The people we met on West Plana who were there making their living harvesting cascarilla bark had a lot of interesting things to teach us. These are the kinds of people you only meet if you travel the way we do.
Their home base is on Acklins Island, but they spend most of their time on Samana Cay, and visit West Plana Cay periodically. These are very poor people, making use of whatever resources they can find to convert into money. Poor, and friendly.
This is the boat they use to cross the 30 miles of open ocean between islands:
Yes, that is an 18 foot open, flat bottomed, skiff. The boat was a bit beat up, but the outboard looked well cared for and relatively new. This boat carries everything they use or need for the 6 weeks they spend on West Plana Cay. One thing that West Plana lacks is potable water. Since we can make all the water we need, the next time they were over on “our” side of the island we gave them 15 gallons.
In addition to the cascarilla bark, they earn money by supplying the restaurants on Acklins and Long Islands with goat meat, which the Bahamians incongruously call “mutton.” The catch is the chefs want it fresh, which means they need to deliver the goats alive. According to the explanation we got, they deliver a goat to the island, and get paid $100, the butcher gets $400 for the processed meat, and it retails at the resorts for $12 a pound.
One thing I had to know, “How do you catch them???” They are not terribly shy animals, but they don’t let you walk up and pet them either.
“Oh, it is easy! The dog barks at them, they turn to face the dog, and you grab them from behind. Feed them a few palm berries from your hand, and they are tame.”
The prospect of sharing that small boat with one, or more, live, wild, goats while crossing to Acklin Island would not appeal to me… Do goats get seasick?