Written by Debra Israel
April 2017

Summer had arrived, and, as is our tradition, we were on our way to one of our favorite places: the Bahamas. We readied the boat and traveled deliberately down the coast of Florida. At first light we would make the crossing through the Gulf Stream and head straight to Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. From here, we intended to clear customs and begin our anticipated adventure of cruising from one island to another, tasting all that the Bahamian islands had to offer. But fate had a much different course in mind, and we were now at her bidding.

While underway, I realized while trying to read that I was having a major eye issue. I had worked for an ophthalmologist 20 years before and luckily for me he had insisted that all employees read a thick medical book on the eye’s anatomy. In my mind, I remember it describing a torn retina as a flashing “light” as it’s detaching from the back of the eye, and I knew I had a limited amount of time to correct the situation.

Magazine still in hand, I called out in fright to my husband, Sy, and as calmingly as I could muster myself, I started to explain that I needed to get to an ophthalmologist surgeon — immediately.

Sy quickly went into action. He searched for the closest airstrip and found one on Spanish Cay in the Abacos Islands. He called ahead and explained we were experiencing a medical situation and would need to get a flight out immediately upon arrival. The owner of Spanish Cay, Don Davis, happened to be on island at the time, and said he would personally make the med-flight arrangements, but if he couldn’t get someone there quickly enough, he said, he assured us he would personally fly us out on his own airplane, which was already being pulled out of the hanger. (We are forever thankful for Don being there that day and helping us.)

We called our son, Mark, in Orlando, Fla., and told him my retina was detached. He, in turn, called a retinal specialist, explained the situation, and the surgeon made arrangements for surgery as quickly as we could get to town. We pulled into Spanish Cay’s Marina, where Don Davis’ boat captain, Rick, met us at the dock. I threw him a line and he boarded our beloved Happy Heart and said, “Go, go, go … the plane is waiting for you!” We darted down the dock and met a coordinated vehicle and driver, who whisked us off to the med-flight transport airplane that had arrived from Ft. Lauderdale only minutes before. Within mere moments, we had docked, boarded a plane and were off to Orlando.

Mark met us at the airport, whisked us away in his car, and drove as quickly as possible to the surgery center. By 8 p.m., I was having laser surgery to reattach my retina. There wasn’t enough time to deaden my eye for the procedure, because the retina starts to die within so many hours of the detachment, and we had already pushed beyond that limit. I don’t know how the surgeon’s nerves were holding up as the screams were loud with each searing laser. Thankfully, the surgery was a success!

Two days later, we flew back to Spanish Cay to finally “see” it for the first time. I’m not sure why we had never stopped there before, but we have never missed it since. Now we stop on our way to and from the Bahamas, and it is so lovely we have long forgotten the experience that brought us here in the first place.

There are so many things we love about this place. Spanish Cay is a small island but has a lot to give. One will quickly become familiar with the large 81-slip Spanish Cay Marina, with the ability to accommodate 16- to 250-foot vessels, is 9 feet at low tide and has an impressive breakwater for those unwanted winds. It has a large marina office and store on-site for those hard-to-find provisions. There’s also a lovely restaurant with the best gourmet prepared grouper you’ll find anywhere. Additionally, it hosts a large swimming pool, heated spa, enclosed air conditioned game room, large air conditioned bar, rental apartments, fuel dock (diesel and gas), two beautiful swimming beaches, tennis courts, 4,000-foot private airstrip, customs agents for clearing into the Bahamas, a generator produced electrical plant and, importantly to us, rental golf carts.

The island also has private residential lots for sale, several homes and well maintained dirt roads that lead through a logical labyrinth of homes tucked away behind natural privacy greenery with beautiful beaches and marshes.

Spanish Cay is within a mile of the third-largest barrier reef in the world, with water deepening to more than 1,000 feet. It capitalizes on such natural resources by hosting an annual, well-attended sport-fishing tournament.

Since my harrowing experience with the sight in one eye, I have embraced photography with a passion, and Spanish Cay was a beautiful and photographically rewarding stop along our adventurous journey through the Bahamas. While riding a golf cart around the island, we peeked into every little nook and cranny along the way, while photographing interesting scenery and beautiful birds. Spanish Cay has a faithful migrating bird population that makes its way there every year, but there is also a healthy population that lives there year-round. Spanish Cay is a treasure trove for a bird photographer like me.

Fate brought us to Spanish Cay, where we have fallen in love with its beautiful beaches and other natural resources. We hope to see you here one day on our annual pilgrimage.

Where to Dock: Spanish Cay Marina

Where to Dine: The Point House Restaurant or The Wreckers Bar