Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Friday, June 25, 2010

George Town, Exumas, Bahamas

Perhaps it was in Georgetown that I finally came to understand the magic of the Bahamas.


We found ourselves on a bus tour headed east from town. The tour was free, sponsored by the Bahamian government as part of the 57th National Family Island Regatta—the country’s largest and most popular five-day boat race and heritage festival. Luckily, Dave and I scored front row seats on the bus so we could hear the driver/tour guide even though the intercom was broken.

Driving down island we came to Rolle Town and the driver shared the local history. Having sided with the British government during the US War of Independence, the Rolle family—like many from the Carolinas— fled the United States with their slaves to find safe haven in the Bahamas. This is how the Bahamas came to be a British Colony.

The Rolle family started a plantation on Great Exuma Island. But, the land was rocky, dry, and salty. Fresh water was scarce. It was a hard place for a large plantation to thrive. After failing to make a significant profit, and after some nasty hurricanes, the Rolle family left the island and returned to England. As they departed, they deeded the land to their slaves—forever.

Today, everyone in Rolle Town has the last name of Rolle. Land cannot be bought or sold. At no cost, if you are part of the Rolle family’s slave lineage, you can claim stunning beachfront, former plantation property as your own. There is one catch. Because banks cannot hold the property as collateral and resell it should someone default, financing for home construction is impossible.

This story of settlement and deeded family land repeats itself in Williams Town, Hearts Well, and other communities throughout the islands. This is why the Exumas are known as the “family islands.”
As we came to a remote community of 30 residents, the driver shared his own story. In the 1960s and 70s, when the Bahamas were granted independent nation status as a member of the British Commonwealth, the islands were defenseless and overrun by drug traffickers. There was not enough economic activity as an independent nation to support the people. Many Bahamians lost their lives. The driver’s father decided to leave this remote village, fleeing with his wife and nine children in exodus to the United States.

Bahamian drug traffickers had ties to Ortega and Columbia. Seeing its own national security threatened, the United States government stepped in, established military bases, and—within a decade—ended the massive drug trade. The driver’s family joined others in returning to their nation.

On a side note, the only drug activity we saw in two winters of touring involved US-flagged cruising boats. The smell of ganja wafting is unmistakable.

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