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A wiggle and a jiggle and a jamboree,
Unheralded in the song are a number of cays that typify the modern Exuma boom. One of these is Norman Cay, soon to be widely known, although at the moment its 11 miles of white, paved roads seem to lead nowhere from its 3,000-foot airstrip, one of three in all the Exumas. Norman is being developed by the enterprising William Wicoff Smith of Philadelphia. Today only Caretaker Al Watt and his wife, Grace, and a few native employees live on Norman, but there are more than 250 lots for sale here, ranging from� acre to five acres each. This land sells for up to $25,000 an acre. Twelve years ago Exuma land was only $2.80 an acre.
In time Norman will have swimming pools, golf courses and luxury homes. What it won't have is the automobile. Save for maintenance vehicles, only bikes and motorcycles will be allowed. Whoever buys on this island in the sun is going to find the flavor retained—or else.
Landing on Great Exuma, an island slightly smaller than New Providence, the flying tourist heads for George Town. This hardscrabble village appears to be not much to shout about. There is a square with an evergreen ficus tree, and leading from it narrow roads that wind among rude, half-finished native huts and stores of concrete block. Abandoned autos rest just off the road in a tangle of greens where goats are grazing.
But George Town has hidden charms and a not-so-hidden hysterical sporting bash—the Out Island Regatta. This Bahamian annual party has replaced the junkanoo as George Town's big celebration. Even Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, came to see the native Bahamian fishing boats compete in April 1959 in this celebration that Carleton Mitchell called "somewhat like transporting the Milwaukee Braves' bleachers to a tennis match at Wimbledon." In fact, a photo of H.R.H. hanging in the bar of the pink Club Peace & Plenty shows a cartoon balloon coming out of the royal mouth as Philip steps into the dusty George Town street. It reads, "But I thought the Wilmington crowd [the yachting Du Ponts] was here."
This is typical of the informal and irreverent atmosphere of George Town, where the bars have an honor system. You can make your own drink and enter it in a book. In the Peace & Plenty, if you let Manager Georges Franke make it, you'll drink a superb daiquiri under such ship nameplates washed ashore as Fascinating Bitch, Florence, Isle of June, Gulfmeadows, Old Horse Eye, and you will sleep in modern comfort, with the water of one of the world's most beautiful natural harbors lapping under your balcony. Prices are moderate here and also in the Two Turtles Inn and Pieces of Eight, two other good hotels whose bars comprise the rather provincial and limited nightlife of George Town.
In the daytime there is plenty to do. George Town has fantastic bonefishing on the nearby south flats, where the wily lighters come to feed at low tide, staying in the mangrove-studded shallows so long that their fins stick out of the water and they are in constant danger of being left high and dry. There is pigeon shooting in September and duck hunting in winter. Stocking Island is a short ride across the bay to what experts term the world's best shell beach, a pink, claylike sand awash with collector's items. Traveling through the bay in a Boston Whaler, only 10 minutes from your hotel you find deserted beaches with submerged and derelict houseboats, driftwood, white sandy bottoms for swimming and enough varied vegetation to provide respite from the sun just 25 to 30 feet back from the water. Most interesting is one large abandoned ketch with canned goods still in its galley.
The George Town native who would leave such largess untouched is a rather unique creature who refers to himself as "a British object." He is typified by Taxi Driver Stafford Ferguson, who picks up air travelers in a vintage Plymouth and wears his cap backward, Barney Old-field style. Asked, "Are you going to hold us up?" he smiled and said one word, "Yes." Queried about one hotel over another, he advised that one was "heavier." He meant more expensive. He also said, "The weather is lightning up" (getting better) and described the unusual heavy surf as "real surgy today." Touring, he pointed to a house owned by Theodore Roosevelt III, and said, "Dey de first to squat here."
"Fergy," like most Exuma natives, is smiling, dignified and placid.