Friday, April 9, 2010

The Hermitage and New Bight, Cat Island

Father Jerome is kind of a legend in these parts. He was an Anglican priest turned Catholic priest, who designed and had built the two churches in Clarence Town, Long Island (see previous blog). Well, that must have tired him out, because he retired on Cat Island, and boy, did he pick the spot! He built his retirement home, called the Hermitage, atop the highest point in the Bahamas. OK, at 206 feet elevation it’s not a mountain, but the views can’t be beat. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean, to the west is Exuma Sound; the green of the island extends north and south. You reach the Hermitage by walking along a deserted road, then up a rocky dirt path through the woods, alongside of which are stone carvings or statuary of the Stations of the Cross (you Catholics out there know what these are). The building is quite striking, as you can see from the picture above. It’s a series of small, and I mean small, rooms built of stone – three or four rooms total, including a chapel with a pew built for one. Doesn’t Chris look particularly holy with the light filtering around him in the chapel in the picture to the left? The bedroom was just that – a room large enough for a wooden bed (see picture at right); apparently he did allow himself a pillow, according to the fact sheet there. There were some decorative arches and Latin sayings carved into some of the walls, but mostly it was quite basic. Five or ten minutes down another trail there’s a cave, even more basic (see below) – perhaps he vacationed there when the house got to be too much for him.

The Hermitage is located just above the New Bight settlement, which has a beautiful waterfront with Australian pines to provide shade (except they’re an exotic species) and pretty stone benches (at left). Down the beach was the sailing/social center, with brightly colored huts set between the road and the beach (below). Each cut offered food or drink, and there was a stand and speakers set up for bands to play. Once again, the people really made the place. We wanted to pick up some fresh produce at the government packing house, so we hitchhiked there and back. We had no problem getting rides, and the people who picked us up were so friendly. We also had a nice chat with Captain John, a gentleman from Nassau who is retired, but will take jobs captaining ships here and there when the job is right. He was picnicking in the shade outside the packing house while he waited to pick up fuel for his small ship, which was anchored just off the harbor, to complete his journey to Haiti, where he was taking medical supplies. We had heard him on the radio the previous day requesting information on harbor depths. They told him that there was 15 feet of water at the entrance, but it certainly didn’t look like that to us (more like five feet with a sand bar), so he was smart to hold off and wait for the mail boat to deliver the fuel to him.

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