Spanish Wells - “Mens” Are Lobster Fishermen
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The locals of this lobster-fishing village (population 1,500) laugh at us as we head off to the beach. “How kin you go in that watah?” they ask in that odd Old South-meets-Jamaica accent of the “Conchy Joes”, white Bahamians who trace their ancestry back to the Puritans or the Loyalists who came in the 1780s. “It's freezin'!”
When we tell them the water is warmer than our pools back home, we get astonished looks. They call us “the crazy Canadians”. The islanders venture to the beach only when it reaches saunalike temperatures in the summer.
The irony of this is that almost all of Spanish Well's “mens” are lobster fishermen. Not the kind who haul traps out of the water and empty them into a boat. These lobster fishermen wear wet suits, thick ones of course, and dive for their catch all day. Some of the older men still free-dive down to 30 metres without a breathing apparatus. The younger guys breathe through a hookah connected to a hose that hangs from a skiff above.
Except for short visits home to offload lobster tails and stock up on supplies, “the mens is out at sea” from August to March each year.
Spanish Wells is the lobster capital of the Bahamas, with one of the biggest fishing fleets in the Caribbean. This four-kilometre-long island supplies the Red Lobster restaurant chain, as well as high-end European eateries.
Lobstering started here just 15 or 20 years ago, but it quickly transformed Spanish Wells from a hard-luck fishing village into one of the wealthiest settlements in the Caribbean.
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