From Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos

The Cross of Green Turtle Cay
or New Meaning to Thaksgiving Day
By Sandy Estabrook

Photos complements of Willian Kennedy, GTC.

180 miles east of Palm Beach lie The Abaco Cays. Essentially they are barrier islands which line the ocean side of Great Abaco Bahamas. They are protected with reefs on their ocean side. Fact is the Abaco barrier reef is the third largest barrier reef in the world. Passage between those cays from the Sea of Abaco is tricky business and can be done only in a few places requiring local knowledge. This is where our story begins.

Between North Green Turtle Cay and uninhabited Fiddle Cay is a shallow pass bordered on the ocean side by one of these reefs.

On the tip of Green Turtle Cay lived the retired Johnson Family, Grima & Francine. In 1981 Grima met some friends in the islands settlement of New Plymouth. He wanted to show them his home and invited them for lunch on this windy afternoon of, Thanksgiving Day.

As Grima neared his home on the point, the engine failed and with the out going tide the boat drifted easterly toward the rocky pass and barrier reefs. Mr. Johnson quickly threw in the anchor to hold his position and jumped overboard to swim to his home. He'd hoped to secure a dinghy to rescue the two couples remaining on the boat. All the while the wind was picking up.

Once ashore he told Francine of the situation. She immediately tried to radio the settlement for help, but to no avail. At the same time Grima tried to get his dinghy started. Francine not having any luck with the radio, ran a considerable distance to her nearest neighbor's home, a Mr. Richard Whiting and whom they had not yet met. When told of the story, Richard, without hesitation, jumped in his boat and headed towards the drifting skif whose anchor had now become dislodged.

The boat was now precariously hung up on a coral outcropping taking on water. Richard managed to get close enough to rescue the Johnson's friends and brought them ashore close by. By now Grima had given up in getting his dinghy started and was the the beach with Francine to assist Richard. One of the female guests panicked in the process sustaining injury on the coral rock. Francine holding her by her arms tripped on a rock while moving the injured guest to higher ground away from the rising tide. Although she didn't realize it at first, Francine fractured her back in two places and was airlifted to Fla. two days later.

Photo complements of Francine Johnson.

Eventually everyone recovered. Francine was back in Green Turtle strolling along the beach with her ever thankful husband Grima, when they noticed a extremely long piece of driftwood. Closer examination told them that this was an old sailing mast. This gave Grima the opportunity to do what he has secretly planned to do, erect a cross on the point in commemoration of the miracle, and praise God that all had survived that Thanksgiving Day .

Mr. Johnson hired some town folks lead by the able-bodied and congenial Reggie Sawyer to help him with the project. But the New Plymouth officials were slow in granting a permit for the work, so slow that the Johnson's waited 7 years! Ultimately the mast was sawed on site. They jack hammered a hole 4' deep and sunk the piling down in the coral rock and shoved the crushed coral limestone from the hole into the sides. No concrete was used. And that cross has survived all the hurricanes and still stands today. As it turns out, Richard Whiting, with the help of God, was the hero of the story. He and his wife became good friends with the Johnsons. Fact is, eventually the Whiting's son married the Johnson's daughter and to think, all as a result of the events that took place years earlier on that Thanksgiving Day.

Oh, The boat was destroyed. Grima Johnson passed away on 10/08 and Francine now spends her time at her stateside home on the Potomac River. Richard Whiting also has gone to the Lord on 04/11, no doubt reminiscing about their days on Green Turtle Cay.