Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hola, from Carlos Lehder

normansIMG_2033 We’ve spent a few days anchored in the cut next to Norman’s Cay. As Chris says, ‘taking in the eyegasm of the water color.” The cut is a natural passage between the thousands of feet deep Exuma Sound in the east and the shallow Exuma Banks to the west. The entrance has plenty of water for Georgia, but requires VPR (Visual Piloting Rules), i.e. you follow the water color in to stay in deep water. Once inside we have too much draft to anchor outside of the cut. This means that we change direction 4 times a day with the force of the strong tidal currents coming through here. That’s OK when the winds are light. When they blow strong and on the beam, it can make for an uncomfortable few hours.

Normans Cay is famous because it was owned in the 70’s and early 80’s by the Medellin drug smuggler Carlos Lehder. He bought the island and put lots of dollars into improvements. Like extending the run way for his delivery planes and improving the dock. New storage buildings were constructed and over 100 Bahamians were on staff. He was buddies with Panama’s Manual Noriega and Robert Vesco, who had a some nice digs on an island just south of here.

normansIMG_2027 The runway at Normans Cay. You can just see the Exuma Sound water showing up at the end of the runway.

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A hangar off the airstrip. Good storage for dead planes, old toilets, washing machines and refrigerators.

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We dove a plane wreck just off the Cay.

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The story of the wreck is that the pilot was flying in with a loaded down plane full of fresh sod for the island renovations. He decided to do a touch-n-go landing and take off to see how difficult it would be to fly out of the strip with a load of less benign and more expensive cargo. He banked off the end of the run way and promptly dropped into the shallows of Normans Bay. Carlos witnessed this and reportedly shrugged and ordered another plane.

The island was raided by Bahamian police with backup and surveillance by US agents in 1979. There had apparently been a tip-off, as the island was spotlessly clean and Carlos was back in a few days.

He did latter end up getting arrested in Colombia and extradited to the US. His somewhat redundant sentence: life without parole plus 135 years. I think the man pissed off someone big.

normansIMG_2025 The water off Carlos’ dock. Impressive color!

normansIMG_2031 Chris getting her required beach walk on a windy day on the Exuma Bank.

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Beach walk shell collecting – actually this one is about 12 or 14 inches across, too big for a pocket. The Bahamian Queen Conchs are everywhere. Every restaurant offers either Conch Chowder or Conch Fritters. Conch is pronounced conk, for you foreigners who don’t speak the language, Mon.

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A wiggly ray having a morning swim under the bow of the boat seen through the current ripples.

Paul

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