Skip to Content

Stories from our Travelers

Holiday in the Abacos

Solitude on Scotland Cay

Spear fishing

Catch of the day
Spear Fishing for Dinner in the Abacos
by Amy Lewis

[From Winter-Spring 2008]

On the flight from West Palm Beach to Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, I was seated next to an experienced Bahamian visitor who was incredulous when I explained that we planned to eat only the fish we caught for our main meals during our 10-day stay on Scotland Cay. He predicted that we would go hungry (spear fishing is very difficult and Bahamian regulations require that you be 200 yards from shore and no tanks or tethers are allowed). He would have been surprised at our success; we were well fed every night with each day’s catch, including yellow fin grouper, gray snapper, spiny lobster, French grunt, hogfish, mutton snapper, Queen triggerfish, squirrelfish, flounder, margate and jack-fish. My 15-year-old son even learned to spear fish and caught three fish to help feed the 12 people staying at a beach house on Scotland Cay, a private island with no stores or restaurants. We were guests of the owners of the house, who have spear fished every Christmas holiday since they built their retreat 25 years ago.
Scotland Cay is about 2 miles long, with a paved path that circles the island. Golf carts and rusty bikes are used for transportation. Cars are not allowed on the island, but private jets and airplanes use the landing strip that ends right at the tennis court.

We arrived on Christmas Eve in Marsh Harbour, met our friends at the airport and all piled into a taxi that took us to the Conch Inn, where we left our luggage while we shopped for groceries. Although our luggage was packed with food, including a cooler with butter, cheese and other staples, fresh vegetables cannot be brought into the Bahamas. We purchased 16 loaves of bread at the Island Bakery and Kalik beer and wine at a local liquor store, loaded it all into another taxi and finally into the ferry that would take us to Scotland Cay, a half-hour boat ride. Neighbors greeted us at the harbor with two golf carts and a trailer to haul our supplies to the house.

The kids immediately set out to find a suitable Christmas tree. A branch from a Caribbean Pine was decorated with lights, sand dollars and red ribbons. On Christmas morning we ate freshly baked cinnamon rolls. We opened presents that were small and appropriate for the Bahamas (fishing gloves, decks of cards, comic books) and then swam, played tennis, and watched the guys spear fish. For dinner, the grouper, jack-fish, squirrelfish, grunt and lobster were prepared as a Szechwan dish. And each day was similar, with only the meals changing…fish tacos, conch fritters, stir fry fish, Thai green curry, ceviche, fish tempura and cioppino.

The ten days on the island went quickly, with much to do for those who love water. When the winds were up, the waves were just right for body surfing, when calm the snorkeling was fabulous. My husband and son attempted bone fishing, which fortunately was not intended to be a food source. We rented a small boat for spear fishing and for taking a day trip to Marsh Harbour for supplies and sightseeing at Hope Town.

Robert Bly might have approved of this vacation, with manly men spear fishing with their sons, the women harvesting coconuts and cooking, and the other manly men repairing appliances, bikes, golf carts, windows, toilets and the roofs that are in constant need of maintenance from the wind and salt. I felt very grounded and connected with the environment on this escape, a sort of tribal experience. While hunting for fish, we had to be cautious of the reef sharks and currents in the ocean. A cistern provided the water supply to the house, so we had to be aware of our water use and could hear the satisfying sound of the cistern filling when it rained.


How to Get There:
Commercial flights from Florida to Marsh Harbour are available on Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Bahamasair, and US Airways.

Where to Stay:
If you don’t have a friend that invites you to stay at Scotland Cay, you can find accommodations at Marsh Harbour or Hope Town.

In Marsh Harbour:
The Conch Inn Hotel,
Abaco Beach Resort (upscale),

In Hope Town:
Hope Town Harbour Lodge
Tel. 1.866.611.9701

Conch Inn Hotel for a grouper burger
Hope Town Harbour Lodge

Where to Rent Boats:
Rainbow Boat Rentals (cost $800/week plus gas)

Fishing Regulations:

Photographs by Amy Lewis

Amy Lewis is an avid outdoorswoman, environmentalist and hydrologist. Amy says she does not make a very good tourist when it comes to sightseeing, but prefers to experience how people live in different parts of the world. Her story on Christmas in the Abacos reflects her love of nature and deep respect for its wonders. Amy and her family have lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for more than 20 years.

website design studio x, santa fe a member of santa