Back To The Islands

We first met Duke and Lisa Wells a full decade ago when we made the difficult decision to pack up the apartment at Love Beach after 40 years of enjoying The Bahamas. At that point, Duke and Lisa of The Bahamian Project took a small sample of the thousands of images we had accumulated through Nicolas’s painstaking documentation of the Family Islands over thousands of miles of exploration through the work of Island Expedition.

Ten years on, The Bahamian Project invited us to return to the islands to document them as they are now; our archival images would provide the perfect starting point for a “then and now” comparison of specific settlements.

With this in mind and news that Nassau was experiencing a major boom in development, we were returning with a little trepidation as to what we’d find.

We formulated a plan; start off by touching base with Duke and Lisa in Nassau and then make our way to Ragged Island on the Captain C mail boat. We were curious to see how Duncan Town had regenerated after the devastation caused by category 5 hurricane Irma in 2017

With its drop-offs of supplies in Staniel Cay, Black Point and Farmers Cay along the way, Captain C would be the ideal platform from which to gather images, interview residents and document the special relationship Bahamians have with the mail boat system.

Why the Ragged Island Route?

Of all the places to visit, readers might be curious to know why we chose to go to Ragged Island.

We have a longtime connection with Staniel Cay in the Exumas. For many years, artist Joan Mann supported Island Expedition by welcoming our young students to camp on the beach in front of her home at Staniel. Her grandson, Soli Lawrence, joined one of the expeditions in his teens.

Popov family in front of Joan’s Staniel Cay home. From left; Mary Lowe, Ivana, Leo, Joan Mann, Jane, Mikael and Nicolas

In reciprocation of her support, we hosted Joan whenever she visited Nassau and enjoyed hosting her in the Isle of Wight, UK and the South of France. From our connection to Joan we became regulars at the Annual New Year’s Day Regatta, writing press reports for the local papers and features in Southern Boating and other magazines.

Joan spoke very fondly of mail boat rides she’d taken with her best friend Mary Lowe , who lived in neighbouring Black Point. The two ladies would head south aboard the Emmett and Cephas bound for Ragged Island where they would not just stock up on salt, but enjoy the company of Maxine Wallace, another strong-minded lady.

View of Ragged Island creeks and Harbour from Duncan Town

They must have been a formidable trio. Maxine told me they would enjoy line fishing together from her boat and spent hours sharing stories and laughing together. Both Mary and Joan have passed now, but the way they talked about Ragged Island made me determined to go there.

Gunpoint Cove, Ragged Island

Aside from these very personal reasons, the news that Ragged Island was still recovering in the wake of category 5 hurricane ‘Irma’, which swept through the islands back in 2017, meant there was certainly plenty to investigate. Had the settlement bounced back? What would we find?

hurricane damage – Ragged Island

For Nicolas, it was his second trip. When putting together a book on the Central and Southern Bahamas, he arrived at Duncan Town with a small team in August of 1987 aboard an inflatable. The locals wouldn’t allow the expeditioners to sleep in a tent, instantly inviting them into their homes. They were the first foreign visitors of that year to Ragged Island.

I shall be bagging up handfuls of Ragged Island salt, sharing them with friends and telling them exactly where it came from, just as Joan had done.

Written by: Jane Popov
Photos by: Nicolas Popov


7 Replies to “Back To The Islands”

  1. Good news for the Bahamas as you are back for the then and now pictures I am sure will be most helpful in the observation of the heating climate.

    Thank you for the update on your plans.

    Wishing you all the best
    Luca and Marie-Christine

    1. It’s wonderful to read about your trip back–though sad to read about the impact of the hurricane. I will always treasure my memories of staying with you at Brigitte’s and waking up at 2a or so for Junkanoo. Love, Wendy

  2. Welcome back Jane and Nicholas. My grandfather came from Ragged Island. I look forward to reading more and seeing tge pictures. Ragged Island salt is the best.

  3. Jane, you were my daughter Jacinda’s teacher at Queen’s College. I was so sad when you left there. The circumstances were so unfair but I am happy to see you have thrived along with your family in the years after. You made a positive impression on many young persons. I have at least one of the Popov brothers’ books here. I enjoyed seeing islands we had not been to yet. Great to hear you are here to see what has changed .

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