Scratch the Surface
12 March 2016
Scratch the Surface March 12, 2016
It was good to leave Calabash on the morning of March 8 as the surge kept Gratitude rocking all night—very uncomfortable. (Friends call it metronome bay.) We sailed to Hawk’s Nest Resort on the southeastern tip of Cat Island, where we got water, diesel fuel, rented a car to drive the length and breadth of the island, and enjoyed a delicious wahoo dinner. The owners of the resort (and its accompanying 400 acres), Gerry and June Clayton, were there and told us of their several decades of work to buy, restore, and reclaim the resort. Fortunately, they made their money in oil, convenience stores, and real estate back in New Mexico, so they could afford to support their dream. They are quite elderly, however, so what their plans may be, we do not know.
Sightseeing by car enabled us to see a great deal more of the island than by boat alone, and we visited Shanna’s Bay way to the north (a small resort owned and operated by a German couple – nice, cozy, European feel), Fernandez Bay Village and Resort (much more touristy), and the tiny settlements and slave ruins all over the island. One spectacular Loyalist ruin is of the Andrew Deveaux plantation, main house and slave quarters, on the south west coast. Unfortunately, there are no placards or descriptive signs describing what one is viewing, so we had to imagine the outdoor ovens, cisterns, and related placements.
Once we departed Hawk’s Nest, we headed up the west coast of Cat Island and anchored in New Bight off the Hermitage constructed as his private retreat and secluded residence by Father Jerome. It seems Jerome was an architect by training, but became a minister and converted to Catholicism, taking the name Jerome, and built and rebuilt many churches on Cat and Long Island destroyed by hurricanes. We have visited several, and each is a unique, simple structure taking advantage of the setting and the local building materials. His Hermitage, however, was truly special. It looks like an imposing (in size but not in ornamentation) cathedral when viewed from the water’s edge, but the hike to the top of the hill (the highest – at 206 feet – in The Bahamas) reveals it to be quite diminutive. The rooms were big enough for one person – which was fine for the hermit that Jerome became. We climbed the rugged 14 stages of the cross to access the top but descended the “easier” rocky road back down.
We had several different meals at Hidden Treasures, the little fish fry shack run by Denise in New Bight. Actually, it is a family affair as Denise and her daughter do the cooking, her mother (Marina) takes care of serving – and entertaining her great-grandchildren, and her son-in-law, Caddy, makes fabulous conch salad. We had his tropical salad, which was wonderful, and at various meals had grilled and blacked wahoo, and cracked lobster. During our final night at New Bight, we sat at the picnic table with Marina, while our meals were being prepared, and she proceeded to tell us her story. She was a Deveaux (i.e. a descendant of the slaves on the Deveaux Plantation) and came back to Cat Island to take over some “family” or “generational” lands after she retired. Her work had been as a maid and then head housekeeper for the Brady Family – as in J.C. and Nicolas Brady, Secretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush – at their home in Nassau (and variously at other properties in Florida, New Jersey, and elsewhere). She worked for the Brady Family for over 50 years and obviously was loved and trusted by them (she even had power of attorney and kept the household checkbook). Sprinkled throughout her tale was her love for the Family, her thankfulness to God that she had had the opportunity to work for them, and her wonder at having lived such an interesting life and meeting such famous people (in a book she wrote of her life, there were photos of her with President G.W. Bush and with Sean Connery!) as a woman of such humble beginnings. One never knows what one will find when one scratches the surface of a person’s life.