M/V Lady Blanche, mail boat served Exuma in the 1980 to mid-1990s

PAST NAMES: not known
CONSTRUCTION: not known whether of wood or steel
YEAR BUILT: not known
EARLY CAREER: in 1988-1994 was serving Exumas from Nassau, per Trevor Hamilton report (see below and Google Books, Project Document, Agricultural Services Marketing Component). 
BAHAMAS CAREER: in the late 1980s the boat served the Exumas – perhaps longer
CAPTAINS: not known
FATE: not known but no longer in service
OWNERS: not known

NOTES: The Sun-Sentinel of March 27, 1988 carried the following article entitled “Calling Lady Pearl,” citing the Lady Blanche rescuing fishermen off Nassau:

“I`m just not privy to the drug scene here,“ Pearl explains. “There are arrests made from time to time, but usually it`s the DEA or the Coast Guard working on a case. We`re not consulted. Oh, once in a while I`ll catch a glimpse of it on the radio, but BASRA`s never been involved in any rescue operations related to drug incidents.“ Pearl does admit, however, that she`s frequently asked by boaters where not to go as a result of drug activity. Only then will she concede that the west coast of Andros Island, the largest island in the Bahamas, is commonly known to be a smuggling area.

THE BIG AM SINGLE SIDEBAND crackles to life. It`s the Lady Blanche, a Bahamian mail boat with some surprising news: It seems they`ve just rescued a couple of local fishermen who were found floating in open water after their 13-foot skiff capsized. The captain of the mail boat asks Pearl if BASRA can send out a vessel to pick up the two men so he can get on with his rounds. Pearl calls one of her volunteer captains, Charlie Lightbourne, who just happens to be at work on the other side of the island. He agrees to take BASRA`s small skiff out to meet the Lady Blanche and pick up the fishermen.
There is, however, one problem: traffic. It takes Lightbourne a 30-minute car trip to get to BASRA headquarters, but he finally arrives and fires up the little boat. He`s out of the harbor in a few minutes. An hour later, he`s back at the dock with two relieved fishermen. In 40 minutes, Lightbourne is back at work, Pearl is listening to the radio and the Lady Blanche is delivering the mail.
Today`s little miracle seems nothing more than part of a good day`s work. The fact that BASRA exists at all is something of a miracle. The Bahamas Air- Sea Rescue Association was officially founded in 1963, but as early as 1959, Pearl and a handful of other volunteers started monitoring their radios from home.
“In those days,“ Pearl remembers, “we`d get a distress call and just relay it to the Coast Guard in Miami. If it was happening nearby we`d all jump in our boats and see what we could do, but nothing was organized back then.“
In 1973, BASRA raised enough money through donations to purchase its own headquarters, and a used 31-foot Bertram sportfishing boat for rescue operations. Later on, the Bertram was traded in for a real rescue craft, The Lady Pearl. Pearl Waton blushes when I mention the honor of having the boat named after her.
“It`s a good boat,“ she answers simply and turns back to her radios. It`s business as usual at BASRA.


“Islands Magazine” referenced the Lady Blanche as late as 1994, writing that she and Captain Moxey and Grand Master loaded and unloaded on Potter’s Cay. The article is by Laura Kelly and is entitled “Carrying More than Mail – For Smaller Islands in the West Indies Mail Boats are Still a Lifeline.” Article starts on page 52, Caribbean Beat column, April 1994 edition.

From “Project Document Agricultural Sector Services Marketing Component,” by Trevor Hamilton & Associates, International Consultants & Analysts, Kingston, Jamaica, WI, October, 1989, page 12

“Twenty-three mail boats are under contract to transport mails to the islands at least once per week. The mail boats have capacities ranging from 62 to 350 tons. Each boat is requires to provide North bound transportation services to farmers and packing houses shipping their agricultural produce to the produce exchange in Nassau. Table-1 which follows, lists the names of the boats, their respective haulage capacities, and the islands they serve:
      #       VESSEL NAME                  TONS  PORTS / ISLANDS SERVED
18.   M/V Lady Blanche                          97           Exuma Cays