May 6, 2013 7:57 pm Comments Off on Island Hopping in the Caribbean
Birds of a feather flock together at Pine Cay
Unexpected guest has The Meridian Club staff in a flutter
Pine Cay, a private island getaway in the Caribbean, has been a fascinating entry in the travel logs of early explorers. Its abundant supply of fresh water has drawn maritime voyagers to this tiny windswept island in the Turks & Caicos archipelago since the days of Columbus. Today, Pine Cay and The Meridian Club draw a different type of visitor; one who is seeking a break from everyday routine. The kind of visitor who wants to escape the crowds of travelers and the bustle of tourism associated with other more densely-populated islands, to experience, instead, a throwback to the blissful holiday times of a bygone era.
Visitors to this private Caribbean getaway tend to experience a form of addiction to the solitude that it offers. They quickly get hooked on daily doses of walks along unspoiled, talcum-powder soft sand, the unobstructed, startlingly blue vistas, and the unhurried pace of life on Pine Cay. And for most visitors, the siren song that is the Pine Cay experience lures them back year after year.
One only has to imagine the smiles breaking out on expectant faces as the Turks & Caicos come into view through the clouds as planes prepare to land.
It’s little wonder then that the stunning aerial views attracted an uncommon visitor to Pine Cay in early April. Expected to stay only a day or two, this feathered guest has made himself at home at The Meridian Club, sustained by fresh water and helpings of grain offered by the resort staff. Affectionately nicknamed “Juan” after extending his trip past a week and winning over the hearts of staff and guests alike, the beautiful racing pigeon seems quite content to enjoy his flight detour and remain in transit for a while yet.
Easy to approach and extremely comfortable with people, Juan has been spending his days on the roofs of the Club House or the beach bungalows and enjoying the ocean breezes and captivating views. He has embraced the serenity of The Meridian Club by showing his preference for dining alone, arriving on the pool deck to feast on grains and water only when other guests have finished their meals.
Banded IF 2011 UCPR 7534, Juan is associated with the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers, Inc., otherwise known as IF. A search of the website http://www.ifpigeon.com/ reveals that Juan’s flight path may have originated in Puerto Rico some 466 miles (749.79 kms) from Pine Cay. Although efforts are underway to repatriate Juan with his “flight” club, they have to-date remained unsuccessful. Staff at Pine Cay continues to makes calls to find Juan’s flock.
As for Juan, he is clearly no bird brain. He alighted on a secluded Caribbean island that has beckoned travelers for centuries. Some have stopped here on their way to other destinations to refuel water supplies, others have returned year after year to lose themselves in the isolation and quiet. And while it is unclear what Juan’s plans are, it seems that he is in no hurry to leave the paradise he has found on Pine Cay. He appears to be relishing this minor detour with the zeal of a pigeon that has flown too hard for too long. Looks like Juan has discovered what other guests at Pine Cay have known for years…that this tiny private island in the Turks and Caicos offers an unparalleled respite from the daily grind.
February 25, 2013 8:57 pm Leave a Comment
The Founders of Pine Cay
From Early Explorers to Count Ferdinand Czernin
French Captain N. Bellin, sent to the West Indies by King Louis XV in the mid-1700s wrote of Pine Cay: “To approach Island of Pines, you have to be careful because there is a sandbar. When you approach Island of Pines from the opening in the reef, you have to make sure the island remains to the SE so you can enter without touching the sand.” He wrote further, “The Island of Pines goes NW to SE. The land is low and not protected from the wind in the east, which batters the pines all the time. The trees on the fringe are uprooted and dried up, and the ones in the center are not doing too well.” He continued his description with, “The earth is full of sand on the perimeter and doesn’t look much better on the inside.” and, “The sea bottom is very wide in the whole bay, too wide to catch any big fish.”
Despite all these shortcomings, Bellin managed to find the one thing that has drawn explorers back to Pine Cay over the last four centuries. He wrote, “The most important feature in the Island of Pines is a big lagoon of sweet water close to the sea and where there is enough water to fill 50 ships.”
Pine Cay has played an important role in providing fresh water to seafarers since the days of Christopher Columbus. Historians estimate that Columbus’ first stop in the New World was in the Turks and Caicos Islands in October 1492 where he restocked the ship’s water supplies on route to Cuba. While the appeal of a permanent fresh water depot in the otherwise desert-like Caribbean archipelago continued to bring maritime voyagers to Pine Cay, there were few other reasons to set up camp on this tiny, windswept island.
In 1958 when the Turk & Caicos Islands were under Jamaican administration, Count Ferdinand Czernin came to visit a friend on South Caicos. While discussing the islands and climate, the topic of the lack of fresh water came up and a steward informed Ferdinand that indeed there was an island in the Turks & Caicos that had abundant supplies of fresh water. Without delay, Ferdinand chartered a sloop and made the 2-day voyage to the secluded island of Pine Cay in search of fresh water.
Here, in addition to finding a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, Ferdinand also discovered a peaceful little private island which had no occupants. Pine Cay had a gorgeous “white powder beach, blue and green water under cerulean skies and cotton ball clouds.” It was serene and untouched, teeming with iguanas, and great white herons, stretches of pines and palmettos, and abundant and varied flora. He thought that this secluded island hideaway in the Turks and Caicos could gradually be expanded to accommodate like-minded friends, who were eager to escape the stresses and demands of their more cosmopolitan lifestyles.
With original plans to farm pineapple, and vegetables and to use the solitude to write books, Ferdinand set out to determine who owned the land and if there was a formal registry system. He was granted a farming lease for a conditional five and then 99 year period. All he had to do was to construct a residential house and start the agriculture project. As construction plans were initiated, George Nipanich, a long time friend of Ferdinand tagged along to help negotiate construction terms and squeeze in a vacation on the island hideaway.
Work came to a halt in 1960 as a result of heavy rainfall and abnormally high tides throughout the islands resulting from Hurricane Donna. Many trees were lost, fresh water lakes turned brackish and flooding destroyed a lot of vegetation. This natural disaster resulted in the channel between Water Cay and Little Water Cay slowly filling in and then closing in completely by 1968.
During the same year that Hurricane Donna swept across the Caribbean, George Nipanich met his future wife, Maroussia, at a wedding party in Jamaica. Marou came to visit George on Pine Cay even though the self-proclaimed “city girl” hated camping, but due to a series of travel-related mishaps only managed to spend one day on Pine Cay! During her foray through the islands, she “thought it was fascinating, regardless of whether I was a city girl. I loved the whole area and thought it was a great adventure.”
As a result of the construction setbacks experienced with the upheaval caused by Hurricane Donna, Ferdinand received a two-year extension on his lease and used the time, (instead of farming) to prepare a projection of Pine Cay development possibilities. Unfortunately, though he had diligently persisted in realizing his dream of inhabiting a deserted island hideaway in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ferdinand died of a heart attached in 1966. His wife, Helen, came back to Pine Cay and together with George Nipanich, decided to continue the legacy her husband had dreamed about.
In his proposal to the government, George prepared drawings and a Summary of the Proposed Development of Pine Cay where he introduced two names for the project: The Cays Development Company, Ltd., and the one which was adopted and which we know today, The Meridian Club. His plan called for a club house, marina, utility buildings, workers’ quarters, a power plant, water supply, sewage systems and recreational facilities. In November 1967, after receiving conditional approval from the government, George Nipanich moved to the island to devote himself to the development of Pine Cay. The Meridian Club – named for the proposed location of the clubhouse which came through the middle of the 22nd meridian and intersected with the 72nd meridian – opened its doors in the early 1970s.
George Nipanich passed away in 2002 after spending many happy years on Pine Cay and seeing his vision fulfilled. Today, 38 private homes and a 13-guestroom beach club offer an idyllic escape from the stresses of everyday life. Unspoiled beaches, turquoise water, fresh drinking water and an abundance of flora and fauna continue to be the hallmark of the secluded island hideaway that Count Ferdinand Czernin once fell in love with, and which continues to honour his pioneering spirit.