Oct. 3: The more we read the more we are convinced that South Andros has all the characteristics we need for the final scenes of Night Watch. Andros is the largest of the Bahamas islands and is described in one of our Yachtsman’s guides having “a strange, otherworldly charm of its own." The Andros Beach Club Welcome Guide describes the interior of the island as "the last unexplored wilderness in North America." South Andros is really a separate island, isolated and cut off from the rest of Andros by a bight that goes completely across the island. No roads connect this part of Andros with the middle and northern parts. There is one airstrip at Congo Town and that is how we will arrive. We have never been to South Andros. Years ago we went into Morgan’s Bluff on our sailboat, and just last year we took the fast ferry from Nassau to Fresh Creek. Both of these settlements are on North Andros.
Just think of this setting for mystery and suspense. Much of Andros is water; dozens of creeks have narrow shoal inlets from the sea that widen into vast areas of shallow water and swamp. Some of the creeks connect with freshwater lakes and several meander from coast to coast. Most of Andros is covered with forests of pine and hardwoods, including mahogany. Nassau gets much of its fresh water supply from Andros. All the settlements are on the east coast of Andros; the west is totally uninhabited except by numerous species of birds, mosquitoes, horse-flies and a few wild hogs.
Folk lore still dominates parts of Andros with a belief in the chickcharnie, a form of gremlin. They are described as bird-like beings with huge red eyes, three fingers and toes, and a head that can turn all the way around. When not employed in mischief, they nest in pine trees, hanging from their tail. (Sorry no photos. I’ll try to get one while we are there.) It is unwise to irritate a chickcharnie by laughing at them or bad luck will follow you. It is, however, advisable to dress in bright colors, that, not surprising dominate the Androsian batik clothing. Chickcharnie like bright things and will bestow their blessings on you and so will the Androsians whose enterprise you support!
Andros is know for its batik clothing and table linens which is now sold on the internet and many other outlets. But it is also known for other things. Bone fishing, which I understand is only for sport. These fish put up a wonderful battle if that’s what your after, but are not good for anything else. Second, the barrier reef that lies parallel to the east coast, and third, blue holes. The reef is over 140 miles long and is the second longest reef in the Western Hemisphere. It holds some of the best reef diving in the world and many of the resorts, including Small Hope Bay Resort and our destination, Andros Beach Club, cater to cliff and cave divers. We are not divers and can only offer other people’s descriptions and photos.
Just beyond the shallow reef is the Tongue of the Ocean. This tongue is a very dark blue shade and I can attest to this for we have sailed in this area. The water changes suddenly from light blue to deep, dark blue. Unlike most of the shallow Bahamas, it is over 1,000 fathoms deep and because of its unusual characteristics is used by the U.S. Navy to test submarine technology and other underwater warfare. The base, called AUTEC, is strictly off limits–another one of Andros’s mysteries.
Blue holes are exactly that: deep water-filled holes that are popular with cave divers. Blue holes were made from water erosion of the limestone at the end of the ice age and form both inland pools or deep depressions in the otherwise shallow Bahamian banks. Blue holes are the homes of a second mythical creature on Andros, the Lusca, a half-octopus, half-shark-sea monster that lurks in the watery depths, protecting these holes. So divers beware!
Our goal on this short trip is to locate the setting for the final chapters of Night Watch, hike to the remains of the old Spanish Fort that with its spectacular views to the unexplored west, travel by boat up some of the creeks, talk to locals about the rich heritage of this island, and overall learn everything we can to make our setting as rich as any character in the novel.
So, if we keep the Chickcharnie happy, we will be posting our next blog from Andros, if not, well, know that we had a last adventure!
Jan and Ed