Cat Island

We cruised with Bella Vita from Conception to Cat Island, a day cruise. Conditions were holding, so the cruise was relatively smooth. At 48 miles long and between 1 and 4 miles wide, Cat Island is the sixth largest island in the Bahamas. Cat also boasts the highest elevation in the Bahamas at Mt. Alvernia that towers 206 ft. above sea level. The first settlement on Cat Island was established by loyalists in 1783 who set up plantations and brought slaves to work them. The land is not particularly tillable, and the plantations did not thrive. There are still ruins of some of the plantations visible today. The main road, aptly named “Main Road” runs from Arthur’s Town in the north to Port Howe on the southern end.

We chose to anchor off New Bight, a small settlement that has some facilities available, a very well-stocked store, gasoline, and rental vehicles. We rented a vehicle and made a day of driving the length of the island. A single day sightseeing tour is too ambitious, so we didn’t get a chance to see much in detail. We did visit the resort at Hawk’s Nest, and enjoyed a delightful lunch there. There is an airport there, as well as a marina. The marina is frequented mainly by sport fishing enthusiasts, with many of the guests regular annual visitors. We had the impression that they were not particularly anxious to promote the facility to folks whose primary interest wasn’t fishing. The restaurant was delightful, and we enjoyed our lunch and our time with the staff there.

We did make the drive to Arthur’s Town, although we did not spend any time there. There is a very nice grocery store close to New Bight, and we did some provisioning there, as well as re-stocking some wine and beer. The liquor store shares a separate part of the grocery store building, and after a bit of confusion about the hours of operation, the fellow at the register handed us a monster ring of keys, “I think it’s that one just bring what you want back over to the register and lock the door behind you.” Yah, it’s the Bahamas! There is a bank north of New Bight, near the airport, but it’s a drive, not a walk.

There is a branch off Main Rd. that follows the shore line of the harbor, there are a number of small stands along the road selling food and drink, the locals seem to hang out there after work and on weekends, it’s very laid back, and quite delightful. We sampled some fried conch that our cruising pals got, it was pretty good despite not being one of our favorite Bahamian fare. The locals were very friendly, and Molly tried without much success to befriend a local girl, her older cousins were not intimidated and had a great time visiting. They rarely see a dog of all one color, so Molly is somewhat of a curiosity!

From our anchorage was a short dinghy ride to shore, and from there an easy hike to Mt. Alvernia, the site of The Hermitage, a mini-monastery built in 1939 by Msgr. John Hawkes, known to islanders as Father Jerome.  He was a skilled architect before entering the priesthood, and he was responsible for many of the church structures in the Bahamas. His Hermitage was built entirely by hand, with only the help of his donkey. It was his contemplative retreat, and he lived there into his 80’s, making the trip from the Mount to the settlement below daily to minister to his flock. He is buried in a crypt he built for himself while creating the buildings that comprise the Hermitage. A very interesting place, and a remarkable testament to one man’s skill and determination, as the structures remain in fairly good condition today.

From Cat, we headed to Little San Salvador.

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