Island Back-Story: How I Discovered This Tiny Paradise

(Editor’s Note: Originally posted on March 16, 2012, this post was updated on September 25, 2012 to add in pictures! Once I retrieved old photo albums from storage, and consulted my dad’s pilot’s logs for details of our early trips, I corrected a few errors in memory and added the old pics! Enjoy.)

Since the island is so small, and so far from where I lived in the States most of my life, how in the world did I ever find it? Well . . .

15-Year-Old Midwestern Girl

Let’s go back in time to the mid-80’s . . . Madonna was huge. So was hair. As a 15-year-old girl, I primped quite a bit, finding the perfect combination of eye shadow and blue eyeliner, twirling a curling iron for hours, plumping up shoulder pads and otherwise behaving like a stereotypical teenage girl.

Still an 80’s girl in my Senior photo a few years later.

Landlocked in the Midwest, I was beside myself with excitement over an upcoming family trip – to the exotic Bahamas!

Southern Flyer

Years before, while we still lived in a Southern state, my dad started taking flying lessons. Eventually, he obtained his private pilot’s license, and my parents bought a small airplane with another couple. Flying with my dad replaced long road trips as our mode of transportation for visits to extended family and vacations.

Mom and Dad always took at least one kid-free vacation every year. Because the Bahamas are known as a pilot’s haven with all the island-hopping that can be done and beautiful aerial views of the multi-hued water, my parents and another pilot couple started flying to the Bahamas for their grown-up getaways. Usually visiting three spots during a week’s vacation, they found themselves saving one particular island for last, recognizing it as a favorite.

That First Trip and Its Many Surprises

After several years of this, my parents decided they loved it so much that they wanted to share it with my brother and me. So, in lieu of lots of Christmas presents, we were going to spend the holiday in the Bahamas! Bundled in parkas and winter gear, we loaded our suitcases packed with swimsuits and shorts into the airplane. We shivered our way through a bitterly cold take-off and began to make our way across the country toward Florida.

The movie Iron Eagle was recently released, and a favorite of my younger brother (age 11 that year). Our first surprise on the trip was that Dad made a cassette recording as “Chappy” from the movie, narrating the different cities and points of interest we were flying over. He timed it to coordinate with the nav points he was flying and, whenever he made one of the control beeps start going off, my brother and I switched on our Walkman and listened to “Chappy” explain what we were seeing below! (It was very cool to us at the time, and, now, it is even more special thinking about all of his effort and creativity!)

I still have Dad’s “Chappy” letter in my scrapbook!

We landed in Florida for an overnight stay, and my parents made an adventure of not letting my brother and me know where we were. We took a taxi to the hotel, and I learned later that Dad had the driver take a circuitous route to avoid the extensive billboards advertising this major tourist destination. As we were getting settled into our hotel room, there was a knock on the door which, oddly, our parents had my brother and me answer. Surprise number two – there stood our grandparents! The family had arranged for them to join us from their northern state for this adventure and to spend the holiday together. Delightful!

Once we were all together, my parents revealed the third surprise – our location, Orlando, and a detour to Disney World! We had never been, and my parents, somewhat concerned that two teenagers would be bored on a tiny, remote island, added this to the itinerary for some extra thrill. So imagine THEIR surprise and horror when I burst into disappointed tears. Excited to work on my tan and travel out of the country – my first time ever – Disney World was an unwelcome delay that would eat into that time. How parents make it through teenage years is beyond me! I settled down, and we all had a wonderful time in Disney World.

The Islands of the Bahamas

Finally, it was time! We flew into the Bahamas, cleared Customs on one island, then flew to this small island that my parents loved – yup, the same one I now call home.

Like our parents, my brother and I quickly loved this place! We enjoyed the sun, marveled at the Bahamian dialect and manner of speaking and otherwise enjoyed all things tourist.

Tourist photo op: picking up starfish!

We stayed in the best accommodations available on the island, although they were still fairly primitive by U.S. city standards. Our little cottage was itty-bitty for the four of us. We were thankful to have running water, but it was not fresh water! We showered in brackish water and brushed our teeth from the gallon jug of fresh water that housekeeping brought each day. At night, we slept with the lights on after realizing that large cockroaches came out of hiding in the dark and covered the ceiling and walls – ewwww!

We stayed in the double-decker “houseboat” on the right.

This hardly sounds like the kind of place my primping 15-year-old self would tolerate, much less love. But love it I did.

The locals and visitors were all so very friendly. We enjoyed three delicious meals each day at the marina’s club. The beaches boasted the softest, whitest sand. And the water was the clearest and prettiest I have ever seen, before or since.

Snorkeling in the clear water.

Best of all, our little cottage came with a 12-foot Boston Whaler, so we cruised all over the island chain in our little boat, stopping to swim, snorkel, hunt for sand dollars, explore and lounge on the beaches. I also loved to softly bob on the anchored boat, singing along to Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” while I soaked in the sun. It was paradise.

Our little boat in the setting sun, photo taken from the houseboat porch.

And So On and So Forth

Thus began a love affair with this island that would endure for decades. Thrilled that my brother and I loved the island, my parents turned this into an annual trip for us all.

Second trip, 1987, ages 16 and 12.

Every Christmas for years to come, we’d pile into the plane and fly to our little slice of heaven. As the years passed and we became “regulars,” we enjoyed trading stories and catching up with the locals and other regulars.

1987, my second trip, with brother and mom and two Bahamian friends who have now known me 26 years!

It really became a home away from home. Eventually, my parents bought land on the island and, some years after that, built a vacation home. “Renters no more!” people liked to tease.

As the years passed, life threw its curve balls, as it does to so many people. For one, my parents divorced (as you may have surmised from other posts), but the island home remains in my family. Thanks especially to the generosity of my mother I am happily nesting in our family home, complete with decades of fond memories.

I am grateful to my parents for bringing me to this special place all those years ago and making it possible for the wonderful island experiences to be part of my world – then and now.

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