To understand The Bahamas you need to appreciate how big a country it is geographically, 3,100 islands and cays spread out over a 760 mile long archipelago. You also need to grasp how small the country it is in terms of population, only 408,000 residents. That, dear reader, is only about twice the summer population of Martha’s Vineyard.
The Nation of The Bahamas is divided up into 32 Government districts which are a form of local government that function in a similar way as States do in the USA. 70% of Bahamians live in the capitol city, Nassau. The rest of the country is sparsely populated or uninhabited. The 365 islands that make up the Exumas District have a population of 7,000. The 57 mile long Long Island District has a population of 3,000. Neighboring Cat Island District has a population of 1,500. The Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands District has a population of 72 (Yup, 72! And you thought Wyoming was sparsely populated!) These islands are empty. We read in a cruising guide that the Ragged Islands have no human history. Where else on earth can you say that about?
With George Town in our wake, we headed for the Ragged Islands. Good downwind sailing was in the forecast and we were all rigged up to catch it, but the breeze never filled in out on the swimming pool that day. Fun to watch the bottom go by in 20-40 feet of water.
Our anchorage in Hog Cay would be the southern most point in our winter cruise of The Bahamas. Down there, we were only about 60 miles from Cuba. Wendy said she could see the glow from the lights of Cuba when she last dropped anchor there. We didn’t see any glow over in that direction, maybe the Cubans are using lower wattage lightbulbs these days, but we were able to pick up a staticky spanish-speaking radio station on AM710 that must have been from Cuba.
The cruising community built this cool little hut on Hog Cay which is otherwise uninhabited. During the first COVID winter some famous sailing YouTubers parked themselves there for over three months. The videos they posted brought a lot of attention to the Ragged Islands and a lot more boats are now making a pilgrimage down to these beautiful and isolated cays. Some of the old timers are less than thrilled about the influx of new boats. There is no fuel, food or water down there, in fact you have to sail over 100 miles for any of the above, so you need to be pretty independent. I doubt it will ever become George Town South the way some fear it might.
There’s a great network of hiking trails on Hog Cay. We went for daily walks. There are also 20-30 goats roaming free on this island. We saw them but didn’t get any photos. Apparently, they don’t like dogs and have killed a few with their horns, so we tried our best to keep clear of them.
The beaches on the windward side of the island face into the easterly trade winds, and with that regular wind comes a current of plastic trash from the Eastern Caribbean and Africa and beyond. Its hard to see. Even sadder, Haitian migrant boats wash up on this beach with depressing regularity as well. A crew from a Bahamian military base on a neighboring island patrols these waters regularly.
In addition to Hog, we also stopped to visit Double-breasted Cay, Buenavista Cay and Flamingo and Water Cays up in The Jumentos. Great sailing along the way.
In The Bahamas, tourists can pay to swim with the pigs, swim with the dolphins, swim with the turtles, swim with the sharks, and swim with the rays. Could “Swim with the Poodle” be Eagle Seven’s next business venture?
Here at Eagle Seven Sailing we’re passionate about watery beers of the developing world. In The Bahamas, two brands dominate the beer landscape: Kalik and Sands. For the past few months we’ve been casually musing over their character and wondering if we have a favorite. Then one day in The Ragged Islands, we decided to cut out the guess work and run a double-blind taste test. (We’re not sure what “double-blind” means but it sounds formal and science-y and that’s the connotation we’re looking for here.)
Size: The Kalik bottle at 335ML is 1.52% larger than the Sands bottle which contains only 330ML of beer. 335ML works out to 11.3 ounces. Better than the little 8 ounce bottles you find in much of the world, but still undersized in our opinion. Points off for both brands.
Alcohol: The smaller beer in volume packs a bigger punch. Sands: 5.3% alcohol by volume. Kalik: 5.0% alcohol by volume. Sands is 1.6% stronger than Kalik.
Feel: Even tho it’s smaller, the Sands bottle feels more substantial in your hand when compared to the more dainty Kalik bottle. Because of this it may provide superior insulation keeping the beer colder for longer.
Cost: Don’t ask. Both are super expensive. Both are also comparably priced. There are no interstate highways in The Bahamas. Goods get hauled around by boat and plane so high prices are to be expected.
Ownership: Kalik is owned by Heineken and was developed by Heineken for the Bahamian market. Sands was founded by a guy named Jimmy Sands in Grand Bahama. The Sands beer brand remains locally owned.
Taste: Everyone at Eagle Seven Sailing preferred Kalik to Sands. We found it to have a more complex flavor with a pleasing turn in the aftertaste.
On to Long Island. We rented a car and did laundry (a task we tend to about once a month), made some purchases at the grocery store and liquor store, then tracked down this awesome little beach that friends in Brookline have been raving about for years:
We also came across this peculiar monument built by an American: (Need to know more about the back story here.)
Long Island for us was both beautiful and hauntingly stark. Living here isn’t easy. The dentist comes once a week, same for the doctor. To get here by plane, you first have to change in either George Town or Nassau. Not many tourists make the trip. The island is a bit off the map. Who’s ever heard of Long Island in The Bahamas? Not many have.
But the people there welcomed us warmly and we sensed a real pride in place and tightness to the community. The expats from America, Canada, South America, and England that we met were colorful and strange. Chris thinks that with a bit more exposure this could become his favorite spot in The Bahamas. We’ll be back.
After a sporty sail in the unprotected Atlantic Ocean, we pulled into Cat Island at the Golden Hour. We had heard about a local resort owned by Bahamians and so we opted to drop the hook in Old Bight for the night. Rollezz Resort, owned by Carl and Yvonne Rolle, lived up to all the rave reviews we had read. A collection of brightly painted cottages facing a long, white crescent shaped beach twinkled at us as we set the anchor. We were one of about 7 or so boats sharing the anchorage and from the sounds on the beach it seemed a game was underway.
We’d no sooner tied off the snubber line than a dinghy appeared off our port side. A lovely British fellow, Roy, wanted to let us know that bocce was happening on the beach with sundowners and we were welcome to come and join the fun. It was the warmest welcome we’d had since Georgetown so we hopped in the little red dinghy and headed ashore.
Alex went to check out the bar while Chris and Bill stretched Bill’s legs a bit. Rollezz Bar is on the honor system, so you make your mixed drink or pull a beer out of the fridge, write down what you took and your boat name on a yellow pad and settle up at the end of the evening. After securing a rum punch and a Kalik, Sundance and her crew were ready to rumble. Bocce, like volleyball, is harder than it looks. No one got hurt on the beach that night, but it wasn’t pretty. Despite the poor showing at sport, we did make some new friends and refreshed acquaintances with a boat full of Badgers from earlier in our travels. Breakfast plans were made for the next morning at the cafe. Perhaps when properly fortified with a Full English breakfast, we’ll perform better on the pitch? So far so awesome, Cat Island.
After a hurricane in 1908 destroyed much of Long Island(Bahamas), The Anglican Bishop in England sent architect and priest John Cecil Hawes to the island to rebuild the 7 Anglican churches there. A lot of churches on that island! John’s strategy for beating future hurricanes was to build out of stone with thick walls and barrel-vaulted roofs.
Later in life he converted to Catholicism, took on the name of Father Jerome, and built himself a hermitage for his retirement on the top of Como Hill on Cat Island, the highest point in The Bahamas. The sun was high in the sky as we began our march towards Father Jerome’s retreat at the top.
Now under the care of the Catholic Diocese of Nassau, the Hermitage is open to visitors and on Good Friday is home to a service following the Stations of the Cross (which were added to the property in the 1940’s). Entering the buildings felt holy and it wasn’t hard at all to imagine a life lived in this way. Views all around of the blue green sea and the island, accompanied only by the rustle of wind through the trees, birdsong and the distant crash of waves. Sublime.
We eventually descended back to town where we sought out the famous Olive’s Bakery. There’s nothing better than a freshly baked loaf of Bahamian bread! In the village at the Fish Fry we found a beachside bar where we feasted on cracked conch. And ice cream.
Before heading back out to sea the next day, Alex set off on a long walk to find the bank and the grocery store. Turns out the bank was A LOT farther than anticipated but her mission was accomplished thanks to the generosity of Siddelle (sp?), who gave her a ride to the bank and back, with stops at TWO groceries on the way. Siddi, as she is called by friends, owns one of the restaurants on the water at the Fish Fry and so we have pledged to go back and see her there next time thru. Cat Island is full of beauty in every sense – its land, sea and people.
The Raggeds, Long and Cat share a lot in common. All three stand out in The Atlantic protecting the rest of The Bahamas from open ocean. Scrubbed down to their essential elements, they stand proud. They are strong like a good bulwark should be, spare like the tundra, and mysterious.
2 thoughts on “Long Island, Cat Islands & The Raggeds”
Hey you guys: Great post combining the factual, the visual, and the anecdotal. Well done!
I must admit, though, you have me head-scratching over authorship. When I read the phrase “dear reader” I thought, “Ah, Alex wrote this one!” And then the subsequent phrase “Chris thinks …” cemented that belief.
But then I wavered. Description of the beer taste test? Maybe Chris. Discussion of the Anglican bishop? Definitely Alex.
So I give up. And not only that, now I can’t see the ocean for the waves. So let me get back to my first sentence: great post. And love the photos!
Now ‘fess up: authorship?
We both write that thing! Literally! I get up from the chair and Alex/Chris sits down and types a bit more and then it’s my turn again. We both create original content and we both have full editorial control. It’s a total joint effort which is cool. The only annoying part is the incessant use of the third person narrative. If we’re both writing it, it’s hard to get away from that.
Glad you like!
– C & A