Pilot of Pilot Harbor
15 May 2021
“I”m a pilot. I went to school in Florida and the UK. I was once a first officer on jumbo jets but now just fly my family's inter-island cargo and small planes.” I asked if he could take us up for a ride and fly around the Exumas. “That plane is off island now but next week for sure.”
Lisa and I sailed from Conception Island to Cat Island, Exumas. It was a smooth, 40 mile spinnaker run in light to moderate wind. Cat Island is a 40 mile long hockey stick shape. The Bight is inside the crook of the hockey stick toward the south end. We anchored there for the most protection from changing winds.
Starship II followed us to Cat. We had just said hello a few times passing in the dinghy. They left Conception just before us. We called on the radio to introduce ourselves and determine if we were headed the same way. Yes, they were. They anchored in Cat a few hours after we arrived. Later that evening a small sloop beat to weather into our anchorage. They anchored just before sunset. I called Bimini Blue on the radio and told them we enjoyed watching their nice sailing into Cat. And would they like to come over for an anchor beer. Yes.
Shortly after they arrived, Aaron and Amy from Horizon Run also dinghied by, we invited them to join us for cocktails. These are two young couples doing some extensive cruising. We love to see young people out here. Why wait until you are old to throw off the dock lines.
But our first morning on Cat began with a dinghy expedition. Having a fast dinghy is such an advantage. It is our “car” and allows us to venture far from where Uproar rests at anchor. We headed for some buildings on shore just over a mile away. The chart showed a creek that led to a mangrove. This is typical of the eastern, Exuma Islands. These low islands have extensive mangroves in their interior. At high tide, it is often possible to dinghy into these mangroves and explore for miles. Turtles, rays and occasional nurse sharks live in these shallow waters.
We found the entrance to the creek at Pilot Harbor and dinghied as far as we could. It just became too shallow after about ½ mile. We returned to a boat ramp where we anchored the dinghy and went for a walk. The first building was a nice house with several additions. No one was around. Down the road further was what appeared to be an abandoned hotel. There were eight rooms, arranged town house style with a second floor. But the first floor on the beach side was just an empty shell, not finished. It could have been a cute hotel but was further compromised by the rusty wreck of an old tug on their beautiful beach. Such is the Bahamas.
We walked along and came to some construction machinery and fuel tanks. These led to a gas station, closed, with convenience store, closed, and a sign for laundry. A young Bahamian man was putzing around with a truck. He was the pilot. He explained his family had built the buildings we observed, the first being a restaurant. The hotel wasn't finished but they occasionally had groups stay there. A power surge had knocked out the freezers in the store and gas pumps. And no the laundry wasn't operational.
It was clear his love was flying! He talked about his family's planes They even had a helicopter. It is a shame we didn't get his name. We usually introduce ourselves and spend time getting to know other people. But in this era of masks, there is an undertone of caution that doesn't lead to personal encounters. What a shame we weren't able to fly with the pilot of Pilot Harbor.
Later we met Delana and Mitch from Starship II on Rollez Beach Resort for a beer. Carl had built a small and colorful resort on the beach. What an inviting spot. We planned to share a rental car with Delana and Mitch the next day and further explore Cat Island.