A quick note first – hurricane Matthew just blew past Crooked Island. Our thoughts are with the people there, and in the rest of the Bahamas. With all our hearts, we hope no harm came to them.
We left Rum Cay determined to sail – not motor – to our next destination. We couldn’t be sure, until we got away from the island, exactly what the wind would be doing. To accommodate the uncertainty, we set a number of potential destinations in our chart plotter, and decided we’d make the eastern-most one that the wind would allow. Clarencetown, Long Island if the wind was south of east, Crooked Island, Plana Cays, or Mayaguana if we had a little more luck and the wind was pure east or north of east.
It turned out that we could not have been luckier if we had tried, because we ended up at Crooked Island, which we would have otherwise passed by, and it was just amazing. Not just the island itself, which would have been enough, but the beautiful people we met there, both on land and on another boat.
We arrived in perfect morning light, high enough to see straight to the sandy bottom. The ocean goes, literally, from over 3000 feet to 20 feet in the space of a couple of football fields. The color graduates quickly from the deep sapphire of the bottomless ocean to lovely teal and turquoise as the depth decreases. It is something to see. Anchoring was easy in the wide open sand, and we stopped in 16 feet of water, quite close to the sandy beach.
We made our way ashore to see what the little town at Landrail Point held. It turned out to be a community of about 60 people, all related as in many Bahamas settlements. Also, as in each island at which we have stopped in the Bahamas, we were asked by the first person who saw us if we needed help finding anything and were directed to the grocery store nearby. The friendliness and hospitality of the people of the Family Islands simply cannot be overstated. We found a few items we needed at the modest store, and then went across the street to Gibson’s Lunch Room. Here we first
encountered Wilhemina “Willie” Gibson, proprietress and second generation owner of this fine establishment. She prepared fish, rice and peas, salad, tea, and dessert for us, all of which was delicious. We should have called ahead, I now know, because that’s how it works here; this food is not mass produced, and takes some time. During our wait, we read from the articles collected there about hurricane Joaquin, which had hit the island dead on almost a year before. Walking into town, we had seen the devastation along the way, but here we learned that this little community was ground zero and that Joaquin had absolutely devastated this place, sparing almost no structure. Miraculously, no lives were lost, and, to a one, this was what people we spoke to emphasized about the storm. By the time we finished lunch, the decision had been made to see if there was some way we could help while we were in this community.
We asked Willie if she knew of someone who needed help, and soon we were set up to meet her brother Andy the next day for a project.
We took a little time to snorkel and fish that afternoon and evening. I hooked a nice tuna, which got off the hook at the last minute… Sigh. We also got a barracuda and a couple of little blue runners. We weren’t interested in keeping these, however, so we didn’t get any keepers.
While we were out fishing another boat pulled into the anchorage, so we stopped by to say hi on the way back home. Turns out this was a boat full of volunteers for our effort the next day! As soon as we told them what we were going to be up to, everyone on board was planning to help. Did I mention there were ten people on that boat? Most of them teenagers – with unlimited energy. All of them excited to do some good. We now had a little army to work with!
When we showed up in the morning, I don’t know what Andy and Willie must have thought of the
whole crew, but we quickly divided into two groups and went to work clearing debris and organizing building materials so that work could progress on two houses. We made quick and cheerful work of it, and it seemed easy with so many hands. Lots of sweat, and many trips to the dump later, and it was clear that we had really made a difference.
Willie insisted on feeding us all spaghetti and meatballs at the restaurant, and it was a very satisfying meal. Afterwords, Andy set up a magic trick for us,which seemed to have the potential to go quite wrong, as it involved raw eggs and glasses of water, and Andy telling us we needed to stand back. But it worked and we were simply amazed!
We spent the rest of our time at Crooked Island enjoying the snorkeling, trying to spear fish, and
exploring the lighthouse. The snorkeling is amazing, with the whole north and east side of the island surrounded by coral heads; you could spend a lifetime hopping from one to the next. The spear fishing was a little trickier, as we were/are just learning, but Alan got a huge lobster, which was enough for two meals for the two of us.
We probably would have just admired the Bird Island Lighthouse from afar if Andy hadn’t mentioned going into it. It is not functional, and is in a fairly rough state, but he said you could go look around and in it, and that it was interesting. I am so glad he mentioned it. The structure, the state of decay, the peeling paint, and the aged construction were simply beautiful to look at and photograph. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a thing for old buildings, and this lighthouse was built in 1876.
We pulled up on the beach, anchored, went in, and started gingerly picking our way around, and then up. (Please note that I don’t recommend this activity! Stay off the stairs if you go; they were in worse shape than it first looked.) I took hundreds of pictures, and the ones included below are my favorites. I hope you will enjoy them.
As we sailed up and around Bird Rock the next morning, I was sad to leave. It was time, because there was some unfavorable weather headed towards the Bahamas from Africa. (This later became hurricane Hermione.) We wanted to get to our safe hurricane hole in the Dominican Republic, but I could have stayed on Crooked Island much longer, and am already looking forward to returning someday!