By George Sass Jr.
This sliver of Bahamian paradise will remind you about the joy of escaping and just being.
“Ah, I’m guessing you’re in the wrong airport,” the friendly Bahamasair representative observed with a matter-of-fact tone as my fiancée and I dragged ourselves through the weathered doors of the Deadman’s Cay airport.
“But don’t worry, I’ll take you up to Stella Maris.” Apparently our flight to Long Island’s northern airport was cancelled, and without our knowing it, the airline had placed us on another flight. Lindsay and I tossed our bags into the bed of an old Nissan pickup truck and climbed on top of a towering pile of luggage that was stacked with the precision of perfectly arranged bales of hay. Right then and there—flailing around in the back of this old pick-up with the base of our spines appearing to peek out of our nostrils—we understood the allure of Long Island. And we’re still hooked today.
We soon arrived at a small church where our “driver” passed us off to her friends like a baton in a relay race. They finished choir practice, provided an abridged history lesson on the quaint church, and then the four of us continued our trek north ... this time in a little more comfort.
This is kind of how our time went on Long Island for the next ten days. We discovered deserted beaches. Snorkeled the 683-foot-deep Dean’s Blue Hole. Devoured fresh conch salad and sipped on cold Kaliks at the Max Conch Bar and Grill, operated by the very cool Gary “Max” Ritchie and his wife Liz. We absorbed a pile of neglected nightstand reading, while lounging on the flour-like sands of Cape Santa Maria. Chef Bruno Dittmar from the Stella Maris Resort Club charmed us with island tales while serving double-duty as our caretaker at the Ocean Cliff house. We enjoyed one of Bruno’s perfectly prepared meals overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Some locals even invited us to a pig roast—and everyone offered a smile.
All around us life glided into a natural holding pattern. Nobody seemed in a rush to do anything but to savor his or her surroundings. Before discovering the secrets of Long Island, I had cruised past this 80-mile-long mirage a dozen times or more. Then a few years ago while standing watch on the bridge of a Fleming 55 on the way from the Exumas to the Turks and Caicos, I stared at the shores for hours deciding it was time to listen to all the positive reports I’d heard about Long Island and add it to my list the following winter.
Yachtsmen will appreciate the convenience and hospitality of the Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town on the Atlantic Side. The small settlement is a port of entry and the marina is a convenient fuel stop for southbound and northbound vessels. The sprawling Stella Maris Resort has a marina on the northwest side of the island as well. And what about fishing? The island offers world-renowned bonefishing and top-notch guides.
Cruisers, anglers, and travelers should consider this sliver of paradise more than just a pit stop on the way to somewhere else. Do what Lindsay and I have done and make Long Island the destination. Please just try not to tell too many people.