One of our goals for this trip was to get to Normans Cay. The days of drug lord Carlos Lehder are long gone, but since this cay plays a significant role in our novel, Night Watch, we wanted to visit his home named the Volcano for the large volcano shaped fireplace that dominated the living room.
Since Sable was comfortably docked at Highbourne Cay, we opted to pay to ride over (5 miles) on Highbourne Rider which shortly we renamed Highbourne Pounder. We quickly remembered why we like sailboats. After 20 minutes of pounding through the surf, we worried about the integrity of our spines and brains. However, no ill effects the morning after.
We were let off in the surf near the end of the runway. This was used by the planes carrying cocaine from Columbia, S.A. during Carlos’s reign.
Today the runway is the only thing still active. During our short visit 4 planes took off or landed, carrying passengers or workers for the company developing the island. It has changed hands many times but once again some optimistic investors plan to develop a marina and reopen the beach club, still known by the name McDuffs. Don’t believe your Bahama guide and don’t expect lunch or dinner there anytime soon.
Now, our goal was Lehder’s house which sits on the northern end of this island. All you have to do is walk the runway, then continue north on the one road that runs the length of the island.
Sounds easy, except it was hot and we actually had no idea how far we had to walk. The island is more than 3 miles long and we were at the south end. We had packed two small bottles of water and sandwiches. Our ride back to Highbourne was picking us up at 2:00 pm. We set out. Around every turn we expected to find something, but we saw nothing but more road. We were hot and discouraged. This cay is described as a fish-hook and the barb end curves around a shallow lagoon, the home of hammerhead sharks. We finally followed a short road that lead to a beach, which we learned from our “guides” was Conch beach.
Ed waited while I waded in the water but no sharks. Guess it’s not their mating season.
We were ready to turn back. But I waved down the only vehicle we had seen and convinced Perry and Maurice to drive us to Lehder’s house. Money talks and I really don’t know what you do if you’re not working here. There really is nothing here.
So, I am posting photos of what remains of Leher’s once famous house. Time, neglect and hurricanes have taken their toll, but the developers might want to make this a historical point of interest for future visitors. We met other curious cruisers (and a Canadian family that had flow in their Cessna) and everyone asked us about Lehder’s house.
The house wasn’t as grand as we had read,and even if we had been able to walk the distance, we never would have found it. The entrance is overground with shrubs and the once elegant stone wall is in ruins. Perhaps with walls and a roof, it would look different as our research indicated that once the floors were covered with Oriental rugs and the walls with original art work. European and South American antique furniture dominated the rooms.
Lehder drove his bright red Xcaliber at high speeds around the island and entertained many scantily clad woman in his house and on the beach. But the only "woman" left behind was a mermaid statue.
All in all, our visit was a great success. The only thing we didn’t see was the downed plane in the anchorage, but Ed was able to find this one. Drug running? Who knows.
We sat on the steps of the beach-front house that our character, Manny, lived in during his tenure in the late 70s. It is being rebuilt but is much as we described in the novel so our curiosity was satisfied and our bodies survived the pounding on the return trip.