Destination: Plana Cays!

Our destination for this trip has been the uninhabited Bahamian islands of East and West Plana. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon off West Plana, and dropped anchor. The weather forecast for the foreseeable future is pretty much the same: East to Southeast winds 12 to 15 knots, partly cloudy skies, high of 84, low of 79.

Ordinarily, this anchorage is an overnight stopover for boats transiting from the Bahamas to the Turks and Caicos. With boat traffic still dramatically reduced, we expected to have the anchorage to ourselves, and we did—for 30 minutes! Very shortly after we got settled, the 154 foot motor catamaran “Magnet” came around the southern tip of the island from the east. At least they are far enough away they aren’t much of a distraction, and as far as we could see they never went ashore.

Thursday was pretty much exactly the day we came here for. Karen walked most of the way around the island combing the beach for anything interesting, and I took the drone ashore to get some photos.

In addition to the shells and fishing floats (including one of the very rare metal ones!) Karen very unexpectedly came across—people! There were four people living in makeshift shelters made of palm fronds and tarpaulins on the east beach. Turns out they are Bahamians here to harvest cascarilla bark.

Oils extracted from cascarilla is used as a flavoring, most notably in Campari, and also in perfumes. The largest world source of this is from Aklins, Crooked, Samana and Plana Cays here in the Bahamas. These four live six months a year on Samana Cay, harvesting there, and come to Plana for 6 weeks. They don’t like it here, “It’s so hot!”, and there are fewer trees than on the larger island of Samana, but they say the bark is thicker and they get a much better price for it. They get here in an open, 18 foot, flat bottomed skiff. I am not sure I’d trust it across the bay, much less 30 miles of open ocean, but it is what they have.

There is no drinkable fresh water on the island, they have to settle for what they bring or catch from rain. I am sure the local herd of goats leaves no plants that would be eatable for humans, so their diet here is fish and (I assume) goat meat. The next time you have a cocktail that is made with Campari, be sure to lift a glass to Sharon, Randolph, and their friends. They worked really hard to get it to you.

Later in the afternoon I took the dinghy out to the steep drop off at the western edge of the anchorage and went looking for dinner. Mixed in the the jacks, and barracuda I landed three nice grouper.

All in all, it was a perfect day. All the work and effort to get the boat ready to be self-sufficient for an extended period have been worth it.

Once we an internet connection again, we’ll post photos.

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