Home Up Sampson Cay Staniel Compass




Finally they got the sports fisher docked.  Many on nearby boats went to help get him docked as he was floundering in the wind and seemed a bit out of control.  If we had known it was going to delay our departure we would have re-rigged our lines so we could have left on our own.  As it was the delay ate into 45 minutes of our valuable high tide time which unbeknownst to us would become a significant issue for us later in the day.  Unfortunately though we had hooked the eye of all our lines on the dock cleats and had snugged them up from the boat which when leaving requires two people to free the boat.  Since the wind was blowing and the tide was high we couldn’t get on and off the boat without some difficulty so we just had to wait.  Who would ever think that this guy could monopolize another 45 minutes just docking his boat?  Finally the black dock master came back and as Larry loosened the lines, he unhooked them from the dock and threw them on the boat and I backed her out.



We headed out and past Thunderball staying clear of the reef that the sports fisher raked his props over.  We could clearly see the dark path of deeper waters that we would follow.  The huge yacht Gi Gi left just before us but they went out the cut to the Atlantic as they were heading straight for Fort Lauderdale today.  That was going to be a rough trip today but that boat can take the rough seas.  The captain and crew on Gi Gi were really nice people and we enjoyed their stay beside us amongst the loud mouths on the rest of the dock.



It was a short trip to Compass Cay but again we were fighting time and the lowering tide and had to go the banks again to get enough depth to head north in their direction.  In hind sight we probably should have gone out to the Atlantic and come in Joe’s Cut to Compass Cay but who would know what was in store for us today? 

I was chit chatting about the sports fisher and my spirits were up now that we had left that noisy place.  I was so glad to be out of there heading towards a new place that hopefully was quiet and serene, but Larry was serious and not in the mood to talk.  I asked what was wrong and he finally said he needed to concentrate because we have a very shallow area to go through.   As we made our approach to Compass Cay I looked at the electronic charts to see what the problem was.  There were several little markers we had to follow to get in.  The water was becoming very light in color which means shallow.  Larry was right, we didn’t have much below us already and we weren’t even in the shallowest area yet and the tide was going down as we spoke. 



Compass Cay will provide a guide to meet you outside the entrance and bring you in.  So what could be the problem I’m thinking?  This will be easy because we will just follow him in.

Just as I was thinking that this is no big deal we got a call on the radio from Compass Cay.  The black guy on the radio asked if we were still coming today and we said “yes” and that we were just near the marked channel and within sight of their marina (as we could see some masts peeking up over the land that wrapped around protected the marina) and approaching the way point where we were supposed to meet their guide.  He said “Oh, yes, I think I see you.  We’ll be right out to meet you.”  See, “What’s the problem?” I’m thinking.  Now in hindsight I think they were getting concerned too as we were a bit late and because it was getting shallow, though they never said so.

Within minutes we could see the little skiff with two black guys rushing out. 


Ziggy is getting interested now because he has them to watch as we head in.  He heads out on the bow of the boat to look at them and glanced back at me as if to say “Who are these guys?”  I wave to the pilots and we acknowledge each other and we begin the slow approach in past these homemade markers.  Some were old faded float balls and others were little balls on sticks.  I’ll be darned if I could figure them out but Larry seemed to know what side to stay on even before the guide came out.  



I’m getting nervous now because we don’t have much depth below us and I look a head and we’ve still got a long way to go.  Larry says we’ve got one bank to get over and then the depth will be OK.  He said it’s coming up right at the turn.  I notice on the chart, there’s a fork in the marked path.  I don’t want to say channel because there’s no channel here it’s just uneven patches of shallow areas created by sandy shoals. 



OK, we’re at the bank that Larry is worried about.  The two guys slow down to make sure we are following their path exactly.  They turn back to look to make sure we were following.  We slowly, very slowly, follow them exactly as they went and soon we come to a dead halt.  It felt like a soft bump.  We’ve gone aground!  Larry immediately backs her up.  My eyeballs are as wide as golf balls now as the whole area looks like one big sand bar.  Where the heck can we go? And the tide is going down.  Larry slowly, but forcefully, backs her up out the exact path that we came in.  I radio to the guides that “We’ve gone aground!”  The guy on the radio seems surprised.  He says we should have 6 feet 5 inches.  We draw 6 feet so that leaves us a measly 5 inches to get into this place.



The guide says to try coming in over closer to the green marker.  He says, “Hug the green marker!”  Larry is brave, I think, because I felt like giving up but he heads in again very slowly and this time we hug the green marker and ka bump!  We go aground again.  Larry says “We can’t get in, it’s too shallow!”  I call the guy again as Larry again backs her out and I say, “We’re aground again.”  The black guide again seems surprised and asks what we draw again.  He says he shows 6’-5” but I don’t care what it says, we’re going aground, and can’t get in.  I’m wondering “What are we going to do now?”  The tide is going out and it’s getting even shallower by the second.  Are we going to be stuck out here on this sand bar all day and night?  I’m getting really nervous and I’m sure Larry is worried. 



The guide asks if we want him to come aboard.  He said he can guide us out the other channel to the Atlantic and around the Cay on the Atlantic side and then in through Joe’s Cut.  I couldn’t say “Yes!” fast enough.  I don’t know who the heck this guy is but we’re putting all our trust in him.  He’s some black guy, probably with the Rolle name, born, raised and lived on this island all his life and he’s going to hop on this boat and lead us through some uncharted area laden with shallow reefs and shoals.  What else could we do? 



They sped their boat around to our portside and, Trevor is his name, climbed over the rail and onto the cockpit.  He was a nice looking young black man.  He a baseball cap on, a long sleeved t-shirt with a sports fishing emblem silk screened on the front, faded jeans, and Nike tennis shoes.  He looked like a typical kid from the states.  He seemed a little shy as I showed him into the salon from the cockpit and on up to the pilot house.  I told him he could sit in the pilot chair next to Larry but he preferred to stand.  He nodded a “hello” to Larry and pointed in the direction that he wanted Larry to head out.  He didn’t talk much, a man of few words and very soft spoken.  We took a left turn and followed the shore on the path that he directed us.  He would point left or right occasionally directing Larry through the deeper areas.  We had no clue as it all looked the same to us. 

As I said he was very soft spoken and you had to listen to him very carefully to make sure you heard what he said. I was nervous and would repeat everything louder to Larry making sure he could hear as Larry has a bit of a hearing problem.  I must have sounded obnoxious.  We now see the cut out to the Atlantic and in the distance is a large yacht that just came through and is now heading in to the banks.  It was Gi Gi. How did we get here before them?  They left before us and their route was shorter and straighter. 



Trevor leads us out the cut.  This is the first time we’ve been out in the Atlantic since we made the crossing from the Abacos and that was with lots of planning.  Now today without a minutes notice or planning we’re heading out into it with a man we know nothing about and waters and charts we haven’t studied.  It’s rough out here today and we immediately begin to roll a bit with the swells.  Larry turns on the stabilizers.  We can see waves from the Atlantic crashing on the rocky shoreline and the dark rocky reefs below that Trevor leads us around as we bob up and down through the choppy swells of the Atlantic.  He seems knows every square inch of this land and water.  It’s very windy and the Atlantic side of Compass Cay looks wild and wind swept.  This little detour is going to take us an extra 45 minutes.  I explain to Trevor that we were delayed at Staniel Cay and didn’t get here as early as we planned.  Maybe if we had been able to get here when Larry had planned we could’ve made it through.  He nodded. 



We did our best to do some small talk with Trevor as we made this unplanned journey.  Ziggy was getting nervous and scared as we headed out into the rough waters and as the boat started bobbing up and down.  I offered the pilot chair again to Trevor as it looked like it was going to be a long bumpy ride.   He finally sat down in the second pilot chair and as soon as he did Ziggy was at his side looking up at him with his worried little look.  Trevor just leaned over and without hesitation picked him up, put him on his lap and that’s where Ziggy sat the remainder of the trip.  

Through some prodding we found out that Trevor’s dad owned Compass Cay and the marina.  This was a surprise to us as everywhere we’ve been so far, whites not blacks have seemed to own everything major. 

He was a very nice young man and we liked him instantly.  He said that the channel that we tried to come in is supposed to be dredged sometime in the near future and then there won’t be this problem.  Before you know it, we were near Joe’s Cut.  This was the windy and rough opening that we had tried to cross with the dinghy when J&F were here.  Now we were heading in our boat under the direction of this stranger.  We knew there were a lot of rocks and shallow areas but we just had to put all our trust in this soft spoken kid that we only met just 45 minutes ago.  It’s a strange and unusual world here.  We find ourselves putting a lot of trust in these Bahamians and so far we have not been disappointed.  You do things here that you would never do at home.

He would point here and there and mumble softly to kept to the left or right.  We rode the swells in past the rocky precipices much like a surfer.  Once inside, the seas immediately flattened out and again we were protected but again in shallow waters but evidently just enough to get us into the dock. 



The marina has only two docks.  We now joked with Trevor that not only did we have a guide to get us in but we now have an extra crew member to help get us docked.  As we came up to the dock, there were a handful of people there to help tie us up.  We had more help than we knew what to do with.  I didn’t know who to throw a line to as there were so many.  I didn’t know whether they all were worried about us or what.  They were taking the lines and tying them off as quickly as I could hand them out.  I nervously explained that we couldn’t get in the regular way because it was too shallow for us and that we had run aground twice.  I explained the obvious that Trevor had come aboard and brought us in from the Atlantic.  I guess it must have been a strange sight to see us come in with Trevor aboard.




Soon we were snug and settled in our new home for a few days.  It looked like were going to get all the piece and quiet we wanted around here.  There were only a couple other occupied boats and nothing here but a dock shack, no restaurant, no store, much nothing along that line.  After the ordeal getting in here I didn’t even want to contemplate getting out of here so I’m hoping we’ll stay for awhile.  I’m sure Larry is feeling the same way. 

We were immediately greeted by everyone and it appears to be like one big family.  The doctor and his wife that we had docked next to in Highborne Cay were here too in their Hatteras called Bartram.  He came over and gave us a big welcome too. 

We got out of the boat and walked over to the dock shack to see where we could take Ziggy for a walk.  



Say “Hello” to Woody, Herman, Bill, Hook, Squirt, Jack, Mutt, Fang, Marcia, Hester and grouper Kelly

One of the big attractions here are the nurse sharks that hang around the dock shack, and that would be:  Woody, Herman, Bill, Hook, Squirt, Jack, Mutt, Fang, Marcia, Hester and grouper Kelly.  They were lined up in a row, snoozing just under the dock.  I joked with Trevor and asked him how he trained them to line up like that and he laughed.  These sharks were the most well fed sharks in the Exumas and they were like pets to Trevor and his dad Tucker.  Although they have the capability of being ferocious, I don’t think there was much to worry about with these characters as they seemed pretty tame.  One person during our stay thought they could safely feed them from their fingers and was accidentally bit.  Nothing serious just a reminder that they are after all… sharks.  When you see how they suck the food in with a strong powerful snap just underneath their two sharp protruding barbels, you’d have to be a fool to think you should put your fleshy fingers grasping food down close to those big chops.  In some ways they resemble big ugly cat fish.  It’s best to just drop that food into the water from a safe distance of at least a foot and enjoy the feeding frenzy standing back. 



I had heard when it’s high tide, the feeding dock is just slightly covered in water and the nurse sharks are able to perch their chins up on the dock to be fed but during our stay we had extra low tide so never did get to enjoy that sight.  Many people come to visit them.  Some, if they have the courage, brave the shallow water and swim with them.  I wondered if I would have the courage too but until I get over this cold I wasn’t even sticking a toe into any water no matter what. 



The cay though big and has many visitors, had no restaurant or store, so you were on your own for food.  Trevor would cook hot dogs and hamburgers at lunch time for whomever wanted one and they had a frig with cokes and beer and a few candy bars that would tempt Larry once or twice during our stay as I noticed a charge on our bill for a couple Milky Ways.  In fact, the day we were coming here, we heard some guy on the radio calling Compass Cay to make reservations for lunch.  Now, knowing the funkiness of this place, we think back about it and laugh, as we remember hearing Trevor answer back, “Well, we’re only cookin’ hot dogs and hamburgers on the BBQ on the dock, so you don’t need no reservations.”  The guy must have been trying to call Fowl Cay which is about the fanciest place in this area to eat, (well rather dine and it quite fine dining I was told) and somehow he got the names mixed up. 

By the time we arrived, after the ordeal getting in here, we were starved and anxious to have some of those hot dogs and hamburgers.  So we got off the boat and ordered up a couple hot dogs from Trevor.  The dock shack was the local hangout for everybody at Compass Cay.  The Knotty Dog was parked right in front and as we sat in our pilot house each morning and afternoon we had a good view of all that went on everyday.  We spend a lot of time in the pilot house doing email, writing logs, reading, talking and just whiling the time away as it’s high up and we have a great view of everything wherever we go. 

While we waited for our dogs to be BBQ’d we watched the nurse sharks swimming in figure eights around the fish cleaning dock hoping someone would throw them a tidbit.  Apparently they have names as I mentioned and Tucker, the dad and owner of the marina and Cay, treats them like pets.  I hear him politely but firmly telling one visitor pet softly and quit pulling on their tails.  He’s polite as he tells him but you can tell he means business and protects his pets.  Everything is very informal and once Trevor hands you your hot dogs or hamburgers you are motioned to the “condiment table”.  On the top of the make shift table is a head of iceberg lettuce, some sliced tomatoes, a ketchup bottle and mustard.  There are no utensils or napkins so you just get what you want with your bare hands, by pulling off a wad of green from the iceberg ball and picking up a slice of tomato with you fingers, etc.   I decided to have Larry dress the dogs as I didn’t want anyone to get any cold germs from me by handling the food.  We grabbed a couple cokes and sat down on the picnic bench and enjoyed our well earned lunch.  That was the extent of the restaurant around here and it was the same everyday so you soon got your fill of that.  At $8 per hot dog, it much more economical to slather some peanut butter and jelly on some stale bread inside the boat just a few steps away.  We aren’t complaining but $8 for a hot dog seemed a little extreme to me.


Cast of Characters

We ended up staying here at Compass Cay for several days.  I was recuperating from this horrible cough and it was a nice place to get better, quiet and pristine.  So what was the hurry?  The longer we stayed the more we became in tune to the comical cast of characters here.  They could rival Cannery Row.  We began to learn their habits and quirks as I’m sure they observed us in much the same way. 



Tucker, whose last name was the same as many islanders here about, whom it is said had more children than he could count, whose great great grand parent’s homestead ruins are still on the island, and who can tell of days when his family survived off fish they caught and the native plants, was an interesting character.  We liked Tucker and Trevor the most, father and son. 

Tucker Rolle was the “owner” of the marina and cay.  He had the last name of Rolle which was the name given to a group of 325 slaves owned by Lord John Rolle on Great Exuma Cay in the 1800’s.  The land he owned, 7000 acres farther south of here, was granted to Lord Rolle’s ancestor Denys Rolle by the King of England.  He brought the slaves here along with cotton seeds with the intention of making his fortune in cotton farming.  To this day you still may be lucky enough come across a rogue cotton plant that has managed to survive this rugged landscape. 

The cotton plantation was proving not to be a viable economic venture so during emancipation, Denys Rolle’s descendant, Lord John Rolle, freed all 325 of the slaves.  With this new freedom it is said that he also deeded his land to them and as was the custom at the time, they all inherited their master’s last name, Rolle.  Ironically, 3 years later, he told his executors to sell the land that he had previously given to these people.  Fortunately the freed slaves held claim to their new land, though there never was or has been proof of a deed.  They still claim rights to the land to this day but since it is spread among numerous numbers of people and all with the same name, there are still present day squabbles about ownership that probably never will be settled. So, as you travel the cays is it common to meet many blacks with the last name of Rolle.  Tucker who was born in Black Point on Great Exuma shares this amazing ancestral history. 

Knowing this story, we were immediately curious to know how Tucker came to own the cay.  During our brief time and experience here in the Bahamas it was very unusual indeed to find any blacks that owned much of anything of value here.  I can’t say the same about Nassau though.  Tucker and Trevor seemed like such nice people that we were really happy to see that they had rights to this beautiful land but in the backs of our minds we wondered for how long as it was prime land and perfect for resort development.  They seemed innocent and naïve to the potential of this land and what it could offer to some greedy developer. Tucker didn’t seem to be interested in any of that, he said he liked to keep things as they were, simple and natural.  As far as to what his son or children may desire in the future when temptation to sell becomes too strong, time will only tell. 



We were very curious as to the story but didn’t want to be nosy.  During our stay we soon got various versions from people on the dock without even asking.  The most reliable version though came from Tucker himself and he told Larry that he has a lease for the land.  He said that he worked 40 years of his life on this land for an American that had the previous lease and when that lease was up he decided to go to Nassau and hopefully lay claim to the next lease as he and his ancestors knew this land and worked this land longer than anyone.  The Bahamas, we have heard from various people, are becoming savvy to the value of keeping ownership of their cays within their own people and are abandoning more and more the previous habit of selling off to foreigners.  But I guess, at the right price, anything can happen.

Tucker’s ancestors can be traced back several generations here.  He said they lived, worked and scraped out an existence on this cay, proof being actual ruins still visible here where his great great grandfather and mother lived.  He said his dad showed him where the ruins were.  It seemed only natural that he should have some rights to this land. 

He was successful in convincing the government to lease the land to him and with that came certain conditions.  He is required to build so much housing on the cay each year.  It’s all very vague and complicated to us but that’s the general picture.  It was a relief really to see a cay of this size and beauty, finally owned by a Bahamian, knowing that it can’t be developed, scraped and reshaped by some corporation for yet another resort reshaping the land resembling nothing of its original natural state.  You will understand our appreciation of this and the protection of the cay as you read more and see the untouched beauty of it. 



It was also great to see someone whose ancestors were slaves, brought here from some forgotten village in Africa, displaced against their will, surviving on next to nothing and now, the unthinkable, their descendants having rights to this land, that most of us in the civilized world would drool over.  We watched Tucker and his gentle, civilized ways as he hung around the dock everyday. 

We wondered in amazement at him in his present day life, thinking of his family and the hard life they had as slaves, the unrewarding work they had to do, the loss of all personal identity, and most of the time surviving only on the fruits of the sea and the meager berries and fruits of the dry natural scrubs found on these cays.   Imagine losing all personal identity and historical reference of where they came from, and now to be mixed in with hundreds of others, all in the same boat, given the same name, with no individuality to their namesake, given to them by someone who ironically took everything away from them.  Wow, it was amazing just to think about it and to see his kindness, gentleness, and his natural affinity to the land and all that lives on it and around it.



We found the majority of all the blacks in the Bahamas to be kind, gentle and friendly.  Well, except for Nassau and who could survive the obnoxiousness of what the tourist trade has done to that?  Here they have a simple appreciation for life that we all could learn from.  Their friendly smiles and open hearts really make you fell so at home and welcome.  Considering all that they have had to go through I found it truly remarkable and forgiving. 

Tucker is a soft spoken gentle man and spent all of his days at the dock shack unless out guiding a boat in or out of the marina.  Once or twice he was out guide fishing.  I think he felt like this place was home and all that came here were his guests.  He’s such a nice man and we grew to like him very much.  We asked if Trevor was his only child and he lowered his head with a smile and shook it back and forth and Blue punched in answering for him say “He’s got more chil’n than he knows about.”  We all chuckled and still don’t know the accurate answer to that.  He said he and his wife finally didn’t get along any more and she lives in Black Point, several cays south of here.  He said he was happy that Trevor, his son, was going to help run the place and be the dock master.



Trevor, the son, a young handsome smart guy, is the dock master, or so he says as he is trying hard to be so.  It’s hard to figure out who is in charge though as he’s got more help than he needs and maybe wants.  Every time a boat comes in, at least five people, the usual cast of characters, rush over, stumbling all over themselves to take the lines and tie the boat up whether Trevor wants the help or not.  He could easily handle it on his own and probably would do a better job but he just patiently keeps his cool.  He’s very capable and experienced. 

There’s no chance in hell though that Trevor will ever be able to get a tip with all that help.  Tucker said he’s trying to encourage his son to take over but in our opinion he’ll need to make a few changes to the cast of characters around here before he can take charge and that means the “warden lady” needs to go or needs to step back several steps.  I’ll explain the warden lady as we get further along here. 

Tucker as I said is young and handsome and has got to be a great catch for some black Bahamian girl but several on the dock says his problem is he has too many girlfriends.  He used to be a captain on a yacht like his dad at one time and his dad talked him into giving it up to take over the marina.  It will be interesting to see how it all progresses over the long haul.



Blue was another character.  He wore layer upon layer of old clothes, mostly just rags.  It didn’t matter how hot it was he was always layered.  He must be in his seventies, but is spry and quick but his face is hardened, tanned brown and wrinkled to rival an old leather shoe.  He’s got a history of lines on his face that you would love to know their stories.  He was also completely toothless and the few rare words that came out of his mouth were hard to understand because of his lisp due to the difficulty forming words without the help of teeth I guess. 

He was always cranky and complaining about something in his mumbling way.  Once he got used to you though and thought you were OK, he’d talk and according to Tucker embellish stories.  Tucker would later let you know the real truth.  He was like nature man, knowing where the boas, iguanas, goats, and snakes were throughout the cay.  He knew them all and probably had names for them like the sharks. 

His boat was a rat trap of a sailboat and just about as wrinkly.  It had all sorts of homemade modifications on it perhaps due to lack of money and his hermit like lifestyle.  He had a skiff that was painted much like a monochromatic Pollack painting, with artistic splatters.  He had his own chair on the dock and no one dare sat in it.  It was the only bar stool and you soon realized that that was his chair.  I sat in it once and Larry said I better get out of it as that was Blue’s chair.  He usually sat in it all day long dragging on one cigarette after another and mumbling to himself, well that is when he wasn’t tending the generators. 

He says he used to work at the nearby marine park but the new owners kicked him out.  Now he said he was working here and his goal was to make this Tucker’s own Marine Park.  What he meant by that we don’t know but he seemed to take on some sort of mental ownership of the place much like the other cast of characters that seemed to latch themselves onto this place. 

He was up, out of his sailboat and on the dock precisely at 7:00 AM each morning.  I’d see him head on up the path to the four wheeled ATC, start it up and head on up the hill to service the generators each morning before anyone was up and about.  The cay had several generators depending on the needs at the marina and the two rustic rental cottages and we figured he was the maintenance man for them.  The main rental cottage was right near the large generators and the noise that they made was loud and you wondered how the guests in the cottages managed.  I’d go nuts.  Maintaining these generators we guess gave him a free place to tie up his sailboat and probably some extra cash though he said he got a check from the government each month to shut him up about his exposure to Agent Orange during the war.  The more he got to feel comfortable with you, the more he would talk with you, about his life and cay.



There was a nice older couple on Jubilant, a sailboat that had the only mooring at Compass Cay and I think once they got that mooring they decided never to leave.  The day we met them, they were telling us they found out their boat insurance expired.  So they were down here traveling with no insurance.  I’d hate to be doing that here with all these fronts and shallow waters.  He was always helping around the place, doing various odd jobs, either painting the laundry room or helping boats dock by getting the lines and was usually more in the way than anything but they were very sweet people. 

She was very active on the Single Side Band and we could hear her giving the weather out look from Compass Cay on the boaters net some mornings.  She would report the weather conditions and how many boats were here. 

They seemed to live separate lives though when ever they could as he was usually ashore when she was on the boat and vice versa.   I think they secretly planned it that way. She’d take long walks by herself everyday and he would spend his time doing odd jobs around the cay.  Maybe by doing the odd jobs Tucker gave them a free place mooring though I don’t know what the arrangement was.  It seemed like several people were getting free places to stay around here in exchange for a few odd services.


AHH YES and “THE WARDEN LADY” as we liked to call her

And last but not least was the “warden lady”.  The warden and her husband said they had unexpectedly sold their boat just a few weeks prior while they were cruising down here and thank goodness for Tucker they were able move right into his vacant guest room on the lower level of his rustic cottage.  She said their boat wasn’t even for sale but someone offered them money for it and they took it.  So I don’t understand how she goes from being on a boat a few weeks ago, to staying in his guest room, to (in her mind) running the place?  

I don’t know what the entanglement between her and her husband and Tucker but she seemed to think she owned the place.  It was always, “I” this and “I” that and sometimes “We” this and “We” that but never “Tucker does it this way” or “Tucker that”.  It was also “I’ve got a boat coming in today”, or “I’m going to do this or that” in relation to the cay.  She was always butting into your business no matter how much you tried to stay to yourselves. 

She and her husband were always hanging out at the dock shack or the beach palapa when you went to the beach, always watching everybody and what they were doing.  You never felt like you were out from under her watchful eye.  We didn’t understand her role at all because we thought Tucker owned and ran the place and that his son Trevor was the dock master but according to her and her actions she ran everything, which according to her included the marina, the two guest cottages, and the billing and she created rules and regulations at her whim. 

Is it that some people just don’t think these two black people can manage this place on their own?  As the story of our stay goes on you’ll see why she became a bit annoying.   



This place was a funny place.  As each new boat came into the marina, the usual group of suspects or should I say characters would rush to get the new boat docked, sometimes almost falling all over each other to get the lines.  You could always hear the warden shouting out orders and poor Trevor would silently and patiently try to go about his business of being the dock master.   How the heck was Trevor supposed to be the master of the dock with all this going on?  How in the heck could he get any tips for handling the lines because they were all there doing his job? 

It was like too many cooks in the kitchen or more like the seven stooges.  Trevor had a tremendous amount of patience as he tried to do his job.  It sounds like I’m being mean and heartless but at first we were just amused and curious about it all as she yelled out orders and told the rules that sometimes we thought she made up as things went along.  As the days wore on during our stay, it became a comedy.  Here you were at this wonderful secluded, rustic place, hopefully to enjoy on your own but always under the watchful eye of the “self appointed warden lady”.

Her husband on the other hand, seemed quiet and just did what she told him to do and most of the time he seemed to try an escape into what ever paperback novel he could find in the dock shack. She was self appointed den mother, dock master, and “owner and warden” of her own little kingdom.



We were here longer than most I guess, mostly because we didn’t have a schedule and we liked the quietness of the place.  Each day we’d take the dinghy out to explore or walk the beach or hike to another part of the island, just enjoying the scenery and beauty of the area all to ourselves and really trying to mind our own business.  It was so beautiful and quiet and Ziggy loved the time he spent here.  He could run free, chaise crabs and geckos and swim in the water.  We decided we weren’t going any further south.  We made the decision to head back to Fort Lauderdale and that’s a whole other story that will be updated in the next section.    

We had contemplated plans to head south to Venezuela or maybe to Rio Dulce for the hurricane season but the Ziggy factor just kept coming into play.  How would be get home occasionally with Ziggy?  We didn’t like the idea of flying him back and forth from all those foreign ports and weren’t anxious to spend numerous months away from home again without being able to fly home for a visit or two.  We’ve been away from home too much and wanted to have the flexibility of coming home when we wanted …So we decided this was a far as we were going.



We began watching the weather pattern for a good weather window to head north and then when we thought we saw one, Larry began to call Nassau to make reservations for a few days docking.  We had decided that Hurricane Hole Marina on Paradise Island was going to be the place we’d go but they only had one day available so that wouldn’t work. Well, I guess it could work but we wanted a little buffer in case the weather window wasn’t good for leaving Nassau.  He got on the waiting list in case something opened up. 



We thought we’d bite the bullet and go to Atlantis again but it too was completely booked.  Our eyes were getting wide now and we were wondering if we would have to stay at Yacht Hell again on the Nassau side.  The thought of all those diesel fumes again just made me green.  He called and they were booked too!  I guess the boats are all starting to head back north now.  The migration has started and along with it the necessity and fight for reservations.  We were perplexed and then thought we’d head up to Highborne Cay our first stop on the Exumas and the closet point northward to Nassau and wait it out there until there was an opening. 



I still had a bad cough and was just ready to get back.  I couldn’t enjoy the snorkeling and swimming because of it so we weren’t taking advantage of the cruising here like we would normally.  I was tired from being sick and it was tiring me out just thinking about fighting our way back to Nassau and then figuring out a route to fight our way across the Gulf Stream back to Fort Lauderdale.  Larry was considering all different routes so we could make several short runs so I wouldn’t have to do all nighters and take watches.  I told him I’m not feeling up to any all nighters unless we have too and finally I say “What the heck are we doing?  Why don’t we have Captain Jim Kelly fly in and take the boat back for us?”  I said we could leave the boat here as other people obviously have, and Tucker and Trevor can watch it for us.  So Larry sent an email and it was arranged.  Captain Jim and Lloyd would fly in to Staniel Cay a week from now and take her back to Fort Lauderdale in an overnight trip.  HOORAY!


In hind sight though, we now know it would have been better off leaving the boat at Sampson Cay.  We didn’t realize we’d have to deal with the warden lady and it just became more of an irritant as time wore on.



Now we had to decide when to fly out.  There was no reason to rush back to Fort Lauderdale so we made reservations 5 days out.  That meant we’d stay here an enjoy Compass Cay for another five days which was fine with me.  It was quiet, lots of fresh air, beautiful scenery, much to explore, Ziggy loves it and can be free, and I have enough food to just last us.  Since there is no store or restaurant here the food supply was a factor. 

So now, feeling much more relaxed and not having to worry about fighting our way back, we just sat back and enjoyed the surroundings.




The cay is a large one and there are lots of areas and things to explore.  Just when you thought you’d seen it all there was something else to see.  There were many well cut and well marked paths through the woods or brush.  They were lined with a gazillion conch shells and wonderful hand made signs directing you to fun destinations all over the cay.  The signs were so whimsical and rustic and actually very good examples of folk art which I think most people that visit here just take for granted.  In particular was a wonderful map painted on plywood mounted on the dock shack and it graphically showed the cay much the way I think Tucker imagines it with all sorts of whimsical pictures of what goes on in each area.  The best thing about exploring the cay was that you practically had the place to yourself to enjoy except for the watchful eye of the “warden lady”.   




I was dying to explore the area close to the marina by kayak but it was so windy and the tide so extreme that the currents and wind didn’t comply.  One morning though the wind died and it just happened to be slack tide and Ziggy and I took off for some exploring.  There were lots of places to let Zig jump off the kayak to run and explore on the shore while I paddled alongside.  The water was very calm so he could swim alongside too.  It was beautiful.  We found a rocky ledge with lots of beautiful coral and fish that we could see clearly from the kayak as if we were snorkeling underwater.  It was great.  It was rare day though that the wind died down to make for such a beautiful day of kayaking.  It was the calm before the storm or front.



That afternoon though we were attacked by the “no see ums”.  They found their way onto the boat, the dock, the hiking paths, the beach, and well, they were everywhere that day.  That’s one good thing about the Trade Winds as they keep those little buggers at bay.  Hey, we’ve learned that where ever mangroves are there are bugs that bite.



Our first adventure in the dinghy was to head out into a nearby shallow channel that led through the mangroves.  Ziggy loved to ride on the outer most point of the bow of the dinghy like he was the wild game scout on an African Safari.  We would stop occasionally and let him jump off to run through the shallow water or where there were some hard surface areas.  He loved trying to scare up some fish that might be sleeping under a small patch of shade and would jump high in the air and come down hard with a big splash to see what he could surprise.  He was having the time of his life.



We went as far as we could down the channel before it got too shallow and had to turn back.  We passed a couple bone fishing.  We had heard the bone fishing is said to be quite good in these low tidal flats amongst the mangroves.  I guess those bonefish are quite a challenge for fishermen and it’s become a real popular sport.  We can’t catch a thing so we just observed as we tried to quietly pass by.

We stopped again on the way out for Zig to explore another sandy area.  He took off through the mangroves but this time didn’t return right away like he usually does.  We called for him but no Zig.  We thought we’d fool him by pretending to leave in the dinghy, going just a short ways, which usually works, as he will suddenly appear running after us full blast but this time he didn’t come.  I got very worried because that wasn’t like Zig at all. 



We went back and searched the area and finally I saw Zig slowly coming out of the mangroves.  He was limping badly.  I got out of the dinghy and ran to help him.  I could see his leg was all bloody and he could barely walk.  What happened?  I’ve never ever seen Ziggy like that.  He was really hurt.  I yelled at him to stay and not walk as I stumbled through the mangrove branches and deep sandy base to reach him.  I finally got him and carried him back to the dinghy.  His leg was bleeding badly but I couldn’t see what the wound was like because of the blood and matted fur.  I immediately wrapped it tightly in a shirt and held him as Larry sped back out through the channel and back to the boat. 



Poor Ziggy was shaking and kept wrenching his body in pain while I held him.  I was a wreck as I hated to see him suffer like that.  We got back on the boat and he was so full of sand that we first had to hose him off.  We felt terrible doing that to him when he was in such a state.  Then I held him in my lap while Larry ran for the first aid kit.

We pulled the fur away from the wound the best we could but Ziggy was hurting and squirming and even snarling a bit.  I guess what we were doing was hurting him.  Finally I think understanding that we were helping him he let us go about cleaning the wound.  It was a deep gash.  We didn’t know whether something bit him like a small shark or snake or whether he jumped onto a stick and it went up inside his leg. 

I told Larry to get a tranquilizer pill that we used to keep him calm on the airline flight here.  We gave him half of the sedative and part of an aspirin.  That seemed to help his pain and calm his shaking as we cleaned the wound thoroughly.  We trimmed the fur away and put antiseptic on it and bandaged it up the best we could.  I was worried about dehydration.  He had been running around so much in the heat of the day before the accident happened and I knew would need to drink water.  I didn’t want him to doze off with the tranquilizer without having some water to drink.  Thank goodness though he drank some water. 

He finally seemed to be in less pain as the aspirin and tranquilizer seemed to take over and he eventually went to sleep.  We took turns holding him while he slept the whole day.  His leg was so red and purple that it must have been terribly painful.  We emailed our friends J&F to ask them to call our vet in Santa Barbara to see if we could give him a pain killer and some antibiotics and if so how much.  They reported back that the vet said we did all the right things.  He said that he wouldn’t need the antibiotics unless it got infected which it was too early to tell.

That evening when Zig woke, he couldn’t walk, which for Zig was something beyond belief because he’s always so full of energy.  He did eat a little and there seemed to be no infection or serious swelling so so far that was good.  The doctor on the Hatteras called Bartram, came by to check on Ziggy and said it looked like there was no infection.

The next day he was limping badly and didn’t want to do anything so we stayed on the boat again with him and just tried to keep him calm.  By the next day, he was walking around a little more and seemed to have a renewed interest shown by a bark or two at a new dog he heard go by on the dock.  We figured this was a good sign and he was on his way to recovery.  So, we finally could breathe a sigh of relief. 

By the next day, he was back to normal and into everything so all was fine.  I wish I had his resiliency for recovery.



There’s a never ending trail of boats coming and going here, all being lead in and out by Tucker or Trevor.  Just when you were getting used to one boat and the people aboard it was time for them to move on and another batch would come in.  Most of the time we were the only other people except for the regular cast of characters.  The boats like clockwork came in and left only on high tide as that was the only way you had enough depth to get in here.  One day there was a frenzy of boats seeking shelter from a front that was heading this way.  We hadn’t been paying much attention to the weather reports so didn’t have a clue as to what was going on when all the activity started. 



The day began early I remember.  I was having my morning coffee and could hear mild mannered Trevor arguing with a German guy on a sailboat that had just come in the day before.  The German was complaining to Trevor about the dockage prices and said he didn’t pay that when he was here last.  I could hear Trevor answering back that they “haven’t charged those rates for years so didn’t know what he was talking about”.  Trevor also very calmly explained to him that he’d have to leave because he had other boats coming in that had these docks were reserved.  He said that he didn’t have a reservation and there was no room for him.  The German was having a hissy fit.  I guess Tucker finally figured out a way to make room for the guy though. 

To make room they made ole Blue move his rat trap of a boat out to anchor in the shallows.  Blue got all riled up about it and I could hear him telling Trevor “People (meaning him) don’t like to have to move their boats once they are settled.”  He was grumbling the whole time they hand pulled his boat out to the end of the dock and then he climbed on, started the engine and anchored it out. 

There were a few unoccupied boats that people had left here temporarily for safe keeping I guess while they went back to the states.  A couple of them were fairly large sailboats and a few small fast power boats.  The “cast of characters” this time under Tucker and Trevor’s directions, all began untying these boats and pulling them in closer, coupling them up, or rafting them together to make room for extra boats to come in.  They found spots that I never imagined possible.  They moved the German over in front of us by the dock shack.  They finished just in the nick of time getting all these boats tied up when the parade of boats looking for shelter started pouring in through the cut.  Trevor and Tucker were guiding some of them in and others followed each other single file.  Everyone on the docks began pitching in helping get all the boats docked at the same time.  It was like one big traffic jam.  We were amazed how many boats they were able to get in there that day.   



The docks were full and busy that day.  People were walking around, and up and down the docks.  They were all talking to each other about the front coming.  Things were bustling. 

Pretty soon we got a loud knock on the outside of the boat.  I jumped and took a look outside.  It was the “warden”.  She said “I’m having a potluck at the dock shack tonight.  Bring a main dish and whatever you are going to drink!”  It wasn’t like “if you want”, or “would you mind bringing a dish”, instead it was “there is” and “bring this” and “be there at such and such”. 

I still wasn’t feeling good and really didn’t feel like it.  We were nearing the end of our supplies and the thought trying to prepare something nice to take to a pot luck from the stuff I had left was really stretching my imagination and capabilities.  I had been cleaning out things getting ready for our departure and with no restaurant or store for provisioning nearby our food was becoming a precious commodity.  I had calculated food for the remaining time on the boat not for a pot luck. 



I also needed to keep some good food on hand for the captain and his crew when they arrived to take the boat back.  To me it seemed like a pot luck would be more of a good thing for the warden as I was beginning to wonder how they were doing with their food around here.  Most of these people were heading out at high tide anyway and wouldn’t be making any long term relationships.  I don’t know, it was near the end of the trip and maybe I’m sounding like a scrooge, but I wasn’t interested, and probably it was because I was just under the weather.

There was no getting out of it though as the potluck was right in front of us and it wasn’t put out there as an option.  I decided we’d go for a drink and bring an appetizer but I was going to eat on the boat tonight.  I also wasn’t interested in standing out there on the dock after dark getting eaten alive by more “no see ums” either.  We already were suffering from the latest batch of bites and I was determined to get no more.  We usually hunker down early on the boat anyway.  I felt kind of like a scrooge but Larry didn’t want to eat out on the dock after dark either.  

So, that’s what we did.  And it was interesting to see that that’s what a lot of other people did too, maybe feeling the same way?



Everyday we would take off to explore the cay and several times we just enjoyed going to the crescent beach on the Atlantic side.  It was beautiful like so many places here in the Bahamas but somehow this was special as we became familiar with it and Ziggy learned to catch his first and only gecko.  We were a bit shocked when he actually caught one and then he didn’t know what to do with it and carried it around for about an hour.  We couldn’t get him to let go of it.  It was disgusting and comical at the same time and I knew now we created a monster.  Now he thought he was the big game hunter and that’s all he had on his mind.  It must have been an old slow gecko because thank goodness he didn’t catch another one. 







Ziggy also loved checking out all the holes made by the crabs and then after over heating himself would run along the shore in the clear cool water to cool him self off.  Some days he would hunt so hard that he was totally wasted by the time we got back and sometimes before we got back and we’d have to take turns carrying him back to the boat.  He was never successful in catching anything except that one poor gecko but that didn’t deter him as the excitement was all about the chaise and the game of hide and seek. 

Each day we found lots of interesting pieces of broken coral that had washed up to shore and several interesting shells.  It was like a treasure hunt.  We were always rewarded by something interesting to see or find. 





























One day we ventured beyond the crescent beach and hiked up over to the cliffs by Joe’s Cut.  It was a beautiful sight and the trail well marked.  The erosion patterns in the rocks on the shore were amazing.  We found the so called “bat cave” but the waters were so high and the waves crashing over the entrance that we couldn’t get in to see if there were any bats in it.  I think it was all a joke anyway because when we returned back to the dock shack that afternoon, we mentioned to Blue that we saw the Bat Cave and he laughed and said “Did you see the baseball bat we have hanging in there?”






Some days we’d hike out on the point just before you hike up to the cliffs and there were the remains of a ship wreck there. We asked Trevor what boat it was but he didn’t remember.  There were lots of interesting things washed up on the shore.  We thought we found a wing to an airplane one day but decided it was some kind of hatch instead for an aircraft.  Now what the heck is the story behind that?    



One afternoon we explored what they call the “Low Tide Air Strip”.  It was a naturally flat wide area of land on the cay.  It looked like a stretch of desert with not a plant or weed growing in it.  It actually looked like someone cleared and flattened it and covered in black asphalt but Trevor swore it wasn’t asphalt or man made. He said it was just natural and he said years before they really did use it as a landing strip.  It was eerie and desolate looking.  We even found a dead eel in the middle of it even though the tide water never came up to fill it.  It was a strangeplace.







Many afternoons Larry would enjoy just sitting around the dock shack just soaking up the stories these characters told but he especially like talking to Tucker.  He found out that he had grown up on this island, and learned to eat many of the plants that grew on the island.  He said there’s lot to eat if you just know what to eat.  He said there’s only one plant that was poisonous and the thought of that kept me getting curious about sampling anything.  He told us there were several boa constrictors that hang out near the old well.  On one side of the cay there are goats that he brought to the cay several years back.  They are just wild now and have learned to survive on their own.  And just within view from the marina is a little island with iguanas. 

His sharks are his pets and there’s a slew of fish that hang out in the marina.  I enjoyed feeding leftovers to them and was amazed at the crowd that gathered.  It was like a paradise and the fish, people and animals were all one and living together in some kind of harmony that was unfamiliar to us.



We asked Trevor about all the ornaments hanging from the trees.  I had read about Obeah and its kinship to voodoo.  I had read that on these islands some of the native people practice this Obeah.  They believe in hanging ornaments on the trees to ward off evil spirits.  I asked him what the story was with all the crazy stuff like ornaments hanging on the bushes and trees throughout the island.  I had read that the ornaments are to warn people against eating the fruits of the trees for fear of getting a curse put upon them.  He denied that all the stuff hanging on the bushes had anything to do with obeah.  I liked to think that it did but who knows.   I have to say the mention of it was when he started to tell us about all the things you can eat that grow naturally on the island.  No obeah huh?  Mmmmm.



I loved all the whimsical signs and sayings that were so cleverly displayed throughout the cay.  They certainly expressed a naïve view of things that was childlike and fresh.  It made me think that it reflected a view of life and nature that Tucker and his ancestors growing up and living here must feel about the land.  It showed a real love of the island and all that lives in it and swims in its surrounding waters.  They were pure like a child’s drawings, showing where all the animals lived and where certain fish were, and fun places to explore.  They were portrayed with such animation and life.



Near the end of our stay, Larry and Tucker had become pretty friendly, spending a lot of time talking together on the dock.  A couple days before we left, Tucker offered to take us in his boat to Staniel Cay to catch our flight back to Fort Lauderdale.  He said he’d “be glad to take us over and don’t worry about leaving your boat here.  You can leave it as long as you need or want, and I’ll make sure it is OK.” 



The next day, the warden asked how we were getting to Staniel Cay to catch our plane and Larry said Tucker was going to take us.  Then a few hours later she came and knocked on the boat and told me that it was going to cost $150 to take us Staniel Cay and bring the captain back.  I was shocked and guess I looked it.  I was thinking to myself what the heck does she have to do with this?  This was between Larry and Tucker, and now she’s telling us how much she was going to charge!  Seeing the surprise on my face she then said that she was only charging us for the fuel and not their time.  This was weird and uncomfortable. 

I really didn’t want to have to deal with her to get a ride to Staniel Cay.  First of all, we would gladly pay whomever we chose to take us, that was not the problem but it was just the way she said it. 


$150 FOR FUEL?

When Larry came back I told him what she said.  He was surprised too as he thought this was just between he and Tucker.  He said I don’t mind paying someone to take us, that’s not the point, in fact he was planning to pay Tucker, but now this business about the fuel was kind of the last straw especially since there is no possible way the fuel could cost anything near that.  Why the heck doesn’t she just say, “that’s the charge”? So now that she brought it up Larry was determined to confront her on how she came up with that figure?  Again, what was she butting in for?  This was between Tucker and Larry. 

We had a couple days before we left so Larry was in no hurry to deal with this nor did he feel he had to answer to her.  He planned to mention it to Tucker to make sure he knew what she was doing but each time Larry would go by the dock shack she’d remind Larry not to forget to pay for the ride to Staniel Cay. It was getting to be ridiculous.



The more she reminded Larry, the longer he purposely did not pay.  Finally, the day before we were to leave, she said they had to have the money for the trip and now.  By now we are getting really irritated.  Larry waited to pay her until the moment was right and just Tucker is around as he wanted to make sure Tucker knew what she was doing.  He also decided to have a little fun with her.  When the timing was right he took the cash and with Tucker standing there he says “Here is the money you wanted for the fuel but I just wanted to know how you came up with the figure of $150 dollars for fuel from here to Staniel Cay and back?”  This time she backed off and immediately knocked $50 off without a blink.  She was just not on the up and up.  For Pete’s sake, charge a faire for the trip and don’t be so petty to say you are charging only for fuel and lying about the costs.  Well, this and other incidents with her left a bad taste in our mouth for the place.  Tucker didn’t say anything but held his head down.  I think he was embarrassed by this.



When we got our bill at the end of the stay there were several things not right.  She had billed us $40 for lobsters we never bought and charged us more days than we were staying.  Even after Larry had her make corrections to the bill it still came back incorrectly totaled.  We also thought $8 dollars for a grilled hot dog was a bit much. 



When the docks were empty she said “feel free to stay here as long as you want” but then when it got busy and she knew our captain was coming to get the boat it was “get the boat out of here as soon as possible.”  When we flew back to Fort Lauderdale we had left the boat in Tucker’s safe keeping.  Tucker said, “No problem, I’ll watch over it and you can leave it as long as you want.” 

So the day our captain flew in to pick up Knotty Dog, the warden happened to be flying out the same day.  If you can imagine this she confronted him at the Staniel Cay airport and told him he was to get the boat out of the marina immediately because she had a “100 footer coming in and she needed our space.”  Our captain asked her sarcastically “Is it OK if I warm up the engines for 30 minutes first?”   I guess he caught on to her ways much quicker than we did.  Apparently she over booked the marina as our captain said that the other boat was outside the channel, engines running, waiting for our boat to leave.

I could tell you more but why bother.  I hope that Tucker and Trevor and someday soon manage without the cast of characters.  I think they will do fine and be much better off for it.



Well, the day before we left, I finally decided to swim with the sharks.  My cough was getting much better and I thought I would probably regret not doing it.  This would probably be my only opportunity to do something like this so into the water I went.  It wasn’t scary really as I’d seen several people do it during out stay and Trevor and Tucker said the sharks were safe.  Even though you feel it’s OK you just can’t help pulling your feet and toes up out of the water when they swim by checking you out.  It was an exhilarating experience as they curiously swam over to you, checking you out, sometimes rubbing lightly up against you and one or two followed you around as you swam. 








Well, it was such a beautiful place, and to have it so much of it to ourselves was wonderful.   I hope that Tucker will be able to keep his lease and even own a piece of the cay for himself and future generations someday.  I hope that he continues protecting its natural state for all to enjoy for a long time to come. 



Things change so quickly and we need to protect so much.  Even Tucker who has lived here most of his life and his ancestors before him, told us that things have changed so much.  He said he can remember the days not too long ago when you could easily pick up lobsters off the ocean floor, that they were everywhere and now they are hard to find.  Now they have to have restrictions on the fish to protect them.  We talked about the lobster population becoming dangerously close to being extinct here and he said that the fishermen from Spanish Cay are responsible for the great loss of lobsters in the Bahamas.  He said they even fish the small ones and hide them in the center of loads that are then frozen and impossible to inspect.  Well, who knows who the real culprit is as it has been sad to see during our travels, everywhere we’ve been, Alaska, our trip down from Santa Barbara, through the Panama Canal and up to Maine and now here, to see the dwindling numbers of fish and shell fish. 


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