle-thick foliage. Each turn revealed ruin; vulgar, tawdry, bullet riddled ruin deserted by careless, thoughtless, reckless tenants. The lush isle was struggling to cover up its lurid past, but there was just so much wreckage strewn about. Even the beautiful bay was defaced by the giant sunken skeleton of a downed DC-3. Historically intriguing? Perhaps, but I would venture that the egomaniacal exploits of arrogant corruption and callous violence were not worthy of memorializing – that just rewarded narcissistic tendencies and prompted the abusive cycle to continue.
MacDuff's Beach Bar
At the height of the day's heat, we turned towards the only populated place on the island, MacDuff's – a colorful little boutique resort, restaurant, and bar. Don and I were hankering for some refreshment, both from the sun and the sorrowful scenery, so opted to part with a little cash in exchange for rum punches and a shared side of fries. We would have spent more time in the soothing surroundings, but it proved to be too prohibitive for our pockets. Remoteness, exclusivity, and limited resources notwithstanding, the nihilistic element on the island hadn't left because the cost of our scanty snack was criminal!

We toured the beautiful grounds of the resort, with its riotously painted bungalows, magnificently verdant gardens, and resplendently breathtaking beaches. It was truly a testament to what the cay could be. But beyond that little oasis, Norman's Cay – though faultless – was still suffering from the aftermath of selfish greed; still blemished by pompous power-mongers; still scarred by rabid exploitation. Justice would only truly be served if a part of Lehder's confiscated billions, wherever they were, went toward cleaning up the wreckage he'd brought to the island, and returning this remote paradise to the unsullied, alluring beauty that it once was.

Cruising Blogs
2011 - Bahamas
Paradise Next Door
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