Rode Trip first visited the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands during April of 2013. For two, glorious weeks we hopped from cay to cay up and down the 90 miles of island chain; there were no other cruisers. It has remained one of our favorite areas. Since last year’s visit every time we’ve met someone else who has visited this area of the Bahamas they have asked, “Were you there for the Valentine’s Day party?” When we would reply, “No,” they would exclaim, “Oh, you must go down for the party!”
There are a handful of seasonal cruisers who travel to Hog Cay, near the southern end of the chain just north of Ragged Island. From December through April this crowd calls Hog Cay their home base. Throughout their many years of visiting, the cruisers and the residents of Duncan Town have built relationships that extend beyond “tourists and locals.” This year from the moment we’d arrived at Raccoon Cay, our experience of the Ragged Islands was vastly different due to the number of boats who were also cruising these waters. We’d seen two motor cats at Raccoon Cay; they cleared out the day of our arrival and the following day two sailboats had arrived in addition to our neighbors in the next cove. Traffic! (Last April we’d seen 3 other boats – total!) All this hustle and bustle to arrive at the annual Valentine’s Day party…
Along our route to Hog Cay we’d heard updates on the VHF, “To all boats in the Hog Cay area, turn to channel 18 for information regarding the Valentine’s Day party.” Sheesh! Had we arrived at a mini-Georgetown!? What happened to our secluded “outer islands!?” But people were gathering for a purpose and the updates were informative, infrequent, and brief. (A veteran cruiser of Hog Cay was asked when he was going to start a VHF radio net and his response was, “When a net begins, we are leaving for good.”) The party would occur on Saturday to enable the school children to attend. All food and some drink would be provided by Maxine at $15/person. The party would start sometime around noon. The cruisers would hold an auction to benefit the Duncan Town school.
There were 30 sailboats and motor boats in the Hog Cay harbour on the day of the party. Duncan Town residents rolled onto the beach in their center consoles and unloaded tables, chairs, buffet dishes, coolers, DJ equipment, and speakers. The scene was set and people were ready to party!
Maxine provided a feast! Everything we ate was delicious; mutton curry, spare ribs, roast turkey, fried fish, peas and rice, crab and rice, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw…the usual Bahamian fare.
After lunch the auction began. It is astounding to me the junk that cruisers pull from their boats, and then trade with one another! You never know what you will find.
Brian and I contributed a large fender to the pile; we’d fished it out of the water weeks earlier near Stocking Island and I had no place for it. It was in fantastic condition complete with a cover. There was a second fender of the same size in the mix and the pair sold for $180! We came away with a pressure cooker, a new snorkel mask for Brian, and a very fashionable pair of $1 Gucci sunglasses for me from my thoughtful hubby.
The auction hauled just over $2,000! All of those proceeds were donated to the Duncan Town school. The party continued with music rockin’ the entire beachfront. We schmoozed all day making new friends.
With a few pit-stops to and from the boat, and of course refilling our backpack with refreshment, we lasted long into the early morning hours on the beach. A bonfire crackled, acoustic guitars strummed, and I passed around a bag of marshmallows for roasting. It was a splendid Valentine’s Day. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget our loved ones back east…