Spanish Cay / Spanish Fly

A few gusty days in a row kept us at Spanish Cay. Sheltered by trees spared by Dorian, we relished a shady walk. 

Spanish Cay, road to the airstrip.

The grounds surrounding the marina were resplendent with mature Palm Trees, Royal Poincianas, Frangipani, Wild orchids, Bougainvillea and Hibiscus – a surprising contrast to neighboring islands that had few, if any, robust foliage post Dorian. We did not see any Spanish Moss.

SFYC Encounter – almost

When Rick and David made a mid-day trip to the bar, to imbibe in a Spanish Fly, they found this. Nicely done, SFYC Bahama cruise.

Kilroy was here.

The Point House Restaurant

Back to the marina restaurant, the food was excellent (repeatable), and the atmosphere amusing, as demonstrated in the random wall posters.

Garfield rules

Sweet attitude, Flying hair!

Friendly and feisty staff!

Air-conditioned game room, complete with a pool table (for Caryl).

A shark for our grandson Tyler!

It was a peaceful, easy evening, with only the sharks hanging out.


By design, our final anchorage in the Bahamas was also the starting anchorage of our 2019 trip.

Great Sale Cay

it was serene to sleep with open windows, enjoying a slight breeze all night long.

Well positioned hanger

The clothes hanger in the tree is for Mija.


Sunset over Great Sale Cay

Thanks to the generosity of a fisherman docked next to us in Spanish Cay, we dined on the FRESHEST of tuna as we watched another glorious sunset! Thanks Capt Rick for the perfect sear on that tuna! And thanks, Gail, for the sushi lesson, now I understand it’s all about the rice – ours was beyond yummy because she added champagne vinegar! So sorry, there are no food photos. 

Hello Jonathan

Jonathan hung out, hopeful we would share.  Scout’s feathered mascot seemed disappointed when the meager table scraps were from the salad.


Reversing our 2019 Bahama adventure, our final stop is West End. Entering the Bahamas required a Health Visa, with proof of negative COVID testing.  Now, two full months later, COVID testing is not required.  Hoping the world is getting healthier!! 

West End (also referred to as “Settlement Point”) is the oldest town in the Bahamas. Only 55 nautical miles from the Florida coast, for most US boaters it is the first port of call in the Bahamas – unless you opt to be a contrarian (like us), and make it the final port of call.

West End, Old Bahama Bay Marina

The settlement achieved notoriety, and a significant economic boost, as a rum-running port during prohibition. Warehouses, distilleries, bars, and supply stores sprang up all over West End. After prohibition ended, the wisest entrepreneurs shifted to fishing and tourism industries.

Bonefish Folley

Bonefish Folley

The north side of the island has very shallow water, making it a popular destination for bonefishing (mostly catch and release).

For more than 60 years, cultural icon Israel Rolle, known as “Bonefish Folley” was a renowned fishing guide. Featured by National Geographic as a master of his trade, his clients included some familiar names – Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Richard Nixon, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Ernest Hemmingway, actor Robert Taylor, and actress Lana Turner. In 2012, the legendary Folley passed away just, before his 92nd birthday; more evidence that the Bahama lifestyle promotes longevity.


Just a few parting words for the repeatable Bahama experience.

The people:  irrepressible in spirit, full of character, deeply rooted (the equivalent of old vines for wine), and generous – especially the fishermen. 

The food: hearty portions, uniquely spiced, both sweet and savory, with a mouth watering blend of fabulous conch, fish, and rum drinks. 

The islands:  BLUE water, sandy beaches, pure clean air, well-fed flies (Bahamian and Spanish) followed by spectacular sunsets and starry nights.

One more thing worth repeating. The conch adventure was a true highlight.  Nice try Grant J, while your comments were informative and amusing, there were two vessels, so our limit was 12.  Exhale caught only 1 conch, while Tonto’s Reward caught 6. All were legal size. It is true 7 were consumed. Next time, Mimi’s Oasis, consider joining us – when you are ready for another boat, give Trevor a call!

7 conch for dinner


Anniversary:  June 27 – Jamie and David celebrate 13 years

Canada Day:  July 1 (enjoy the fireworks, Bushranger!)

Birthday:  July 2, our grandson Leo will be 13!

NEXT STOP:  Back in the USA – Fort Lauderdale, FL.

On Friday, June 25, at the first glimmer of light (for Dave Lubs) we will depart West End, Old Bahama Bay, to cross the Straits of Florida.  At 7.5 knots, we estimate 10 hours on the water, weather permitting. 

Both Capt. Rick and Capt. David have been closely watching the weather – causing us to adjust our departure plans.  Unfortunately, Sally the Sea Keeper has not returned to work, so we are trying to minimize the rockin’ and rollin’.  On Friday the prediction is less than two-foot seas.  Real experience (a toppled refrigerator) reminds us that weather forecasts are Subject to Change (right Tim and June!).  Once again, the life raft and life vests are nearby.  Murphy’s Law.

Looking forward – my cousin John Gill will be joining us on Exhale very soon! Marty and Anders, we expect to arrive in Stuart by July 1 leaving July 5, weather permitting.  

Forgettable Orchid Bay

Capt Rick was confused.  “I just don’t remember being at Orchid Bay, are you sure?” he asked, repeatedly. “Ooh yes, we were here”, responded David G., the proof was in the photo.

Capt Rick and Maddie Sue, 2019, Orchid Bay


Orchid Bay, Great Guana Key is home to two infamous bars, Nippers and Grabbers. Although both are very colorful, there are notable differences.

Entrance to Nippers

We wrote kindly about Nippers in 2019. But after the hurricane, we felt Nippers put lipstick on a pig – let’s just say it was a wimpy effort – with wobbly tables, warped floors, and a sloppy paint job. 

wimpy umbrellas and sloppy paint

The staff at Nippers seemed tired, like the building, and the blaring loud music did not help.  The rum drink was a disappointment. We didn’t even try to order food.

In stark contrast, Grabbers was immaculate. To be fair, the site was completely destroyed by the hurricane. Not a single tree was left standing.

Grabbers, post Dorian, October 2019

With a clean slate, they chose to build back better.  Now, from the docks to the picnic benches – everything looked strong, built to last.

Another major difference, the staff at Grabbers were friendly and attentive. The logo says it all!

Grabbers new logo

We went to Grabbers twice to enjoy the mix of reggae and peaceful island vibe.  The food was great. BONUS: Floating rings, reminiscent of a certain Miami Vice experience in Antigua – but this time no drinks were spilled!

Floating Rings!

Grabbers was restored to maximize its natural beauty.

A peaceful easy feeling

Cleverly, loyal patrons supported the rebuild of Grabbers At Sunset by adopting (sponsoring) Palm Trees! The campaign worked – the restaurant is now surrounded by beautiful trees. Additional donations are encouraged.


Back to Rick’s memory issues – perhaps it was just too much rum in the Bahama sun. No worries, the meals on our boat(s) remain unforgettable!

Chef Rick and Chef Gail prepare a tri-tip dinner on Tonto’s Reward


We had NO idea how exhilarating it would be to catch our own conch! Thanks to Rick’s persistence – and a handful of YouTube Videos – Rick, David, Gail and Mary found, collected (Mary dove for the first one, then David caught the rest), cleaned, prepared, and consumed 7 fresh conch.

A bucket full of conch!

If you follow the Tonto’s Reward blog you will see some action shots from our photo journalist Gail 🙂

Inspired by Tom and Faye – Seven Conch!
Chef Gail and Chef Rick prepared Conch Salad

It was a feast!

Chef Rick prepares conch fingers

Milestones and Celebrations: June 23, Michael Gillespie (worth repeating).

Next up: Anchoring Out in the Cays

Tan your Toes in the Abacos

Abaco Strong

The Abaco Islands are steadily making a comeback.  It was heartwarming to see the Far Side Castle, standing strong.

Actively rebuilding

Marsh Harbour – Welcome Back to Wally’s

Wally’s, Marsh Harbour

We returned to Wally’s (which reopened only two months ago), for a memorable meal.  The menu is limited – a clear sign that the food is fresh – and the service is impeccable.  When we shared photos with the owner – from our 2019 visit to Wally’s – she was amused by the table side picture of sterno, which they still use to keep away those annoying flies!

Wally’s, June 8, 2019, sterno
Wally’s Mural

Marsh Harbour – Notable Events.

If you conduct a search, or ask Siri, “What is Marsh Harbour known for” you are likely to find an article about the tragic airplane crash in 2001. If you are not familiar with Aaliyah, (pronounced Ah lee ah) allow me to introduce one of the most soulful voices, ever.

If you already know of her, yes, I am aware of the R. Kelly scandal and her teenage marriage. Although scandalous in the US now, teenage marriage remains fairly common, especially in less developed countries.

Staying focused on her exceptional talent, did you know she was a stellar student? In 1997 Aaliyah graduated with a 4.0 GPA from the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts

Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001), was an American singer, actress, dancer, and model. She helped to redefine contemporary R&Bpop and hip hop,[2] earning her the nicknames the “Princess of R&B” and “Queen of Urban Pop”.

At age 10, Aaliyah performed with Gladys Knight.  Her first album was recorded when she was only 14, “Age Ain’t Nothin But a A Number”; and it sold over six million copies worldwide in the first release.    

for Mija

Her exquisite voice was one of Mija’s favorites. If you are not familiar with her voice, here’s one of my favorites, released in 1994:  At Your Best (You are love).  LISTEN HERE

Aaliyah was only 22 when she died in an airplane accident in Marsh Harbour. Tragically, the overloaded Cessna 402B crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all nine on board. The negligent airway should never have allowed such a heavy load (LOTS of music equipment), and the pilot should not have been cleared to fly, based on traces of cocaine and alcohol found in the pilot’s body. Even more ridiculous, it was later discovered that the pilot did not have an active license AND he was not technically qualified to fly that class of plane. A tragic loss that should have been avoided.

Music Memories

When you hear familiar songs from your past, do you step back in time? Maybe it’s that moment in 1973, triggered by the magic of Stevie Wonder, “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”. I found the video, David B, without the long intro:

For me it’s the California summer of 1976, memories of sewing with Aunt Dianne Gill while listening to Starbuck, “Moonlight Feels Right” – the song climbed to number 3 that year, so it was on the airwaves A LOT. Take a Listen

Man-O-War Cay

Man-O-War Cay is a boat building island. Home of the Albury’s.

And now, the story of a successful teenage marriage …

In 1820, Man-O-War Cay founder Benjamin Albury was only 16 when he and his stranded crew were found, wrecked, on the reef off Man-O-War’s eastern coast.  Among the rescue party was 13-year-old Eleanor Archer, daughter of a wealthy British Loyalist hiding out in the Bahamas after the American Revolutionary War ended. Just one year later, the teens were married. Reinforcing, age is just a number.

It’s no wonder the cay remains dominated by the Albury family since Ben and Eleanor had 13 children. 

Quoted from a new book by Jeremy Sweeting, “Man-O-War was meticulously planned out by Eleanor. She allocated land for roads, a cemetery, a church and a school. Her vision, combined with her husband’s seafaring knowledge and history, would create a vibrant community and successful boat-building center.”   

Over time, one church grew to 4, one Non-denominational, one Pentecostal, one Methodist, and one Plymouth Brethren.

Built Back Better

Post Dorian – The island promptly re-built the churches after the hurricane and is now actively rebuilding the surrounding community.

Post Office

What you won’t find in Man-O-War is alcohol.  That’s right – it’s a dry island, in the Bahamas. Don’t worry, there is plenty of alcohol on board to enjoy. Thanks to Tumbleweed for the Prisoner!

Prisoner for Kelly!

Life is Good when you anchor out.

Scout, tender to Tonto’s Reward and Inhale, tender to Exhale

Red Sky at Night – Spectacular

We close this post with another jaw-dropping sunset over Tonto’s Reward.

Sailor’s Delight!

Celebrations and Milestones:

June 19, Happy Father’s Day

Birthdays:  June 22, Scott Sherman and Ann Hughes; June 23, Michael (Gonzo) Gilliespie; June 26, Joe Occhino

Anniversary: June 27, Jamie and David Hendry

Next Post:  Orchid Bay – the tale of a forgettable visit in 2019.

After Dorian – a Cat5 Hurricane

a Bahama Category 5 Hurricane

If you look back in this blog, you will find plenty of stories from our 2019 journey to the Bahamas.  Over the course of 8 weeks, we had the privilege of visiting a wide array of remote anchorages, quaint villages, and bustling towns – along with Tonto’s Reward and our expert fisher friends Treble in Paradise. It was a splendid introduction to the Bahamian culture, its natural beauty, lively sounds, sweet aromas, and unique fresh flavors.  If you peruse those old posts, you will also find that Maddie Sue loved the Bahamas, except for those rascal pigs.

In 2019 we left the Bahamas in late July – shortly before Dorian pummeled the islands.

On September 1, 2019, the Category 5 hurricane Dorian struck Hope Town, Elbow Cay, in the Abaco Islands with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 km/h), the highest wind speeds ever recorded at landfall in the Atlantic. As a comparison, 2021 Hurricane Ida was a Category 4 Hurricane, with winds of 150 mph when it hit Louisiana.  

Dorian went on to strike Grand Bahama at similar intensity, stalling just north of the territory with unrelenting winds for more than 36 hours. Never before had a hurricane been so brutal.

Damage in the Bahamas was catastrophic. Prolonged and intense storm conditions, heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surge left thousands of homes destroyed. Structures were flattened or swept to sea, and ~70,000 people were left homeless. At least 77 direct deaths were recorded, and 245 people were still missing one year later.[2] 

These photos are from Hope Town United (more on that later.)

photos from HopeTownUnited.

Nearly 3 years have elapsed since the natural disaster.  As we continue to explore the Bahamas we wondered, why did some communities seem to be paralyzed after the devastation, while others have been more resilient?

A few places seemed to be spared. A little like the lottery – some had winning numbers.  True to the story of the Three Little Pigs, construction materials are a major factor.  The Elbow Reef Lighthouse is a great example. 

Elbow Reef Lighthouse Standing Strong since 1864

Although she looks weathered, that old girl was built to last.

Pete’s Pub

We took the dinghy’s to Pete’s Pub, a familiar spot in the Abaco’s, and determined it was doing well! A hefty clean up, and a fresh batch of autographed shirts and burgees hanging from the ceiling put it back into business in short order.

Pete’s Pub

There was a new addition for loyal patrons – Front Row Observation Seats.

Water View

Returning to the question of why some, but not all, places successfully rebounded? I am absolutely convinced, it’s the Power of Community with GREAT Leadership – when people bond together, the phoenix will rise out of the ashes! Hope Town, so aptly named, is the most dramatic example of a community that has successfully “re-opened for business.”


On the topic of leadership, let’s take a look at just two of the families, the Malones and the Sands, who were key in the revival of their communities.

The Malone Family

The Malone family helped build Hope Town almost 240 years ago. In 2019 Vernon Malone and his son Brian Malone, the former Hope Town Fire Chief and emergency responder, were early leaders in the resurgence of their hometown.

Vernon Malone, October 2019

Vernon Malone is a seventh generation descendant of Wyannie Malone, who arrived in Hope Town in 1785, as a young widow, with four children. Brian Malone is eighth generation, also born and raised in Hope Town.

Nine weeks after being evacuated from Hope Town, at 81 years young, the island’s beloved grocer, baker and Methodist minister went home to reopen his store and bakery, dig through the rubble of his flattened home and sketch out a plan to rebuild.

The Sands Dynasty

Dating back to 1648, the Sands family tree of entrepreneurs is deeply rooted throughout the Bahamas. In 1945, at age 21, Marvin Sands launched the humble beginnings of Constellation Brands, now the largest multi-category beverage alcohol company in the world.

Check out this link and see how many international brands you recognize and consume, including Kim Crawford, Prisoner, Mount Veeder Winery, Belle Meade Bourbon, Corona, Funky Buddha and LOTS more

Rob Sands, Executive Chair, Constellation Brands; and Sands Family Foundation, Board Member

Oh but wait, can you guess what popular Bahamian brewksi Constellation Brands doesn’t own?  Sands beer!

More Sands Family Members

Yet another great Bahama leader, Everette Sands, was the patriarch of Bahamian Brewery. Born in 1925, he passed away the same year as Dorian, at age 94. His son, Jimmy Sands took over the Brewery and launched Sands Beer, later passing the torch to his son, Gary Sands, at age 27!

Gary Sands, 2017

The Sands Beer family line includes Sands Gold, Sands Regular, Sands Light, High Rock Lager, Sands Pink Radler, Strong Back Stout, Bush Crack, 66 Steps Ale, and Triple B malt drink.

The formation of a grass roots nonprofit – Hope Town United

The Sands and the Malones, supported by a LOT of community members, formed Hope Town United – the economic engine that lead the restoration of Elbow Cay. To truly understand the level of devastation, set a-side a moment in your busy life and watch this short video. It’s a testimony to how a community can come together, in a moment of tragedy, and rebuild with true grit and purpose. “Picking up just one piece of garbage at a time.”


The list of first responders is heartwarming and overwhelming. You might recognize several.

Restoration in Progress – Vernon’s Grocery

As we strolled through the town we found numerous brightly painted renovations and we could see and hear more construction underway. We were also thrilled to see Vernon Malone behind the counter at his iconic Vernon’s Grocery – where masks are mandated, and strictly enforced.  Now in his mid-eighties, he continues to keep his mercantile well stocked to provide for his community.  Still an active Justice of the Peace for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and a master baker, this beloved preacher nourishes the bodies and souls of the island.

He also has some very humorous signs on the walls:

Vernon’s Grocery

Another note about that lighthouse.  Yes, we climbed up, and Capt. Rick was very brave. A total of 101 steps to the Lantern. It’s 120 feet above sea level.

The view was spectacular. Full of hope.

Hope town rebuilt – a view from atop of the lighthouse.

Cap’n Jacks – something for even the most difficult diner!

We strongly recommend you dine at Cap’n Jacks. Here’s the menu, zoom in.  No wonder the kids love it here!

Kids Menu lower left – zoom in!!

Bonus Photo from the marina- Bridget’s Rare Rums for Ray

Rum for Ray

Sandy and Iron Bear Arrive

Welcome to Sandy and Iron Bear, guests on Tonto’s Reward, so glad you are here! Special note to Ray and Caryl – Sandy said hello!

Sandy and her furry friends

Sending a little hope to Meghan and her family, and a little celebration of the sun for my little sister, Frances, and my Aussie sister, Heather.

photo by Sandy, taken on Tonto’s Reward.

Celebrations and Milestones

Birthdays: June 9, little sister Frances (Finny); June 10, cousin Debra McGhan; June 15, Heather Rutherford; Anniversary: June 14, Paul and Celeste

Next Stop: Anchored out in the Abacos