January 4 – January 7.
There is a nice inviting sign with a palm tree and a sun surrounded by bright conch shells just off the airstrip at Norman’s Cay. One might think they had just landed in a lively Bahamian getaway. Unfortunately, despite wonderful scenic beauty and a few nice houses we only saw from a distance, Norman’s Cay is a story of failed criminals and abandonment. The only bar was closed and most of the rental cottages seemed to be undergoing renovations. But we didn’t come for the sunsets and cocktails, anyways. We came to see the plane.
In the ’70s and ’80s Norman’s Cay was used as a base for a cocaine smuggling business lead by Carlos Lehder. A DEA task force took steps to close down the operation and Lehder fled to Colombia where he was eventually caught and extradited to the US. A remnant of those days lies in the shallow waters off the cay, a slowly decaying, ill-fated drug smuggling plane.
We spent three days at Norman’s Cay. During that time we explored, did chores, and spent a few happy hours with sailors Judy and Steve.
Judy and Steve once sailed a Catalina 36 similar to Blue Wing. They upgraded to their new boat after their Catalina came to catastrophic end. At the end of a 40-hour journey, riding 20-foot waves, their old boat found its self impaled on an ancient coral reef off the coast of Mayaguana Island in the southern Bahamas. Flooded and damaged beyond repair some sailing friends anchored nearby took them in as well as everything they could salvage off the fateful sloop.
On return to the United States, Judy and Steve found themselves homeless, so they decided to buy another boat. Personally, I think an experience like that would have endeared me to the dirt, but Judy and Steve seemed to be happy and comfortable in their new home, and perhaps just a bit more cautious. On notice of impending bad weather they were ready to get ahead of the high wind and move to a more protected location.