Do You Recognize These Folks?

Bahamas, Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, History, Genaeology, PhotographMy cousin Evan Lowe (grandson of Pa Herman’s sister, Aunt Bessie) recently sent me this image. Evan is 99% sure that the woman on the right is his grandmother, Bessie Caroline Curry Lowe (b. 1903, Green Turtle Cay), but he’d like to confirm this and identify the other people in the photo.

If you recognize any of these people and/or you recognize the setting where the picture was taken, please let me know. Thanks!

TODAY ONLY: Shop Amazon, They’ll Donate $5 to Potcake Rescue Program

An update to my recent post about the plight of the Bahamian potcake

If you’re shopping on Amazon today, please do so via this link to AmazonSmile. If you do, Amazon will automatically donate $5 to Royal Potcake Rescue USA, at no cost to you.

Potcake 1I hadn’t heard of AmazonSmile before now, but it’s a great program that lets you to support your favourite charity while you shop Amazon.com. You get access to Amazon’s normal selection, prices and shopping experience, but Amazon donates o.5% of your purchase price to the charity of your choice. What could be easier?

A percentage of your sales will be donated to Royal Potcake Rescue any time you shop through AmazonSmile.

As an added bonus just for today, however, Amazon will contribute $5 per purchase to RPR. You get stuff you were going to buy anyway, and the potcake rescue program gets $5. It’s a real win-win.

A reminder also that there are only 4 days left to donate to the Indiegogo online fundraiser supporting the upcoming potcake spay/neuter clinic in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. If you can contribute – even if it’s just a few dollars – please do!

P.S. Both the pups pictured in this post are available for adoption through Royal Potcake Rescue.

Potcake 2

The Plight of the Bahamian Potcake

Despite how it sounds, potcakes have nothing to do with illicit substances. They’re mixed-breed, indigenous dogs from the Bahamas or the Turks & Caicos islands.

Bahamian Potcake, Dog, BahamasNobody knows for sure where the name originated, but many Bahamians believe it came from the thick, leftover mixture remaining at the bottom of a pot of rice after multiple reheatings. This “potcake,” as it was known, was often fed to stray mutts.Potcakes  (6)

Given the relatively small gene pool from which they evolved, many potcakes exhibit similar traits. Typically, they’re slim, short-haired, medium-size hounds. Most are tan, brown, black or some combination thereof.

Though strays can weigh as little as 25 pounds, a healthy, well-cared-for potcake weighs 35-50 pounds. As any potcake owner will attest, they’re lovely and loving dogs, with beautiful features and gentle temperaments.

It’s said that there are more than 5,000 stray potcakes roaming the streets in Nassau, and another 2,500 stray and/or unaltered dogs on Abaco and its cays. It’s heartbreakingly common to see these malnourished strays foraging for food and water alongside the road.

Potcakes  (4)Fortunately, a number of organizations, including Royal Potcake Rescue USA, Potcake Rescue Bahamas, the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, Abaco Shelter, the Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness (BAARK), Operation Potcake and the Hope Town Humane Society are working to improve the plight of the potcake. They rescue strays, spay/neuter them, provide medical care and find them forever homes – not just in the Bahamas, but in the U.S., Canada and beyond.

Potcakes  (9)To help control and reduce Abaco’s potcake population, Royal Potcake Rescue USA (“RPR”), BAARK, Abaco Shelter, the Hope Town Humane Society and Abaco veterinarian, Dr. Derrick Bailey, are teaming up to hold a spay/neuter clinic in Marsh Harbour April 25-27. Their goal is to spay/neuter 250 potcakes — 100 more than were sterilized during a similar clinic held this past October.

Several veterinarians will travel from Nassau to Abaco on their own time and provide services and supplies at significantly reduced prices. Aside from medical staff, the clinic will be manned by Bahamian and American volunteers. Total cost per animal will be approximately $50, or $12,500 total.

To raise these funds, RPR is undertaking several initiatives. They still have a fair way to go to achieve their fundraising goal, so please, please help if you can.

Here’s how:

DONATE through Royal Potcake Rescue’s Bahamas, Potcakeonline Indiegogo fundraising campaign, which runs until April 3, 2014.

RPR is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit pet rescue organization, meaning American donors will receive tax receipts for donations. Depending on the level at which you donate, you could also receive an exclusive Potcakes of Abaco bumper sticker, can cooler, T-shirt or tote bag.

Donations can also be made through RPR’s website or mailed to: Royal Potcake Rescue USA, PO Box 56050, Atlanta, GA 30343.

VOLUNTEER at the April spay/neuter clinic. RPR relies on volunteers to help with trapping, transporting, vet assistance, recovery, cleaning, record-keeping and other tasks. If you’re interested in an enjoyable and rewarding “spaycation”, here’s the volunteer application.

Potcakes  (1)TRANSPORT A POTCAKE back to the U.S. If you’re traveling from Abaco to Florida or Atlanta, you can help by bringing a potcake puppy back with you. RPR looks after all paperwork and provides the carrier. All you have to do is bring the pup (which usually weighs 10 lbs or less), in its carrier onto the plane and keep it under the seat in front of you during the flight. A RPR volunteer will meet you at the airport to collect the puppy and deliver it to its foster or forever home. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

FOSTER A POTCAKE. If you live in or near Atlanta, GA, consider fostering a potcake until its forever home can be found. RPR takes care of all medical costs — all you have to do is provide a home, the day-to-day basics and lots of love. If you’re in Florida and can pick up a potcake pup at the airport, you could foster him/her for a short period of time until RPR can arrange to get the dog back to Atlanta. For more information, visit RPR’s How You Can Help page.

Should you need a bit more motivation to lend a hand, here are just a few of the potcakes currently available for adoption through Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas. Who could say no to these adorable faces?

Photos courtesy of Royal Potcake Rescue USA and Potcake Rescue Bahamas.

Next time: Adopting Your Own Bahamian Potcake

The Story of the Albert Lowe Museum

During my last visit to Green Turtle Cay, I had a long chat with Bahamian artist Alton Lowe about the Albert Lowe Museum — specifically, the structure in which it’s housed. Turns out that the museum building’s history is as fascinating as the artifacts displayed inside.

Albert Lowe Museum, Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay

Built in 1825 by the Roberts family (who owned a department store on the property where Sid’s Grocery is now located), this two-story Loyalist home features traditional gingerbread-trimmed porches, dormer windows and one of the only cellars on the cay.

Upstairs Bedroom at Museum

Upstairs Bedroom in the Albert Lowe Museum
Photo by Tom Walters

As was common at the time, the house has a separate kitchen building (which remains fully functional), as well as a four-hole latrine. The latter was an indication of the family’s wealth, since it offered correctly sized holes for men, women and children.

Kitchen Building

Separate Kitchen and Latrine Building – Albert Lowe Museum

During the 19th century, when wrecking was a mainstay of the local economy, goods salvaged from shipwrecks were stored in and sold from the house’s cellar (which now serves as the museum’s Wrecker’s Gallery.)

Later in the 19th century, future British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain lived here as a young man prior to purchasing his own home on the cay.

E. Willis Bethel Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

E. Willis Bethel
Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

And in the early 20th century, when merchant ships sailed from New Plymouth to New York packed with pineapples and returned laden with dry goods and other supplies, the stars and stripes flew over the house’s porch as it served as residence and office for U.S. Consul, E. Willis Bethel.

When the 1932 hurricane demolished New Plymouth’s library, this house – one of just a handful of structures in the settlement to survive the storm – served as a library until a new one could be built.

Sadly, by the mid-1970s, the Roberts house had fallen into disrepair. It was being rented out as office space when Alton purchased the home and set about its restoration.

He scoured the Bahamas for architectural elements – like porch spindles from a historic home in Nassau – that were true to the house’s vintage, as well as historically accurate reproduction pieces – such as gingerbread trim, hand-made by his brother, Leonard Lowe.

A year later, before Bahamian, American and British dignitaries and hundreds of onlookers, Alton opened the Albert Lowe Museum — the first museum in the Bahamas.

Sir Clement Maynard Cuts Ribbon

Alton Lowe looks on as the Hon. Clement Maynard, Bahamas Minister of Tourism,
cuts the ribbon to open the Albert Lowe Museum.

Named in honour of Alton’s father, a well-known model ship maker, the museum’s mission was to preserve Bahamian and Abaconian history and serve as an educational tool for young Bahamians.

Opening Day, Albert Lowe Museum Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

Opening Day, Albert Lowe Museum
Photo: Albert Lowe Museum

Today, the museum showcases three centuries’ worth of paintings, sculptures, writings, models, photographs and other artifacts documenting the lives of the Lucayan Indians who first inhabited these islands, and the Loyalists and their slaves who settled here after fleeing post-revolutionary America.

It’s a diverse and fascinating collection, housed in a building that’s played a key role in New Plymouth history for nearly 200 years.

Model ship by Albert Lowe, on display in the museum

Model ship by Albert Lowe on display at the museum
Photo by Tom Walters

No Prescription Necessary

In the days leading up to the big move, we faced more than a few stressful moments. Whenever nerves began getting the better of me, I’d load Wrigley onto the golf cart and head for Bita Bay. Is there a sedative on the planet as effective as sunshine, salt air and seeing a smiling dog sprint joyfully down the beach?

Related Posts: And Your Little Dog, Too

Green Turtle Cay 101: Staying Here

This is the third installment in the Green Turtle Cay 101 series. For parts one and two, see: Green Turtle Cay 101: An Introduction and Green Turtle Cay 101: Getting Here.

Despite its diminutive size (it’s 3 miles, end to end), Green Turtle Cay offers a varied selection of accommodation options.

GTC Map with ResortsAt the north end of the island are two small resorts, the Green Turtle Club and Bluff House. Each offers a marina, on-site dining, a gift shop, small beach and swimming pool.

The Green Turtle Club

The Green Turtle Club

Numerous vacation rentals are also available, ranging from cheap-and-cheerful efficiency apartments to family- and pet-friendly cottages and expansive luxury villas.

If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, consider renting a cottage or apartment within the New Plymouth settlement. Not only will you be within easy walking distance of shops and restaurants, but you’ll be able to get acquainted with the local folks, who are incredibly warm and welcoming. You can pop over to the local bakery for coffee and breakfast pastries, challenge the local kids to a basketball game after school, and watch the ferry come and go as you enjoy a meal or cool drink on your porch.

New Plymouth's Ma Masie's Cottage, decorated for the holidays

New Plymouth’s Ma Mazie’s Cottage, decorated for the holidays

If on the other hand, your dream vacation involves stepping right out the door onto a pristine beach, or going for days without seeing another human being, you’d probably prefer accommodations outside the settlement. (Note that this will necessitate renting a golf cart if you’d like to explore the cay or spend time in town.)

Sandy Bay House

Sandy Bay House, Gillam Bay

Wherever you choose to stay, here are a few things you should know:

  • Most Bahamian resorts, rental agents and vacation home owners collect a 10% resort tax, which is remitted to the government. Some also levy a 4% Out Island Promotion Board fee.
  • At your request, local grocery and liquor stores will stock your rental before you arrive. This is especially convenient if you’re arriving late in the day or on a Sunday. Your rental agent can assist in making arrangements.
  • Since many visitors (like Tom and me) relish the idea of unplugging completely, some Green Turtle Cay rentals don’t offer Internet service or televisions. A handful don’t even have telephones. You may want to confirm in advance which amenities are included with potential rentals.
Maranatha Cottage, New Plymouth

Maranatha Cottage, New Plymouth

For more information about accommodations in Green Turtle Cay, visit:

You’ll also find Green Turtle Cay vacation rentals listed on VRBO, Home Away and other similar websites.

If I’ve overlooked your favourite place to stay on the cay, drop me a note!

Next up: Eating Here.

Island Roots Fundraiser This Saturday

If you’re on Green Turtle Cay this Saturday evening, March 8, don’t forget to stop by the basketball court and support the Island Roots Heritage Festival Committee. Here are more details about the event:

IRHF Cookout Flyer

Green Turtle Cay 101: Getting Here

This is the second installment in the Green Turtle Cay 101 series. The first post can be found here: Green Turtle Cay 101: An Introduction.

Bahamas Map

The first thing you need to know about getting to Green Turtle Cay is that it takes a bit more planning than traveling to a major tourist center. The second thing you should know is that the extra effort is so worthwhile.

First, you’ll need to travel to the Bahamian island of Abaco. From there, you’ll take a small ferry from Treasure Cay (which, despite its name, is actually located on the Abaco mainland) to Green Turtle Cay.

…Arriving By Airplane

Most visitors to Green Turtle Cay arrive by commercial airline. Direct flights to Abaco are available from a number of Florida cities, including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Orlando. Depending on your departure city, the flight from Florida takes roughly an hour. You can also fly to Abaco from the Bahamian capital of Nassau. This trip takes a little over 30 minutes.

BS

There are two airports on the Abaco mainland. The first, at Treasure Cay (airport code TCB), is super convenient – it’s just a five-minute taxi ride from the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock. However, it’s relatively small, and the selection of flights in and out is limited. Airlines that currently fly into TCB include Silver Airways (from Ft. Lauderdale) and Bahamasair (from Nassau.)

Abaco Map copy

The second Abaco airport, in Marsh Harbour (airport code MHH), is about a 45-minute taxi ride away from the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock. However, many more flights arrive into Marsh Harbour each week, so you’ll have a greater range of travel options from which to choose.

Airlines that fly into Marsh Harbour include American Eagle (from Miami), Silver Airways (from Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Jacksonville) and Bahamasair (from Nassau).  A number of smaller charter airlines, including Island Wings, Abaco Air, Airgate, Air Share Unlimited, Craig Air, Baer AirCherokee Aviation and Bahamas Express, also service MHH.

Whether you fly into TCB or MHH, there will be taxis waiting to meet the flight. From the Treasure Cay airport to the Green Turtle Cay ferry dock, it’s a 5-minute ride and about $15. From Marsh Harbour, budget 30-45 minutes and $80 or so, one way. Most taxis are mini-van type vehicles that comfortably seat at least four adults plus luggage.

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A fleet of half-a-dozen or so ferries shuttle passengers between
the Abaco mainland and Green Turtle Cay.

A few practical tips for planning air travel to Abaco:

  • As is common in the tropics, Bahamian weather can be unpredictable, which can lead to flight delays. If you’ve got connections to make, it’s a good idea to schedule a bit of extra time between flights.
  • If your trip home from Abaco to the U.S. takes you through Nassau, you can clear American Customs and Immigration there. If you fly straight to the U.S. from Abaco, however, you’ll need to clear Customs and Immigration at your first point of entry. Again, if you’ve got a connection to make, consider scheduling extra time between flights.
  • Not all routes to/from Abaco are serviced every day, so it helps if you can be flexible when it comes to travel days.
  • If you have questions or need advice about getting to Abaco or the Abaco Cays, check out the Abaco Forum. Forum members routinely travel all sorts of routes (air and sea) to Abaco, and they’re happy to share experiences and offer suggestions.

…Arriving by Private Vessel 

Given that Abaco and its surrounding cays offer some of the most spectacular boating waters in the world, it’s not surprising that so many visitors arrive by sea. If you’re entering the Bahamas aboard a private vessel, you’ll need to clear customs and immigration. To do this, you’ll need to go to one of the official ports of entry, and present the following:

  1. A completed Bahamas Customs Clearance Form
  2. One Bahamas Immigration Card per person on board
  3. Proof of Citizenship (i.e., passport) for each person aboard

Though Green Turtle Cay isn’t shown on the official “ports of entry” list, I understand you can clear customs and immigration here. The Customs office is in the pink government building on Parliament Street in town. Call in advance (242-365-4077) to check on their hours. If you arrive late in the day, you can clear the next morning.

For detailed guidelines, see the Entering and Exiting by Boat page on the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s website.

If you’re arriving by sea or plan to rent a boat during your stay in Green Turtle Cay, Steve Dodge’s book, The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Bahamas is considered a vital resource by visitors who spend time on the local waters. The guide provides regularly updated maps and charts, information about the various marinas and ports, a directory of local services, information about tides and more. (For the record, I’m not affiliated with this publication in any way – I’m just one of its many fans.)

…Arriving by Ferry 

Sea LinkIn most cases, these are less practical options, but they’re worth mentioning.

During the summer months, a fast ferry (which accommodates vehicles as well as walk-on passengers) travels weekly from Nassau to Sandy Point, at the southwestern tip of Abaco. Unfortunately, there are no car rentals in Sandy Point, and the taxi fare from there to Treasure Cay will run you well over $150. Having said that, if you have access to a vehicle or plan to rent a car in Nassau, this option may make sense. The trip takes about six hours. For more information, visit Bahamas Fast Ferry.

A preferred alternative for Abaco lovers who don’t like to fly, Pinder’s Ferry provides twice-daily service between Grand Bahama (the Bahamian island immediately west of Abaco) and Crown Haven, at the north end of Abaco. You can cruise aboard the Bahamas Express from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Bahama, then take a bus to the Pinder’s Ferry dock. Rental cars are available once you arrive in Crown Haven. For more information about this route, contact Pinder’s Ferry at 242-365-2356.

…Arriving by Mailboat

IMG_7404

The M/V Legend sails weekly between Nassau, the Abaco mainland and Green Turtle Cay.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also travel between Nassau and Green Turtle Cay by mailboat. For more information, click here or contact Dean’s Shipping at (242) 367-2653, (242) 394-0245 or deansshippingco@gmail.com.

Next up: Green Turtle Cay 101: Staying Here

Celebrating Our Bahamian Culture: Island Roots 2014

Bahamian music legend, Eddie Minnis, at IRHF2013

Bahamian music legend, Eddie Minnis, at IRHF2013

Food. Music. Religion. Art. Politics. And of course, Junkanoo. Though the world knows us for breathtaking beaches, spectacular boating and fishing and some of the best diving on the planet, these are the things about which Bahamians are most passionate, the things that shape our collective identity. And, under the theme, “Celebrating Our Culture,” they’ll be saluted at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, being held May 2-4 in Green Turtle Cay.

Junkanoo 4

Junkanoo Performer, IRHF 2011

Though the event program is still being finalized, the festival committee says this year’s Island Roots will feature a diverse selection of Bahamian musicians, artists, artisans and authors, popular local dishes and culinary delights, traditional island games, informative displays and presentations and a family tree research center.

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A festival tradition — plaiting the Maypole — IRHF 2013

Island Roots allows visitors to experience authentic Bahamian culture and gives Bahamians the opportunity to learn about and celebrate their individual and collective histories.

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The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band — IRHF 2011

Of course, staging this much-loved, three-day festival is not inexpensive. To help with the myriad of event costs (equipment rentals, printing, transportation and accommodation for dozens of presenters and performers, just for starters), the festival committee has planned a number of fundraising events. If you’d like to support the Island Roots Heritage Festival, here’s how:

IRHF Cookout FlyerAttend the Fundraising Grill Out on Saturday, March 8: A grill-out will be held this Saturday evening at the basketball court in the center of New Plymouth. If you’re on the cay, please drop by for dinner and dessert. Grilling begins at 5 pm.

Donate a Raffle Prize: The festival committee is seeking prize donations for their annual raffle. If you’re able to donate merchandise, gift certificates or services, they would much appreciate it. If you’d like to contribute a raffle prize, let me know, and I’ll forward contact information for the festival committee.

Donate Cash: To make a cash donation, large or small, drop me a note and I’ll put you in touch with the committee.

If you’re planning to attend this year’s Island Roots festival and haven’t yet reserved your flights, accommodations, golf cart or rental boat, better get on it. I hear they’re booking up fast. Hope to see you there!

Related Posts: Green Turtle Cay 101: Getting Here, Green Turtle Cay 101: Staying Here, Island Roots Heritage Festival: Celebrating All Things Abaco, Island Roots Heritage Festival: Bridging Past and Future, An Unscheduled Performance at Island Roots

Bahamian Conservation: Turning the Tide

Recently, I came across a Miami Herald article about the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s conservation efforts in the Bahamas. It reminded me of a wonderful bonefishing day Tom and I had with Green Turtle Cay’s Captain Rick Sawyer a couple of years back.

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A Quick Fly Fishing Refresher Course with Captain Rick Sawyer

Though Tom had previously done some fly fishing, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me telling you he was more than a little rusty. But with Rick’s patience and guidance (and his ability to spot bonefish at amazing distances), Tom was soon reeling one in. After a quick photo op, back into the water it went.

First Catch of the DayWhile Tom practiced his fly casting — catching another bonefish in the process — I enjoyed the view as Rick propelled us across the grassy green shallows of Coco Bay. I spotted sea biscuits, sand dollars and starfish in the clear water. Stingrays drifted lazily by and at one point, a little turtle popped up to greet us.

To be honest, I hadn’t planned to fish. I was happy just to spend time with Tom out on the water. But later, as we floated across the flats south of the settlement, he and Rick convinced me to take a turn — though I opted for a regular rod and bait instead of fly fishing.

By then, an afternoon breeze had kicked up, making it difficult to spot fish beneath the water’s rippled surface. (Truthfully, even when the water was glass-calm, I struggled to see the bonefish that Rick seemed to spot so effortlessly.)

Reeling in My Bonefish

Reeling in My Bonefish

When he pointed to clear patch of water some distance off the port side, I cast my line and waited. A few moments later, I felt a small, disappointing pull. The kind that says you’re about to land a hook full of grass. I sighed and began winding in. But then I felt a strong tug. And sure enough, my very first bonefish was on the line.

It truly was a terrific day, with much fishing success and a great many laughs. But the thing that struck me most was a conversation we had with Rick about conservation.

Though bonefish used to be considered a local staple (apparently, it was one of my grandfather’s favourites), for guides like Rick, bonefishing is strictly a catch-and-release endeavour. Having been a fishing guide for more than a quarter century, he understands first-hand the importance of conserving the natural resources of the Bahamas.

Getting Ready to Release

Preparing for Release

Unfortunately, the same cannot yet be said of all Bahamians. In fairness, it wasn’t that long ago that bonefish, crawfish, conch, grouper, turtles and whelks were plentiful.

When we were kids, my grandmother regularly served seafood — grouper cutlets, crab-and-rice and stewed whelks were some of my favourites. And when she was a child, conchs were so inexpensive — “You could buy a big bunch of them for a thruppence,” she said — that Pa Herman fed them to his hogs!

Today, many local species of fish and shellfish are difficult to come by. Rarely do you spot a turtle, especially of any size. Grouper is hard to find and costly even when you can find it. Whelks are virtually nonexistent.

Local overfishing and less-than-responsible fishing practices are primarily responsible, though uninformed visitors must shoulder some of the blame. (A Green Turtle Cay resident recently told me about being “cussed out” by a boatload of tourists after explaining that the conchs they were harvesting were juveniles and suggesting they leave them in the sea to mature.) And the recent, inadvertent introduction of the lionfish — which has no natural predators in the local ecosystem — has only exacerbated the problem.

Understandably, the transition from a mindset of abundance to one of conservation is not easy. Still, given the number of Bahamians whose livelihoods rely, either directly or indirectly, on the sea, it’s vital.

Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning. A number of organizations, including the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the Bahamas National Trust and Friends of the Environment, have created strategies for protecting and preserving local sea life. Conservation programs have been implemented for grouper, turtles, crawfish and coral reefs.

At last May’s Island Roots Heritage Festival, I learned about the recently launched “Conchservation” campaign, which teaches people to identify and harvest only mature conchs. And numerous efforts, including an annual fishing derby, are underway to control and eradicate the lionfish population.

I’ll write more about Bahamian conservation programs in future posts. In the meantime, for more information about fly fishing or deep-sea fishing with Captain Rick Sawyer, check out his website (where I notice he’s offering some specials during March.) You can also reach him at (242) 365-4261 or info@abacoflyfish.com.

Homeward Bound After a Fun Fishing Day

Homeward Bound After a Fun Fishing Day