How we pay for things

In cash.

We pay for things in cash.

It’s not compulsory.  We could pay with a credit card at a few places on the island … with with a ~%5 additional fee from the store!  They charge you!  (I’m not even sure that’s legal).  But overall, credit card machines are a minority presence.

So we pay in cash.  Cell phone bills, car insurance, gas, beer, everything.  (It requires a lot of in-person transactions.)  It’s exhilarating to have to carry cash!  There’s nothing that feels or smells quite like a big wad of it.

But, I can’t believe

    • how quickly it goes.
    • how frequently you need to beg someone to break a large bill.
    • how much your day just ends when you run out of it.

····· Exuma has 4 ATM locations.  Stock up before long weekends.

When was the last time you asked someone if you could borrow some money to buy gas?  When did you last actually need help paying a $25 tab?  It’s funny but I feel like these sorts of interactions with friends never happen in the US.  I personally try to pay people back because, OMG the guilt of debt is intolerable!

Outside of borrowing cash from friends exists the concept of CREDIT.  I put it in all caps, because … the signs.

Credit is harder to come by than friends.  At this point in our time here, we have a few places that will give us credit and I always feel like we won something.


The Bahamian dollar is valued to the US dollar 1:1.  It makes math pretty easy and both currencies are accepted.  There is a huge amount of US currency here – maybe because of proximity and tourism.  When you get change from a transaction, you’ll get a mixed handful of US and Bahamian dollars and coins.  What’s extra exciting is that Bahamian pennies have changed sizes over the years…and the US dime is significantly smaller than the Bahamian dime.  This adds additional variation and excitement when it comes time to roll them up (see below).

Coins and VAT

We enjoyed not paying sales tax when we began our time here.  Things cost what they said they cost, and purchase totals always came out to delightfully even dollar amounts.  But then VAT appeared and everyone had a coin problem: consumers had way too many and businesses never had enough.  John’s pants threatened to fall off because his pockets were full of change.  I think things have evened out since.  I just roll a lot more coins and can still “sell” them to businesses in exchange for paper cash.

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If you’re feeling politically adventurous, go to a bar and ask loudly “So what happened to all the VAT money that the government collected?”


When you check out at a store, you generally get a printed receipt. But many places handle things by hand.  At restaurants, you even have to turn the bill back in with the payment.  I find it more personal and charming to do things this way.  SLOW DOWN, right?  (Unless I’m in a hurry because I’m actually not on vacation here.)

Casino Banking

I won’t say too much about this because I’ll probably say something incorrect.  But there are gambling businesses which operate like franchises in the Bahamas, with locations all over.  Called numbers houses, they are full of computers like internet cafes.  You log in with your account to play / gamble.  Your numbers house account is linked to your bank account.

We once paid someone by taking cash to a numbers house, where a clerk received it and added the value to our friend’s account.  We got a receipt!  Seems legit!

A note about shopping

When buying one item….from anyone…you get a plastic bag.  It might even be double-bagged, depending on what the item is.  There is a strong cultural difference with the amount of plastic bags used here.  Please, stop the madness and refuse the bag! 

When I refuse a bag or bring my own, they think I’m totally weird and find sneaky ways to get me to leave with a plastic bag.  Or they’ll make me re-ask to not have a bag each time I visit the store.  I’ll never give up!  Let’s make a positive change.

Official transom regulations

Bahamian Regatta Sloops

While watching a race from Regatta Point this year, I overheard a tourist ask where she could find out where each boat is from.*

We thought for a minute….the regatta program? (no); the boards at the regatta site displaying historical winners? (yes, but only for the winning boats); the transoms of the boats? (sometimes, if it is painted there and you are close enough to read it).

Ok, well…organizing information is one of ‘my things,’ so I’m presenting an incomplete list of what I could dig up.  I looked through my own regatta pictures that I have taken at every regatta I’ve attended.  I also looked through the last few years of photos available on the National Family Island Regatta Facebook group – special thanks to Doc Fig for consistently recording regatta history there! I also did some Googling to see what else I could find but I really didn’t turn up much of this sort of information.  It definitely needs recording!

Please leave a comment here on the blog post if you see errors, know of **additional** boats, and/or can help fill in any blanks.  I will update as it comes in!

Also, if anyone knows the exact specifications for the size of each class…please tell me!

P.S. I’m not prepared to tackle the task of describing Bahamian regattas or the sailing sloops.  But let me direct you to this post by another blogger!  Here is some detail about the origin of these regattas, and here is a PDF file of the official rules for the National Regatta.

*These sailing sloops are generally owned and maintained by members of a particular settlement on an island.  As such, they are a major source of pride and joy for the people and location they are associated with.

A Class

Class Name Number Home Port
A Abaco Rage 11
A Ed Sky Nassau
A Good News Ragged Island
A Lady Muriel 17 Staniel Cay, Exuma
A New Courageous 02 Ragged Island
A Original Courageous 20 Nassau
A Red Stripe 81 Black Point, Exuma
A Ruff Justice 10 Long Island
A Running Tide 05 Long Island
A Rupert’s Legend A1 Mangrove Bush, Long Island
A Silent Partner
A Southern Cross 19
A Tida Wave 16 Staniel Cay, Exuma

B Class

Class Name Number Home Port
B Ant’s Nest 06 Ragged Island
B Barbarian II 4 Acklins
B Blue Shadow Hartswell, Exuma
B Cobra 17 Mayaguana
B Eudeva 20 Mayaguana
B Heathcliff 09 Andros
B Lady in Red Lovely Bay, Acklins
B Lady Nathalie 1 Acklins
B Lady Sonia 24 The Cottage, Exuma
B Lonesome Dove 18 Hope Town, Abaco
B Queen Drucilla 07 Mason’s Bay, Acklins Island
B Rowdy Boys Pin-Ah Long Island
B Storr #2
B Susan Chase Mangrove Bush, Long Island
B Tari Anne 33 George Town, Exuma
B Whiplash 2 Hard Hill, Acklins

C Class

Class Name Number Home Port
C Barbarian Mason’s Bay, Acklins
C Beerly Legal 55 Long Island
C Bul Reg  17 The Cottage, Exuma
C Bye Gully Staniel Cay, Exuma
C Captain Laurin Knowles 73 Long Island
C Catch da Cat 777 Cat Island
C Crazy Partner 18 Black Point, Exuma
C Dream Girl 49 Rolleville, Exuma
C Flash Acklins
C Fugitive 28 Rolleville, Exuma
C Golden Girl 04 Buck Town, Exuma
C H2O 47 Black Point, Exuma
C Here Comes Trouble Rolleville, Exuma
C Hog Tusk 711 Barreterre, Exuma
C Irene Goodnight 20 Farmer’s Cay, Exuma
C It Ain’t Right Hope Town, Abaco
C Jacobs Ladder 41 Pirates Well, Mayaguana
C Keep Your Eyes On ‘Em 45 Rolleville, Exuma
C King and Nights 107 Mason’s Bay, Acklins
C Lady B Barreterre, Exuma
C Lady Diane
C Lady Eunice 03 Black Point, Exuma
C Lady Margaret Mayaguana
C Legal weapon 33 Black Point, Exuma
C Melva B 74 Mangrove Cay, Andros
C Pot Cake 07 Barreterre, Exuma
C Queen (Four C’s) Rolleville, Exuma
C Raging Bull 23 Rolleville, Exuma
C Revelation 3:19 34 Black Point, Exuma
C Sacrifice C1 Cartwright’s, Long Island
C San Sally San Salvador
C Smashie 40 Black Point, Exuma
C Sweet Island Gal 57 Long Island
C Termite Great Exuma
C Thunderbird
C Two Friends [lost at sea while being towed by a mail boat] Black Point, Exuma
C Unca John 117
C Warrior 06 Barreterre, Exuma
C Whisper Acklins
C Whitty K 44 Long Island
C Xena 90 Long Island

E Class

Class Name Number Home Port
E Armageddon Nassau
E Bahamas Hot Mix Nassau
E Bluebird Nassau
E Donzie Acklins
E Gold Rush Little Creek, Andros
E Judgement D 07 Andros
E Jumpin Jack The Cottage, Exuma
E Lady Kayla 17 The Cottage, Exuma
E Lauren George Town, Exuma
E Lucayan Tropical
E Old Faithful Nassau
E One Bahamas Exuma
E Q Exuma
E Scholarship II 02 Moss Town, Exuma
E The Panther 04 Exuma

Mystery Boats – Need info!

Class Name Number Home Port
Jungless 29 Rolleville, Exuma
Lady Ruthnell
Palm Cay Princess Nassau
Staying Alive
Official transom regulations

Official transom regulations

Water Spouts

Months ago, we had a “weather event” during a beach party.  I’ll start by saying that I still don’t quite understand the mechanics of what is actually going on here.

We were out at what we call Blister Beach.  It’s an uninhabited cay ~3miles out on the southside of Exuma.  It’s very isolated, and we come here a lot with dogs and kids.  This was to be a totally normal picnic in store. And yet…

Behold, the phenomenon of the water spout (and Jo…who is possibly the best natural-disaster model).


I wouldn’t know how to explain what happens inside a tornado.  We just don’t have them in my native California.  …But water spouts are essentially water tornadoes.

The surface of the ocean begins to violently rotate, while a fresh-water spout begins to descend from a spout in the clouds overhead.  (What? Right?)  If you are close by, as we were, a water spout will be accompanied by “frequent and dangerous lighting” according to the NOAA.  And yeah, that’s true.

We survived, but I can’t help but wonder about how people reacted to these before there was science.  Because even WITH science, there is not one single video in all of YouTube that explains water-spouts.*  I turned to and found some old texts about this.  You can read this one, in its entirely, online. Now.

Sailors and seamen of old have explained water-spouts as sea serpents or dragons…or just a crazy AF weather formation that you don’t know how to respond to.  But one popular response for those at sea was to make the shape of a cross, using two black-hilted swords.  If you were European, you’d recite the Gospel of John.  My favorite strategy is to just shoot cannon balls at it.


(Our experience wasn’t quite so dramatic.)


And now let me share what WE did!  ***Keep reading to learn about what you’re supposed to do.***


According to my research, we did really bad survival things and are probably lucky to have survived.  (Welcome to Exuma!). As much as I googled, I couldn’t find advice for a situation specific to ours, so I pieced this together from various kayaking and boating sites:

  • Get to shore, if it’s safe.
  • Move away from the water’s edge (our dogs actually wanted to move further inland but we called them back to us.  Guess we should have followed their advice.)
  • If there are trees, avoid any trees that are standing alone.
  • Spread out from each other!  (This did not feel natural to us, so it might be the hardest to follow in the future.)
  • Crouch down with just your feet on the ground and become the smallest target possible.  Hang out near smaller trees.

I’ll also add that this was the *coldest* I have probably ever been in my life.  The rain that fell on us among the circling lighting was frigid!  We got so desperate we risked electrocution by jumping in the warm ocean between lightning bouts. So basically: I would grab any canvas or waterproof cover you can, and use it to protect yourself.

Anyway, we’re all obviously glad to have survived.

* Please.  I want to understand this phenomenon.

Long Island cave tour

The Long Island Regatta starts next week, and we’ll be heading over there to sail and spectate!  As people begin gathering on Long Island and might want something different to do, I thought I’d post about the Cave Tour we took during a previous visit.  We loved it!

Mr. Leonard Cartwright is the local historian who will take you into a large cave on his family’s property in Hamilton.  I’m not sure how many generations of Cartwrights have lived here since their arrival from England, but the name itself is everywhere, and we learned that they married colonial settlers from the Carolinas.  Mr. Cartwright

Leonard, a grandfather himself, told us that his great-uncle and the “other old guys” decided to split the land up among the family.  Leonard ended up with the land that includes the cave.  He uses the rest of it to farm.  The family has used the cave as a shelter from hurricanes…he specifically mentioned Hurricane Francis, and I’m sure that it would also include Hurricane Joaquin now, too.  (I called him a few months after Joaquin to make sure he was still there and giving his tours.  He is.)


There is some old graffiti (dated 1865) from previous explorers or family members.  An apparent group of old time visitors from Rum Cay also tagged their presence…in cursive handwriting!  If you are into Bahamian history, these should be reasons enough to visit the cave and talk to Leonard.  But if you are into natural history, you should DEFINITELY check this cave out.

It houses 5 species of bats (they are very shy and basically hide in the ceiling…no bat-in-your-hair moments).  There are really incredible mineral formations and stalactites, and some pioneering trees.  And there is Leonard’s collection of fossils and artifacts that he has found within the cave or just outside of it.

I think this is a great tour if you can break away from the miles of beaches on Long Island!

Money Bats

I generally don’t like large bugs.

The biggest bug that I have ever seen – and hope to ever see – is right here in the Bahamas.  It is both large and airborne.  Behold, the Money bat.

money bat

Money Bat (Ascalapha odorata). The yellow wood is ~3 inches tall

These giant moths flitter like they are either drunk or stupid…and it’s almost cute.  But the thing that really changed my attitude from terror to joy is the local folklore: if a money bat lands on you, you will become rich!

My first reaction was yeah if that thing touches me, I better get some **** compensation, yet it turns out these guys hardly touch anyone.  They do plenty of drive-bys, but stick to their own wobbly path through the sky.  Because of this, it’s easy to see why it’s notable if one does actually land on you.

We met some great new friends in the past week, and witnessed their first encounter with a money bat.  To everyone’s surprise it landed first on one of them, and then on the other!  They have recently discovered what they believe is ambergris, the incredibly valuable whale barf that washes upon only a sprinkling of beaches.  Does the money bat landing on them indicate that the barf is legit and fortune is coming?  I sure hope so!

(P.S. John and I have also been touched, and our checks must be lost in the mail.)

El Faro finds

Sometime around the 24th or 25th of this month, cargo that is thought the be from the sunken El Faro started washing up along the entire island of Exuma and surrounding Cays.  The news spread on Facebook and people headed to the shore to ‘salvage’ what was washing up.  Salvaging is an old Bahamian practice of collecting goods from sunken ships.  In some historical cases, the ships were deliberately misled into crashes so that the cargo could be claimed.  In The Ferry, Little Exuma, there is a small church which was built entirely from materials salvaged from an (accidentally) sunken ship.

The El Faro debris has deposited hundreds of Frontline tick-prevention medication for pets across various beaches. There are also lots of tubes of mini-m&ms (predominately empty), lots of hypodermic needles (for diabetes), mayonnaise packets, and various Avon products (like deodorants).  It sort of feels like this must be coming from a container for a Drug Store. We might be able to find out – there is a rumor that part of a container ran aground on Duck Cay, which is a rock we’ve been to many-a-weekend.

It’s definitely weird to associate these finds with the drowned sailors aboard the ship.  They must have been so near to us.  I do like the idea that anything useable that washed up is going to be used.  This stuff is getting cleaned up off of the beach one way or another.  The local vet office is going to receive a bounty of donated Frontline, that’s for sure.