Some 35 miles south of San Salvador, this small island is approximately 20 miles square. First known as Mamana by the Lucayan Indians, the cay was later renamed Santa María de la Concepción by Columbus. Spanish explorers once found a lone rum keg washed up on a shore and changed the name again to Rum Cay (pop: 53 1990 census). In the north there is an interesting cave which has Lucayan drawings and carvings. Various artefacts from the Arawak period have been found by farmers in the fertile soil which the Indians enriched with bat guano. In common with other islands, Rum Cay has experienced a series of booms and busts. Pineapple, salt and sisal have all been important industries, but competition and natural disasters, such as the 1926 hurricane, have all taken their toll and today tourism is the main source of employment. Plantation boundaries known as ‘margins’ can be seen all over the island, which date from the beginning of the 19th century when Loyalists settled here. Nearly everybody lives in Port Nelson where cottages can be rented. Settlements such as Port Boyd, Black Rock and Gin Hill are now deserted and overgrown.
This former pirates’ haven is surrounded by deep reefs and drop-offs. There is staghorn coral at Summer Point Reef and good diving at Pinder’s Point. At the Grand Canyon, huge 60ft coral walls almost reach the surface. Summer Point Marina has dockage, moorings, bar and restaurant. There is a small guesthouse available from Constable Ted Bain. The Last Chance Yacht Supply has groceries. Batelco office for phone calls closes at lunchtime. Yachts wait here before sailing to Mayaguana or the Turks and Caicos Islands, or before returning to Georgetown and points north.