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Bahamas by MailBoat Part I of III: A lifelong sailor tries “alternative” cruising By Fred Braman

The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands and over 2,000 rocks and cays, sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamas uses MailBoats to help connect the country’s remote and far-flung geography. MailBoat Captain Gurth Dean docks at Great Harbor Cay in 2012


n an era of alternative facts and fake news, a lifelong sailor tried a different way to cruise the Bahamas: mail boats! It definitely was “alternative,” but there was nothing fake about it, and it turned into a grand adventure for this sailor and two old college friends, all of us in our 70th year!

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December 2017

I’ve had this idea for some time. While sailing along the Bahamian out islands during a long trip, no matter how small the island, it seemed that the “MailBoat”—as the boat is named in the Bahamas—would come in while I was there. Here is how I described it in my 2013 book about my voyage, Too Old Not to Go. “After a great week, my stay at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands was over. I made one more trip to my favorite beach, turned in the dilapidated pink jeep I had rented, and topped Rhombus [my Catalina 30] off with water, fuel, and some needed supplies. Luckily, the Bahamas mail boat had docked in the town the previous day and the stores were full of supplies. Mail boats are the link to the larger world for the small, outer islands, and they carry everything; milk, beer, groceries, lumber, crates of chickens, pallets of canned goods, goats, passengers, and even mail. A cruise by mail boat is now on my list of fun things to try; flexible schedule required!” The MailBoat idea lay dormant for five years before finally emerging for real consideration. I knew basically how the system worked, but needed a lot more information to actually make a plan. I also needed “cruising companions.” MailBoats begin their journey at a small shipping point between Nassau and Paradise Island called Potters Cay. MailBoats cover the entire Bahamas chain, visiting one or two islands before returning to Nassau and repeating the schedule the next week. Departing from Potters Cay, 17 moderately sized boats make weekly out-island trips to over 50 destinations. There are several larger boats that have more frequent schedules, but fewer destinations, and ferries with daily departures and returns to the most demanded localities. All the boats carry people, cargo, and mail. You can go anywhere in The Bahamas by boat! Having acquired a little more information about cruising possibilities, my attention turned to “cruising companions.” Who do I know that has the time and is actually “stupid enough to do this with me?” I phrased my request just that way to two old college friends who immediately came



Profile for SOUTHWINDS Magazine

Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...