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Bahamian Sponge Boat

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Bahamian Sponge Boat

Postby john sefton » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:50 pm

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Up into the early 1960's there were still four working Bahamian Schooners, the last ones were ALICE LOUISE, ONWARD, BLANCHE EYE and JANET JONES.
Today (1990) there are none. Some Schooner hulls are still afloat, vessels which were once magnificent sailing boats are now powered by a diesel engine, and have only the stumps of masts on which are hung nets to dry, sometimes a steadying sail is rigged.
The Sponge Schooners of years ago were usually built, owned and sailed by a large family of a settlement and were used to gather the prolific wool sponge from the beds west of the Andros Island.
Sponging in this area known as 'the mud' was the chief means of livelihood of the Bahamas from the 1850's until a mysterious blight killed the sponges in 1938.
Other less important beds were the Bight of Acklins, the Banks west of Abaco and in the Lee of Eluthera, where over half a millon lbs. were exported at the time.
About 300 Schooners and the same number of Sloops were working the beds. Each Schooner carried a crew of 10 to 20 and 6 to 8 dinghies, which were nested one within
the other, such as the Grand Banks Fishermen nest their dories.
On reaching the sponge beds the mother ship would anchor. The dinghies were put overboard with a crew of 2, one man would scull while the other would look through a waterglass and rip the sponges from the bottom with a special hook on a long pole. At the end of each day the sponges were taken aboard the Schooner.
When a load of sponges had been obtained they were taken ashore and put in shallow water kraals to rot. A few weeks later they would be worked, pounded and washed
again, then strung out to dry.
They were then taken to the Greek Sponge Exchange in Nassau and sold to the highest bidder.
In 1926 the ONWARD was driven ashore in a hurricane but was refloated. In 1964 she was sunk and lost.

Source: Boats from the Bahamas
Log Book April 1990
Bahamas SG367 and 469
john sefton
Posts: 1786
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2009 1:59 pm

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