M/V Stede Bonnet, built in Bahamas as a minesweeper for the Royal Navy, served Abaco on mail run 27 years

M/V Stede Bonnet delivering the mail and cargo to Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, date unknown (1950s?)

Photo source: http://www.oldbahamas.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/MailBoat.jpg and http://www.oldbahamas.com/id54.html theRumelier.com Collection


DIMENSIONS: 119′ long, 225 British registered tons, Diesel, 1 propeller, 375 horsepower, 12 knots
YEAR BUILT: launched 4 June 1942
BUILDER: Symonette Shipyards, Nassau NP and Hog Island (later Paradise Island)
EARLY CAREER: commissioned by the Royal Navy but never formally entered military service
BAHAMAS CAREER: on the mail run between Nassau and the Abaco Cays
CAPTAINS: Captain Lloyd Talmadge Albury per his granddaughter, Heather Joy Albury – he was from Man O’War Cay Abaco (thanks to a post on this site by Heather Joy Albury last year)
FATE: replaced by Deborah K. on mail run about 1970 (served between c.1943 and 1970: 27 years)
OWNERS: Sir Roland T. Symonette
NOTES: See bottom for another photo of Stede Bonnet in Nassau, plus detailed personal reminisce about the boat and it’s contribution to the life of Abaconians in the form of forum submissions.

From “A Salute to Friend and Foe” by Sir Etienne Dupuch – “British Admiralty contracted for two trawlers to be built in Nassau [by Symonette Shipyard] – launched in a ceremony by the Duke of Windsor, wartime governor of the Bahamas. Intended for service in Singapore, which fell to the Japs before they were commissioned and therefore never brought into action.” Maybe not exact quote because of sentence structure.  One became the Abaco Mail, M/V Stede Bonnet and another mail, M/V Church Bay.”

Following long quotes by various authors / online submissions:

“Back in the ‘olden days’, when there was no aircraft service to Abaco, there were such mailboats as the Richard Campbell and the Stede Bonnet. Before that, someone older than I will have to pick up the story. There is an amusing bit in Dr Evans Cottman’s ‘Out Island Doctor’ where his wife had an altercation with the captain of the Campbell over the shipping of her animals.

When I was a youngster, our first trip to Hope Town, in 1956, involved travel on a PBY, [from Nassau] and landing on the water outside Hope Town Harbour. We did this a few times, including one flight when the wheels wouldn’t come up [we had taken off from Oakes Field in Nassau] and we had to turn back. Then in 1958 the airport in MH opened up and after that the mode of transport became a Bahamas Airways DC 3.
Getting back to the mail boat, the only time I ever came on it as a boy was in 1968, when we moved up here, and since we were shipping so much stuff, my dad and I and our dog came on the Stede Bonnet. We had the best cabin on the boat piled high with boxes. We first stopped outside Cherokee, about 3 am, then got to Hope Town about 8 am. The Bonnet drew too much water to get in to the harbour, she anchored out by Parrot Cay. Someone met us in a small boat and we handed all the boxes down.

About 1970, the Stede Bonnet was replaced by the Deborah K; I did go a few times to and from Nassau on her in the ’70s”

“On the day that the Mail Boat (THE STEDE BONNET) was to arrive, the entire town took on an air of excitement, and a buzz was felt throughout. Chores were quickly gotten out of the way, and a change of clothes was in order. After all, the Mail was coming, and there could be someone you knew coming in from Nassau. In those days you did not receive a ‘Text’ message of such events. The person just showed up. It was not like YOU were going anywhere, so you could be counted on to be home to welcome him.

That Omni present Short Wave Radio played its part in announcing the arrival of the Mail Boat. The Captain would simply key his mike on the ship’s radio and announce, “ Stede Bonnet reporting; just left East Side Marsh Harbour on the way to Hopetown. Someone please tell Mr. Robley Russell to bring the Tender out by Parrot Cay for freight and passengers. Stede Bonnet out.”

In addition to this announcement, the Lighthouse Keepers at Hopetown had a particular flag that they would hoist when the Stade Bonnet was approaching Parrot Cay. So, anyone who had missed the radio announcement would surely be aware of the immanent arrival of food, freight and friends from Nassau.

Small groups would gather near the entrance of the harbour as Mr. Robley Russell carefully guided the laden tender down the channel past Eagle Rock. Those new arrivals on the tender would ‘hail’ their friends and family and exchange greetings as both tender and group moved slowly toward the first stop along the harbour.

Amid the lumber, barrels of kerosene, bags of chicken feed, sugar, flour and rice, sat the passengers along with those all important Mail Bags. After greetings had been exchanged, and the excitement of seeing family and friends had waned a bit, all attention was focused on the Post Office, as that was the destination of the Mail Bag.

The Post Office was a small place, not much bigger than 4 phone booths put together. Nonetheless, the entire town, it seemed could squeeze in. Those that could not had to stay out on the porch. When the Mail Bag was opened, the Post Master, in a loud booming voice would shout, “Quiet!!!”, and we were, we had no other choice, as the alternative would have been cause for serious reprimand.

The name on each envelope was read aloud, and the addressee simply said, “here” and it was passed from person to person until it got to you.

As a young entrepreneur, I provided the service of collecting other people’s mail, and taking it to their home for them. These would have been people who did not want to fight the crowd at the Post Office, and who could afford the penny charge for the service provided.”

“I remember the flying boats and seaplanes, but we always made our passage from Nassau aboard the mailboat “Stede Bonnet”, or one of the Cherokee fishing smacks, and yes, the harbours were much more bare as were the settlements! Progress is inevitable I guess. Can’t say I miss the outdoor closets (toilets), but I certainly do miss the simpler lifestyle as hard as it was at times.”

Stede Bonnet in Nassau Harbor by Prince George Wharf, south side
Photo source: Bob Davies, theRumelier.com collection, http://www.oldbahamas.com/id53.html

Admiralty-type motor minesweepers

MMS194  Symonetty [sic] Shipyard, Nassau, Bahamas  4/6/1942 / cancelled 3/1946

MMS195 Symonetty [sic] Shipyard, Nassau, Bahamas 12/11/1942  cancelled 3/1946

Source: http://www.navypedia.org/ships/uk/brit_c_f_mms105.htm

“My father was the foreman at Symonette’s Shipyards – formerly located on Hog Island – where he worked 8 hours a day – 6 days a week and designed ships at nights at home. Among these were, over the decade, The Anne Bonny, The William Sayle, The Caribbean Queen and The Jenkins Roberts. Each was over 120 feet long.”

From http://bahamashistoricalsociety.com/journal/i13a03.shtml



 Also the keel laid and launch dates of HMS MMS 194 – http://www.uboat.net/allies/warships/class/139.html

According to HL Lenton’s Warships of WWII for Caribbean connections and found that several MLs and MMs were built there:

Symonetty Shipyard (Nassau) – MMs 194, 195 (Cancelled)

Minesweeper – The Role of the Motor Minesweeper in World War II by Michael J Melvin BEM (Square One Publications, Worcester, 1992) provides the following information about Caribbean builders of Motor Mine Sweepers (MMS):
Symonettry, Nassau, Bahamas: MMS 194 (Cancelled) and 195 (Cancelled)

It was already late in the war when these contracts were placed so it is hardly surprising that no more MMS were built in the Caribbean.

Here are various references to the Stede Bonnet in other publications:

p318 Islanders in the Stream, by Saunders et al

p88 Abaco, The History of an out Island and its Cays, Steve Dodge