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Still Needing a Native Guide, Fifty Years Out

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the incident that inspired a long-time post on this site: When You Need a Native Guide.  It doesn’t seem that long since we almost replicated the Titanic’s fate in the Bahamas, but it has…

The simplest way of depicting this cruise without too many details is to overlay the legs of the cruise on a chart, which is below.

About the only time we ran at night was on the first leg of the cruise, when we crossed the Straits of Florida and saw West End with the first light.

From there we crossed the Little Bahama Bank to the Abacos.  Some home movies of that and elsewhere are here:

Nasty weather came up on the stern as we headed for the Grand Cays, 7 July.

With a cruising speed of only 10 knots (18.5 km/hr) the only kind of cruise we knew was “leisurely”.  Given its age (it predated World War II, old even at that time) it had it problems too.  While at Treasure Cay, we had to take a side cruise to Marsh Harbour to get the refrigerator fixed.

One especially picturesque port of call was Hope Town, on Elbow Cay.  Below is a shot of our boat, along with some other harbour photos (sorry for the colour issues).

We finally left the Abacos on 16 July to head to Spanish Wells, in northern Eleuthera.  The tricky part was to get past the Big Egg Reef and into the harbour.  There is a passage on the west end of the reef; the problem was to find it.  The best way then was to hire a native guide in the region who knew the waters and could guide a ship through that passage.

Thirty years layer, my brother, dying of pancreatic cancer, who went to quartermaster school in the U.S. Coast Guard, noted that my father’s navigation was rather primitive and left something to be desired of.  Coupled with some alcohol-fuelled hubris, he opted to try to pick his way through the reef.  He picked it, all right; about 1800 our hull sounded an unsatisfying thud and we had hit the reef.  Once we checked the bilge and satisfied ourselves that it wasn’t filling with water, we called the native guide and got into Spanish Wells.

Our boat was almost too large for the drydock there, but large and dry enough to find out that we could get back to the States without incident.  We went on to Nassau and returned to Palm Beach, where we had the ship repaired and relaunched, as you can see below:

A half century has come and gone since our eventful cruise.  Today, of course, we have GPS to help us navigate, although that too can be divorced from reality when the situation calls for it.  But GPS cannot get us into eternity; only Jesus Christ, who himself navigated the barrier reef between death and eternal life, can do that, and when we trust him, we too can avoid the reefs that would rob us of endless happiness.


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