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In “Cruising by MailBoat: History, Culture and Adventure in the Bahama Islands,” Fred Braman details his adventures exploring Abaco and other Bahamian out islands by mailboat.

A few years back, Alton Lowe and I were working at the Albert Lowe Museum when a gentleman came in and introduced himself. His name was Fred Braman and he was interested in learning more about Abaco’s mailboats.

A retired U.S. Navy veteran and lifelong sailor who, with his wife Louise, had cruised the Bahamas for more than 30 years, Fred first encountered mailboats while boating in the Bahamian out islands.

Fred Braman, shown here, on the bridge of the mailboat Legacy, has written a book about Bahamian mailboat travel.
Author, Fred Braman, on the bridge of the mailboat, M/V Legacy (Photo by Dave Blake Photography)

“No matter how small the island,” Fred recalls, “it seemed that the mailboat would come in while I was there. Mailboats are the link to the larger world for the small, outer islands and they carry everything – milk, beer, groceries, lumber, crates of chickens, pallets of canned goods, goats, passengers, and even mail.”

It was during a 2012 sailing trip to the Berry Islands, as Fred watched the Capt. Gurth Dean dock and unload at Great Harbour Cay, that he first decided to give mailboat travel a try.

Seeing the Capt Gurth Dean unloading at Great Harbour Cay inspired author Fred Braman to give mailboat travel a try.
The M/V Capt. Gurth Dean unloads its cargo at Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands (Photo by Dave Blake Photography )

Fred’s first foray into travel by mailboat was in 2017, when he and two friends — including professional photographer Dave Blake — journeyed to Long Island aboard the Sea Wind. Fred was so taken with mailboat travel that he decided to plan more trips, do some research and write a book about his experiences.

Fred and his mailboat travel companions at the Elbow Reef Lightstation. L-R: Jim Zoller, Don McAvoy, Fred Braman, Phil Lugger, Jack Hundertmark, Mike Schmidt (Photo by Dave Blake Photography)

Fred and a group of friends rode the Legacy to Abaco, the Island Link to Georgetown, Exuma, Fiesta Mail to Freeport, Bahamas Daybreak to Spanish Wells and the Bo Hengy back to Nassau.

As part of his research into Bahamian mailboat travel, Fred Braman and his friends rode the M/V Legacy.
The M/V Legacy serves as Abaco’s mailboat, stopping in Marsh Harbour, Green Turtle Cay and Guana Cay (Photo by Dave Blake Photography)

“At that point,” he says, “It was clear that I couldn’t finish my book until I rode the mailboat that started it all for me – the Capt. Gurth Dean.” So, in January 2020, Fred and friends travelled on the Capt. Gurth Dean to Great Harbour Cay and then on to Sandy Point, Abaco where he met the Deans, arguably the first family of mailboats in the Bahamas.

And in 2021, Fred published Cruising by MailBoat: History, Culture and Adventure in the Bahama Islands. It’s a fun, easy read that details his adventures in mailboat travel in the Bahamas. It includes lots of tales of the sights and characters Fred and friends encountered on their travels.

Cruising by MailBoat is also a terrific primer for anyone who’d like to give mailboat travel a try. Fred provides details about the Bahamian mailboat fleet, shipping schedules, suggested itineraries, and tips and suggestions for packing, budgeting, etc.

Fred says he’s grateful to several people for their contributions to the book. “Eric Wiberg has been instrumental in my mailboat education. As a true maritime historian and author, he is without question the foremost authority on Bahamian mailboats.”

Paintings by Abaco artist Randy Curry are featured in Fred Braman's new book about mailboat travel.
The Air Swift served as Spanish Wells’ mailboat from 1948-1972. Original painting by Randy Curry.

“Historic mailboats can no longer be photographed, but old, grainy, black and white photos are available to paint,” says Fred. “Randy Curry is a multi-talented artist who has brought them back to life in his colorful renditions of yesteryear.”

Steve Dodge may be best-known as author of The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Bahamas, Fred says. “But it was another of his works, Abaco: The History of an Out Island and its Cays, that spurred my interest in mailboats and Bahamas history in general.”

“I was fortunate to have a professional photographer in my maiboat crew,” says Fred. “Dave Blake has been a great friend since we were both eighteen-year-old college freshmen, and has been riding mailboats as long as I have. His photographs bring this book to life.”

Cruising by MailBoat: History, Culture and Adventure in the Bahama Islands is available at Fred’s website, on Amazon.com, as well as at the Harbourside Rentals Gift Shop and Ponderosa Shell Shop in Spanish Wells, the Ebb Tide Shop on Hope Town, and through Randy Curry on Green Turtle Cay (Randy’s place is upstairs from the Calypso Coffee House in town.)

Have you ever travelled by Bahamian mailboat? If so, we’d love to hear about your adventures in the comment section below.

5 thoughts on “New Book Explores Mailboat Travel in the Bahamas

  • January 26, 2022 at 5:16 pm
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    I purchased this book on Amazon and almost immediately got a very nice thank you note and several emails after with all kinds of information about taking mailboat vacations. Highly recommend supporting this very awesome resource!

    Reply
  • January 27, 2022 at 3:17 pm
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    Thank you so much Amanda, That was a great article and a very nice thing for you to do. After a life as a naval officer and HS math teacher, I was on my way to 70 when I wrote my first article. I had no idea what a sharing lot writers and artists are. They are the only groups I can think of who want everyone to be successful. You and Alton wanted to help me ten minutes after I walked into that office. And Eric, who you directed me to, emailed me a copy of his unpublished draft when I went looking for information. Same for Randy Curry and Steve Dodge. A total stranger, I knocked on Randy’s door to ask about using his mailboat painting and he said sure. Dodge has said the same on every request. I have yet to hear a no and I hope for the day when people ask me for things. All this has been great fun for me, but, experiencing these relationships has been the best of it all.

    Reply
  • April 1, 2022 at 4:41 pm
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    Hello Amanda. I learned about and bought this book because of your post. I have read several books written by Abaconians about the history of the Abacos. I had already read Steve Dodge’s first edition, when I received the updated 2nd edition I was up all night because I could not put it down. I am sure the Mailboat book will be the same. I have never been on a mailboat, we do visit the Abacos by flying into Marsh Harbor. Is it possible to arrange a ride to the abacos by a mail or cargo boat that leaves from West Palm Beach, where we live?

    Reply
    • April 9, 2022 at 12:34 pm
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      Hi, Mark. Thanks for your note! I’m not aware of any of the cargo vessels that come from Florida that allow passengers. There is a ferry that goes from Florida to Freeport, but the experience is totally different, I imagine, than a mailboat. If you wanted to try a mailboat experience, you might want to fly into Nassau, and take the Legacy overnight from there to Marsh Harbour. You could also continue on, if you liked, to Guana Cay and Green Turtle Cay, since the Legacy goes there as well. Hope that’s helpful. If you have additional questions, let me know and I can put you in touch with Fred Braman. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of helpful info!

      Amanda

      Reply
  • April 9, 2022 at 3:17 pm
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    Very happy to talk with you Mark. Give me a call anytime. 904-866-6862. There is a way to connect with mailboats as Amanda suggests. Take one of the Florida ferries to either Bimini or Freeport and then get their mailboat to Nassau. Once there, you are in “MailBoat Heaven,” and can go anywhere. Of the two possibilities, the ferry to Freeport has the better connections as the Freeport mailboat, Fiesta Mail, has more than weekly runs. You can research the schedule by searching for The Mailboat Company in order to make a plan. I did that trip in reverse. Took Fiesta Mail (the cover of my book) to Freeport then the ferry to Ft. Lauderdale. Took Amtrak to my Jacksonville home from there. Pretty neat combination. The ferries are a great ride, but, as Amanda says, not a mailboat experience. I’d recommend Bahamas Daybreak to Spanish Wells. Legacy to Abaco is also a great trip, but don’t think they have resumed taking passengers after the Covid problems. Happy to talk mailboats any time.

    Reply

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