Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island in the Bahamas and once the home to world-class fishing tournaments, will return to its former glory, if Carl Allen, a retired Texas businessman and avid fisherman and diver, has his way.
The 100-acre island, with its airstrip, marina, hotel and cottages, has been basically empty since hurricanes swept over it in 2004. Now Allen, who’s living there on Gigi, his 164-foot Westport, just needs the Covid pandemic to end so he can return to the business of bringing it back.
For Walker’s, location is everything. It’s about 105 nm from Jupiter, and 53 from West End on Grand Bahama Island. More important, it’s on the edge of Little Bahama Bank, with gorgeous blue water, only ten feet deep, nearby, but a drop off to the Gulf Stream, with depths to 3,000 feet, just a dozen miles away. As a result, the fishing is world-class, from bonefish to marlin.
Walker’s was named after Thomas Walker, a British judge who was sent there to deal with pirates in the early 1700s. It was a quiet place for centuries. But Robert Abplanalp, a friend of President Nixon and the inventor of the aerosol valve for spray cans, changed that when he bought it in 1968.
Abplanalp created a sport fishing destination resort, complete with a 75-boat marina and a 2,500-feet-long airstrip. Over the years, Walker’s became the fabled home of the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout (I went to several of these; to say they were an incredible experience would be an understatement), and the Bahamas Billfish Championship, among other tournaments.
Abplanalp died in 2003, and Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne destroyed the hotel and marina the next year. Walker’s lay dormant until Allen bought it in the spring of 2018. He had first gone fishing at Walker’s with his stepfather when he was 12, and he loved it. Allen had sold the Heritage Bag Company in Roanoke, Texas, in 2016 (he had started out working on the factory floor and eventually became CEO), and now he had the time and the means to rebuilt it.
Allen’s idea was to make Walker’s a classic fishing resort again, with a new airstrip, a state-of-the-art marina with room for 200-foot yachts, a boutique hotel and 30 villas. His wife, Gigi, would restore the chapel for weddings.
But then on Sept. 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit and devasted the island again. Allen turned his efforts to helping people on nearby islands, particularly Little Grand Cay, where most of the people working on Walker’s lived. He used his 183-foot shadow boat to carry food, water and supplies to those people and others.
Now, Allen is waiting for the pandemic to end so he can start rebuilding Walker’s – again. He’s learned from the hurricanes. The lowest point of any building will be at least eight feet above sea level, and the floating docks will be able to handle a storm surge of ten feet or more. Read more: