Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shroud Cay & Norman Cay -- Still in the Exumas

Andy pumping up the dinghy for our adventure
On a mission to take our dingy up the scenic winding northern creek on Shroud Cay, we departed Warderick Wells about 9:00 am.  This Creek remained on my “To Do” list from our trip down.  We’d tried to enter it then, but were blocked by sandbars everywhere!  I’d missed the fine print that states one must enter at high tide and not linger, or one would be trapped inside until the next high tide!  Phew, the Gods were with us then -- because we would have been entering on a falling tide and certainly would have gotten stuck!!!  Grabbing a mooring ball on Shroud Cay about 10:30 am, we were in the dinghy within 5 minutes, headed off for the Creek. 
Entering the creek 
 Ah, it was so pretty inside, winding around and around with mangroves on either side of us, skinny water mixed with deep channels,  BUT no wildlife of any kind, except for a few small sting rays we’d see from time to time sliding past our dink.  
Every shade of aqua
View looking from creek to the Atlantic Ocean

We never saw a bird of any kind, nor any fish swimming.  If we’d been in this creek in Florida, we would have seen a zillion alligators!!

We followed the Creek all the way to where it connects with the ocean, but decided to not beach the dingy on the tiny beach just before the rocks, sandbar and whatever else might be lurking there.  

Winding our way back to Finally Fun

Back at Finally Fun by noon, we released from the mooring ball, heading further north to Norman Cay, a short trip of a little over an hour. 
Ruins from the Carlos Leder compound

We’d skipped this island on the way down and I was very interested in hiking about to check out the ruins left from the days of Carlos Leder, a big time Columbian drug runner, who is now spending his days in a US prison cell.  Seems Leder ran his operation from the southern tip of the island, via air and boat.  When unsuspecting cruisers got too close, he simply murdered them and that is what got the attention of the US Feds, who infiltrated his gang, finally nailing him and his gang of thugs.

Leder's houses in the trees - bullet holes and decay
We dinked around to the east side of the island, from where we were at anchor off Skipjack Point,  checking out the dilapidated dock and bullet ridden houses from the water.  We never saw the sunken plane that is reputed to be here, as the weather is so cool I didn't want to snorkel.  Nor did we see the wall that protected this compound, not wanting to linger as the tide was falling and it is shallow, shallow, shallow here, even at higher tide.  
Leder's compound, closer view

Welcome to Norman Cay - the tiny landing strip
Beaching our dingy back on the west side of the island, near the two houses, again at the southern end off Skipjack Point, we found a Pirate Flag flying, advertising MacDuff’s Bar and Grill.  We assume this is the old Norman’s Cay Beach Club referenced in the guidebooks as there is nothing else around.   
Hiking down a sandy path toward the runway, with beautiful wispy pine trees overhead, providing shade, we found the Bar & Grill.  
Hungry and ready for the hamburgers mentioned in the guidebook, we stepped into the place about 3:30 PM and were promptly stared at by one blonde surfer type guy and three locals, sipping beer around the bar.   Cute place, clean, but definitely no warm welcome here!  The sign on the door did say Lunch 12-3 and Dinner 5-8.  We asked if they by chance were serving anything now.  ‘No’.  “Ok, no problem, we will wait til dinner at 5:00”  NO, was the reply.  “You have to make your reservation by 3:00 if you want to eat dinner here.”  
Outta here, back to the beach and boat
Huh, this dude so reminded me of those arrogant, patronizing buggers who hold the red velvet ropes outside of the fancy places in NYC, looking you up and down to determine if you are ‘worthy’ of entering their joint.  This blonde dude was non-communicative, staring rudely.  Both Andy & I felt creepy in the place and did not even ask about the wifi touted in the guidebooks that was a main reason for coming to this Bar & Grill.  Talking later, we each wanted OUT of there.  Hackles and hairs standing on end....bad vibes.
Contrast that to another island we were on that was not open for dinner for another couple of hours....but showing up with 6 or 8 of us boaters and inquiring, the owner quickly called in some staff and fixed us a great meal!  Business is business...she didn’t want to lose potential customers!
I watched the shoreline all evening closely.  Of the 10 boats at anchor here, not ONE boat/dingy went to shore after 4:00 PM, meaning this blonde dude had absolutely no one for dinner from the anchorage.  As basically no one lives on the island, I wonder about a lot of things.....(a) Did he not want to take our reservation as he had no one else to serve and it would not be worth his time to cook for only two for dinner?  (b)  Is he getting a lot of business from the two houses on the beach or perhaps from folks coming from Wax Cay around on the other side?   Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to cross from Wax Cay to Norman Cay via the cut in the dark with its shallows, reefs and strong current....and then hiking in the dark with no path to the Bar and Grill.  or (c)  With my imagination, is this place a front for something else?????  Leder resurrected....???
We will never come back here.......

Bye Bye Norman Cay 
UPDATE:  Two days later, in Nassau, we bumped into boaters we've met previously.  In a random conversation about the various islands, I mentioned our experience at the MacDuff Bar and Grill on Norman Cay and the rude, Not So Interested In Serving You dude.  Weird, these boaters had basically the same experience, saying it was clear that they were not welcome in the place; that they did not want to serve them food; didn't ask them to sit down, have a beer, etc.  Just stared at......Creepy place.


  1. Stumbled upon your blog and just wanted to let you know that we did not have the same experience that you did at Norman's Cay. We went in for lunch one day and had a great burger and fritters. Chatted with the bartender and realized it was too late for us to make dinner reservations for that night, so made them for the next night! Guess there are rules in paradise! Too bad you had a bad experience. - Living The Dream and Loving It!

  2. We recently heard that a significant change has happened at MacDuff's on Norman's Cay. There is a change in management as a result of similar experiences by other boaters and island residents alike. . We have been told that the previous managing partner had a bad drinking problem. His anti social behavior (except when completely loaded) was a major problem and guests, for the most part, were not welcomed. We were told all the profits were being "drank away" or being used to run a massive diesel generator to run one or two air conditioner units for drunken staff. This ultimately forced his removal. We have stayed at one of the cottages a few times, moored in the region. It is truly a magical place and a real shame the majority of the south end of the island has been ghost town and dumping ground.

  3. Wow, its sad to hear that "this dude" hasn't changed a bit since years ago when I knew him well. You just cannot put an alcoholic in charge of a bar, it just does not make sense and never will work out. Such a shame that the island life really is destroying him in the end, not to mention his brain and liver. Oh well, I guess I will quote his favorite phrase, "that's the price you pay for living in paradise."

    1. who was this dude? Stefan? I ask becuase many years ago I knew him.