Beer and Loathing in Treasure Cay


Every year since the mid 80’s, sometimes multiple times a year, we head to the Abacos for a few days of fishing and relaxing in the beautiful island chain. There are many wonderful destinations starting with the old Walker’s Cay to the north through Grand, Moraine, Spanish, Green Turtle, Guana, Man ‘o War, Elbow, and Tiloo Cays down to Little Harbor plus Boat Harbor, Marsh Harbor and Treasure on the big island.

The beginnings of this year’s trip go back to my 2010 family reunion in Muscle Shoals, AL. While playing around on the Tennessee River, some of us began talking about how neat it would be to go to Abaco for the 2011 get together. Like most folks, my family loves to chat and the idea sounded good at the time. The following January, only my cousin Amy and our spouses were ready to pony up so we made plans to spend the 4th of July in the Bahamas. Amy said she had a couple of great friends with capable boats that wanted to tag along on their first trip to the islands. I sent a deposit to Brigantine Bay Villas in Treasure Cay for one of their two waterfront cabins, we also got the group to reserve three more cabins. It should be noted that my cousin Amy grew up on the lake and has a fair amount of nautical acumen as well as being a good judge of people so I did not think twice about it.

Somewhere around March, a fifth boat was added to the fleet…a neighbor of a friend named Putz Lad-ass. Putz and his crew reserved the last cabin at BBV. About two weeks before the trip, Amy and Jim hosted a dinner party at their home in Mobile for their friends to discuss what to bring, wear, do etc. There was a terse email from Lad-ass that he would come alone and would not be eating. I registered a faint mental alarm since the tone of the message was wrong given the friendly nature of the thread to that point.

On July 1 we were all assembled around Ft. Pierce, FL, with the boats resting in slips ready for the crossing to the Bahama Bank. Doris and I spent several years fishing Tred Barta’s tournament in Walker’s with Ft. Pierce's resident legend, Capt. Sam Crutchfield. We got together with Capt. Sam and the rest of our crew for dinner and some fish stories. Lad-ass remained in his room. Since I was the only one with experience navigating to and through the islands, the rest of the boats would follow.

We agreed to meet just inside the inlet at safe light, 5:45am the next morning.

At 6am, Lad-ass was just getting started. I eased offshore with Amy and Jim following on flat calm seas and gave the other three boats a standard heading of 106 degrees to our first turn, catch us asap. 30 minutes later, we spotted them to the south and advised them to head north and follow us. Lad-ass was in the lead and announced I was going to miss the entire Bahamas. That condescending tone would come to grate on everyone’s nerves over the next week. Trying not to laugh while I transmitting, I replied that I was pretty sure my autopilot was going the right direction and it was everyone’s choice as to who they wanted to follow….me with the experience of dozens of trips and sophisticated electronics, or Christopher Columbus Lad-ass on his first voyage with his handheld GPS. The others turned north to follow me. A few seconds later, the TUNER hit something submerged in the water. The force of deceleration was so great I bent my steering wheel keeping from pitching through the console. Luckily Doris was seated in a beanbag and was unharmed. Looking astern, we’d picked up a 70 foot section of 4 inch polypropylene barge cable that sheared the propellers and was wrapped tight to both. The engine was fine but the drive was shot. Little did we know, the Lad-ass factor had just kicked in.

I made arrangements with Sea Tow to come get us. We transferred the groceries to Amy and Jim’s boat. There really is not a lot to navigating the waters of Abaco with a cruising guide so I advised the group to stay together and watched them head off into the sunrise.

Sea Tow (highly recommended) arrived on scene about an hour later and had us back in Ft. Pierce before lunch. We put the boat on the trailer and returned to Gainesville. On the way, we booked a flight on Airgate flying out of New Smyrna Beach to Marsh Harbor early the next morning.

The flight with Airgate was fantastic, Capt. Brian had me sit in the right seat on the way……at flight level 17 in clear air, the entire island chain was lit up by the morning sun. We could see the boats in our slips at BBV in Treasure. Doris and I took Big Lou’s taxi to Mango’s in Marsh Harbor and jumped on Ken Fickett’s 15’ skiff. Ken owns Mirage Mfg. in Gainesville and built the TUNER back in 1990. Mirage is ground zero for cutting edge design and manufacturing techniques now building 15, 21, 29 and 32 foot sportfishing boats and 37, 47 and 74 foot Great Harbour trawlers. Ken is the ultimate boat builder, he goes out of his way to take care of his owners and letting me borrow his skiff was par for the course. We headed out of Marsh at 10am.

Doris and I got to Treasure an hour later and pulled into the dock at Brigantine Bay Villas with little fanfare. Lad-ass and his kids were sitting on the porch of the cabin I had reserved months earlier. I headed off to find Amy, only to discover she and Jim had just gotten to Treasure Cay an hour earlier.

Back to the previous day:

The other four boats took off into a fantastic sunrise in the East. Everything went well until they got into a storm near the middle of the Gulfstream. The action of the waves stirred up sediment in the fuel tank of Jim and Amy’s boat and clogged the fuel filter. Without a spare, they were able to only idle the Pursuit the rest of the way to the relatively shallow waters of the Bahama bank. Once there they felt a little safer and transferred their kids to another boat. They planned for the other boats to head on to Treasure, and unbelievably the others agreed to leave the Pursuit, while Jim and Amy went to West End to get gas and perhaps a new filter. West End is 30 miles south, out of the way and requires a deep water passage to reach….not the sort of trip you want to make alone with a disabled boat.

Amy’s Story:

After hobbling across the Atlantic with a plugged fuel filter for 8 hours, we left the West End of Grand Bahama Isle at 5 PM, one fuel filter lighter, and able to run at 30 knots. After about 40 nautical miles, the engine again began to sputter. The grit and sand had made it to the other fuel filter. We plugged along at 12 knots for the next 7 hours. July 2 was the day after the new moon phase in the Bahamas, leaving only stars in the night sky. The wind was out of the southeast at about 18 knots spraying us with every downward turn of the bow. The rain mixed with the bow spray lasted for over two hours. We laugh in the face of waterboarding as a form of torture! We approached Great Sale Cay at dusk, 10 miles earlier thinking we would anchor and sleep there. However, having received several texts from the rest of our group we decided to persevere. We were aware of their concern for our safety, and selfishly decided to continue on in near total darkness. We shone the q-beam spotlight 180° every three to five minutes. Forty-eight hours earlier I had a meltdown in Wal-mart because Jim and the kids insisted on purchasing the spotlight. I argued that we would never be traveling in the dark and it was idiotic to think otherwise!

We passed Center of the World rock on the port side and Veterans Rock on the starboard side all the while not actually seeing them or knowing how far out of the water they were. We could see them on the GPS however, and knew we had to avoid them. All we are truly sure of is that we passed them and didn’t run into them. We could have anchored at anytime in 30 foot water which was somewhat comforting but each time we would reach a waypoint we would celebrate with a burst of adrenaline by entering in the next waypoint in the GPS. We finally reached Spanish Cay at about 2:00 am and docked cautiously but happily in 20 knot winds. We changed our sea water soaked clothes for the third time, lay down in the cabin and slept for four hours until daybreak. That completed 24 hours on 24 foot boat. Cozy. We couldn’t wait to get started again because we knew our group was truly worried about us regardless of their snide comments later that morning. We kept saying WWWD-What Would Wiley Do? In our sleep deprived stupor we considered having bracelets made up and discussed how best to market them.

I woke up first and then woke Jim up and started untying the boat to start back. We couldn’t possibly wait until 9:00 am for the customs’ agents to arrive and had always wanted to know what the illegal aliens feel like coming into Texas at will. We had 25 gallons of fuel and knew that should be plenty to make it 26 miles to Treasure Cay. At that point we were convinced we could’ve swum the remaining distance and we knew we would’ve smelled better had we taken the challenge. The clouds were angry on Sunday morning but they were south of us and moved further in that direction so we never had any rain. We were able to reach 20 knots with no sputtering for over an hour before the fuel filter haunted us yet again. We passed Don’t Rock at a speed of 10 knots rounding the tip of Treasure Cay excited to be in the light of day and nearly to our destination, 16 hours after everybody else. Chay and Jamie were on the dock when we arrived. Even though we made it safely to the dock we knew we should’ve anchored earlier in the evening just in the name of safety. Ahhh selfish satisfaction.

Miraculously for those who know us, we never spoke one cross word to one another for 24 hours. A new personal record for me at least! Always in for a good educational experience we learned that God talks through fuel filters, seaspray, dark skies, and really bad breath. We listened to everything He had to say and He was right . . . He never left us; not for a minute. -AP

Back to Treasure:

It should go without saying that Amy and Jim were tired and aggravated when we arrived. The Blue Door cabin where they unloaded was warm, smelled of insecticide and there were dead bugs everywhere. Under duress from Lad-ass, the onsite manager had offered a condo on the beach but he insisted on taking our waterfront cabin since we were not there to defend it and they allowed it….astonishing! I went straight to Putz and requested he vacate the cabin we had reserved months ago before he whined enough to be allowed to tag along. BBV had offered him a beachfront condo. Given the opportunity to do the right thing, he immediately refused saying the management wanted him to have our cabin. Putz got a bad cabin and had the opportunity to move to a condo without affecting us but insisted on making his problem ours.

Brigantine Bay Villas has immense potential to be a destination in its own right. Three of the five cabins have been renovated, this was not disclosed in advance. The owners are extremely pleasant folks but relatively new to the hospitality business and are clearly not in touch with their customer base. We brought them full occupancy but they took our cabin and then refused to ask Lad-ass to move. The Lad-ass effect reached across the Atlantic obviously diminishing their judgment. In an uncertain world and with a 50% deposit required months in advance, travelers need to be assured their reservations will be honored. Instead they rewarded the squeaky wheel and ignored their obligation to us. They did offer us a partial refund to stay in a cabin with air conditioning that worked sometimes during the day when we were not there but never at night when we were, a refrigerator capable of cooling drinks to a frosty 55 degrees….and with plenty of crawling and flying insects. The refund gesture was appreciated but did little to encourage me to return...there can be no trust when you are dismissed like one of the hundreds of pesky insects that plagued us all week. It is no secret that reasonable people can and do disagree. They get to run their business as they see friends and I get to not spend any more money with them.

As an aside, you occasionally run into folks with the Lad-ass attitude…egocentric narcissists with little time or patience for anyone or anything save themselves. For the most part, I have been content to simply shun them like the plague. Since proximity at BBV was inevitable, I told Putz that he would not profit from our knowledge of the islands and left to sweat and swat while unpacking behind the Blue Door. I have not spoken to him since.

Sunday afternoon the whole group sans Lad-ass got on the three boats left and headed to Nipper’s on Guana Cay for their pig roast. There were 13 kids with us from 9 to 17 years old; luckily the crowd was well behaved. The folks on the other two boats turned out to be great people and very enjoyable to hang with.

Monday we all headed to Marsh Harbor to grab some repair items including fuel filters and a filter wrench for the Pursuit. What had taken a couple of hours at West End on the crossing was reduced to four minutes with the proper tool. The wind was whipping pretty good so we went to a beautiful little beach on the north end of Guana for the afternoon. Tuesday dawned with the same pesky wind, we tried to fish on some rocks in the lee of the spoil island off Guana. About two minutes after lowering a funky piece of squid, the kids got bored. A few seconds later there were six snorkelers circling my line reporting there were no fish around my baited hook. So much for the contemporary attention span.

We decided as a group to make an early start on Wednesday and visit the Sail Shop at Man’oWar, the Harbor Lodge pool in Hopetown and Pete’s Pub in Little Harbor with a stop at Abaco Inn on the way home. Things went smoothly for the first few miles but the ever present Lad-ass factor was not to be denied. About halfway to Man’oWar, the Pursuit’s underwater gear gave way. The drive was stripped which knocked the boat out of commission. Luckily one of our other two boats was able to tow us to nearby Marsh Harbor. We tied up to the back of one of the Great Harbour trawlers. Jim rented a boat to salvage the rest of the day and we headed to Hopetown. The beachside pool bar at the Harbor Lodge is always a scream; Gary makes the best drinks in the islands.

From Hopetown, the run to Pete’s Pub at Little Harbor was uneventful and once again the food was just marvelous…the Blasters are pretty good too. There’s something about being at the end of the world in an open air bar with a sand floor that makes me thirsty. After a couple of hours I was getting cranked up when I noticed the other two boats leaving to go home. We tried to catch them but they were far too fast…and they had all the kids with them. We turned into White Sound and the Abaco Inn for a Conch Pearl cocktail and a dramatic sunset over the Sea of Abaco. The rental boat slid back into Treasure just before dark.

It turned out that one of the two Great Harbor trawlers in Marsh Harbor needed to be brought back to the States for some repair work on the genset and a refit. Ken Fickett graciously gave me permission to tow the Pursuit back to Ft. Pierce in exchange for taking on the task of getting the trawler back. On Thursday, we returned the skiff and the rental to Marsh. It took a couple of hours to prepare the trawler for departure. Once ready the 37 foot boat behaved like a sports car around the dock. The combination of twin diesel engines set wide apart and a bow thruster made maneuvering a sure bet. I rigged the Pursuit to tow from the bow eye, it rode nicely in a three foot following sea all the way back to Treasure.

These Great Harbour trawlers are well finished, dependable and sea worthy works of marine art. They do require some adjustment as the maximum hull speed is 7.5 knots. At top speed, the wind and tide can influence the speed over ground positively or negatively up to 50%. The twin diesels burn around one gallon per hour each. Looking at an approximate 30 hour trip, we packed the trawler on Thursday evening with departure planned at safe light. Events mixed with a little Kalik the rest of the night caused us to leave at a more reasonable 8am.

Happily the wind continued its weeklong origin from the ESE so the ride was good and we averaged around 7 knots into the twilight. The teenagers slept, the adults took turns watching the radar and resting. Toward the edge of the Bahama bank, we encountered a series of thunderstorms with high winds and pelting rain that lasted until early morning. I dropped the speed down to 5 knots to ease the strain on the towing setup and kept a sharp knife handy in case we needed ot cut the Pursuit loose in the storm. Just before dawn, the wind died, the rain stopped, a dazzling sun rose behind us and we enjoyed a glorious morning for the last 35 miles. The trawler secured in a slip and the Pursuit loaded on the trailer, we cleared customs and headed to New Smyrna to pick up my truck and on to Gainesville for dinner.

A quick text revealed the other three boats were nearing Ft. Pierce inlet. As the slowest and smallest boat, Lad-ass had pleaded with the others to slow down and not leave him during the trip back from Treasure. Once at the ramp, the Lad-ass factor took over. The inconsiderate bastard loaded his boat and hauled Lad-ass back to Mobile leaving the others to fend for themselves. We know he ran out of gas a few hours later because he astoundingly called to see if someone could help him. With no one available, he sent one of his crew ahead to get gas…the gentleman returned an hour later with a quart bottle full of fuel. I understand earplugs were required when Putz realized he would be waiting another hour for enough gas to crank the truck.

The rest of the crowd’s plan was to share dinner with us in Gainesville but some trailer troubles sidelined them near Orlando. With that final insult the Lad-ass effect waned, following Putz and the setting sun out of Florida and into annals of the Peckerwood Hall of Fame. In retrospect, it is easy to see why Lad-ass had to whine to be included on our trip. The man obviously has no friends nor does he deserve any. Folks with walkingaroundsense will not be treated as tissues to be discarded after one blow of Putz’s boogerhook. He certainly won’t be getting a Christmas card from us.

The rest of the Mobile group made it for breakfast the next morning. I’d be remiss for not mentioning that Jamie, Chay, David, Debra, Brian and Sandy were sensational folks to spend time with. They took us in when we needed a boat ride, towed us to Marsh Harbor sacrificing part of their day, laughed at Amy’s and my lame type A plans to punish Putz Lad-ass for cabin thievery and hung with us on the dock when the beer and the music needed professional attention. They all have beautiful and talented kids. They epitomize easy going and pleasant. It would be great to kick about with them again, with any luck under better conditions.


While it undoubtedly appeals to a lot of folks, Treasure Cay is not my cup of tea. With modern condos, one bar and one grocery store, it lacks the colonial charm of a Hopetown. In a word, Borrrrring. One of the constables pulled us over and lectured us for several minutes for letting a 10 year old sit in his mom’s lap and steer a golf cart at a blazing 8mph….we go to the Bahamas to get away from that sort of bullshit institutional oversight. In an electronic world of instant gratification, mis-directed energy and false security, Lad-ass could become a fixture there….he would fit right in.

The primary math involved in this aftermath is $12,000…the amount of money required to replace my outdrive and propellers. This was an expensive vacation in terms of dollars but the time wasted near Putz was more aggravating. We reinforced my theory that you don’t take vacations with people you or your friends don’t know…it works occasionally but when it doesn’t, it really sucks. Even the best maintenance is no match for a chance encounter with flotsam…think about that next time you are out on the water and tempted to dump something. Note to the gentleperson that tossed the barge cable overboard: May you fall asleep under a camel with dysentery.

Copyright by Capt. Wiley Horton