On our return to Nassau we depart in the direction of Norman’s Cay, with a planned excursion to see Camp Driftwood at Shroud Cay. Shroud Cay is home to legendary Camp Driftwood, an encampment handbuilt in the 1960s by a sailing hermit named Ernest Scholtes.
After a dinghy ride up a winding creek to a small beach, we hike up a worn path to what remains of the encampment. Though it’s the highest point we’ve summited during our brief adventure, Camp Driftwood is really not very high, measuring about 70 feet above sea level. In The Bahamas, though, 70 feet earns you panoramic views of these waters that contain every imaginable shade of blue and green. Until recently there was a tradition of leaving a small treasure behind in honor of the camp’s founding father. But park rangers scuttled the camp a while back, so it no longer holds the quaint fascination that it once did. The dinghy ride up the creek and the views from the top still make the trip well worth the effort. comply. His desire was to make Norman’s Cay his own island empire for the cartel’s billion-dollar entrée into North America. He built a runway for his fleet of drug-smuggling planes, used attack dogs and machine guns to secure the beaches, and hosted epic, drug-fueled parties. Lehder was eventually extradited and convicted in the United States and has been serving multiple life sentences ever since. The skeletal remains of a plane still sit in the silt off of Norman’s, the result of a poorly taken approach to the 3,200-foot airstrip.
Lehder was hardly the first to attempt to find a home for illegal activities here. The history of these waters is etched by lawlessness, greed, power, and other unsavory business. Centuries ago, the region was a playground for 18th-century pirates—meaner ones, even, than Depp’s Captain Sparrow. The pirate ships were light and fast enough to prey on Spanish galleons returning from their own plundering routes throughout the West Indies and South and Central America. Captains William Kidd, Henry Morgan (yes, that Captain Morgan), and Anne Bonney all staked claims to various ports and hideouts along these skinny reefs. Law and order caught