Plans for a sailing trip by two old U.S. Navy friends, one retired and one soon to be, had been hatched more than a year before the scheduled departure. The planned route included most of the main island groups of the Bahamas; and although the two old friends had made many trips together, this would be their most ambitious one by far. The untimely death of the author’s good friend changed the situation, and the retired Navy Captain was left with a “go no-go” decision. Closer to seventy than sixty, some reflection determined that “if he were ever going to go, it had better be now.” He was just too old not to! What ensued was a three month, two thousand mile, single-handed trek through the Bahamas, illustrating clearly that this is a voyage that almost any sailor can make.
NEW RELEASE!!!! A lifelong sailor tried a different way to cruise The Bahamas - MailBoats! Spared from navigational duties and weather planning requirements of cruising sailors, mailboats brought their own set of travel challenges. It all turned into a grand adventure for this sailor and old septuagenarian friends! Travel along with us and visit the real and remote Bahamas and meet real Bahamians! Only by MailBoat! Learn something about a beautiful, interesting, and friendly country and about mailboats and how to travel on them. Partake in our adventures, and then maybe go yourself!!
The Idea Hatches
A lifelong sailor, I first noticed mailboats while sailing along the Bahamian Out-islands during a long trip. No matter how small the island, it seemed that the mailboat would come in while I was there. Here is how I described it in my 2013 book, Too Old Not to Go.
“After a great week, my stay at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands was over. I made one more trip to my favorite beach, turned in the dilapidated pink jeep I had rented, and topped Rhombus off with water, fuel, and some needed supplies. Luckily, the Bahamas mailboat had docked in the town the previous day and the stores were full of supplies. Mailboats are the link to the larger world for the small, outer islands and they carry everything - milk, beer, groceries, lumber, crates of chickens, pallets of canned goods, goats, passengers, and even mail. A cruise by mailboat is now on my list of fun things to try; flexible schedule required!”
Captain Gurth Dean docks at Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas, during a 2012 sailing trip. I watched people as well as cargo get off. I watched people get off the same boat in the same spot during another trip in 2018. In 2020, I got off!!
What’s in the Book?
Our MailBoat Travel Adventures
How to Travel Instructions
Travel and Schedule Information
Sketches of Bahamian History, Geology and Culture
Paintings and the Stories of Historic Mailboats
Over 160 Color Photographs
“The beauty of these Islands surpasses that of any others.”
The Bahamas is a country of hundreds of islands that occupies thousands of square miles of ocean. In the 1950s, the United States spent a pile of money connecting forty-eight contiguous states that were already connected by a highway system. There is no question that the improved connectivity of the Interstate Highway System has been a major contributor to the US economy ever since. Economic imperatives drove that huge US national investment, and the improved quality of life for generations of residents is incalculable. But, to achieve the same goals, how do you connect the inhabited Bahamian Islands distributed over 100,000 square miles of ocean? Lots of bridges? I don’t think so. Mailboats! History, geography and eventually the need to improve commerce influenced the coming of mailboats. It didn’t happen quickly. By 1821, the schooners Dash and Paragon were connecting islands within the Bahamas with mail coming from outside the colony. Any hope for economic development demanded more regular inter-island service, not just for mail, but also for passengers and cargo. Eventually, a system of mailboats was established with a small cay in Nassau as the “mailboat hub” and the routs to the many Out-islands the “spokes.” The weekly routes, first with sailing ships of the day and later with modern vessels, finally connected the country’s many islands for cargo, passengers, and mail!
The Islands of The Bahamas cover a big piece of the Atlantic Ocean.
History, geography and eventually the need to improve commerce influenced the coming of mailboats. It didn’t happen quickly.<strong> </strong>By 1821, the schooners Dash and Paragon were connecting islands within the Bahamas with mail coming from outside the colony. Any hope for economic development demanded more regular inter-island service, not just for mail, but also for passengers and cargo. Eventually, a system of mailboats was established with a small cay in Nassau as the “mailboat hub” and the routs to the many Out-islands the “spokes.” The weekly routes, first with sailing ships of the day and later with modern vessels, finally connected the country’s many islands for cargo, passengers, and even mail!
Twelve historical, geological, and cultural sketches of the real Bahamas and real Bahamians are sprinkled throughout the book where we encountered them in our travels. Stories like the college art professor who left a Northeastern university and emigrated to a remote area of the Bahama Islands to pursue his art in peace and tranquility and raise his young family away from the turmoil of the modern world; The Out-Island Doctor who took his practice to remote corners of the country unserved by medical care using his 31 foot ketch the Green Cross as office and transportation; an inshore Blue Hole where you can step of a sandy beach into seven hundred feet of deep blue water; and even a story of a cultural icon that also happens to be a critter! Also included are stories of historic MailBoats, beautifully recreated with colorful paintings by a talented Bahamian artist.
OK, I’m Sold. How Do I Do It?
It all starts in MailBoat Heaven, Potters Cay, in Nassau, Bahamas. So it all begins with a flight to Nassau. A chapter, MailBoat Travel 101, will describe most of the rest with additional details scattered throughout the chapters with a summary and a detailed sample travel plan in the Appendix. Beautifully illustrated, color photographs appear on 107 of the book’s 187 pages, and tell much of the story. If you need any help with your own plan, contact the author.
Note: The cruising articles on the following pages have previously been published in various magazines. They are grouped by geographic area, but all locations are in the Southeastern Atlantic Coast and Intra-Coastal Waterway, Northwestern Caribbean including Cuba, and the Bahamas. Emailed PDF copies of any article are available free of charge, merely by asking. Hard copies in color are available by mail for $5.00 to cover only the cost of printing and postage. All cruises were accomplished in my Catalina 30, Rhombus. All trips originated in my homeport in Jacksonville, Florida, and include informative charts of routs and anchorages, as well as many photographs of places visited. The dialogue always includes a good bit of area history.
Cruising the Great Northeast(NE Florida that is plus a little bit of Georgia!)
Note: These trips took place during President Obama’s detente with Cuba, opening the way for US Citizen cruisers to cruise Cuba legally under some restrictions. If US policy returns to the Obama model, it is probably that the travel requirements, approvals, and restrictions will also return.
Cruising The Bahamas
Too Old Not to Go 5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it! Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2014 Verified Purchase Forty years ago this month, I set off on a cruise through the Exuma chain of the Bahama's. I was hoping to see how some of the places I sailed may have changed, but Fred's trip only went south to where mine began. I read the book in two days as he peaked my interest. I like the fact he didn't give up the dream and decided to sail solo. I won't give the reason away. I find the book very readable, pretty informative and I'd recommend it. Be safe on the water and good cruising. Jennifer 3 people found this helpful."Jenquay
Too Old Not to Go 5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed the book! Reviewed in the United States on December 8, 2014 Verified Purchase Really enjoyed the book. There's lots of good advice for the cruising sailor and lots of good advice for the armchair sailor. And the best advice of all is Go! Get out there!"Rafael Lima
Too Old Not to Go 5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Reviewed in the United States on August 13, 2014 Verified Purchase Great Read...going on 69 in September....probably ought to take his advice and just go...be damned everything else."Larry M. Handley
Too Old Not to Go 5 of 5 Stars Highly recommend Reviewed in the United States on April 29, 2015 Verified Purchase Great book. Fun and interesting read with many tips/resources to aid the cruising sailor to the Bahamas and beyond."Fwpper45
Too Old Not to Go 4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, sound insights and advice Reviewed in the United States on October 6, 2013 Disclosure: I met the author on his Bahamas cruise which is the subject of this book, and am mentioned in it. In this review, I endeavor to put my personal connection with Fred aside, in order to provide other interested readers with useful information regarding the value of this book. His writing engages the reader, with a light and humorous style. That said, he tells the tale of his Bahamas cruising solo sailboat cruise as a factual log of events. Also included are side-notes of information and insight--takeaways--that I can confirm are useful. I think that if I were contemplating my first trip to the Bahamas on a sailboat, or any single-hand sailing trip on such a boat, this book would be useful and inspiring. The four star rating compares this work with books by other authors in similar situations: self-published, first work, etc. In such a "genre" this work clearly stands out for me as a reader. 4 people found this helpful."Captain Wil
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and inspiring Reviewed in the United States on July 16, 2021 Verified Purchase First hand account of the trials, adventures and fun experienced by the author. Fred is a courageous and determined sailor who let nothing prevent him from completing his single handed voyage around the Bahamas. We can all learn from his "can do" attitude."Robin