Activities

There are several superb dive and snorkel sites down south at Morgan's Bay and Hawk's Nest Bay (p213) and . Dry Head, in shallow water close to shore here, also has prolific marine life.

Favored bonefishing spots include the flats of Joe's Sound Creek, a 20-minute boat ride south of Fernandez Bay, and Pigeon Creek, a 20-minute ride to the north.

Top Cat's Fishing Service (242-342-7003; Devil's Point) will tailor-make trips for you, priced accordingly.

Fernandez Bay Village (®) 242-342-3043; www.fer nandezbayvillage.com; Fernandez Bay) will arrange bonefishing (half-/full-day $195/280), bottom fishing (half-/full-day $250/400) and a short day fishing trip for children ($150).

FATHER JEROME Christopher P Baker

John Hawes - hermit and humanitarian - was born in England in 1876 to an upper-middle-class family. He was a visionary, prize-winning architect before entering theological college in 1901, preparing to becoming an Anglican minister.

Once ordained, he vowed to emulate the life of St Francis of Assisi and lived briefly as a tramp. In 1908 he came to the Bahamas and traveled around the islands to rebuild churches that had been destroyed by a hurricane, utilizing thick stone and Roman arches. Hawes offended local sensibilities, however, while preaching on Harbour Island. He asked the congregation why the Whites were sitting at the front and the Blacks at the back, when all men are created equal. The congregation nearly fainted with shock and I was rushed out of the church as quickly as possible/ Hawes recorded.

Between bouts of preaching, the eccentric Englishman worked as a mule driver in Canada, a fox terrier breeder, a cow puncher, and a sailor. In 1911 he converted to Catholicism and studied for the priesthood in Rome before moving to Australia to serve as a bush priest during the gold rush.

In 1939 Hawes came to Cat Island to live as a hermit and began work on his hermitage atop Como Hill, renamed Mt Alvernia after the site in Tuscany where St Francis received the wounds of the cross. Meanwhile, he lived in a cave amid snakes, tarantulas and crabs, and took unto himself the name Father Jerome.

He built four churches on Cat Island, as well as a medical clinic, convent, monastery, technical school, and other projects throughout the Bahamas, all featuring his trademark medievalist architectural motif, made of quarried rock.

Undoubtedly, locals regarded him as a saintly figure. Many climbed the monastery steps to ask for money 'in a state verging on destitution/ and none was denied. Locals of all denominations attended his sermons, although apparently he converted only five people to Catholicism.

He died in 1956 and was buried, as per his request, barefoot and without a casket in the cave that had once been his home.

You can also buy masks and snorkels here, while complimentary fins are leant to guests. A 13ft Boston Whaler can be hired at an hourly rate of $45.

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