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:
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.
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.
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.)
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 Air, Cherokee 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.
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:
- A completed Bahamas Customs Clearance Form
- One Bahamas Immigration Card per person on board
- 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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up: Staying Here
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.
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.
Island Roots allows visitors to experience authentic Bahamian culture and gives Bahamians the opportunity to learn about and celebrate their individual and collective histories.
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:
Attend 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!
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.
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.
While 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.)
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.
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 email@example.com.
Often, in genealogical research, we encounter things that don’t make sense. Dates don’t match up, name spellings differ between sources, records are incomplete or illegible (you’d think our ancestors would have put someone with legible handwriting in charge of record keeping!) Unfortunately, records are no more perfect than the humans who keep them.
One mystery from our own family was my great-grandfather, Thomas Herman (“Herman”) Curry. The headstone on his grave indicates that he was born April 20, 1890, and passed away March 5, 1958. Seems pretty straight forward. Except that several sources show a Thomas Herman Curry in Green Turtle Cay who also died March 5, 1958, but was born in 1887.
I was tempted to just accept the 1890 birth date. After all, you’d think Pa Herman’s wife and daughters – who presumably ordered his gravestone – would know his correct birth date. However, I learned that there existed records showing that Thomas Herman Curry was baptized in 1887. How could a child born in 1890 be baptized three years earlier? For months, I thought this might just be one of those questions whose answer is forever lost to time.
But then, two things happened…
First, my cousin, Evan Lowe, who writes a blog called Out Island Boy, forwarded a link to an online listing of Bahamian births, deaths and marriages between 1850 – 1950. (Be warned: this is a terrific resource but it takes a great deal of patience. There’s no index, meaning you have to click through hundreds of pages to find what you’re looking for.)
Then, a few days later, while assembling information about Pa Herman and Ma May’s descendants, I noticed that their youngest daughter, my great-aunt Belle, had exactly the same name – Agnes Mirabelle – as her older sister (known as Mirabelle) who died the year before Aunt Belle was born.
It got me wondering about Pa Herman, so I hunkered down to search the Bahamian birth and death records. A couple of days later, I had my answer.
Turns out there were two Thomas Herman Currys. And, like Aunt Belle and Mirabelle, they were siblings. The first Herman was born to my great-great-grandparents, Thomas Wesley Curry (“Pa Wes”) and Lilla Carleton on August 14, 1887.
I did some digging and discovered that, strange as it seems today, naming a child after a recently deceased sibling was common in years gone by. Parents knew that one or more of their children likely would not make it to adulthood. When a child died, his or her name was simply passed down to next child of the same gender.
In fact, I’ve since learned that professional genealogists suggest that when searching birth records, you not stop when you find the name you’re seeking. Rather, they recommend searching a few more years of records, since the first child may have passed away, and your ancestor may in fact be a subsequent child with the same name.
Related: Out Island Boy: The Unknown Curry
Since she was in the ninth grade, Green Turtle Cay’s Melissa Albury (or Mo-Mo, as she’s known to friends) has dreamed of opening a bakery. Now, just seven years later, she’s achieved that goal, opening Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack in the heart of New Plymouth.
Tempted by the yummy smells wafting through town, Tom and I dropped in for breakfast on opening day last Monday. On display was a wide assortment of freshly baked cakes, cookies, donuts, cupcakes, cinnamon buns, pastries and bread. Hot and cold drinks were also available.
After much deliberation, we each selected a jam blossom pastry and we shared a glazed donut. We also bought a loaf of fresh-baked bread (which, incidentally, was still fresh three days later) and cupcakes as a gift for our hosts at a dinner party that evening. All were delicious.
Though Melissa’s name is on the sign, Mo-Mos’s Suga’ Shack is really a family venture. Her dad helped set up the shop and the fixtures, while her mom, Linda, was present on opening day to help staff the shop. And many of Melissa’s recipes were handed down from her grandmother, Esther Bethel who, in recent weeks has traveled from her home in Marsh Harbour to share her culinary secrets with her granddaughter.
Above and beyond my own sweet tooth, I love this story for a couple of reasons. It’s terrific to see a young local entrepreneur working hard to bring her vision to life. (And is she ever working hard — several times last week we spotted her in the bakery late in the evening.) It’s also wonderful that her grandmother Esther’s treasured family recipes are being passed down to, and enjoyed by, a new generation.
Melissa says that this is only the beginning. There are dozens of recipes she’s eager to try. And in the near future, she plans to expand her offering to include fresh-baked rolls, sandwiches and a variety of savoury items.
Open Monday through Saturday, Mo-Mo’s Suga’ Shack is located in the beautiful and historic Pink Pearl building on Parliament Street, directly across from the Albert Lowe Museum.
Needless to say, last weekend was a stressful one for Tom and me. We wondered if, despite our months of planning and anticipation, we might leave Green Turtle Cay without moving the house at all.
Then, on Monday, Jason had a word with local contractor, Wade Cash. Wade agreed to bring his crew by on Tuesday morning to see what they might be able to do to help. And what a help they were!
By lunchtime on Tuesday, the house had been lifted completely off its old foundation and by end of day, Fish Hooks was ready to move.
We knew that together, Jason and Oral and Wade and his crew were a construction dream team. Still, I didn’t sleep much on Tuesday night. As the fourth generation of our family to own this property, I feel a huge responsibility for preserving and protecting it. When I got up on Wednesday, it felt like a mix of Christmas morning and the beginning of a day on which you have a root canal scheduled.
Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. Thanks to the resolve and resourcefulness of our dream team, and despite a few challenges along the way (one of which I knew nothing about until I saw Tom’s video), by Wednesday afternoon, Fish Hooks was resting firmly on its new foundation.
It was lovely to have so many family members and friends drop by to offer well wishes and check on our progress. And we made a few new friends among the passersby.
Tom and I are so very grateful to Wade, Adam, Brandon, Benny, Jason and Oral for everything they’ve done over the past few days. These folks are extraordinarily skilled at what they do.
And at the risk of repeating myself, thanks to Tom for all the hours (and sleepless nights) he’s put into documenting our Fish Hooks journey.
Recently, I’ve received a number of emails from folks wanting to know more about visiting Green Turtle Cay. This post is the first in a series entitled Green Turtle Cay 101: A Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here and Enjoying all that Green Turtle Cay Has to Offer.
If you visit the Bahamas and don’t get any further than the cities of Nassau or Freeport, you’ve really only scratched the surface. For a truly authentic Bahamian experience, you need to visit one of the country’s out islands, also known as the “Family Islands.”
There are no duty-free shops or noisy casinos, no high-rise chain hotels or American fast-food joints, no cruise ships or smoke-belching Jitneys, no Bay Street peddlers hawking cheap t-shirts.
Instead, there is peace. There is privacy. There are pristine (and often deserted) beaches, charming locals, bikes and golf carts for transportation and more stars at night than you could ever count. There’s a vigorous domino game in town, rake-and-scrape music at sunset, local kids shooting hoops (you’re welcome to join in), home-baked coconut bread at the local grocery, and conch salad chopped fresh while you watch.
Founded in 1786 by Revolutionary War Loyalists, and named for the green turtles that once were plentiful in its waters, Green Turtle Cay lies three miles east of Great Abaco, Bahamas and 170 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida. Perched on the southwestern end of the cay is New Plymouth, a sleepy settlement with narrow streets and neat rows of pastel-painted clapboard houses.
For a small island (it’s three miles, end to end), Green Turtle Cay offers a surprising array of amenities, including two small resorts, several marinas, a half-dozen or so restaurants, three small but well-stocked grocery shops, two liquor stores, a boat yard, a post office, a bank (open 4 hours a week), an art gallery, a museum, a dive operator, several fishing guides, and boat, golf cart, paddleboard, snorkel and SCUBA gear, kayak and bike rentals.
Green Turtle Cay is a welcoming, low-key destination that’s ideal for couples, safe for singles and incredibly family (and pet) friendly.
Next in the GTC 101 series: Getting Here
Yep, a marble! We don’t know for sure whether it dates back to the childhood meeting of my grandparents that Tom describes in the cellar video, but based on a little preliminary research into vintage marbles, it very well could.
Also, turns out that Tom and I may both have been wrong as to the origin of all those glass bottles beneath the house. Since I posted the cellar video, a number of local folks have told me that, in years gone by, Green Turtle Cay residents collected glass bottles for toting water from the communal spigot, storing kerosene for stoves and canning tomatoes.
The latter seemed a bit strange to me. After all, these narrow-necked bottles don’t seem particularly well-suited for canning. But sure enough, in reviewing notes I made of my grandmother’s childhood recollections, Pa Herman grew what she referred to as “bottling tomatoes,” and my uncle confirms that, indeed, Pa Herman and Ma May preserved tomatoes in glass bottles similar to those in the cellar.