Papa is our Haitian gardener. He’s more than just a fine gardener, he’s a great fix-it person and is always smiling and friendly…..even in 90 degree weather. He lives in Tarpum Bay with other Haitians working here. Columbus (our property manager) was able to secure a green card for him so he is legal. He comes three days a week on his bike from town at 8 and leaves at 4 and is always punctual. He still speaks his creole French but you can communicate with him pretty well. He has a wife and 4 children in Haiti. He visits them once a year for a month. All the while he is sending money home to support them much like many Mexicans do in the US. There is no welfare or safety-net for him in the Bahamas or from Haiti. His work is his security and he is, in fact, both safe and secure. We have a hard time imagining being separated from family like Papa is. He misses them but, relatively speaking to other Haitians on the island as well as here in the Bahamas, he loves his work and is proud of what he does.
The pier at Tarpum Bay is a lively scene on good weather days at at 3 p.m., as the fishermen come back from their daily outings. It’s a ritual that has gone on since people settled in south Eleuthera which has been around for over 250 years! Tarpum Bay is one of the most photographed and picturesque of all of the Bahamian settlements. It’s hard to believe that it was a pineapple-shipping center in the late 1700’s. The classic old architecture, bright colors and sparkling waterfront make a destination must-see for the true out-island cultural traveler.
Yesterday Lynnie made a trip to the pier for grouper, salmon and lobster tails. We parked across Bay street by an old rusted out concrete mixer and walked over stopping in the covered, wooden open air structure to chat with the old folks wiling away the hours. There we saw Sam Culmer, now nearing 75 and our friend of many years. Sam is from Rock Sound and came to the attention of Edgar Kaiser and Juan Trippe at the end of the 50’s as they prepared to develop the old and now defunct Rock Sound Club, Winding Bay Club and Cotton Bay Club. They sent him to Austria to train as a chef and to become a restaurant manager. We first met Sam as the maître d’ at Cotton Bay where we later stayed and went to dinner two or three times each visit until it closed. Sam, ever enterprising, could see the end coming and opened his own restaurant and lodging accommodation in Rock Sound, called “Sammy’s,” which he continues to operate with his wife and daughters. He’s done us many favors over the years and is of the old-Bahamian high service tradition. He was glad to see us and we enjoyed watching him smile and flash that golden tooth of his.
We walked out to the pier and the fishermen were at their tables pulling fish out of baskets and coolers, hacking away with blood and parts flying about in what is, in fact, a very highly structured process. There was a mom from Canada there with her little ones, who were somewhat horrified. As they worked, they also were enjoying their beer, chatting with the local ladies and laying out their catch. Little boys were diving off the pier and line fishing. All the while the old folks kept talking away, oblivious to the activity.
Our turn came and I placed our order and had Mr. Hunt (a descendent of generations of Hunt family fishermen….most of whom are deaf) filet the fish which he did quickly and with the deftness of an impresario. He placed the order in Baggies and had his wife make change for us. All the while he was working he was chain smoking, had a tattered Bob Marley shirt on and a hat with the “Glee” logo (no kidding).
As we drove away I saw several tourists experiencing this for the first time – the thrill and awe of a truly authentic experience in an idyllic setting. Don’t miss this. Also, if you want to really “cool the jets” go to the pier and watch the sunset with the old, local native folks. It just doesn’t get any more peaceful.
Lynnie and I are here now at Point o’ Vue four months after Hurricane Irene stormed through. Other hurricanes that have caused damage since we built our home were Andrew in 1982 and Floyd in 1997. Andrew created havoc in north Eleuthera and went on to pound southern Florida. The surges from Floyd nearly wiped out our local villages and went on up the coast of Florida and into the Carolinas. Both were “wet” hurricanes….high winds and heavy rains. However, while those of us here in south central Eleuthera on the Atlantic side lost power, down phone lines and had our beaches rearranged neither Andrew or Floyd caused damage to our homes.
Not so with Irene. Ironically the phone lines did not go down so we were able to have phone contact with our property manager, Columbus Carey, before and after. When it hit here on Winding Bay and up at Windermere Island it was “dry” which was fortunate. We lost part of our roof but no water got in the house. All the shingles were stripped off and our satellite dish was later found 100 yards away out in the road. There was enough salt spray kicked up by the winds to spray and kill the lawn and much of the landscape. The palms survived, as did the Casuarinas and Bougainvilleas.
When we arrived we had a new roof and Papa, our gardener, had the outside cleaned up. The lawn is being reestablished which will take some time. It is moonscape at the moment.
Yes, there are Hurricane risks when you have a home in the out islands. The uninsured loss of the roof can be rationalized by the fact that it was a 20-year-old roof anyway and would soon have needed to be replaced anyway. When you think about it, three hurricanes in 21 years is one every seven years, which isn’t that bad. And, only one caused real damage. So, in 21 years hurricanes caused a partial roof loss and landscape damage ONCE. This puts the risk into perspective.
The key is to have built high enough to avoid surge risk (we are on a ridge 30 feet above sea level) and to have heavy-duty shutters and a responsive team of people on the island to manage the process.
When asked by guests for some excursion ideas, the first to come to mind while on Eleuthera is a day trip to Lighthouse Beach, an expansive stretch of untouched beach at the southern tip of the island. Wild and wonderful, this pristine beach is literally a piece of heaven, miles from nowhere complete with shallow reefs for diving not far off the shore, caves that offer exploration, shade, and an old abandoned lighthouse that once helped ships navigate around the island.
Growing up we would pile into various old station wagons, and caravan down to Lighthouse Beach for the day. The trip was about an hour, but for 20 long minutes, we were jostled around going 5mph through an old abandoned, unpaved, overgrown beach road filled with potholes, brush and large rocks that threatened a flat tire. It felt, quite literally, like a miracle when we edged over the last rocky hill to see the heavenly expanse of Lighthouse Beach, the waves and the palm trees with their big fronds swaying in the breeze.
With that said, we’ve learned how to pack well for such a trip. We’ve learned through experience how to make it out there and back (with children) in one piece, and how to make the most of this memorable outing. Lighthouse Beach has provided endless memories for our family; we hope that others can say the same.
See you at the end of that beach road….
What we threw into the back of our station wagon in order of our priorities (yours may differ): snorkel gear (masks, snorkels, fins), cooler filled with beers, lunches and snacks, camera(s) , water bottles, sunscreen, hats, etc. , towels, a small radio/music player, beach toys: football, volleyball, pail, shovel, etc., running shoes or water/land shoes, sunglasses , matches, lighter fluid, etc. to make a sand pit for grilling hotdogs, cups, paper towels, plates, etc. We also bring our international cell phone, a beach umbrella for needed shade and a portable grill.
Nowadays, we usually also plan for the trip by planning around low tide. The beach is at its best with a low tide around noon.
Enjoy your trip!
Point o’ Vue is on the same parallel as Key West and 250 miles east. The Bahamas technically is not part of the Carbibean, which is further south. Nevertheless, we do live in an area and region that is at risk from Hurricanes. The Hurricane season is said to be between July and November. In living memory and recorded experience there has never been a Hurricane to hit here other than between August 20th and September 28th. So we have a 6-week window of real concern. This is our 20th year at Point o’ Vue and there have been two serious Hurricanes, Andrew and Floyd. JUST two in these many years. So, in reality the risks of experiencing them are quite low. There have been a few good “blows” at other times but nothing serious. Lynnie and I have made many trips to visit in September. People who have been brainwashed by the media think we’re nuts. However, fall is gorgeous here and, again, the risks are really low AND you have plenty of notice on an approaching storm to get out if you must.
Point o’ Vue is up 30 feet from sea level so we will not get the surges from a storm. The home was designed to resist Hurricanes. Columbus, our property Manager, completely Boards us up if a storm is approaching. Andrew turned north and hit the northern part of the island in 92. We experienced no major loss at POV but the island was hit hard and 10 people were killed up near Gregorytown. Floyd was a direct hit. No damage to the house but 50 feet of sand in the lawn area near the Beach!
In both cases there was no phone or power for two weeks. Up in Ohio we had no clue as to whether we had roofs or not after they hit. In one case several of us hired a pilot to fly over from Florida to check on the houses. With Floyd, power came back into Nassau after a week and we would fax messages to Columbus’ brother in Nassau who would take the fax to a Bahamasair pilot who would drop it off in Rock Sound and vice versa!
The Bahamian villages are typically down by the sea. Good breezes explain why. Who would ever want to live on a hot, buggy beach? When the Hurricanes hit the villages are flooded, the people retreat to high places. The clean up takes a long time. There is no FEMA here. Just like in the old days in the States, the Churches take over with the pastors receiving and distributing what aid comes in. The people, who have no real government to depend on, come together and pull together. It’s something I think about when I hear our politicians in the States lambasting the Federal government for not supplying total emergency relief immediately!
Point O’ Vue is great for families. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information through iPhones, Blackberries and laptops and plug in through Wii, Xbox, Netflix and Hulu, it becomes harder to connect with those we love. Eleuthera is an out island in the bahamas, far away from the hustle and bustle of every day life at home. For those with small children, the beach beckons for sand castles and shelling, and swimming in warm shallow water. For those with older children there are kayaks, undiscovered beaches with shallow reefs for easy and safe snorkeling and plenty of down time to rediscover nature.
Eleuthera has captured the hearts of many families that return year after year, especially the Myers family and Erbaugh family who own Point O’ Vue. That is why they invite families to visit their home and have a true family getaway.
In the 1940’s Arthur Vining Davis (who ran Alcoa and later Arvida) acquired about 20,000 acres in south Eleuthera to develop resorts. He built the Rock Sound Club (Lynnie and I stayed there….world class fabulous…..now defunct). He built a home on Winding Bay for his secretary, which later became the Winding Bay Club (also fabulous, now defunct).
Before it converted into the Club the secretary had a problem for her boss. To the south of Winding Bay is the magnificent Half Sound (itself subject of future blogs). She loved to boat. The problem was that to get from Winding Bay over to Half Sound she had to go outside Winding Bay and navigate the reefs to get into Half Sound. Well Davis solved the problem by blasting through the Rock and creating The Cut, which allowed her to boat right from Winding Bay into Half Sound. Great boss or greater secretary?
Well, years later people who travelled to South Eleuthera (including us, when the kids were little) would enjoy the Cut. Floating in and out with the Tides, diving in and out and boating through just as the secretary did years earlier. The fishermen loved it, as did the community.
Well, over time, the Cut filled in with sand and Hurricane Floyd in ‘97 really closed it up. All who remembered the Cut missed it terribly. We built our home in ‘92. The Homeowners debated dredging it open but some panicked over the cost and others over whether it was feasible from and engineering point of view. A home was built near the Cut and we all thought that the issue was dead and the Cut a memory.
Well, guess what, folks? New people bought that home near the Cut and have had different mindset. They have engineered and executed a reopening!!!! It’s fabulous and a dream come true. Everyone who comes to Eleuthera should spend a day enjoying Winding Bay and boating or kayaking through the Cut to Half Sound. Miracles do happen!
I can’t wait to give Miss A her first trip through the Cut with Mom and Dad!
Rock Sound is 12.5 minutes by car from Point o’ Vue. It is one of three airports on Eleuthera. The others are Governor’s Harbour (GHB) and North Eleuthera (ELH). GHB is 40 minutes north from POV and ELH is 1.5 hrs. Most people don’t understand that Eleuthera is 110 miles long.
In the 50’s and 60’s when the Rock Sound Club, Cotton Bay Club and Winding Bay Clubs were flourishing there was direct Pan Am service into RSD from New York! Lynnie (my wife) made this trip several times. Well as the Clubs faded so did the air service. The small terminal was rebuilt in the early 80’s to accommodate 767 service from Milan when the old Winding Bay Club reopened as the Club Venta, catering to all-inclusive Italians (this venture failed, more later).
Today, RSD is a cool little out-island with a runway that can accommodate huge jets. None fly in now except on the occasional charter. There is great service in from Nassau (Nas) with 9 flights daily. Some of our guests use GHB, which is fine. Service there is a little better from the States. There is great service into ELH but it’s a hike and expensive to taxi down the island.
Two or three groups of local fishermen go out at daybreak on good weather days. They spend the day diving for conch, spearing crawfish and catching snapper, grouper, kingfish and all other sorts of fruits-de-la-mere. They return at at 2 p.m. and set up shop at the pier at Tarpum Bay. The old folks are there talking under the portico and people slowly start congregating from the village and from nearby. The fishermen unload their catches and sharpen their knives and go to work excising the conch from their shells and cleaning the fish. It’s quite a sight and quite a mess. The many hovering seagulls are well fed and happy. The fishermen know what they are doing but your first impression is that they are hacking away with these big knives and it can seem a little intimidating.
Once finished with their cleaning they hose off their tables and the shopping begins. People walk up and check out their “displays”, point to desired purchases and negotiate their deals. They will fillet the fish as you request. Then the purchase is put in baggies, payment is made and off you go with delightful fresh fish and conch.
The scene is very authentic with locals congregating, beautiful Tarpum Bay as the backdrop and the true local fishermen doing their work as their predecessors have done for hundreds of years. One long-standing family of fishermen is all deaf and has dreadlocks. They negotiate with you with their hands, which can be sort of intimidating to the novice.
So, if fresh fish is your desire, arrive at the pier at Tarpum Bay at 3 p.m. and enjoy the entire scene. We stick with the snapper, conch, grouper and crawfish. The natives enjoy some of the other species, which to me are unknowable and too ghastly looking for consideration on our menu!
Lynnie and I have been coming to south Eleuthera for nearly two generations. We give our guests thorough write-ups and information. When it comes to beaches, we thought we had them all. Well, wrong again. We were told of a beach called “Paw-Paw” on the Caribbean side west from Palmetto Point. While really in Palmetto Point off the Queens Highway the road was sort of tricky to find. There it was and we could see power lines out. About a half-mile down we came to a house and turned right and on to an entrance to the Beach. There is an old, old house being renovated up the road to the north. Otherwise, desolate.
The beach is rocky in areas but is beautiful. And nearby are three islands, close to the beaches. We are told that you can walk out to one of them at low tide. While not as expansive as Ten Bay there is plenty of beach to walk with interesting curves. Paw-Paw will be private when Ten Bay is not. The islands make it special.
We talked to Wilson Cooper, the contractor doing the renovation on the house and he said that he only just learned about this area and he’s from Palmetto Point. Columbus had never heard of it. It’s a gem made special by the proximity to the islands. Great for sunsets.
Always something new to discover.