Mailboats Article 8 for Tribune Spring/Summer 2016: Taylor Dynasty
The Taylor family’s mailboat dynasty began in 1933 with Captain Fed and Mrs. Mary Jane Black, of Pirates Well, Mayaguana. Pirates Well is a small community nestled in an expansive and beautiful bay on the northwest coast of Mayaguana, which is in the far southeastern Bahamas (present population about 250). The vessel which they purchased was named the Nonesuch, and was 21 tons, and had two masts, making her a schooner. Built of wood in 1880, presumably in Abaco, her first owner was Benjamin W. Roberts of that island. Between 1900 and 1910 he sold her to William Henry Edgecombe of Andros, who then sold her to James R. C. Young of Nassau in about 1920.
According to Captain Fed Black’s grandson, Captain Eddins Bruce Taylor, Black used the Nonesuch to carry freight and passengers between Nassau and Abrahams Bay and Pirates Well, Mayaguana. This lasted less than a decade, as from 1940 the vessel no longer appears in the Mercantile Navy register. Since then the Taylor family have commissioned and/or bought vessels which have been made in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Singapore, China, Netherlands and Germany. They have never stopped their entrepreneurial investments in the country’s trade.
Captain Nathaniel Bruce Taylor, a nephew of Captain Fed Black, continued the family tradition of providing mail and passenger service to Mayaguana and beyond. He formed a company called Pirates Well Investments and in 1962 purchased a 56-foot-long wooden mail boat named the Cape Hatteras. The boat, which was propelled by a 671 General Motors diesel engine, was built in the US in the 1950s. Under Captain Taylor’s command she served Mayaguana from 1962 to 1968, when it was sold to fishermen in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera. She was Bahamian flag from 1962 until her unknown demise.
The next vessel which the patrician Taylor purchased he named the Marcella, or Marcella I. She was a 90-foot wooden cargo boat built in 1969 by shipwrights in Saint Augustine, Florida. Most of her superstructure was to accommodate passengers, though the vessel had a derrick located on the fore deck for cargo. She served both Mayaguana and nearby Andros from Nassau during a long career which lasted nearly 20 years. The captains were Nathaniel Bruce Taylor and his son Eddins Bruce Taylor. Late in 1987 she burned to the waterline in Salt Pond, Long Island and was a constructive total loss.
The Marcella II was built in Germany in 1956 of steel and was purchased by the Taylor family in about 1987. Less than a year later, in 1988, the vessel was severely damaged in a storm and became an artificial reef off Long Island, which still draws divers. According to Captain Eddins Taylor, this vessel was the first steel-hulled mailboat to be owned by black Bahamians.
The Marcella III began her career as the Wilhelmshaven, Germany-built Jade in 1959. The yard itself was named Jadewerft, or jade works, and her hull was kept jade green by the Taylors. In the Bahamas the vessel served Freeport as well as Mayaguana and other island groups as the need arose. He was 364 tons and could carry 480 tons of cargo. Less than 10 feet deep she could steam at 8.5 knots. Her captain was Captain Limas Taylor, who presently commands the Fiesta Mail.
The Taylors purchased Jade in 1981 and traded it under the Bahamas flag under that name before naming her Marcella III. The Taylors sold her to Haiti early in the 21st century, and she became Miss Eva I then Michelda, and is presently trading under the Bolivia flag in South America, some 55 years after her launch. With her low freeboard and extensive length, she was a familiar site to many along the Bahamian waterfront in the 80s and 90s.
Next the Taylors purchased the Miranda, which was built in Delfzijl, Netherlands in 1966 as the Geulborg. The Taylor Corporation purchased her from Wagenborg Shipping in 1977 and put the ship to work trading between Miami and the Turks & Caicos, serving Long Island, Exumas and Mayaguana with mail services between 1977 and 1993. Her Captain was Robert “Bob” Garroway from St. Vincent. Then the 176-foot-long, 399-ton ship was sold to Haitian buyers around 1993 and renamed the Paradise Express. Under new ownership, Honduran flag, and the name Gilbert Sea, the vessel was impounded by US authorities on the Miami River. Ultimately in 2002 the ship was towed to sea 1.5 miles from Palm Beach Inlet and sunk as an artificial reef.
In 1998 the steel freighter Lady Mathilda was built by the Russell Portier Shipyard in Chauvin, Louisiana, and the Taylors purchased her. She is 135 feet long, having been extended from 110 feet some years ago. Her captain on the mailboat run to Acklins, Crooked Island, Inagua and Mayaguana is Captain Nigel Davis. She has twin engines and can carry as many as 70 passengers. In December 2010 the ship had a minor fire while at Potter’s Cay Dock, Nassau, and on October 16, 2012 her crew fished an errant car from the harbor – its occupant was not found.
The roll-on, roll-off (ro/ro) landing craft Trans Cargo II was built at Mickon Shipbuilders in Singapore in 1986. In 1998 the Taylors purchased her from Egyptian owners, and with one of their nephews on board for the passage, had it delivered from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bahamas. The ship is 191 feet long, 46 feet wide, and 1,015 gross registered tons, with cargo capacity of 1,400 tons. She can also carry passengers. Her captain is David Hyde of Honduras. Like the Lady Mathilda the ship had twin engines and twin propellers for redundant reliability. Initially the ship had contracts for the BEC but after they failed it was put to use carrying aggregate and sand from Freeport to Bimini, among other jobs.
The Lady Rosalind was 156’ long and built by Bollinger ship yards in Lockport, Louisiana. She was 233 gross tons and made of steel. The Taylors bought her in 1987 and she traded under Capt. Limas Taylor to the southern Bahamas. Then in 1997 the vessel struck a rock and was damaged beyond repair.
Lady Rosalind I was built as the OMS Maverick by Halter Marine in Chichasaw, Alabama in 1987. The Taylors purchased her from sellers in Texas in 2002 and she serves North Andros from Nassau. At 391 gross tons, she is painted gray and has a large cargo deck astern of the wheelhouse. Her captains over the years have included Captain Willie Wilson and Captain V. H. Black. Lady Rosalind II was built by the Portier Shipyard in Louisiana in 2006 and presently serves North Andros from Nassau. She is 198 feet long, 43 feet wide and is 498 gross tons. Her captains have included Captain Eddins Taylor and Captain Gifford Johnson.
The newest and largest of the Taylor Corporation and Pirates Wells Investments’ fleet is the Fiesta Mail, which can carry up to 450 passengers between Nassau and the country’s second largest city, Freeport. The ship is 228 feet long, 50 feet wide, and draws 11.5 feet. It is 2,485 gross tons, can speed at 12.5 knots, and carry 710 tons of cargo. With a cargo ramp at the stern it can carry rolling stock. It was built in China by Xinhe Shipbuilding of Tianjin in 2002. The owning entity is The MailBoat Company Ltd. of Nassau, which is run by Captain Elvin Taylor. Not only does the Fiesta Mail carry freight and passengers to and from Freeport, but it calls at Port Everglades Florida as well.
Overall the Taylor family – Captain Fed Black, Captain Nathaniel Bruce Taylor, Captain Limas Taylor, Captain Eddins Bruce Taylor, Captain Elvin Taylor and other family members who help run their companies – have contribute a great deal to inter-island trade amongst particularly the southern Bahamas over the past 80 or so years. As Captain Eddins Taylor says, “We are the biggest mailboat firm in the Bahamas. Period.” They certainly have already achieved – and continue to contribute a great deal to interisland trade in the Bahamas.