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"There was no evidence to show they'd been around. There were no boats, no wreckage. There was nothing." - Henry Bain. Andros Island, Bahamas

Stanley Bain
Image:Chip Bates

On the morning of August 5, 1995, Stanley Bain stood in front of his Cargill Creek Lodge and surveyed the small flyfishing empire that he'd built. The resort sat near the North Bight on South Andros Island, The Bahamas, concealed among lush tropical gardens and manicured lawns. Three satellite cottages peppered the outskirts of his property, which included an in-ground swimming pool and a Cessna 402 for his more affluent clients who wished to arrive via private charter. And surrounding it all were some of the most productive bonefishing waters in the world.

Stanley was preparing for a two-week fishing trip to harvest lobsters for the coming year's clients. A recent hurricane had just passed and he and his brother William were getting a late start on opening season. But soon after fueling up the 36-foot Luhrs Sport Fisherman and two Dolphin skiffs that would accompany them, Stanley, William, and three lodge employees set out into the emerald waters surrounding Andros. As they headed away from Cargill Creek, the group passed Simon Bain, another of Stanley's brothers, who was returning with a client from the North Bight and Moxey Creek after a morning chasing big bonefish. Simon ran his boat close in front of his older brother's cabin cruiser, and he can still remember his two brothers laughing as he passed. It was the last time he would ever see them. Stanley Bain and his crew of four disappeared that day forever.

Andros Island has long been considered one of the premier bonefishing destinations on the globe. It is the largest of the more than 700 Bahamian islands, at 40 miles wide and over 100 miles long, yet it remains one of the more sparsely populated. Its location some 150 miles southeast of Miami and its reputation as home to the biggest bonefish east of the Keys has made it a popular bonefish haunt ever since Colonel Hank Thorne built the legendary Bang Bang Club on the north side of Big Wood Cay in the '40s.

Bahamas Map

At the time of his disappearance, Stanley Bain was the personification of Bahamian flyfishing. He'd started fishing the flats and creeks around Andros with his father as a young boy, and he later guided at the Bang Bang Club itself, working for a time with the legendary "Bonefish" Charlie Smith, inventor of the Crazy Charlie. He was also a husband and a father. He and his brothers were very close and by all accounts, he had a tight knit family. Most agree that Stanley Bain was 49 years old at the time, and seemed to be at the top of his game.

"Stanley Bain was definitely at the forefront of the bonefishing gold rush that hit the Bahamas in the late '80s and early '90s, says photographer Brian O'Keefe, who fished with Bain three times in the early '90s, including some of the first exploratory trips to the desolate south end of Andros. "Nobody at that time was actively putting that area of Andros into a commercial program. It was an overnight trip to fish it and fuel was expensive. When we were down where he was building Grassy Cay Lodge, we wouldn't see anyone- ever."

These days, you can choose from over 30 lodging options on Andros, but fifteen years ago almost every angler who came to the island stayed in one of three places: The Andros Island Bonefish Club, Cargill Creek, or Charlie's Haven- run by Charlie Smith- all located about midway down the east coast, near the North Bight.

"Bain was positioned to do very well with Cargill Creek and the new Grassy Cay Lodge," says O'Keefe. "If things hadn't turned out the way they had." In truth, "the way things turned out" remains an almost complete mystery. But there's no shortage of speculation. "South Andros is just wild, more wild than Alaska, really," says flyfishing writer Ted Williams, who stayed at both of Bain's lodges and has fished Andros extensively. "All the Bahamians have different theories about Stanley. That's the way they like it- they're into rumors. But nobody really knows what happened."

In the 1980s, Stanley was a financially successful Bahamian who was involved in the construction business in Nassau. He was also a big supporter of the Progressive Liberal Party, or PLP, led by Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, who ran the Bahamian government for 25 years until being forced out by a corruption scandal. Because of his political connections, Stanley was able to secure large loans from the Bahamian bank. His first operation, Cargill Creek Lodge, did quite well, so he decided to expand his operation and open a new lodge on the south end of South Andros. But right about the time Grassy Cay got going, the PLP fell out of power.

"In those days, when you were a big supporter of Lynden Pindling, like Stanley was, you could go to Pindling and he would recommend you to any bank to get any amount of money, just like dat," says Gary Francis, a Bahamian guide who was on Andros at the time of Stanley's disappearance. "Then one day he just comin' up from Cargill Creek and he never returns. Gone into thin air. They didn't find no boat or nothing."

So the obvious question lingers--what about the big loans? Did he ever pay them back? "That's what a lot of people are trying to figure out," Francis says. "Big loan."

Stanley Bain

Beyond his questionable financial situation and close ties to a corrupt Bahamian government, there is also widespread supposition of drug smuggling in Stanley's past. Jerry Tone Sr. and his wife Betty, both avid fly anglers, were among the first paying clients to stay with Stanley at Grassy Cay Lodge. They fished with him for several years.

"Stanley used to sit up on the roof of the lodge to make his phone calls back to Nassau because it was the only place he could get reception," recalls Jerry. "Either that or he didn't want us to hear what he was talking about. Apparently he was in the construction business, but people always talked about him possibly being in the drug business."

Chip Bates, owner of Angling Adventures and another American close to Stanley, was the exclusive booking agent for Cargill Creek and Grassy Cay Lodge. "The drug dealing never came up in conversation, but I didn't doubt the rumors for a second," Bates says. "But at the same time, these were the stories that gave Stanley this larger than life persona."

The south end of South Andros is less than 90 miles from mainland Cuba. So a questionable disappearance such as this naturally calls into question whether the boat may have ended up farther south than it intended. This became an especially intriguing scenario when it came to light that, according to Stanley Bain's accountant, Bain was carrying $10,000 in cash on board.

"Well, the general thought was that the crew was going to fill the boat with enough lobster to support both the lodges throughout the season," says Bates. "But if for some reason, Stanley didn't get enough lobster he was going to buy the lobster from other fisherman right out on the water, before they hit the market and the prices went up.

"I'll tell you this," Bates continues. "Stanley was a scrapper. He wouldn't back down from a fight. He might have approached the wrong boat, and they might have seen the amount of cash he had and picked a fight. If that happened, the others on the boat would have had no choice at that point but to go along for the ride. If these guys were Cuban, it would be very easy to disappear all the people and that boat. Everything could have ended up down in Cuba."

And if Bain's boat went north or east, it could have simply fallen under the spell of the Bermuda Triangle, and be added to the roster of the more than 1,000 boats and 200 airplanes that have gone missing there in the past 200 years. But the most benign and logical possibility is the most natural of events. What if Stanley ran into bad weather and simply capsized?

According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in August of 1995 there were nine storms in the Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of the eastern seaboard. There were only two storms in the general vicinity of Andros and the rest of the Bahamas and Cuba. The first was Hurricane Erin, which developed sometime around the 30th of July and hit Category 1 status in the Bahamas July 31st. This was the storm that caused Stanley to be delayed until August 5th, four days after the beginning of the 1995 lobster season. The second was Tropical Storm Jerry. Jerry's reign lasted from August 22 through August 28th. According to his brothers, Stanley should have been back on South Andros on the 18th. On the 22nd of August Jerry was only a Tropical Depression and is cited around southwest Andros with 30-35mph winds. Even if Stanley was still on the water on the 22nd, Jerry wasn't the type of storm to sink a 36-foot cabin cruiser, two skiffs, and drown an entire crew without a trace. The Perfect Storm's Andrea Gail, by comparison, was hammered by 120-mph winds and seas up to ten stories high. Yet pieces of the Andrea Gail were still found by search crews.

It seems that the nation of the Bahamas has all but forgotten about their son, Stanley. Little was ever recorded in the papers, and the police report is thin. Stanley's brother, Henry, filed the police report at the Cargill Creek Police Station when the crew went missing. Stanley had told Henry his game plan that day: Head south from Cargill Creek and make one stop at Grassy Cay, then continue on for about 40 miles southwest toward Cuba. Once they were done fishing they were going to spend a few days on Grassy Cay to do some repairs and upkeep. On August 19, family members tried to contact Stanley and William at Grassy Cay but they could not be reached by phone. Alarmed, Stanley's family left for Grassy Cay immediately. When they found no one, they returned and notified authorities.

One of the three employees on the boat was Hubert Mackey, a 32-year-old Andros local and bonefish guide, married with a new child. His father, Rudolph Mackey, was also a bonefish guide, at the nearby Andros Island Bonefish Club and was part of the large search party that went out to the banks in between Andros and Cuba to look for the missing fishermen.

"I went out searchin' in a boat and a plane," says Rudulph "We flew out over to da bank near Cuba but if we got too close the Cubans would have shot us down. We were scared to get too close."

Rudolph knew Stanley well. When asked whether or not Stanley could have been doing other things out on the water, Rudolph simply replied, "Stanley was into lots of different things."

The search lasted for weeks. Friends and family continued looking for the fishing party long after the official search was over. Henry Bain is still tormented by the loss and the unanswered questions. "There is a guy here with the Bahamian government who my other brother went to see," says Henry. "This fellow went and spoke with the police in Cuba, trying to figure out if they somehow drifted into Cuban waters or ended up there somehow. He was high up in the government and could find out nothing."

Cargill Creek Lodge folded shortly after Stanley's disappearance. It was eventually purchased in 2003 by Rupert Leadon and is now part of the Andros Island Bonefish Club. Grassy Cay lodge lies in ruins on the south end, where local guides will sometimes point it out to their guests when talking about the history and mysteries of Andros.

All that remains of Stanley and his crew twelve years after their disappearance from this beautifully desolate island are rumors, conjecture, and speculation. Stories and conspiracy theories pervade the back channels and endless, bonefish-filled flats that stretch around Andros, adding to the mystery of Stanley Bain and his place in Bahamian flyfishing lore.

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