Door -Bahamas Cruise
| ~ Norman's Cay Anchorage
The Sorry Lore of Norman's
(and a Story of
Free Fresh Water Falling From the Sky
April 25th - 27th, 2011
We left the Allens 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 snubber on the rode 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-akwardly dragging it through the water - S-I-D-E-W-A-Y-S!
| ~ 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 windlass) 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 ~
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 gypsy, 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
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
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.
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.
A Welcome at the Airstrip ~
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. The Consequence
Carved by nature
into a large fish-hook of sorts, the atoll boasted a large, limpid lagoon within its protective
boundries. 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.
~ Entrance to McDuff's Beach Bar ~
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
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.
© 2015 Diana E Reynolds - SV Re Metau. All rights reserved.
"Sailors, with their built-in sense of order, service, and discipline, should really be running
the world." ~ Nicholas Monsarrat