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Paradise Lost, Found, Lost Again

When we first sailed into Baker’s Bay, we agreed it was the most beautiful and romantic anchorage imaginable. A deserted three-mile crescent beach, water clear as liquid crystal framed by verdant tropical foliage. Remote and silent and peaceful. It was twenty years ago.

A great part of the joy of arrival was that it had been so hard to get there. In order to sail from Green Turtle Cay to Baker’s Bay, then as now, requires traversing the dreaded Whale, the inlet between Green Turtle Cay and Great Guana Cay. The seas in the inlet are notoriously rough, rollers from the deep Atlantic often sweeping in and breaking dangerously across the shallow inlet. To pass safely, it requires a keen eye on the weather and reports of conditions from mariners actually crossing. In our case, we waited several days for the seas to calm down.

But the rewards were unforgettable.

My memories of Baker’s Bay in those days include watching brightly colored fish drifting through water so clear you could see star fish on the bottom; taking bedrolls on deck, clothing optional, watching the stars wheeling in the night sky.

Most nights, even days at a time, we were alone in the anchorage. Other times, a few other cruisers anchored and there would be impromptu gatherings around night fires on the beach, roasting what we had harvested from the sea during the day. I remember the feel of the water, soft and cool as ambrosia, and the transcendental stillness, and the sound of distant conch horns at sunset saying prayers to the vanishing sun.

But I also remember a compelling mystery we encountered when we first went ashore. Hidden beneath the Caribbean pines, casuarinas and palms were the abandoned bones of a large resort. Here were skeletal structures, a main building, an outdoor theater, a bar, shops, a basketball court and an enclosure where tourists could ride on the back of dolphins. Disney had created the development in the 1980s. A massive dredging project had cut a channel and a turning basin through the pristine bay allowing access to Disney’s huge red cruise liner that would disgorge tourists ashore for fun and games.

It was an eerie experience wandering through the dead resort, walking through the ruins of the shops, standing on the theater’s stage looking out at the ghosts of the audience. In the bar, the cooler stood empty, as if they had just run out of beer. When Disney closed the place down, they abandoned almost everything, including the dolphins in their enclosures.

But why had the resort been abandoned? At the time, we guessed it had been the rough seas of the inlet, that tourists might have complained of discomfort or seasickness. Later we learned, it was a classic case of machine against nature.

And nature won. When Disney brought in their dredge, reputedly one of the largest in the world, they didn’t count on the tides and the currents. Every time they dredged the channel, the currents would sweep the sand in again. It was a never-ending and very expensive cycle. Disney gave up and abandoned the whole project.

Back then, with the Departure of Disney, nature almost eliminated all traces of this misguided development. And for a few years, Baker’s Bay became a Paradise once more.

But soon, the machines would return, and the granddaddy of all mega- developments would devour Baker’s Bay once more. If you have cruised to Baker’s

Bay in recent years, or have Googled the Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, you’ll see what I mean. There is now a lavish gated resort with many hundreds of homes and villas, dining and shopping, a fitness center, and, of course, a 26-hole golf course. It is a crowded, noisy venue, far removed from the beauty that caused it to be there in the first place. And environmentalists have warned of the tragic consequences of its pollution, especially to the coral of the Abaco Reef and the bay itself.

I’m not certain if there is a moral to this tale. Certainly, people have a right to create communities in the islands, and other people have the right to enjoy them and call them home. But these tranquil, natural places like the late-lamented Baker’s Bay, are becoming harder and harder to find. Maybe it’s groups like ours that can discover ways to keep other magic places safe from the machine and those who bring them to Paradise.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and others in the series called SAILING BACKWARDS. Maybe you’ll enjoy my recent book, SULU SEA, an unpredictable adventure novel on and about the Caribbean Sea. It is available on Amazon and here on my website.

Marshall Riggan has been writing and telling stories for over a half-century, several of which were turned into movies and television documentaries. He has enjoyed going on sailing adventures for over four decades. His books, Sulu Sea and The Last Traveler, can be found at