Looking for Something Different? Try Paddleboarding with Dogs

I recently joined PappaSurf (a paddleboarding excursion company based in Nassau) for a morning of paddleboarding with my dog. The event was charmingly called PUP & SUP (SUP is an acronym for "stand up paddle," and I'm sure you get the "pup" part). Contrary to when I lived in the US and dog-events abounded, The Bahamas does not offer a lot of options that include bringing your 4-legged canine friends along, so I was thrilled about the event when I saw it posted on Facebook. Many of the events I attend here in Nassau I find posted on business pages of Facebook. There really is a lot going on for such a small community - things like wine tastings, live music and festivals, educational talks, workshops, and triathlons and fitness events. You can maintain a fairly full social calendar if you prioritize effectively. 

I was contemplating which of my three dogs to take with me for the PUP & SUP, up until the morning of the event. Jackson, my 75lb Lab/Potcake mix, is afraid of almost everything and our one experience with the paddleboard didn’t go over so well, so he was quickly voted out. One-year-old Finley has shown some enthusiasm for paddleboarding and tends to get along great with other dogs. However, he is quickly getting into the big-dog category at about 50lbs, so I was wary of putting us together on a wobbly board with other dogs within an dangerously close proximity. The intrigue to meet and greet would be too appealing and I could foresee us going overboard rather easily. Twelve-year-old Barley doesn't really love other dogs, especially if they are in her face and full of energy. She's old and grumpy and can't see too well, but she’s always up for an adventure, and she’s much more portable at 25lbs.

 
Finley's first paddleboarding experience

Finley's first paddleboarding experience

 

I started to get ready by putting my swimsuit on and packing the paddleboard in the back of the pick up, still struggling with my decision as to which dog I should take. But Barley knew exactly what was going on, and she wasn’t going to let me go without her. Her excitability was contagious. She was bouncing around like a puppy as she followed me around the house. She was the only one who seemed to have a clue what was going on, so it was quickly settled and my decision was made. I picked her up and put her in the cab of the truck and she grinned with approval as she looked out the window down at the two boy dogs who milled around in the driveway, seeming to have no idea what was going on.

The event ran from 10am to 1pm. I arrived just prior to 10am and Barley hopped out eagerly and began sniffing around on the beach. Barley is a pound puppy that I adopted from the SPCA when I lived in Western New York. She’s been the perfect travel companion and adventure dog. Although she’s an old lady, she’ll never pass up an opportunity to go paddleboarding. It’s one of her favorite activities, so I was glad to have chosen her for this adventure.

 
 

Another woman arrived with her small Spaniel, who didn't seem too keen on being around other dogs either. Barley and the Spaniel kind of ignored each other and carried on with their attention directed towards the business of their humans. My friend Angela arrived with her small Potcake, Benny and another acquaintance Amanda arrived with her French Bulldog, Bojangles. We all hopped on our paddleboards with our pups and off we went! KJ was our friendly guide who made sure we didn’t venture too far out into the deep blue ocean and was also there to capture the moment with his GoPro. We spent about an hour paddling around the beautiful northern side of New Providence. Although traffic was barreling by on Bay Street, we were far enough away from the chaos of the city noise. It was peaceful and breezy. The sun was shining and we all chatted out on the water while our dogs attempted to settle into the scene. Benny sat glued to the front of Angela's board, frozen in fear, but seemed to relax eventually. Bojangles was fearless and rode on the nose like an old pro. Barley's old lady hips started giving her the wobbles and she eventually lost her enthusiasm for this sporting and all-to stimulating excursion, so that was my cue to start wrapping up and head back to the beach. It was just in time for the breeze to start picking up for the day, so our timing was perfect. 

We glided onto the soft, sandy beach and Barley hopped off and quickly migrated towards the tent to get some shade, a drink of water, and doggie treats provided by the lovely ladies at PappaSurf. Although PappaSurf had paddleboards for the event, I brought my own since Barley and I are both accustomed on it. So while Barley received some spoilage and star treatment, I packed everything up into the back of our pickup.

I said our thank yous and good byes and headed back home, just in time for the heat of the day to start to set in. All in all it was a great day on the water had by two legged and four legged beings.

Benny, happy to be back on dry land

Benny, happy to be back on dry land

Barley keeping a watchful eye for any trouble on the horizon 

Barley keeping a watchful eye for any trouble on the horizon 

If you’re interested in the outdoor adventure aspect of The Bahamas, but you’re feeling like there aren't a lot of options within the “big city” of Nassau, definitely check out PappaSurf for their regular events or paddleboard rentals. It's a great option if you are a seasoned paddleboarder and are just looking to rent a board while you are visiting, but they also offer full lessons and classes for beginners. They also have regular events such as  paddleboard yoga, full moon paddleboaring, eco tours, paddle fishing and snorkeling, and sunset and sunrise paddles.

Their retail shop is located on Cable Beach in the Henrea Carlette building just west of Sandals Resort. They typically do tours out of Goodman’s Bay beach and Deleporte Beach, weather dependent. For more information visit their website at www.pappasurf.com or follow them on Facebook

Featured Out Islander - Ange Dovel

 
 

Nassau-native Ange Dovel has chosen a bit of an unconventional life. For 7 years, she's been caretaking a 13-acre private island in the Northern Abacos. Despite the fact that the Abacos is home to the third largest city in The Bahamas, Marsh Harbour (population around 5,700 people) the entire island chain stretches for 120 miles and Ange is at the far end of it. To run an errand in Marsh Harbour, Ange must take a boat ride to the mainland of Great Abaco Island, and then drive one hour south. Getting supplies isn't always easy or reliable so they have to be fairly self-sufficient. On the island they create their own power and water, cook their own food, and have to be their own source of entertainment, since there's no restaurants, bars, amenities or a bustling social scene nearby.

The benefits of being so far removed is that nature doesn't seem threatened by their human occupation, so they are surrounded by an amazing array of wildlife on a daily basis. Although she's on a remote island, she has still been able to dedicate herself to involvement in her local community with the North Abaco Potcake Rescue organization and has done an amazing job inspiring others to spread kindness and compassion towards our pets and local wildlife. 

I had the opportunity to pick her brain about life on the island and her love of creatures and critters. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did!   

MM: You are originally from the capital of Nassau. How did you end up going from the most populated island in the country, to a remote island in the Abacos? 

AD: It all started with my husband, Steve. I met Steve through my identical twin sister. He was a boat captain at the time, traversing between Florida and Nassau. I was invited out on boat by my sister, and Steve was invited by her fiance’s brother, who was working with him. Apparently he was told that there was some “hot” single chick coming aboard. How could he resist? When we all convened at the dock, it turned out my twin and I were wearing the exact same bikini. And we realllyyy look alike. The look on Steve’s face as we trotted up was a medley of intrigue, confusion, and a touch of angst that he now somehow had to keep track of who was the single twin of the two. Luckily a dolphin tattoo set me apart... and then he got busted numerous times staring intently at my ass!

Eventually we got married, and I pretty much coasted my way into my current life on this rock by hanging firmly onto my husband's coattails. My history of employment in Nassau consisted of working as a dolphin trainer, assistant manager at a Zoo and Conservation Center, and at the time of application to our current position, I was marketing a Swim With Stingrays excursion. Try as I might, there was no way to tweak my former duties to have any relevance to the skills the position required. Thankfully my husband was qualified enough for the both of us, and I have found many ways to become useful since I arrived. :) 

MM: So based on your employment history, you are definitely a lover of animals. After arriving in the Abacos you started the organization North Abaco Potcake Rescue. Can you tell me about that? And what exactly is a "Potcake"?

AD: "Potcake" is the Bahamian term for the thick, leftover food that remains in the bottom of a pot of peas 'n rice after several reheating's. Traditionally, Bahamians fed potcake to the outdoor, indigenous dogs that freely populated the Bahamas. Hence the dogs have come to be known as Potcakes. 

We are a grassroots rescue, consisting of a small group of Abaco residents living within or near the communities of North Abaco. The goals of this team are to nurture kindness and compassion for the people and the animals within these communities; to help those that struggle to afford food, housing or basic medication for their dogs; to spread the message of the importance of spaying and neutering their dogs; to inspire the children within these towns to see these dogs as the sentient beings they are, deserved of love and protection.

Our rescues are quarantined and fostered, and given the vet care they need to begin their life of health and happiness. The adoption process is a vetting of applicants, home checks whenever possible, even if has to be done virtually, and vet and personal references. 

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MM: How do you think the North Abaco Potcake Rescue has had an impact on the community?

AD: Since we started our dog feeds and have made friends with many of the people in these communities, we have seen such a difference in how they view the dogs in their towns. Both the strays and their own. Many of the townspeople have come to understand that these dogs have physical and emotional needs much the same as people - shelter, food, comfort, kindness, love. I also work with a team of people from other areas in Abaco to help people, as well. This includes donating supplies to schools, helping families in need so they are able to have food and presents for their kids at Christmas, and donating clothes and food boxes throughout the rest of the year. And since we are known as “The Crazy Dog People”  they know that the help for humans started with the dogs, so it's a very positive association for them.

MM: You co-produced and released a documentary "It's a Potcake Life." Could you talk about your inspiration for that documentary and what message you would like to send through it? 

AD: "It’s A Potcake Life" is the story is about these Abaco towns, the people and their Potcakes, and the rescuers that help them. After it was released I assisted with a multi-island school tour based on the movie. I believed it was important for the kids to see themselves in the film being part of a team advocating kindness towards animals. Since all of this, kids that once would not even look twice at their dog, have been inspired to show them affection and love, and for many, the fear of these dogs has turned to pride and motivation to protect them. 

Watch It's A Potcake Life online

 
 

MM: What is it about your particular personality that you think makes you suited for remote island living? 

AG: My personality went through quite a range of evolution during my adult years, so I think timing was essential. Had the opportunity to caretake a cay presented itself even just five years prior, the ‘gals just wanna have fun’ Ange at the time would not have been prepared for the isolation factor. But by the time this chance landed on our laps, I was very ready to spend more quiet moments with my love, and exit the island-life-non-stop-party scene that seems to be a tad unavoidable in Nassau. I also do seem to have a Dr. Dolittle-esque quality about me that often endears me more towards non-humans. Perhaps Butler Dolittle is more accurate. Creatures on this cay seem to have an innate understanding that if they present themselves to me in any type of demanding manner, I would trip over my own feet to accommodate them.

Currently I have three curly tail lizards that will rush me as I walk down my stairs in the morning to demand their meals, and if I am not quick enough, my toes get munched on. There is also a semi-wild kestrel that was hand-raised here that will helicopter in front of my window several times a day until I hurry outside to throw him a piece of steak. Never mind if I am otherwise occupied. Add to this raising a very mischievous raccoon that likes to jump into my hammock and grab my mimosas, a dozen chickens, and over a hundred foster pups that all needed to be fed, watered, poo picked up, and cuddled (yes even some of the chickens wanted lap time too). My duties of servitude here have certainly kept me from getting bored over the last seven years.

MM: Some people find that Nassau feels small compared to a city like Miami. However, I like to refer to Nassau as "the big city" compared to my experience in the Out Islands. I imagine that must ring true for yourself. What were some notable differences with making the move from someplace like Nassau, with food stores and a social scene, to moving to your island? 

AD: Nassau is certainly the big city for us. I can eat a meal (or half a dozen per day) that people other than myself have prepared, and I can rejoin friends and family for much needed merriment. I think the most difficult adjustment was dealing with my free time here on the cay. I really had to get accustomed to the fact that I was my own entertainment director, conversation companion (in my head that is, I haven’t started to mutter and chuckle to myself, at least not yet) and activities committee. Steve and I love our time together but let’s face it, we are not going to live on a pebble like this cay, and be attached at the hip. So lots of alone time. I have probably one of the largest sea glass collections in the Bahamas, I dabble in artistic creations, and have become quite steady on a paddleboard. I keep fit raking the seaweed off the beach because my OCD-self thinks it looks messy, and I have have learned to appreciate bird watching on a whole different level. Of course we do have internet too so that does provide me with an umbilical cord to the outside world. We really hardly ever get off the rock, as it can be difficult to get sitters willing to take care of the cay and the zoo. 

Carefully navigating the limestone shoreline, with raccoon leading the way

Carefully navigating the limestone shoreline, with raccoon leading the way

MM: What are some of the challenges you face on a daily basis and throughout the year? 

AD: Steve is hopping-busy with keeping all the operating systems running smoothly on a daily basis. Getting parts in a timely matter is a huge challenge, but somehow he has mastered the zen attitude... "it reach when it reach.” Oddly enough the challenge that really gets to me is NOT that every now and then the internet goes down for many hours, or that that town is a boat ride and hour drive away and sometimes when you do make the long drive there, the fruit is disintegrating and the milk shelves are completely empty, but it is that I cannot seem to keep my wee abode clean enough to stay sane! The beach is at my doorstep and outdoor/indoor life is virtually inseparable for my husband and I and three Potcakes. So I live with a broom in my hand and a dust cloth in the other and I'm constantly sweeping sand and fur from underfoot. My poor husband almost blows his knees out trying to stamp the sand and dirt off his boots when he comes in, yet he still gets a yelling when I see the the trail of dirt that inevitably follows him inside…. so yes the endless Molly Maiding seems to be my pet peeve.  

MM: What are your favorite aspects of living on the island? 

AD: As much as I make fun of myself catering to the wild and domestic life here on the island, I absolutely love the variety of creatures here and the beauty of this cay. Seven years later and the colour of the water still makes me stand stock still and just stare at the ocean in absolute wonder. We get to see turtles taking deep breaths off our south shore, dolphins hunting around our mooring ball, we have a myriad of birds that live here and they are virtually fearless of humans. We have been blessed with turtles laying eggs on our beach, and we then helped to get the babies to the ocean safely when they hatched 59 days later. Who gets to do that?? 

MM: What is the strangest thing you've experienced on the island? 

AD: Hmm.. I guess for strange (and wonderful), the top billing would go to the mother loggerhead that hauled herself onto our beach to lay her eggs, right there in front of us. My husband and I were about to leave the island one morning on an errand, and a pod of dolphins in the Sea of Abaco stopped us. Steve got his drone out to film them. Then while we were standing on the shoreline with our dogs by our side, I suddenly saw a massive turtle heaving herself out of the ocean and up our beach, just a few feet behind my husband who was utterly oblivious because he was completely focused on controlling the drone. The dogs leaped into guard duty action but I managed to grab them just in the nick of time and secure them inside. Then we watched for hours as this ancient beast did what millenniums of instinct told her to do. She meticulously dug a hole with one flipper, carefully testing the depth with the other and when all was perfect, she lay 36 eggs. She was in such a trance, we could literally sit right behind her filming as this was occurring. After she was done she oh so carefully, pushed the sand back in the hole and patted it down. It was amazing to watch her use her back flippers like hands. She was exhausted by the time she was done, and she must have been hot too, since it was mid morning. When she finally dragged her huge bulk back to the shallows, she sighed, closed her eyes and bent her head into the cool water and then she was off. It was a morning we will never forget. 

Watch the video of this amazing encounter HERE 

MM: Can you share with us a funny, interesting or memorable story about life on the island?

AD: It was right at the time Hurricane Matthew was descending upon us. We managed to trap a feral pup at the dump just before the worst of the winds started. This pup was terrified of every other being in the house other then me, so at all times during our hurricane-imposed incarceration, he had to have his paws on my feet to make sure I was not going anywhere without him. Then the chicken eggs we had been incubating hatched a single chick that could not stay alone, so guess where she landed.. yup.. on Butler Dolittle. Steve had put himself down for a four day nap because I was a basket case, so there I was (muttering to myself), worriedly pacing the barricaded confinements of our tiny cottage as the wind howled outside, with three harried Potcakes under foot, a Potcake puppy ankle bracelet attached to me where ever I went, and a little chick that had to be carefully cupped under my chin at all times....it  was a long few days for sure.

 
 

MM: What piece of advice would you give someone who is considering moving to a remote island in The Bahamas? 

AD: Of course, it all depends on the level of change one is stepping into, but I would say - bring patience and perspective with you, leave behind the expectations of parallels to the life you used to have, and just be open to the ups, downs and all the completely uneventful in-betweens that are part of remote island living.

MM: It truly sounds like you live an amazing and adventurous life on your little island! Is there anything else you'd like to add?

AD: Well I think I have done enough waffling, but I will end with saying, that these will be considered the best years of my life. Despite any challenges of isolation, hurricanes, a beach in my house at all times, I know how lucky I am to be living this incredible life on my pebble!

Reminder: Pay Attention to the Sunset!

I recently watched the sun set for the first time in a long time. I mean, truly watched it. No distractions, no checking messages or Instagram or Facebook. I set my phone down, put my devices aside and tuned into nature. It was amazing what I saw. I saw a multitude of color glistening across the water and the silhouette of a coconut palm highlighted by a cone-shaped ray of light that was cast upon the water. The sun sank low until a strip of clouds divided it and it grew to what appeared to be double its size, glowing like a giant orb. It sank lower and lower until it melted into the ocean. You know those sunsets, where the lighting is just so. It's like the sun, representative of the entire cosmos, is reaching through the universe to give you alone a show. It seemed to be fading from this world and leaking into another dimension. It drifted ever so slowly out of sight until the last few rays disappeared over the horizon, and its remaining sparkles on the water drained away with it. I may have even caught a glimpse of the green flash. But I can never be sure that it’s not just my eyes reacting to the shock of changing color spectrum once the sun disappears. Even after it was gone, the pinks, baby blues and soft oranges lingered on. If I were fumbling with my phone and trying to capture the moment, I may well have missed this whole magical scene. I quietly soaked it all in until the mosquitoes drove me indoors. 

Sunset photograph taken on a different evening which was fully surrounded by gadgets.

Sunset photograph taken on a different evening which was fully surrounded by gadgets.

In the midst of it all, I had wondered how many people were watching the sunset that evening. Or how many were watching, but were too distracted with taking photos of it to truly be immersed in it. So often I see a beautiful moment, and all I witness are phones emerging. How much of the experience are you really taking in by filming it? And we all know that photos never, ever do justice to what we witness in real life. We are so distracted these days that we aren't living in the present. We seem to be living in a cyber world; an alternate reality. 

My grandmother, Ruth McCausland wrote a beautiful book in the late 1960's called Weekender's Island - her descriptive and enchanting accounts of escaping bustling city life, to a simple island existence surrounded by songbirds and ocean waves. This was long before smart phones were a glimmer in anyone’s eyes, but she still dealt with the distractions of her time. In an excerpt, she describes her city life in the 1960’s and it has always struck me how resounding it is to the current day. Technology has changed in the last 50 years, but human's ability to get caught up in distractions and devices as a means to "simplify" our lives has not changed. 

"Look and listen to the average home of today. There are rrrings, grinds, whines and hisses. Add some whumps, rumbles, and more rrrings. Sounds belonging to a factory? Ask any housewife and she can tell you they are the rrrings of the telephone, the voices of the dishwasher, the vacuum cleaner, the lawnmower, the electric can opener, blow fan, and an endless procession of other items called conveniences now standard equipment in her home. Isn't it ironic these noises pour forth from within and without the walls of a family's dwelling place as a result of the continual attempt to make life more and more comfortable for its occupants?

Dinner is ready and the television "ON" button is pressed, allowing the six o'clock news with its cheerful and appetite-stimulating messages of world affairs to accompany the family while eating. When mealtime is finished, some gadgets are put away with others coming into use. Gradually the noises cease their daily invasion until Mother can close the cupboard door next to the sink in which awaits until tomorrow the aspirin or tranquilizer bottle. She can now escape into a world of quietness and dream about the coming weekend when the family can, if all goes well, live for a few hours in a state of tranquility not to be found in a bottle." 

My grandparents, my dad and his brother went to their island property on summer weekends where they stayed in a simple camper. It was there that my grandma felt that she could finally disconnect from the busy-ness of daily life. Can anyone disconnect these days? Its fewer and farther between that people are truly immersing themselves in the moment. I remember the sunset used to be the center stage of our summer evenings at our beach cabin. We’d drop what we were doing, grab our cocktails and high tail it down to the beach to watch the day go out with a bang. I miss the simpler times without phones, electronics, and an epidemic of hanging heads while we stare at glowing screens. We used to roll our eyes with exasperation when the house phone rang. And sometimes you just didn't answer it! 

I held out for a long time. I didn’t get a smart phone until several years ago. I lived and worked in the islands, with no need to have a bunch of fancy apps following me around, that now constantly gnaw at my mind. Check it again! You might have a new Like! I miss the days without these phones. Even resorts that specifically don't offer WiFi as a means to "get away from it all" are struggling to stoically hold their ground. I secretly wish all these phones implode and we would forget about this technology. We are efficient, but more than ever we are losing touch with ourselves, with nature, and with our surroundings.

One nice thing about unpredictable technology in the islands, is that your phone or internet could be down for hours - or days. When that happens, at first I feel a bit lost, but then I take it as an excuse to go outside, to putter in the garden, or take the dogs for a walk. It's one of those re-boot moments that life throws at you; a true blessing in disguise. 

Featured Out Islander - Tamara Lorey

Tamara Lorey has been teaching fitness classes on Harbour Island for 7 years. I had the opportunity to attend her classes when I lived on the island and was thankful for her constant motivation, because I probably wouldn't have had much otherwise! I've always been slightly envious about her fitness level - a remarkable balance of strength, flexibility and stamina. She's constantly propelling her students with her upbeat energy and enthusiasm in order to push it to the max.

She has a contagious energy and a true love for her island home. The island has limited options for exercise programs, so she has really brought something special to the community with weekly scheduled classes in beautiful locations overlooking the ocean or harbour. She also offers private sessions at your home or rental property. 

Originally from South Africa, she arrived in The Bahamas and fell in love with the islands. She has since married and has a beautiful daughter who is the epitome of an island girl, with sun bleached blonde hair and a Coppertone tan. When Tamara isn't teaching or volunteering in the community, you can find her on the beach with her family, playing in the surf. Her lifestyle is one revolved around healthy living and embracing all that Harbour Island has to offer - sun, sand and fun. 

I recently had the opportunity to pick her brain about her fitness regime and life on the island, and I'm thrilled to share her story. 

MM - Tell me about yourself and your background with fitness and dancing. 

 TL - I started dancing at the age of 4yrs old. I trained in modern, ballet, tap, contemporary, jazz and hip hop. I graduated and did my teacher's exams in dance and at the same time did my fitness courses. 

At 18yrs old, I started dancing professionally. I danced at places such as Sun International, Sun City and Royal Caribbean cruise ships in South Africa, Le Royal Meridian Hotel, Bahrain as well as corporate functions and TV shows. 

In 2000 I started my own business in choreography and dance for casinos, shows and corporate functions.

After 12 years of running my business, I was ready for a change in my life.

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MM - So you packed up and moved to The Bahamas. How long have you lived in Harbour Island? 

TL - I moved to Eleuthera first and lived there for about 2yrs teaching fitness and dance classes to the children, and then I moved to Harbour Island which is where I've been for 7yrs now. 

MMWhat do you like about the community of Harbour Island?

TL - I love everything about this island - the people, how small it is, how we have no traffic and how we are surrounded by water and sea and ocean! What more could anyone ask for? It's a small community and everyone basically knows everyone and it's great! It's like a big family, which has its issues and ups and downs for sure, as all families do. But so fun! 

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MM - Tell me about Fitness with Tamara. What are your goals?

TL - Fitness is a lifestyle and it is something that each of us needs in our lives to live a long and healthy life. I love to workout and love to see others enjoying working out and having fun. 

I teach a whole variety of classes from Yoga, tone and sculpt, stability balls, resistance bands, beach bootcamp, circuit training, personal training and more. 

MMWho are your clientele?

TL - I teach all kinds of people from young to old. Especially on the island you need to be ready for anyone and everyone. I have had the privilege of teaching quite a few celebrities and they have loved all my classes.

MM - What challenges do you face with your business?

TL - I think the challenge is not knowing who you are teaching sometimes, and you have to go in and adjust and modify for each person you meet and teach. But these are fun challenges and I love the challenge!

MM - Your classes have brought a lot to the community of Harbour Island, a place with limited options for exercise programs. In what other ways do you contribute and/or are involved in the community?

TL - Being from South Africa, I love to help the children. So I help all the schools on the island and I do a lot of charity work for the schools and make sure the children have what they need for education and health and life! 

I also teach free dance classes to the children every week at all the schools. 

MM - Describe a typical "day in the life" living in Harbour Island

TL - This varies as it depends on how busy the island is, but I usually get my 4yr old daughter to school, then go and teach a class...or 2 or 3. 

I'll pick my daughter up from school and we spend a few hours together. I then go and teach my afternoon classes or go to the beach with my daughter. 

MM - Anything else you'd like to add...

TL - I'm very grateful for life, love and where I live, especially my family and what I am able to offer to this little island! 

Life is good in The Bahamas. 

To join a class or set up a private session on your next trip to Harbour Island, give Tamara a call or an email, or stop by her website for more information on her fitness programs. 

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Coming Home

Upon returning to Harbour Island after being away for one year, I was surprised with the warm reception I received. Several people have even said "welcome home" to me. The first time I heard it, I was taken aback. Even though I lived there for 2 1/2 years, I never really considered Harbour Island home. But when I returned to Norman's Cay for a short period last year, I was told "welcome home" there as well.

Reflecting on those words, I have realized that this entire country has become my home. Nassau feels like my true home because our house is there. But after living in multiple locations, meeting people and making connections, I've come to realize that home is wherever my feet touch the sand.

As long as I have my dogs, my husband and my favorite pillow, I am home. 

Seriously, Where Does the Time Go?

They say that Island Time moves slower than regular Real World Time, but I think it slips by even faster. Maybe because there's more idleness. Or maybe time just gains momentum as I get older. I can't be sure.

I have been looking back through old photos recently in a floundering attempt to organize (and delete) thousands of unnecessary snaps, including accidental photos of my foot, 20 different versions of a sunset, and 18 million photos of my dogs. Perusing through these photos reminds me of events that happened just yesterday, or so it feels. And then I look at the date and I'm reminded that some of my first photos in The Bahamas were from winter and spring of 2009 - over 8 years ago.


I lived in Harbour Island from summer of 2013 until almost exactly one year ago. Harbour Island is a tiny community of about 2000 people - on a busy day. The 3 mile long by 1/2 mile wide island has a beautiful stretch of pink sandy beach on the ocean side, and a peaceful harbor side protected by "mainland" Eleuthera (just another, bigger island). The island is fairly crowded with houses but everyone moves at a slower pace, driving around in golf buggies and taking in the serene surroundings. No one ever gets too fussed about traffic and it always feels like vacation-land, even when you're trying to hustle and earn a living.

The island is probably one of the most expensive places I've ever lived, but the lifestyle can't be beat. Because it's expensive and it's difficult to just "move there" and find a place to rent for the long term (good luck trying to buy anything unless you have a few extra million laying around), there's limited competition for good project managers and owner's reps. Homeowners battle with attempting to build and remodel in a difficult environment and professional help can be slim pickings on a small island. What started out as a 3 month temporary project management stint on the island, steam-rolled into one project after another and lasted 2 1/2 years. We'd probably still be there if we hadn't taken another job in the Exumas and finally ended up back at our house in Nassau. Anyways, during our time on Harbour Island we'd chip away at construction projects, but we would always find time to sneak out and go fishing on a Wednesday afternoon or go kiteboarding on a Friday morning, knowing we could make it up some other time when the weather turned inclement. It was a pretty good life.

However, it was a small town. Everyone knows everyone's business. You pass the same people over and over and over again, sometimes saying your hello's 4-5 times per day. There's not a lot going on in the way of healthful living; no yoga studios, juice bars or ethnic dining. It's cracked conch in styro or a $55 a la carte steak.

I had happily lived on an island with a population of 7 people in the past, but on this island, loneliness plagued me. I felt as though I didn't fit in. I was an island girl, but this island had a sort of luxurious, refined and downright pretentious feel. The kind of vibe that a fashion and lifestyle blogger dreams of. I'm not fashionable, nor do I exude anything even remotely luxurious, and I don't bother trying. Give me a down-home dive bar any day. Unfortunately, the "dive bars" on the island charged $10 for a beer and most of the female patrons are decked out in designer resort-wear making me look somewhat like a hobo in my surfer-girl boardshorts.

I became tainted, drained and disheveled, and I was ready for a change by the time I left in April last year. For the past year I have held bitter memories of the island and have been hesitant to go back. I nearly went once, but my emotions got the best of me and I backed out at the last minute. But then my husband got a phone call that his project management duties were required for a short stint, so he left me and the three dogs in Nassau and went to go work 7 days a week in Harbour Island. It was settled. If I wanted to see my husband at all, had to go.

I packed my bag and flew over. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. As I got into the golf buggy I pulled my hat down lower and adjusted my sunglasses. I didn't want to see anyone. But then I started getting hailed. Familiar faces waved and smiled. The bartender at our old local haunt saw me on the dock and gave me a big hug. Friends stopped in the middle of the road welcoming me back. One friend grabbed me and said "We NEED to catch up, let's go get a glass of wine," so I waved goodbye to my husband and off I went. Later we found ourselves pumping up our kites with other friends and heading out for a kiteboarding session on what I remember to be my favorite place to kite. 3 miles up and down Pink Sands Beach, with an audience of tourists cheering us on. Even when I left, the Pineapple Air agent smiled warmly and said "I haven't seen you in a while!"

It was like nothing had changed. And everything had changed. Time hadn't blinked, but where was my sour attitude?

I picked up right where I left off. It was like I had traveled through a wormhole. One year had passed, but it might as well have been one day. A few things looked different, a few face-lifts on buildings here and there. But idle conversations carried on just as they had one year ago, and I was caught up on the local sip sip before I knew it.

My husband had to find temporary accommodations while he was working on the project. He ended up renting the first place we lived together during our first three months on Harbour Island; a modest apartment on the quieter southern end of the island, with views of the ocean. AC is hardly needed because the constant ocean breeze refreshes. The linen curtains billow softly. The only sounds are of birds and roosters and the ocean crashing. I was instantly reminded how soundly I slept when we were there. It was my most favorite place we lived on that island.

We were right back where we started. Maybe it was life's way of giving me a second chance. I don't have to be miserable. I don't have to have a tantrum every time the power goes out. I can detach myself from the things that at one time gave me so much grief and angst.

A year ago I had been sinking further and further into the depths of negativity, reaching out in desperation for salvation. When I came out the other side I realize that it wasn't so bad. I had created it for myself. Sure, it didn't help that I felt alone, but sometimes being alone is OK. It's a great time to turn inward. I know that now. I wonder how I could have convinced my then-self that.

Looking back, one of the positive events that occurred during my time there was that I started Out Island Life, this somewhat disorganized blog about living life in the islands. I also got involved with writing for Women Who Live on Rocks. Both of those were necessary outlets for the trying times I dealt with on the island. These blogs have since opened doors I didn't think were possible, and connected me into a world where I'm truly not alone in this crazy island existence. It's allowed me to delve into cultivating my underlying affinity for writing. It's always been there, and it's been exciting to watch it prosper and grow over the past few years.

Sitting in that same apartment from many years ago, I revisited one of my very first blog posts on Out Island Life. A magical recap of the optimistic mindset I was in at the time. I have held these words in my heart since rereading them. I'm not going down that same road again. Life is too short. Time goes too quickly. I'm thankful for a second chance and a new outlook. Even if it's the same outlook that I've held before. Perhaps I'm just looking at it all through wiser lenses.

Summer Storm
September 10th, 2013

Oh, will the lightening stop? It rumbles and careens across the sky. My linen curtains which normally dance gently in the breeze through my wide French doors now blow in fury, whipping into the room in a torrid rage, tangling and encompassing me as I pass through the room. The sky is white, the rain pours freely and fiercely. The bolts flash just off the seashore and frighten me. I am not able to count one second before the thunder clatters, all-consuming and earth shattering. Little Barley, my protector, who would stand up to the most menacing of characters, cowers under the bed. When she gets the urge to peek out from her safe haven, she huddles over my feet. Not leaving my side. The lamp flickers and dims until it finally ceases. The back-up surge protector starts its annoying beep...beep...beep, reminding me that it in spite of the loss of power, it continues its duty of charging our precious electronics. Boo to the electronics. I switch the beeping off.

The rain lets. The sky breaks. The wind dies to its leisurely breezy state. The air is cool and clean, and the sand and soil of the outdoor living spaces are washed away.

Late into the evening the power goes in and out. Thank heavens for the ancient propane stove. I cook dinner with my trusty headlamp strapped to my forehead. Candles are lit and flicker in the breeze. Do not depend on power or water, not in the out-islands. The quiet is soothing. No refrigerator humming, no fans whirring.

At last the power returns. AC is cranked for a cool night's sleep. Fans cut through the humid air. Our modern comforts march on.

Powerboat Adventures - Exumas

Visitors to The Bahamas typically find themselves booking their trip to the obvious hub of Nassau, oftentimes without knowing what else may be out there. With 700 islands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick from one of the many out islands without prior experience or a recommendation. Nassau has a lot to offer various travelers, but who wouldn't want to to escape the throngs of tourists, commercialized hotels and noisy jet ski operations, and go in search of somewhere a bit more low key (or shall I say "cay")? And let's admit it, The Bahamas are so much more than just Atlantis, casinos and cruise ships. Get away from the city, and there's is natural beauty and unspoiled islands waiting to be explored.

That's where a day trip to The Exumas comes in. The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 islands, just a short hop from Nassau, yet they feel as far removed from civilization as though they were tiny specks in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. There is a sense of remoteness about these islands that simply can not be explained until you experience it for yourself.

The northern edge of The Exumas, a few craggy rocks and Ship Channel Cay, are just 35 miles from Nassau. The islands stretch southeast about 100 miles to the "mainland" of Great Exuma where the largest settlement of Georgetown is located. In between you'll find private islands of the rich and famous, small settlements, the Exuma Land and Sea Park and endless expanses of untouched rugged nature.

Although there's endless opportunities for snorkeling, diving and encounters with wildlife (such as sharks, rays, dolphins, turtles, iguanas and yes, the famous swimming pigs) getting out there there can be tricky, as commercial flight services are limited. And once you're there, you'll feel stranded without a boat. Luckily you have an amazing option for a day trip from Nassau with Powerboat Adventures, which have been giving visitors the opportunity to sample the magic of the Exumas for 25 years now.

The Exumas hold a special place in my heart as the first place I called home when I landed in these islands. When you live in a remote corner of the world, you tend to get to know your neighbors pretty quickly (because there's not that many of us!) and there's a certain sense of kindred camaraderie among us. One of my island neighbors and one of the first people I got to know during my early island days was Powerboat Adventure's owner Nigel Bower.

Although I had visited Ship Channel Cay as a guest of Nigel's while living in the area, I had never witnessed the full Powerboat Adventures experience until recently. So now after experiencing it for myself, I can officially recommend this fantastic day trip with rave reviews.

The morning of my adventure started out with a stop off at Starbucks and arrival at Margaritaville Bahamas for an 8:30am check in. The dock was bustling with tourists getting ready for Powerboat Adventures and other excursions.

With a head buzzing with caffeine, I boarded the boat, counting at least 50 passengers on my boat alone. Two full boats headed over that day. The winds were brisk so my traveling companion and I chose a seat under the canopy behind the protection of the isinglass screen. I'm glad we did too. Those seated at the bow of the boat had a few good doses of salt spray on the way over. I'm sure it felt warm to those from northern climates, but to us island folk, it was quite cool. After an hour crossing, as the high rises from the city slowly disappeared into the distance, we came to our first stop at Allan's Cay to visit the iguanas.

We spent about 20 minutes on the beach feeding the iguanas grapes on sticks. The iguanas were quick and snappy so you had to be sure to keep your fingers out of the way! They also recommend hiding any red nail polish, as they mistake your shiny toes for a tasty grapey treat. Luckily, being a seasoned island girl without a lot of patience for your typical womanesque maintenance, I was sans nail polish. The iguanas were agile and spiritedly, waddling briskly towards their target grape and then skittering back to the safety of the bush as soon as they had their treat in their mouth.

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After the iguanas had their fill of grapes, we all loaded back on the boats and took the short 8 minute ride north to the private island of Ship Channel Cay. Along the way we were serenaded with the themes from Miami Vice and Mission Impossible as the two boats nimbly weaved and danced with each other in the smooth Exuma Sound.

Arrival to the pristine island with a hungry tummy after only a coffee quencher as my breakfast, I was delighted to see that we were greeted with snacks and sandwiches to tide us over until lunch. Immediately after snack time was the stingray feeding and shark wrangling. The guests waded into the water with the docile stingrays, feeding and petting them as they slowly drifted by. The sharks required a safer distance however, and the crowds backed up to the edge of the water to watch the staff feed them. The sharks clamped onto a rope with a big chunk of fish securely attached and allowed themselves to be pulled into shore, stubbornly gripping on. This was most certainly an up close and personal interaction. There were reef sharks, lemon sharks and nurse sharks buzzing around with primal energy. And if you ask one of the staff members nicely, they'll take your GoPro in close for a shot of the sharks that will be the envy of your friends back home.

An aerial shot of shark wrangling. Photo Credit: Powerboat Adventures

An aerial shot of shark wrangling. Photo Credit: Powerboat Adventures

A nurse shark cruising around with Sargent Major fish

A nurse shark cruising around with Sargent Major fish

To continue to build up your appetite, next on the menu was a drift snorkel to gaze at the beautiful reefs. If you thought that the Exumas above the water were beautiful, wait until you get in. The reefs are teeming with fish, rays, turtles and vibrant coral. Visitors are outfitted with masks, snorkels, fins and life vests and drift along with the current just off shore. No scary open waters - it's all within the protection of the surrounding rocks and cays. If you're into underwater photography, you'll have some fantastic photo ops. 

After all of those activities, you realize that you are famished, and lunch is served in the nick of time. We are served a wonderful display of fresh caught mahi mahi, vegetables, salads and tropical fruit. Visitors eat lunch at picnic tables overlooking the calm sea, washing it down with an ice cold Kalik or a rum punch.

While guests are eating, a glance back towards the water will signal you to notice the conch salad maker diligently chopping vegetables in preparation for the conch salad tutorial. Conch salad is considered the national dish of The Bahamas, and no visit would be complete without trying it! Simple and fresh ingredients are key. You will be shown the special way to crack the conch shell and cut the muscle in order to remove it. Then they'll show you how to clean the slimy outer layer off, and if you're brave enough, you may even get to eat "the pistol" which is thought to give you strength and virility.

After the conch show, there's a small window for last minute sun bathing before finally boarding the boat at 3pm to return to Nassau. People are much more chatty on the ride back, feeling the buzz from a day in the sunshine, and maybe from a few rum punches as well.

I have to admit, I was sad to leave. A trip to The Exumas feels like going home, and the day went by entirely too fast. But the good news was that there were margaritas waiting for us at Margaritaville on the Nassau end, so the day wasn't quite over just yet. I'm already looking forward for my next excuse to get over to the islands and I'm hoping that I have some visitors soon, so I can share with them the magic of The Exumas.
For more information on Powerboat Adventures or to book your trip online, visit their website at www.powerboatadventures.com. You won't be sorry.

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Behind the Scenes of a Rescue Dog

So, you want to adopt? You may have seen those tear-jerking rescue videos floating around social media. The star of the film might be a mangy mutt on the verge of death with his bones protruding and a look in his eyes that melts your heart. A stoic volunteer then nurses him back to health, and in the final scenes he's playing happily with other dogs and snuggling with his new family. Meanwhile, your face is leaking like bad plumbing and you're wiping tears off your keyboard. Then you think, I need to do that!

That's fantastic! There are so many dogs that come from horrendous backgrounds and all they want is love. And there are too many breeders pumping out puppies for a profit. Adopt! Don't Shop!


But what happens behind the scenes after these dogs have found their forever home? Do you realize that a dog that comes from an abusive, neglected background is bound to be carrying some emotional baggage? Like humans, dogs develop issues and learned behaviors based on bad experiences - fear, anxiety, aggression, you name it.

I'm one of those proud moms who saved a broken dog. I love my dog. He's a part of our "pack" but our relationship has been a torrid one. I can talk about it now with less emotion because he's calmed down significantly. But there were days I wanted to wring his neck. And days when I wanted to open the gate and tell him to leave and never come back. And yes, there were even days where I felt like everyone would be put out of their misery if he were quickly and painlessly outed by a passing truck. Well, I never truly wished for that to happen, but trust me, dogs also have an amazing ability to push buttons you didn't even know you had. I imagine my mother must have had similar moments with my sister and I. Moms sometimes admit there are times they want to quit the parenting job, and so, there were moments where I was ready to quit my job as a dog mom. I say that in the past tense because everything is much more manageable in our household these days. 

My older dog has been through everything with me. She's my travel buddy, she flies on airplanes, rides on boats, and can pretty much handle any situation I throw at her. I was not prepared for a dog that would flip out at the sight of someone carrying a paddleboard, or start barking at an unsteady drunk person. Or, god forbid what would happen if we even so much as caught a glimpse of another dog from afar.

Our rescue dog came from a pretty bad background. He was tied up in someone's backyard, neglected and most likely abused. If you'd like to read his full background story click here. Luckily, he's always seemed to have a fondness for most humans, especially children. But even to this day, an encounter with another dog is a whole other story.

The first time I realized that we were facing some challenges was when I went to meet a friend on the beach. She was offering to watch our two dogs while we were away so she wanted to introduce herself our newest member.  We decided it would be best to meet and go for a walk on the beach. She arrived with her dog, a sweet little Miniature Pinscher, and my dog completely lost it. He started howling and lunging and making the worst wailing sounds you've ever heard. He would not stop. I tried holding him down, I tried shutting his mouth, I tried soothing him, I tried scolding him. Nothing. My friend and her dog looked at us with wide eyes without making a sound. He continued to make a scene that had the entire beach looking in our direction. I called my husband and demanded he come and pick us up. When my husband arrived, I was shaking. I threw him in the back of the car and didn't want to look at him. I was furious about his outburst. My husband didn't understand why I got so worked up about a dog barking a bit. That was, until he he witnessed him in full glory when we passed another dog on the beach on an evening soon after.

"Oh," he said. "That's pretty terrible."

I came to realize that he must have had a few run-ins with some mean dogs, because his outbursts were out of pure fear. I later learned in Doggie Psychology 101 that this is known as "Fear Aggression." I also learned that dogs bark at things because they think the thing will go away, because often times it does. A dog barks at a person passing by and the person eventually disappears. In turn, the dog starts to believe that was only because he was doing such a good job at barking.

This dog was meant to be an outside dog, but I couldn't handle his manic barking in the yard at all hours of the day and night. So, inside he came. His fear of other dogs included our neighbor dog, an innocent little Shitzu-Poodle mix. Each time he heard their front door open, he would attack the fence with full fury. There was nothing I could do but try and catch him by the collar and drag him into the house, choking and wailing. He began associating our neighbor's vehicle with the "scary neighbor dog" and would flip out each time he heard a similar vehicle. Eventually he started barking at our neighbors too. What was once was a friendly neighborly relationship began getting a shaky all because of a dog. 

I diligently worked to train him. We adopted him when he was about 1 1/2 years old and he came with zero obedience training and no indoor etiquette. He lifted his leg to pee on the corner of the kitchen cabinets a few times before he figured out that was a no-no. He nosed through the garbage can once, until he witnessed mom's reaction and he put an end to that. He picked up on games such as "hide and seek" with his toys. He learned sit, stay and even handshake in short time.

Despite his ability to learn, his issues with other dogs remained. I couldn't teach him "watch me" to get him to focus when he saw a trigger. And his leash etiquette was disastrous. I consulted dog behaviorists and had Skype consultations. I read piles of books about dogs with behavioral issues and watched marathon Dog Whisperer episodes on Saturday mornings. But we didn't seem to be getting anywhere. It got to a point where I couldn't walk him on the beach without stressing out that we would see another dog. I was perpetually on-edge. I never knew how he would react in any given situation, so my anxiety would escalate, and in turn so would his.

We moved to a remote island in the Exumas where there wasn't another dog for miles. It was perfect. He had the whole island to explore and nothing to stress him out. But that was short lived. We moved to Nassau and his issues came back with full vengeance. The local street dogs are ready to row in a moment's notice, which escalated his fears. The neighbor dog barked fiercely at him through the chain link fence and you'd think he was being tortured when he barked back at him.

I've worked endless hours with my dog. After 1 1/2 years as a member of our household, I'm finally able to get through weeks at a time without my blood pressure rising. His house manners are lovely, he's cuddly and sweet and a great guard dog. I'm not here to consult you on HOW to deal with a rescue dog because there's plenty of resources out there, but I want to create awareness that they are subject to having behavior issues. I may be stating the obvious, but I truly had no idea of what I was in for when we decided to bring him home. Oftentimes these issues will subside over time by cultivating positive experiences. But in places such as The Bahamas where it's not always easy to cultivate a positive environment, it can end up being a true labor of love.

The moral of the story is that before you adopt, please consider the issues that a particular dog may come with and prepare yourself to handle them appropriately. The most horrible thing is for a dog to be sent back to the pound because their human can't deal with him. Dogs are work. All dogs have the ability to be good dogs, some just take a little more time to get there. There's some fantastic literature out there, and wonderful dog behavior specialists who can help you. So if you already have a dog in which you are dealing with a tumultuous relationship, please know that there's hope.

It has been an amazing learning experience for me and I am truly compassionate towards those that work with animals to help them to be the best they can be. I honestly don't know if I have it in me to rescue another dog anytime soon. But I do know that this experience has changed my life and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. 

The Plane Wreck of Norman's Cay

There is a well known plane wreck at Norman's Cay. It's a popular spot to snorkel just off of the south cut and there's a lot of speculation about the crash. I've spent plenty of time on Norman's Cay and heard stories that it was a drug running plane which crashed due to a heavy load, I've also heard that it was an appliance delivery company.

The real story may not be as exciting as some of the embellishments that have been created over the years, but here's the story from the mouth of Jack Reed, Carlos Lehder's first smuggling pilot and resident on Norman's Cay during the late 1970's. This excerpt is taken from the book 'Buccaneer' by Jack Reed & Maycay Beeler.

Photo credit: Out Island Flyers

Photo credit: Out Island Flyers

The Iconic C-46

"Another interesting event that occurred on the island evolved into a bit of an urban legend. It involved the arrival one afternoon of an old World War II aircraft. It was a C-46, a large twin-engine transport plane utilized to carry troops and cargo. It turned out that the pilot was an English man referred to as "British Andy." He had at one time done some flying for the organization. He discovered this old relic in Florida and found out that it was for sale. Thinking Morgan [Reed's nickname for Carlos Lehder] might be interested in buying it to haul cargo, he talked the owner into letting him fly it to Norman's Cay. Morgan wasn't interested, but invited Andy to spend a few days on the island.

Andy had a drinking problem, and had been known to take along a six-pack for company on many of his flights. Being on a short vacation seemed like a reasonable excuse for starting his favorite pastime first thing in the morning. One mid-morning, he decided to drop by the airport, being a bit tipsy, to fire-up the old sled and shoot some touch and goes, which is pilot language for practice take-offs and landings. He asked an unsuspecting Colombian lad to join him in his venture and off they went. As Andy made his approach for the first landing, he miscalculated the beginning of the runway and touched down short. Realizing his error at the last moment, he gave the old girl full throttle to execute a go-around. To his great dismay, he clipped an earthen berm, tearing the left landing gear loose from its housing, leaving it dangling from the aircraft by cables and hoses. The plane then dipped low enough for the propeller on the left engine to strike the runway - bending it - and rendering it useless. With the right engine roaring and straining to keep the plane airborne, a bit of altitude was gained. It was only enough to clear the runway though, and make a slow settling arc to the left, running out of flying speed and altitude about a block offshore of the marina in front of the hotel. The plane belly-flopped to a splashing spectacular halt in shallow water, about half of it submerged.

Many of us witnessed this fiasco. A boat at the marina made a quick trip to the site of the crash and rescued the two survivors, neither of whom had a scratch. Morgan furnished transportation for the embarrassed pilot back to the states. The plane has sat in this location for decades, deteriorating, and being slightly repositioned by passing hurricanes. Having become an iconic image of Norman's Cay over the years, it has been visited by countless snorkelers, curious boaters and relic collectors. Stories about its demise - the most popular tale being that the plane was too overloaded with kilos to fly, with its pilots high on coke - were created by the most vivid imaginations. Like most of the stories about the infamous Norman's Cay that I am aware of - only a few portray a semblance of the truth."

The Dangers of Online Shopping

I am going to admit to a confession, something that may be considered taboo considering my gender. But here goes...

I hate shopping.

And probably more than I hate actually shopping, I despise crowded shopping malls...and trying to find a parking spot at said mall.

There I said it. Wow, that felt good. Ok, I haven't always hated shopping. I have fond memories of day trips to the mall with high school friends, sipping on Orange Julius and eating greasy pretzels, people watching and trying on clothes just for fun. But now, shopping is a chore. It has been downgraded to something that needs to be checked off my never ending to-do list, getting shuffled alongside tasks such as registering my car, or stocking up on canned goods. It's a chore because I can't do it whenever the natural urge arises, like the bygone days. I have to reserve all of my buying power for 2 or 3 trips to civilization per year, and when it comes time, I'm usually towing my husband or dad with me and they'll follow me around looking lost until I go tell them to wait at the food court. Meanwhile I madly try on piles of clothes and end up buying something not because "I fell in love with it and just had to have it" but merely so I can own something fresh that doesn't have a stain or a hole in it. About 20 minutes in, after I feel like I have some momentum going, I will inevitably get a text message wondering if I'm nearly finished (no pressure or anything!) Thank goodness for online shopping, which is where I accomplish the majority of my first world errands prior to my trip.

My husband and I typically map our our travel schedule for the upcoming year fairly far in advance because we have a rather large list of people to try and catch up who are geographically diverse. My husband's sister lives just a short hop across the pond in Miami. His parents divide their time between Australia and Miami, so they're not too hard to catch when they're in this hemisphere. The rest of his family and old mates live in Australia, so that warrants a trip every few years. My family is spread out between the Canadian border and Portland, Oregon, which gives us an excuse for a reprieve to the beautiful Pacific Northwest during the long hot summers at home. Then we usually try to sneak in a surf trip or quick getaway on top of that. So we're looking at a few decent trips per year on average (side note - I'd have a disastrous time moving back to the states after living abroad and realizing that most other countries in the world get more than two weeks of vacation per year. I have no idea how we'd manage our travel schedule based on the US standard allocation of precious vacation days)

Because of these trips, I am usually planning well in advance what I need to be shopping for. I am an notorious list maker. I have lists, and I have lists for my lists. I keep waaay too many bookmarked pages on my web browser, with folders such as "Things to Order for my Next Trip to the USA". And whoever we are visiting will be receiving packages for weeks prior to our arrival like Christmas is on the horizon.

My dad went through a fairly routine surgery (OK, maybe open heart surgery isn't quite routine, but I think it was downplayed to save me angst) and upon spending an extra week in the hospital consuming nothing but clear liquids, we quickly realized that he would benefit with some stay-at-home help while he recovers. Although my sister is only a few hour's drive away, she's a full time working woman with a new job (and, you guessed it, only 2 weeks time off), while I'm off gallivanting around in the Bahamas. Actually, not really, us islanders still need to pay the bills and our bar tabs, but I do have some flexibility to work from my laptop. So when the discussion was finalized, I was to hop on a plane in fairly short notice.

My husband and I sat down at our weekly business meeting on our porch to hash out the details. We were discussing what we need to think about online ordering to my dad's house so I could mule our goods back with me. Since I just spent $350 on shipping and duty for an order that cost $530, we needed to think long and hard about this and make the most of my trip.  "I honestly don't really need anything from the states at the moment" I said with a furrowed brow, mulling intently on which essentials I was lacking at the moment. "Yeah, me neither" he replied. "Well if you think of anything, just order it" I said.

T-minus 4 days prior to departure - Whilst procrastinating with making business flyers on Vista Print, I innocently switch over to a brand new browser tab, just to see what I might come up with.

Now that I think about it, I could probably do with some new yoga pants. Maybe I should just take a quick peek at Lululemon. Ugh, that's right, $99 for yoga pants. Well, maaaaybe...no, no no! But while I'm here, let me just look at one of their cute strappy sports bras. Click - ordered. Ok, now let's look at Old Navy for yoga pants instead. Oooo! A sale! I'd better act fast. 5 pairs should be good, different lengths, colors, etc. Can't keep wearing the same outfits to yoga class. Click - ordered. Shoes. My sandals are falling apart. I need a pair of black flats. Scrolling through thousands of options at Zappos (how can there be SO many different styles of sandals??) Finally have 6 tabs open between Zappos and DSW. Narrowed it down to two. Can't decide, will have to order both. I can always return stuff, right? Click - ordered. Wait, I need a new pair of my favorite trail shoes, and I keep forgetting it's going to be winter where I'm going, back to DSW for one more order, thank goodness for free shipping. Spices. I love cooking Indian food, super easy with the base ingredients available here but I need to stock up on my staples. I'm almost out of coriander and cumin seeds so let me pop over to Spice House. I heard cacao has great benefits in smoothies. And I just read that article that regular cinnamon is from China and has toxins in it, you're supposed to use Ceylon cinnamon. Oh, and maybe some some ground chipotle too. Click - ordered. I should check my folder of "Things to Order for my Next Trip to the USA." That's right, there's a landscaping book about tropical gardening that I've been wanting to order. Anything else from Amazon while I'm here? I can always come back because of my trusty Amazon Prime and free expedited shipping. I also need a USA SIM card for my phone. My cell phone bills are exorbitant whenever I travel. Research, research, research.... I've been battling with getting the shakes from caffeine, maybe I should look up a coffee substitute. Diving into this topic, now reading that Capamo made from the Maya Nut is a great alternative. Let me try two different brands, just to see which I prefer. Dog collars, that's right, the pups are probably due for some new ones. Three preppy Nantucket style doggie collars from Up Country, comin' right up. And I probably need more of my specialty shampoo....

$$$

If you thought that by living on an island you could get rid of your inherent natural desire to shop, think again. Internet marketing has bypassed billboards and shopping has no international boundaries. Yes, I'm a sucker for a sale. And shopping in my PJ's? Oh lawd, watch out. Stop enabling me. When I click BOOK NOW and that flight is confirmed, it's game on. It feels not unlike that moment in bull riding when the bull is released into the ring, charging with full adrenaline. That's exactly what it is, I'm charging (my credit card) with full adrenaline, I just don't have a crowd cheering me on. Most folks spend money while they are ON vacation. I choose to spend all my money before my vacation, but at least I can pack light on the way there.

So...You Want to Buy an Island

Who hasn't dreamed of owning a private island at some point in their lives? Imagine a place where you can escape the maddening crowd, the hustle of life in full swing, and glamorously step out of a seaplane onto your private beach while stewards rush to grab your luggage and white gloved butlers present you with a chilled glass of Champagne. 

Sounds fabulous, right? But get past the daydream, and there's typically more behind it than that. 

Photo credit: SmartOtels

Photo credit: SmartOtels

We are all aware of the distinguished list of celebrities that own private islands in The Bahamas; David Copperfield, Johnny Depp, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, Shakira, Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy, Nicholas Cage....and those are names you are most likely familiar with. There is also a sleuth of high net worth individuals ranging from investors to politicians to entrepreneurs who own islands in The Bahamas as well.

These people are drawn to private island ownership for the sheer fact that they want exactly what a private island offers, privacy. Plus, telling people you own an island has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

So the question is, do you have to be among the extremely wealthy to own an island? It depends. If you want to arrive via seaplane and have personal chefs, housekeepers, caretakers, boat captains and the whole nine yards, then yes, you'd be much better off with millions, or even billions in the bank. But what about the rest of us?

I am going to provide you with a bit of personal input because we actually own an island in The Bahamas, and we are far from the elite top 10% in the world. We also have substantial experience with island development, so I'm hoping with a bit of knowledge and information you can decide if you are ready, mentally and financially, to own an island. There's a few articles out there that say you can buy an island for the price of a London flat, and yes that part is true, but what about the costs to build, and the ongoing operations of an island? That's where island ownership vs. civilized urban living differs a great deal.

About 12 years ago, my husband Mark was perusing through the newspaper (before online real estate searches) and found a 6 acre private island listed for sale. Intrigued, he contacted his real estate agent and they went to take a look at it. The owner had passed away and the heir to the property was in California and had no interest in dealing with some unseen property in the Bahamas, so it was listed for a quick sale. It was a beautiful round island with elevations and a few white sandy beaches, so the listing price turned out to be a fabulous deal. With haste, he put in an offer for the island and purchased it. Now he has an island. And I do have to say, it's pretty cool to say that we own a private island.

However, developing an island is a whole other can of worms. Mark and I have spent years in the out islands project managing new construction and renovations in remote locations. We spent two years in construction on a private island in the Exumas and witnessed a budget for a renovation of three guest cottages top out at $8 million, and the service yard which included operations and staff buildings, power and water generator facilities, boat and equipment facilities, etc, max out at $55 million. We also oversaw the construction of a fairly simple beach bar on Little Hall's Pond, a remake of the dive bar Cafe Cabrones from the movie Rum Diaries, which cost the owner $3 million.

Those are extreme costs, however. It doesn't have to be that expensive. We have toyed with budgets and ideas about developing our island. The island is located in prime bonefishing waters and there are several popular boutique lodges on neighboring islands, so there's investment potential to set up a simple bonefishing camp, or at least just developing it for personal use as a weekend escape, and it wouldn't have to break the bank. Mark's expertise in out island construction makes him the perfect candidate to develop our island, and with a little capital, one day we hope to make the dream come true. 


There are a lot of islands for sale in The Bahamas. It's an archipelago of 700 islands. Some islands are close to civilization, airstrips and amenities, some are far from anything. The Exumas are popular because of their sense of remoteness, but if you travel 20 minutes by boat, you will most likely find a bar/restaurant, marina or a settlement and they are quite close to the main hub of Nassau. Because of these criteria, The Exumas are home to some of the more expensive islands to purchase. Let's say you find a more affordable island for sale off of San Salvador or Inagua - it's going to be a remote island off of a remote island. So you have to consider how far off the beaten path you are willing to go.

You also have to consider what type of personality you and your family are. Do you love peace and quiet? Or can you only handle being alone for a few hours at a time? Part of the reason places like Harbour Island and Hope Town are so popular is because there's stuff to do for the whole family. There's restaurants, bars, night clubs, shopping and water activities all within a short golf cart drive. On an island, unless you truly love being away from it all, you may find yourself going a little stir crazy after a while. If you have the ability to invite your favorite group of friends and family and have your own private beach party every time you visit, that's great, but you also need to consider what kinds of additional housing you are going to build to accommodate them, or if they have the time and financial flexibility to hop on a plane and can be a part of your beach party on a whim.

The cheapest way to own an island is to buy vacant land, but if you can afford it, a turnkey island already in operation may be the better way to go. Choosing to buy undeveloped land will all depend on your enthusiasm, level of patience and the team you choose to help you with the development process.

First and foremost, I would recommend consulting with a qualified quantity surveying engineer who is well versed in building in The Bahamas, prior to even purchasing property. For a consultation fee, they will be able to assist you with construction costing and budgets to give you a realistic idea of what you are in for. 

Next, you need to think about the amenities you'd like on your island. Most islands are within range of cell phone service, but for internet you will most likely have to set up some form of satellite service, such as Skycasters or Hughes Net. You will need to generate your own electricity (solar or mechanical generator) and provide your own water (reverse osmosis and/or rainwater harvesting). You need to consider all aspects of construction - is there a settlement nearby that construction workers can commute on a daily basis or do you need to house them on your property? If you house them, you need to consider feeding them and the subsequent kitchen staff, laundry facilities, transportation when they are due for time off, etc. You need to think about how you are going to get supplies, construction materials and fuel to the island, because there isn't a Home Depot around the corner.

Once construction is complete, who is going to look after the island? It would be awfully risky to leave a developed island vacant for security reasons, and in harsh salt water conditions, I can guarantee that things are going to break - often. You don't want to be showing up to your island, ready for vacation, and realize the generator isn't working, or that you have no water.

And now for the actual cost of island ownership. At the time I am writing this, the cheapest islands available for purchase in the Bahamas are around $1m, so let's use that as our starting point and I will provide rough estimates based on previous experience in cost estimating remote island construction projects. The typical needs and wants of an island owner vary greatly; you could get involved in a much more complicated project, or you may be able to build for less if you would like to go more rustic. I am providing an average. The price per square foot is based on all aspects of shipping construction materials, customs & duty and labor, so for decent hurricane rated structures, this is going to be fairly competitive.

INITIAL COSTS
Purchase price - $1m
Legal fees - 1 to 2%
Stamp tax 2.5% (buyer pays half)
VAT 7.5% (buyer pays half)

TOTAL INITIAL COSTS: $1,110,000 to $1,120,000

DEVELOPMENT COSTS
Architect/design team - $100,000
2000 sqft villa @ $400/sqft - $800,000
1000 sqft caretaker/utility building @ $250sqft - $250,000
Generator/electrical & fuel storage infrastructure - $75,000
Watermaker & storage - $75,000
Satellite communication infrastructure - $25,000
Boat - $50,000-$100,000
50' dock - $50,000

TOTAL CONSTRUCTION COSTS: $1,425,000 to $1,475,000

ONGOING COSTS (YEARLY)
Caretaker - $40,000 to $100,000
Additional staff (gardener/landscaping, maintenance staff)- $20,000 to $100,000
Fuel - $25,000 to $50,000
Boat maintenance - $30,000
Facilities maintenance - $50,000
Real property tax (1% of determined value of land + development) -  $24,850

TOTAL ONGOING COSTS (YEARLY): $189,850 to $354,850

If you consider all this, buying an island may not seem quite so on par with that London flat and the standard utilities that go along with it. For many however, this is still obtainable, and as long as you are armed with the information before you go blasting into it, you'll be stepping out of that seaplane onto your private beach before you know it. 

Here are some of our favorite islands for sale in The Bahamas

BEST ISLAND FOR DEVELOPMENT

Saddleback Cay, Exumas
$11,800,000

Saddleback Cay is located just north of Norman's Cay in the Northern Exumas. If I could afford this island, I would buy it in a heartbeat. It is the most dynamic and picturesque island I've ever set foot on. The island has rolling hills and some of the highest elevations in the Exumas. It has nooks and bends and twists, craggy rock faces and white sandy beaches. You could find a peaceful, sunny spot in any kind of weather. The island is only 30 miles from Nassau and about 3 miles south of Highbourne Cay Marina. Based on its location and ease of access this island has amazing potential for development.

BEST ISLAND FOR DEVELOPMENT

Saddleback Cay, Exumas
$11,800,000

Saddleback Cay is located just north of Norman's Cay in the Northern Exumas. If I could afford this island, I would buy it in a heartbeat. It is the most dynamic and picturesque island I've ever set foot on. The island has rolling hills and some of the highest elevations in the Exumas. It has nooks and bends and twists, craggy rock faces and white sandy beaches. You could find a peaceful, sunny spot in any kind of weather. The island is only 30 miles from Nassau and about 3 miles south of Highbourne Cay Marina. Based on its location and ease of access this island has amazing potential for development.

BEST ISLAND FOR TURNKEY

Bonefish Cay, Abacos
$7,000,000

Bonefish Cay is a 13 acre island located in the Abacos. The island was deserted for many years, but has recently undergone development, turning it into a luxury escape. The owners built five hurricane proof structures and a 200ft jetty. The island generates its own electricity, it has a desalination plant, and is set up with phone, fax and internet. There are three separate strips of white sand beach where you can have an afternoon swim no matter where the wind is blowing from. Several boats and all of the furnishings are included with the purchase. The island is located near Treasure Cay which has daily flights from Ft Lauderdale.

BEST ISLAND FOR FIXER UPPER

Pelican Cay, Abacos
$3,000,000

Pelican Cay is a 5 acre island with 4 picturesque beaches, a deep water marina, an island home, municipal electricity and is only 10 minutes to services and amenities. Located a short boat ride from Green Turtle Cay and a few more minutes to the international airport at Treasure Cay. It offers easy access to the Sea of Abaco or the Atlantic Ocean for world class sportfishing. The private marina and breakwater can accommodate 4 vessels up to 50'. Cosmetic work is needed.

BEST ISLAND FOR AFFORDABILITY

Bonefish Cay, Andros
$720,000

Open zoned and currently the most affordable island in the Bahamas, this 6 acre undeveloped private island lies in the heart of the Middle Bight of Andros, a world famous bone fishing destination. It is located in the epicenter of the fishing flats with over 2,000 feet of shoreline to cast from, including 1,000 ft of sandy beach. A short boat ride will get you to either side of Andros which offers unlimited options for snorkeling, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, hunting and exploring blue holes.

If you would like more information about private island ownership or islands available for sale in The Bahamas, please feel free to contact us via the little envelope at the top of the page, or visit www.exclusivebuyerbahamas.com

Margaritaville Bahamas - Nassau

Those that know me are probably well aware of my Parrothead past. I am a Jimmy Buffett fan. I've attended several of his concerts, in full Parrothead regalia I might add, and I always make a point to hit up Margaritaville whenever I find myself in the neighborhood. Margaritaville is his flagship restaurant and bar, where you can step inside get a cheeseburger in paradise with a side of relaxed island hospitality. Even with a plethora of restaurants to choose from, this island gal found herself compulsively drawn to cheery tropical decor and reggae beats of Margaritaville Las Vegas one cold winter's day. Needless to say, I slipped inside to indulge in a margarita to warm my disposition and my soul.


I'm not quite sure where the infatuation to Jimmy Buffett's music stemmed from. I listen to all genres of music and JB is focused on lively, feel-good entertainment but I wouldn't put him up on a pedestal with The Beatles. However, I do clearly remember those bitter cold days in Western New York, dreaming of palm trees and rum drinks, and the very person that took me there was the music of Jimmy Buffett. He even has a lyric in one of his songs that goes...

"There freezin' up in Buffalo, stuck in their cars
While I'm lyin' here 'neath the sun and the stars"

He is referencing a terrible snowstorm some years back that left people stranded in their vehicles on the freeway after so much snow had accumulated so quickly. The day I heard that song was the day I knew I was meant for warmer weather. When I hopped onto a sailboat, cast the lines and sailed off into the sunset, Jimmy Buffett was the there as the soundtrack to my newly-found tropical existence. He has created a sense of escapism, a portrayal that life is simply better when surrounded by palm trees and turquoise water lapping onto a white sandy beach. I completely agree with him, and I like to think I too, portray that image.

There are moments that I experience while living in The Bahamas that just seem so unnotably normal. I wake up to my alarm clock, shower, sit in traffic on my way to work, do my grocery shopping and pay my bills, just like everyone else in the civilized world. The only differences are that along my commute I'm staring at breathtaking views of the ocean out of my car window, unless otherwise necessary I live in flip-flops, I hop on a boat on the weekends and head to a deserted beach, and from time to time, I end up at some touristy beach bar that makes me feel like I'm on vacation in my own town. A staycation, as I believe the new catch phrase is, meaning you stay close to home but indulge in something touristy that makes you feel like you're on vacation.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I found myself on Paradise Island attending a motivational speech at Atlantis. After the talk, my companions and I agreed that all that motivation had made us famished. Atlantis is known to those of us that live here for overpriced, somewhat mediocre restaurants, so we decided to venture elsewhere. "Elsewhere" led us to the newly opened Maragaritaville Bahamas. Evidently Jimmy Buffett himself had been visiting recently. Alas, we had just missed him.

We walked in and the open air, breezy tropical decor made us feel welcomed and relaxed. We made ourselves comfortable at a small table under the shade of a lofty umbrella, alongside the bustling docks. We watched the dive boats, booze cruises and local ferries come and go. Although it was still a little early for cocktails, we all agreed that a trip to Margaritaville warranted at least trying their margaritas. Plus we had no agenda for the remainder of the afternoon. One margarita turned into three and the hours slipped by. The familiar songs of Radio Margaritaville serenaded us in the background, as we slowly eased into a tranquil heady buzz of tequila.

"Wastin' away again in Margaritaville..."

The sun sank under the umbrella and warmed our faces. Tourists in loud, pastel-colored apparel boisterously bantered with the bartenders, finding amusement in the local Bahamian dialect, which I find so familiar now. Seagulls jockeyed for position, cackling loudly as they waited for a stray French fry to slip off of an unsuspecting plate. We eased our hunger with tasty island dishes like fish tacos, jerk chicken and smoked fish dip. The waiter was jovial and pleasant. I'm sure he was used to overly exuberant tourists, wide-eyed and in full vacation mode, and our tequila-lined grins allowed us to slot right in, at least for this particular afternoon.

Peacefully content, we sipped on the last drops of our vacation for the afternoon. But then, unlike vacation, we simply hopped in our car and drove back home to the other side of the island. No packing and unpacking, waiting in airport security lines and no jetlag. It was probably the most affordable holiday I had ever been on, and worth every penny.

Harbour Island's Laid Back Luxury

Article from Bahamas Investor, January 2017

At first glance, the casual visitor to Harbour Island may take this sleepy island community as nothing more than an idyllic backwater. But stroll the quiet, leafy streets and you might run into Bill Gates, Mick Jagger or Lenny Kravitz–frequent visitors who, like most of the island’s high-end holidaymakers, are drawn to its picture-perfect colonial architecture, laid-back lifestyle and natural beauty.

With a strong second-home market, a slew of wealthy visitors and continuous tourism growth, the island is proving to be one of the strongest economies in the archipelago, and an overhaul of the existing resorts, along with the expansion of a residential development, look to further spur that growth.

Island tourism
Harbour Island’s tourism industry first took off in the 1920s, boosted by groups of day trippers from Nassau, and picked up pace after the Second World War when the island became more modernized. Since then it has grown steadily as word of the destination’s charms spread. Harbour Island was named Best Island in the Caribbean region by Travel & Leisure magazine in 2015 and it is also featured in its Best Beaches on Earth list in 2013. Today, the island welcomes around 10,000 tourists a year, quite a jump from the 151 visitors recorded in 1924, and there are 14 hotels and around 300 private rental properties.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s Harbour Island representative June Dean says that 2015-16 has been a banner year for the island, and predicts that tourism will continue to grow. “Harbour Island is very popular. We have had a tremendous season. It has been extremely busy,” she says.

Tom Sherman, co-owner of one of the island’s most popular resorts, Coral Sands, believes Harbour Island draws visitors for many reasons. “It is a unique island. You have one of the best beaches in the world; the quaint and beautiful architecture gives it character and the people are a major asset. They are very tourist-friendly and warm,” he says. “Getting around by golf cart [the main form of transport on the island] is a unique experience. We also have good options for fine dining, as good as anywhere else in The Bahamas.”

Perched on a gentle slope overlooking the famous three-mile-long Pink Sand Beach on the eastern side of the island, Coral Sands is a boutique operation with just 38 rooms. At press time, the resort was in the middle of a $2.5-million refresh, which involved tearing down one of the property’s buildings to create three new cottages and two triplex units. The work will also include a refit of the resort bar and a new infinity pool. According to Sherman, the renovations were due to be completed by the end of 2016. “We just decided we wanted to modernize and get better quality rooms. We have a jewel of a property, but you have to be a hands-on owner and continue to invest in it.”

Sherman, a Florida-based attorney, and his wife are majority owners of Coral Sands having bought the property in 2003. In 2014-15, the entire resort was given an overhaul, renovating the rooms, and adding a gym and a gift shop. As a result, Sherman says Coral Sands “had its best year ever” in 2015-16 and is on track for continued growth.

The resort attracts many repeat visitors and is a popular destination for weddings. Sherman says sometimes these groups overlap with couples getting married at Coral Sands, and then returning for their anniversaries. He believes part of the appeal of the Harbour Island tourism product is boutique operations such as his own, saying: “People are tired of the branded hotels and the same thing everywhere. The boutique hotel is a little more unique.”

Next door to Coral Sands, another resort is undergoing a facelift. The Pink Sands Resort, which opened its doors in 1951, announced its first real estate offering in summer 2016. Following a $3-million refurbishment, the resort hopes to offer 25 luxury villas, some of which were built new and others remodelled from existing cottages. The one- and two-bedroom colonial-style villas range from $1.5 million to $4.8 million and can be signed up to the resort’s rental management programme. The new villas will be constructed as part of a three-phase development which also includes refurbishment of the kitchen, reception area, gift shop and restaurant.

General manager Thomas Parke expects the work to be completed by the end of 2017 and says interest in the real estate component is “strong.” He believes investing in Harbour Island’s tourism product is a solid choice given the buoyancy of the market, saying: “Harbour Island has a rich hospitality history with notable visitors who have made this destination a sought after location within The Bahamas. Tourism continues to increase with many businesses and residents making improvements and adding services.”

Jay DiGiulio, sales and marketing director at Boutique Real Estate Advisors, which is helping Pink Sands bring the properties to market, agrees: “Annual tourism to Harbour Island continues to increase month over month. Several businesses have made significant improvements to increase real estate value across the entire island and Pink Sands is equally adding value to its operation. Pink Sands is seen as the heart of Harbour Island and interest in our development contributed to the investments made this year and the continued investment for 2017.”

Growing popularity
Outside of New Providence, Harbour Island has the highest concentration of second-home ownership in The Bahamas. Land is in high demand and short supply, says Mark Moyle, realtor at local firm H G Christie Ltd. Moyle, who is also the owner of M&M Management, a construction management business, has lived and worked in Harbour Island for many years and says the island’s housing market has been trending upwards for decades, sheltered from the boom and bust cycle of real estate elsewhere. “Harbour Island is definitely a little bright spot. It is definitely booming. I have been going there for about 20 years for work and it has tripled in popularity [in that time].”

And with the average real estate transaction worth a minimum of $1 million, only the wealthiest buyers need apply. According to Moyle, prices are equivalent to those in Nassau, but higher than other Family Islands with beachfront property between $1 million and $2 million and coveted spots along Pink Sand Beach anywhere from $3 million to $5 million. While some buy to live in year-round, most are treated as part-time vacation homes and rented in the off season. “Most people will rent part of the year. Owning and maintaining a second home is expensive. Even some of the wealthiest people will rent it out if they’re not using it,” says Moyle.

This influx of wealthy seasonal residents has given rise to a diverse social scene on the island, which Moyle says has something for everyone.

“There is a local scene and a couple of different expat scenes. We have a very established group of residents who have been here a long time. There is quite a mingling of millionaires. And then you have the new, young crowd who are moving in right now. Europeans and North Americans who have been very successful. They come down a few times and decide they want something more permanent on the island. They want a real family home that they can go to and make some memories.”

But with Harbour Island’s popularity showing no signs of slowing, is it destined to lose its small town feel and laid back atmosphere? Moyle doesn’t think so, pointing out that the island has accommodated its expanding community very well so far. “The tallest hotel is still barely three stories. The place is still very charming.”

Sherman agrees: “It will never be anything like Nassau. It is not in danger of over-development. There are more large homes now, like everywhere else, so it will change a little bit, but I do not think it is going to change radically.”

For the Ministry of Tourism, the priority is not to change, but to maintain. Dean says the island has a firm grasp of its own identity and is keen to preserve its status as a high-end, but low-key, destination. “We are trying to increase activities on the island for visitors while they are here, but we are not trying to take away from what we are–quiet and quaint. People come for the slow place of life. They are looking for some place to get away from the hustle and bustle and relax,” says Dean.

A Crash Course in Island Driving

During my first visit to the Bahamas, long before living here was even a glimmer in my eye,  I spent 2 weeks in Nassau while waiting for a new propeller for my sailboat to arrive from the USA after ours had the misfortune of falling off. I spent week-one exploring the more industrial downtown port area of Nassau by foot, and then got antsy and decided to rent a car and explore of the island. I’ve always found that renting a car in a foreign country is both exhilarating and informative, being one of the best ways to see the country from a less-touristy perspective. I’ve rented cars in Scotland, Thailand, Chile and Costa Rica and I’ve even driven my own car south-of-the-border to Mexico. Some folks swear by buses, jitneys and tuk tuks, crammed in-between sweaty locals, but I prefer having my hands on the wheel with the soundtrack of a local radio station serenading me. 

From the moment I pulled out onto the road, I absolutely loved driving in Nassau...like freakishly loved it. There seemed to be this constant subliminal conversation going on between all of the drivers; horns beeping, hands waving, cars zigging and zagging every which way in complete organized chaos, and I desperately wanted to decode this foreign language.

The first thing to note about driving in the Bahamas is that it's one of the many countries in the world that drives on the left side of the road, stemming from the British Colonial days, and that in itself was a novelty coming from the predominantly right-sided Americas. Typically when you drive on the left side of the road, the car steering is on the right (by law, I suppose), closest to the center lane. However in the Bahamas, we have a multitude of import options and cars are brought in from both the USA and Japan, so we have left hand and right hand drives. My husband and I have 2 vehicles, each with steering on different sides. Something that I had no idea was a “thing” until I moved here is the windshield/blinker switch-a-roo. Did you know that the blinker lever is always on the window side of the steering wheel? Well it is, and you quickly realize this when you switch sides of the car on a regular basis. I don't know how many times I go to signal and am startled that I'm giving my windows a squeegee instead. And since my washer fluid mechanism is faulty, I end up just smearing salt spray across my windscreen. 

Japanese vehicles typically come to us straight from Japanese auction companies. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would order a used car online, sight unseen. I’ve always found my potential vehicle interest in Auto Trader, then I'd go and visit the car, give it the good tire kick and a test drive prior to humming and hawing about the final purchase and perhaps whittling the price down due to some undisclosed flaw. But the Japanese online auction is the way of the islands. From what I understand, Japan has higher registration fees for cars over something like 5 years old, so everyone just trades them in for new ones every few years. Meaning, there’s a surplus of not-so-old cars in Japan that are looking to retire to the tropics and rust their remaining days away. You can go online and punch in your criteria (no Ford's or Mercedes I'm afraid, but a plethora of Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, Daihatsu and Hyundai). Most of them are equipped with GPS's that are impossible to do anything with since they are in Japanese, but there's a friendly lady who greets you each time you turn on your car saying something like "Cardamom, donya si tada natsu". They also all come with Japanese radio frequencies that go from 70FM to 89.9FM, so I don't get any of the 90FM to109.9FM stations. If you like gospel or classical music you'll manage to deal with the 80's frequencies. Lastly, the cars all come in kilometers and the speed signs are in MPH, so it's always a guess as to how fast I am traveling at any given moment. 

While car shopping recently, I immediately decided there were two types of cars I wouldn't buy, the Toyota Isis and the Toyota Rectus. Who comes up with these names? I picture the Japanese marketing teams sitting around saying...."Yes, we shall call this car...Isis, Westerners would like this name very much." I gave my husband the go-ahead to order whatever car he wanted, since he kept nixing my choices. He later informed me he ordered the Rectus. Does it not sound a bit odd to say...hey baby, can I go for a ride in your Rectus? 

Back to the road. For me, one of the first steps into becoming a local was obtaining a Bahamian drivers license. Now, we all have stories about trying to deal with government agencies, so I don't need to bore you with the details about how I got sent home to change clothes because I was wearing shorts (conservative ones I might add) instead of pants when I went to the Road Traffic office. After I went home to change, I was able to easily pass my brief verbal test which consisted of describing what certain road signs meant, and I had my shiny laminated license in-hand in a matter of hours.

Next was to actually learn the rules of the road through first-hand experience, since they didn't give me any sort of handbook in my brief meeting with Road Traffic. I knew there were a few legal differences, such as no free left turn (like the US free right turn), but there were also some unspoken ones which I have slowly picked up on over the years. 

#1 Giving Way - When you pull up to an intersection, there will most likely be something that is obstructing your view of oncoming traffic such as a building or a bush, so unless you have a vehicle with a short hood, you will have to stick your nose out into traffic in order to see the oncoming traffic. Even if there isn't something obstructing the view, you will find people sticking their nose into the intersection out of sheer habit. If you are the oncoming person, you will have to slow down and drive into the other lane to go around them, or simply stop and let them out.

One thing that I haven't gotten used to is the person who should have the right of way, more often than not, will abruptly stop in the middle of the road to let someone turn left or right. It's nice, I suppose, but I always get hung up on it. I am waiting for them to pass before I turn, but they slow down. Are they turning? What are they doing? I hesitate, they begin to speed up because I'm not taking the turn, but it's too late, I'm already turning, brakes slam, confusion ensues, but it's my fault. Even though what they are doing is not "the law" it's "the etiquette". I should have just taken the opening and turned, because now a long line of cars has built up and everyone is glaring at me because I'm the one holding up traffic. 

#2 Honking – Honking here is not like honking elsewhere. The horn is used mainly as a thanking or hailing mechanism, which I find refreshing from the angry sounds of a long blast of discontent. If someone lets you have right-of-way, the respectful response is to give two light taps of your horn. No wave is necessary, just a simple beep-beep will suffice. I now feel a twang of hurt when I allow someone the right-of-way and there’s no honk of acknowledgement. A few tips - be wary not to make the beep-beeps too long, or it will sound aggressive. One beep means you’re just saying hi to someone you know on the side of the road, but it’s also a warning that you’re approaching an intersection at a reasonable speed, so you're politely asking the other driver to please don’t pull out and risk getting smashed into. Keep an ear out for the difference between the two, they are slight. If you truly are angry that someone did something stupid, a long, looong blast of the horn is typically displayed, like so long that you think someone must have crashed and their unconscious body weight has slumped directly onto the horn. 

I once met someone who’s horn was broken. I was aghast and exclaimed “how do you drive in Nassau with no horn?” He hung his head in sorrow “it’s very difficult”.

#3 Navigating puddles – When it rains in Nassau one realizes how little thought was put into designing and implementing an engineered water run-off system, therefore, water puddles up like an ongoing chain of lakes and drivers are overly-paranoid that they will be sucked under like quicksand if they drive through it. To be fair, there are numerous unsuspecting potholes and unless you know the road on a dry day, you should proceed with caution, because you may experience a serious jolt. But I’ve literally been run off the road numerous times by someone trying to avoid a puddle. And I don’t mean some little Nissan sedan that’s worried about bogging out, these could be Jeeps, pickups or 4x4’s that are more than equipped at handling a bit of standing water and/or a hidden pothole.

After a recent hurricane, a pothole turned into a sinkhole, swallowing everything in its pathAfter a recent hurricane, a pothole turned into a sinkhole, swallowing everything in its path

After a recent hurricane, a pothole turned into a sinkhole, swallowing everything in its pathAfter a recent hurricane, a pothole turned into a sinkhole, swallowing everything in its path

#4 Roundabouts - *sigh* I don't even know where to start with roundabouts. My only shred of advice would be to navigate them with your best defensive driving skills. It's chaos and I don't think anyone is really taught how to use them. In fact, I actually know several people who have "bought" their driver's licenses. Meaning, they skip drivers-ed all together and get their friend at Road Traffic to sign off that they are legit to drive on the roads. 

#5 Power Outages - When the power goes out, the traffic lights go out, and any emergency back-up etiquette on navigation goes out the window. I was taught that if a traffic light had malfunctioned, treat it as a stop sign. Evidently they didn't learn that here (see #4). You will see cars at major intersections forcing their way through until it's complete gridlock and what would normally take you 15 minutes to drive somewhere will take you 1 1/2 hours. 

#6 Blinkers - People do not believe in turn signals here. I have gotten frustrated on numerous occasions, but alas, there's nothing you can do about it. Just leave plenty of distance and be ready for persons stopping in the middle of the road for seemingly no apparent reason while they are getting ready to turn. 

#7 Drinking & Driving - Go into any liquor store, pick out a bottle of beer, bring it to the cashier and they will put it in a mini-paper bag just big enough to hide the fact that it's holding a beer bottle, and they will proceed to ask you if you would like them to open it for you. I don't know of anyone who has gotten a DUI, although drinking and driving is technically against the law of course. 

And finally a word on accidents. When someone gets into a fender bender, the vehicles stop exactly where the scene of the crime happened, which is typically right in the middle of the road. They will wait there until the police arrive, stopping traffic for miles. My best advice for driving in an unfamiliar country and avoiding accidents, is to simply slow down and leave plenty of room between yourself and other cars. Plus there's usually some nice scenery to admire along the way, so what's your hurry?