Mailboats Article 5 for Tribune Spring/Summer 2016: Northern Islands
In other articles in this feature we have covered three mailboat-owning dynasties and the histories of mailboats to northern and southern Abaco as well as Eleuthera. Now we focus on the other islands of the northern Bahamas, namely Freeport, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Andros, the Exumas and Long Island.
FREEPORT: Perhaps because of Grand Bahama’s proximity to Florida as well as its thriving commercial free port, as well as its recent growth (since the 1960s), Freeport has less of a history and variety of mailboats than some of its sister islands. It is nevertheless a rich tale. The Church Bay was launched as a Royal Navy minesweeper, HMS MMS 194, at Symonette Shipyards in Nassau and Hog Island on 12 November 1942. Craig Symonett confirms the vessel was built in the third slip or “ways” and that Jenkins Roberts was the overseer. Having never entered military service it was instead put to commercial use serving Freeport as well as Cat Island. By 1952 she was owned by the Three Bays Corporation and when she burned at the dockside in 1973 was rumored to have been owned by Oscar Johnson, MP for Cat Island, who denied ownership. The tug Mako II rammed and sank the burning hulk in Nassau Harbour.
The Lady Eula, owned by Captain Ernest Dean of Sandy Point Abaco and named for his wife, served Freeport, Andros and North Cat between 1978 and 1981. The Marcella (I) was owned by the Taylor Corporation and family, and served Freeport from roughly 1985 to 2007. Her replacement Marcella II was said to be on the same run between 1986 and 1988, and the Marcella III between 2007 and 2009. Then a more modern era was ushered in with the 450-passenger, Chinese-built Fiesta Mail, which was built in 2002 and serves Freeport as well as Fort Lauderdale. All five vessels are covered in greater detail in other articles. Sweeting’s Cay at the far east of Grand Bahama benefited from Captain Dean’s addition of this cay to the runs made by his vessels Captain Dean I to V and Champion II. It is worth adding that there is now a high-speed passenger service, Pinder’s Ferry Service, between McLean’s Town Grand Bahama and Crown Haven, Abaco.
BIMINI: Like Freeport, Bimini benefits from its close proximity and relatively easy access to Florida and the commercial opportunities to be had. It is closer to Miami than to Nassau. Nevertheless the islands have a proud history of freighter and mail service – for example the vessel Bailey Town was built there in 1946, was 46.5 feet long and owned by Theodore R. Saunders, and the F. A. Marie of 57.7 feet, though built in the Cayman Islands in 1928 was owned by William D. Weech Jr. in Bimini in the 1950s, who also owned the 58.5-foot Peloris – none are known to have carried mail however. The Bimini Mack, just shy of 100 feet long and built in St. Augustine, Florida in 1981, she traded into the 2000s and in 2005 the owners were listed as the “Bimini Businessman’s Association, Alice Town,” suggesting a kind of cooperative. The 126-foot motor vessel Sherice M. has been serving Bimini since roughly 1995 and continues to operate today. Her captain is Shawn Munro and co-captain is Emmett Munroe. In fact the Munroe family is believed to be the owners of the blue ship, which is kept in fine condition.
BERRY ISLANDS: Bullocks Harbour has been served by the Dean family of Sandy Point Abaco since the 1950s, and people come from the other Berry Islands to Bullocks to collect mail etc. The Deans and their vessels Captain Dean to Captain Dean V as well as the Champion II are covered in another article in this feature.
ANDROS: The Gary Roberts, owned by Sir George Roberts, plied between Nassau and Andros, including Lowe Sound, between 1942 and 1978. She was 66 feet long and built in Harbour Island, with two masts for auxiliary sailing. The Taylor-family-owned Cape Hatteras served North Andros between 1962 and 1968. About 56 feet long and motorized, she was skippered by Captain Nathaniel Bruce Taylor. Then the Marcella took over the route, also serving Mayaguana, until 1987. In roughly 1970 the Delmar L., 82 feet long, made of steel at St. Augustine Shipbuilding, took over the route until the early 1980s. She served Kemp’s Bay, Bluff, Long Bay Cay, Driggs Hill, and Congo Town as well as Nassau and sometimes Florida. Goldfinger was a 104-foot-long former lighthouse tender which in the 1970s was, according to Jim Kerr in an article in the Abaconian, “sold for service as a mailboat [and] sank in a storm on a run to Andros.” Another boat about which we have scanty information was the Miss Beverly which according to a telegram from the Bahamian to the US government (leaked by WikiLeaks) in 1975, was serving Andros as a mailboat. The Dean family vessel Lady Eula briefly served Andros as well as Cat Island between 1978 and 1980. The 91-ton wooden vessel Harley & Charley was proposed for service to South Andros in 1989, though at the time it was serving Eleuthera. It is not known whether it served Andros.
The Mangrove Cay Express II served Andros between roughly 1988 and 1995. She was 72 feet long and served Mangrove Cay and Lisbon Creek Andros under the ownership of the Reverend Herbert King. The 94-ton vessel Gloria was listed as serving Mangrove Cay Andros in 1989, as was the Central Andros Express (62 tons) and the Big Yard Express (102 tons), according to a study done for the government by Trevor Hamilton & Associates of Kingston Jamaica. The Lady D. was built in 1992 with the appearance of a tug or supply vessel and skippered by Captain Prince Munroe. She served Fresh Creek, Staniard Creek, Stafford Creek, Behring, Blanket Sound, and Browne Sound, Central Andros until her unfortunate demise at Potter’s Cay Dock Nassau, when she took on water and has remained there since, taking up valuable commercial space.
The 127-ton Lady Margo II was built in 1971 at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. She was listed in a travel guide as serving Andros in the mid-1990s. The Lisa J., 123.4 feet long and built in Marstal Denmark in 1960, has a fascinating history. Capable of rolling on vehicles as well as accommodating passengers, she was named Ellen Soby until 1973, then the Runden until 1999 when she was intended for sale to Italy but sold to the Bahamas instead. When her career carrying freight and passengers to Mastic Point, Morgans Bluff and Nicholl’s Town ended around 2007, she was sold to Honduran interests. In the Bahamas she was said to have been owned by the North Andros Shipping Company Limited. The Lisa J. II is no less interesting, having sailed in Europe as the Schokland from the time of construction in 1952 in the Netherlands until 1985, when she was sold to interests in the Bahamas. Her captains were said to include Captain Bowleg and Captain Adderley. The ship is 143.5 feet long, 24.5 feet wide and draws 10 feet, with a speed of 8.5 knots and weighs 298 gross tons. She plies the same route as her predecessor.
Mal Jack was built in 1983 and weighed 172 tons. She is believed to have served Andros in the late 1990s and was grounded in Andros in April 2001. It was sold to owners in Honduras and towed from Freeport to Roatan in 2006. Captain Moxey is a fine, well-maintained modern vessel built in 1998. She weighs 370 tons and serves Kemps Bay, The Bluff, Long Bay Cays in Andros generally on Mondays. Her captains are Boycel Moxey, Jr. and Kevin Moxey, and the owners are Moxey Shipping. It is believed that there was a predecessor serving Andros under the same name, as a Captain Moxey is listed in the Trevor Hamilton study in 1989. Both vessels were named after Captain Hezron Lenox Moxey, a renown boat builder and sloop racer, who as a youth “sailed the waters between Haiti, Cuba and The Bahamas, trading fruits, cows, rum, cigars and other goods” from his native Duncan Town, Ragged Island. A number of his seven children became captains in their own right. He was inducted into the Bahamian Sailing Hall of Fame in 1990 and awarded the British Empire Medal in 1997.
The Lady Kathreina, built in 2005 and 122.75 feet long, fitted with a bow ramp for rolling cargo, served Mangrove Cay and Fresh Creek, in South Andros. She was built of steel in Chauvin Louisiana and is skippered by Captain King and is still in operation. Lady Rosalind, built in 1967 in Mississippi has been serving North Andros since roughly 1990 and continues to do so as part of the Taylor Corporation fleet. She is 391 gross tons. Lady Rosalind II was built in 2006, also in Chauvin and serves North Andros under the captaincies of Gifford Johnson, Eddins Taylor and V. H. Black. She is owned by Pirates Well Investments and managed by E. B. Taylor and was featured in the docu-drama “Murder in Paradise” in 2013.
EXUMA: It is believed that the Exumas have a much richer history with mailboats than this author is able to divine, however an early vessel serving those islands was The Brontes, built in 1921. Forty-two tons and capable of carrying 30 passengers, she served San Salavador and Rum Cay under the commands of W. P. Syles and a Captain Burrows. She was lost in a hurricane in July 1926 near Highbourne Cay. We then jump ahead to the little-known Staniel Cay Express which is presumed to have served its namesake in the Exumas from the early 1970s to 1975. The Miranda 1977 – 1992, Taylor Corp. She was 76 feet long, designed as a fishing vessel, and was skippered by Rolly Gray. She was lost off Hope Town on April 6th, 1975.
The mailboat Captain C. is believed to have served Black Point and other Exuma communities from the 1980s to the present, though the present vessel was clearly built in the last decade or so. She was recently skippered by Etienne Maycock, Sr. The modern vessel is of steel and over 125 feet long and is still trading. The 214-ton Grand Master was built in 1983 by San Sebastian Marine in St. Augustine Florida and is skippered by Lenny H. and Lance Brozogzog, a father-son team, as well as Captain Rolly Gray. They serve Georgetown Great Exuma, leaving Tuesdays and taking 12 hours at a cost per passenger of $40.
The 97-ton Lady Blanche is said to have served the Exuma Cays between at least 1988 and 1994. The 154-ton Lady Frances was built in 1989 in Houma, Louisiana and serves Black Point Exuma, Rum Cay and San Salvador. The 443-ton Island Link was built in 2004 in Caboolture, Australia and presently serves Georgetown Exuma as well as Long Island. Her owners are listed as Munson Shipping of Bank Lane and managers as Bahamas Searoad of Potter’s Cay West. Her captain is Jed Munroe and she is a roll-on, roll-off (Ro/Ro) vessel which leaves Nassau on Tuesdays. The 485-ton Ro/Pax (roll-on, passenger) vessel Seawind is said by her owners Bahamas Ferries to serve Exuma since her construction in 2003.
LONG ISLAND: Long Island has been an important destination for more decades than this author is able to trace, however we can start in the 1960s, when the Taylor family served Long Island as well as Mayaguana with their 90-foot long wooden vessel Marcella, built by St. Augustine Florida shipwrights. Her captain was owner Nathaniel Bruce Taylor as well as his son Eddins Bruce Taylor. She burned to the water line at Salt Pond, Long Island in 1986. The 430-ton Abilin was built in Duisburg, Germany in 1962 and was photographed in 1998 serving Long Island by consultant Captain Calum Legett. She is believed to have begun her Bahamas career in the late 1980s, and she is believed to have been sunk in 2007. The Dean family of Sandy Point own the 91-ton Nay Dean, which has served northern Long Island since 1985. She is 91 tons, built of wood, and owned and skippered at least part of the time by Captain Ernest Alexander Dean.
The Sherice M. is 126 feet and is said to serve Salt Pond, Deadmans Cay and Seymours Long Island, departing Nassau on Mondays. She is a trim, smart light-blue motor freighter owned by the Munroe family and skippered by captains Shawn Munroe and Captain Emmett Munroe. She also serves Alice Town and Cat Cay Bimini. Another Dean family vessel, the Mia Dean has been serving southern Long Island, including Clarence Town since about 1990. She is still operating, with distinctive blue, black, red and white striping, and is believed to be 146 tons. Other vessels thought to be serving Long Island from Nassau include the Island Link (since 2004), the Bahamas Ferries East Wind (since 2007, serving Simms and owned by Bahamas Ferries), Sea Spirit (former United Spirit, since 2008, owned by Captain Thomas Hanna), and a vessel named Captain Emmett serving Salt Pond, Deadmans Cay and Seymours since 2010.