Friday, 20th June
From Governor’s Harbour, we motored up to Gregory Town from where we went by small boat (about 10 or 11 feet long), heading for Lower Bogue. We were on our way to Spanish Wells to stay with Bill and Pat Ross, and during our stay to conduct the N. Eleuthera Circuit Missionary Meetings. As usual when Elma was travelling the wind was fresher and the sea choppy, but most folks agreed the wind would be behind us. The boat was not ready, and the outboard motor took a bit of starting, but we were assured it was okay. I anticipated it would be a bit rough for a short way after leaving the sheltered harbour but that it would quieten down. Unfortunately the wind seemed to increase and also it decided to shift so that instead of behind us it was almost broadside. Though getting splashed and rolling around all went well. Sandra was sick and cried a little.
After passing Glass Window (the narrowest point in Eleuthera where the sea can splash over from the Atlantic into the Exuma Sound when rough), and being about halfway on our journey the motor stopped and could not be restarted. We threw out the grapnel, but it did not hold, and slowly we were being driven towards the very rocky coastline. By throwing out the grapnel and pulling on it we tried to keep the boat’s nose into the sea, but gradually we got nearer the rocks. It was obvious to me that we would be driven on to the rocks. Looking at the coastline we saw that there was one narrow ledge (about 6 feet in width), the only spot where there was a chance of getting ashore. So we pulled up the grapnel. Wendell sculled towards the ledge, though I believe we were washed towards it more than anything. I prepared to jump from the boat to the ledge – it would be about 6 feet out of the water, no more than halfway up the rest of the rocky coast. The two young men with us would throw Sandra up to me. But that was not to be. As the boat got near to the cliff a wave more or less swamped the boat and the backwash from the cliff sank it. Wendell and the other lad had seen what was happening and somehow managed to go with the wave and get onto the ledge.
Elma, sat in the boat and holding Sandra tight, went down with the boat, but she had the sense to know that she must push Sandra up, which she did and trod water. As Sandra came up out of the water, pushed by Elma, Harold managed to take her. At that exact moment his toe touched a sand bar and he was able to turn round: he yelled “Wendell!” and threw her up and Wendell took her. She looked like a drowned rat, but fortunately she was not harmed in any way, not a cut or bruise. Elma and Harold were thrown against the rocks. The next wave came and Harold helped to push Elma up so that she could get her hands on the ledge, so that with Wendell’s help she could get on Terra-firma. The next wave dashed Harold on the rocks but he managed to go with the next wave and grip the edge of the ledge and Elma and Wendell helped him out. We looked like a pair of wrecks, both of us having grazes and cuts on arms, legs and feet. Elma’s mouth got a bash, but fortunately her teeth were not broken. Also, fortunately, no cuts were serious enough to cause excessive bleeding or to necessitate stitching. Having said that, the honeycomb rock really did make a mess of us, and the legs of my slacks were tattered and torn. My shirt was torn, Elma’s blouse had one tiny hole, her skirt was torn and her pants were ripped. Our sandals stayed on, for which we were more than thankful. To have lost those would have meant we couldn’t walk, for the ground was all honeycomb rock, very jagged and sharp.
The boat itself, I believe, overturned, and it was buffeted about breaking it up to some degree. The engine went to the bottom (it was later recovered – whether anything good was made of it I don’t know). Our cases went down of course. One burst open and a few things floated in. Elma’s dress case being light floated. Wendell recovered it, and we left it on dry land. Normally I carried money in my back pocket, but travelling in a small boat I thought it best to pack in a case. All our worldly wealth at that time was £40, over half of it which was to meet expenses during our time away was lost. One £1 note later floated in. My sermon notes were lost, which didn’t really matter, but three missionary addresses that were full of facts (not easy to remember) were later recovered.
After getting out of the water we sheltered for about half an hour in a large pothole, I suppose to get over the shock and to make our mind up what to do next. Sandra shivered a bit despite the mid-day heat, but at about 12.30 we set out to go to Upper Bogue. The two lads decided to head back to Gregory Town. I guess both they and we had roughly the same distance to walk. We didn’t strike inland, though we knew there might be farms inland, for we were unaware of whether there were any discernible pathways. We felt it best to keep to the coastline, knowing that eventually we would get to our destination. The going was tough and slow, not only because of honeycomb rock, but because of the many potholes and gulleys, some of them 6 feet deep, and because of the bush. I had to carry Sandra (all 31 pounds of her) all the way, and so Elma sometimes went ahead and held bushes back so that we could get through unscathed.
We covered about 4 miles in approximately 3 hours and then reached a short stretch of beach. How good it was to put Sandra down, and she was glad to get down for a while. Soon after leaving the beach we heard someone calling – a man coming out of his farm to return to Upper Bogue had noticed our footprints in the sand. and he wondered to himself, ‘”What is a small child doing out here?” He caught us up. He gave us sugar cane, which moistened our dry mouths. Then he carried Sandra the rest of our walk to Upper Bogue, about another 1 ½ miles. He was indeed an angel with a black skin and dirty farm clothes. We reached Upper Bogue about 4 pm, worn, weary and sunburnt. Our hats had washed away, as you would guess, so I had covered my head with a knotted handkerchief, I still got sore on top. A boy was sent from Upper to Lower Bogue on his bicycle, a distance of about 2 miles, to fetch Cyril Blatch, the senior steward of our Methodist church who had an old truck. Cyril wasn’t long in coming, along with a few others, and when he saw us was terribly upset, almost overcome, for he realized how near we had been to tragedy.
He drove us to his home in Lower Bogue, already having asked the driver of a Spanish Wells Truck (‘Junior’) to wait for us. Our Methodist folk gathered round; Cyril owned a small shop and he fitted us all out with clean clothing, Elma and myself had everything from the skin out and from head to toe. They gave us hot soup, coffee and bread. The ladies swashed Elma’s arms and legs with alcohol, to kill any germs, and that made her sit up for a little while as you can imagine. I managed to get out of that somehow, with the exception of one arm. The Spanish Well’s truck took us to Gene’s Bay, and from there we had a ten-minute boat journey over to Spanish Wells, where we arrived at Pat and Bill Ross’s about 5.45pm, much to their astonishment. They thought we had not bothered, the weather being rough, although Bill had been concerned as he knew we had left Governor’s Harbour, having phoned to find out.
The settlement nurse, Consuela Newbold, cleaned out our cuts and painted us with Mercurochrome, and gave us pheno-barbitone to help us sleep. I also plastered my head with calamine lotion. I had cuts on my throat so couldn’t wear a collar for some days, also could only wear soft footwear as the top of my foot was sore and swollen. The first night Elma found a book to read, hoping it would help her get off to sleep. Her choice was hardly suitable – a book about deep sea diving by Jacques Cousteau!!! Needless to say her dreams were about the sea. Dreams or nightmares?! Certainly she was disturbed! News soon flashed round Spanish Wells, and we had plenty of visitors. Clothes and money were given to us in plenty. I ended up with more shirts, slacks and underwear than I had ever had. Some things were new, some things slightly worn but very usable. Both of us have more clothes than we set out with.
Saturday, 21st June
The men from Bogue had been to the place of the accident and redeemed what was possible. Elma and Sandra’s dresses, not much of my clothing because my case had burst open. Elma’s rings and watch which had been in her handbag were safe. The watch we sent to Nassau for repair – not much hope. The almost new camera and light meter were a write-off. Dorcas Kelly at Spanish Wells used to work at Fashionette, a clothing store for men in Nassau, and she knew my measurements. She contacted Lem Sawyer, the owner, and he sent up from Nassau by air a new suit, a real beauty in dark grey, wash and wear. The fact that we came through alive and well was a miracle, made up of several miracles, of which I number those that come to mind immediately:
1. The place where it happened. The only possible spot where we could have got ashore, with a ledge over halfway down the cliffs which would stand at least 12 feet out of the water at high tide. Also in front of the ledge a sandy bottom where our toes just managed to touch at vital moments.
2. We were not hurt more. Sandra was unscathed. Elma, usually afraid of water, unable to swim much at all, scared of getting water in her mouth – she felt as if an “angel” kept her mouth shut, or put a hand over her mouth so that she did not swallow water and become troubled at all.
3. Elma not troubled by the strenuous walk, and Harold given the strength to carry Sandra in the heat of the day.
4. The black “angel” who came to our aid when we felt weary.
5. A few of our things recovered, particularly Elma’s rings.
6. We were going to Spanish Wells, a place where our needs would most certainly be met.
7. The Missionary addresses, with all the needed facts they contained, were recovered, little damaged.