Boat Nuts in the Bahamas
In March of 1984, Ben Mendlowitz, Anne and I flew to the Bahamas, first to the Abacos and then to Andros. There, we spent a couple of days on Mangrove Cay where we found native working sloops in abundance—both active ones and ones that had been hauled ashore to die. We had heard about Avenger, the racing sloop built by Alfred Bain and Leroy Bannister and knew that Bain was still fishing for conchs from his working sloop Unity B. that he modeled and built himself. Avenger was no longer active, and Leroy no longer sailed, but with his wife Sylvia, rented out small camps. We chose two adjoining camps and stayed there.
This series of photos is from the then-primitive settlements of Lisbon Creek where we stayed, and of Moxey Town on the other side of the island where we visited. Boatbuilding had pretty much ceased in both places, but we found a couple of sailing dinghies being traditionally constructed at Moxey Town, and a few more were sailing from both communities. Several native sloops were anchored off the beach as well.
I loved the derelicts not only for their charming photographic composition but also because they showed how these craft were originally constructed using only basic materials and tools. I took many photos.
Ben’s Calendar of Wooden Boats sponsored that trip and, of course, Ben was shooting constantly in color for suitable calendar images. His were primarily whole-boat portraits while I focused more on details of construction.
Ben and I returned to Lisbon Creek some months later, this time at the request of WoodenBoat magazine, to do a story on Alfred Bain, his boat, and how he used her. That article, entitled “Alfred Bain and His Unity B“, was published in issue #81 of March/April 1988. Unity B also got a page in the 1995 Calendar of Wooden Boats.
Click here to view images of the project.