A Sailboat in The Bahamas. (Unsplash/Sherard Campbell)

Mariah Heads South

Mariah Moyle relaxing outside in the Bahamas. (Mariah Moyle)

HARBOUR ISLAND, Bahamas — “I love the look of it, but it leaks and there’s no insulation,” said Mariah Moyle, 39, glancing up at the amber-toned cathedral ceiling overhead. Moyle said that leasing the harbor-front “Hogberry House” in Harbour Island was the only way she’d move back to the 3 1/2-mile Bahamian island.

She said that in Harbour Island, acquiring a lease on a waterfront property is like finding a breadcrumb on the beach. “I put it out into the universe,” she explained, spreading her fingertips forward.

With some luck and strong ties to the “Briland” community, Hogberry House is precisely where she and her husband, Mark Moyle, wound up, accompanied by their four mix-breed Bahamian dogs. Or, as the locals call them, “pot cakes.” 

Moyle’s venture from her home state of Washington in the Pacific Northwest to the 700 islands and cays of the Bahamas — and, ultimately, Harbour Island — was extremely variegated.

In her early 20s, Mariah worked as a flight attendant and lived in Lake Tahoe, California, with her former husband. A casual introduction to sailing on a small boat in Oregon piqued Moyle’s interest. She explained that Cruising World, a magazine dedicated to live-aboard sailing, pushed her fascination even further. 

One two-week stint aboard an acquaintance’s sailboat in Thailand finalized their decision to pull the trigger on maritime life. “We were so scared,” Moyle laughed.

After months of saving, Mariah, her ex-husband, and their two dogs traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to purchase a new home — a 32-foot Endeavor sailboat equipped for the high seas. Moyle said their goal was to sail to the Virgin Islands where United States citizens can legally work. 

After a year of live-aboard preparation, the couple traveled south to Miami, waited for a calm “weather window,” and then made the 53-mile crossing to Bimini, the closest Bahamian island to the United States. On their approach, Moyle said she recalled panicking about the water’s deceptive depth as she watched rocks pass beneath the boat with bewildering clarity. 

“It was just this Windex-blue color,” she recalled. “It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.”

From that point forward, hopping around the Bahamian islands became the pair’s winter adventure, leading them from Bimini to Chub Cay, Nassau, Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and the Exuma Cays. 

They settled down for a stint on Norman’s Cay in the Exumas, immersing themselves in the local community of island-hopping boaters, pilots, and a handful of permanent residents — a micro-civilization that revolved around the island’s only bar. 

“And then I lost my mom very suddenly,” Moyle said.

With virtually no time to prepare, Moyle said she found herself and her ex-husband on a charter plane back to the United States, leaving the sailboat and their dogs behind with new-found friends in Norman’s Cay until her husband could return. 

After spending a few months in the Pacific Northwest with her father and sister, Moyle flew to Norman’s Cay to reunite with her husband. Soon after, they sailed back to Florida, sold the boat, hung up their seafaring dreams and headed home.

Within a year, Moyle said her perspective on life — and her marriage — had changed. “Because I lost my mom everything was already kind of crumbling,” Moyle said. “I just decided that I didn’t want to be with my husband.” 

Moyle gathered her belongings, took her dog, and flew back to Norman’s Cay — an island she jokingly claims has “a population of nine.” At the time of her return, one of those residents was her kite surfing teacher-turned-second-husband, Mark Moyle, an Australian Bahamian who was overseeing the construction of a Norman’s Cay home.

Mark and Mariah Moyle in Harbour Island, Bahamas. (Mariah Moyle)

“It’s a small social scene,” she said. “So we were always just kind of doing social stuff together.” Mark Moyle said he remembers Mariah as a “rose amongst the thorns” in their remote corner of the world. 

Soon thereafter, the couple began sharing a cottage akin to a “plywood box” on nearby Bell Island. There, Mark Moyle managed another building project while Mariah Moyle acted as the assistant medic, one-woman HR department, and storekeeper for the construction worker’s make-shift snack bar. To quickly qualify for the job, Moyle had to complete a six-week medic training in the U.S. 

“It felt like a reality TV show,” she said, laughing.

They called Bell Island home for a year and a half, until Mark Moyle’s job as a construction manager led them to Harbour Island. “By the time we got to Harbour Island, we were like, ‘Oh, civilization! Grocery stores and restaurants!” she said, singing. 

“I loved it at first, but then I just had a really hard time living here,” she said. Moyle said that at the time, she still hadn’t come to terms with her divorce or her mother’s passing. 

“I think I was just distracted by living in the Exumas and living this weird lifestyle.” 

Moyle said that when she arrived in Harbour Island for the first time in 2013, she hoped she could live a “normal” life again. However, without a job or sense of community, normalcy felt difficult to obtain. 

“That’s when I started [my blog] Out Island Life.”  

Moyle said her blog’s initial posts were an exploration of “the realities of paradise.”  “It was kind of a dark rumination that paradise isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.”

Mariah Moyle’s husband, Mark Moyle, said the frustrations of island life — like waiting an hour for a single order of conch fritters — took years for his wife to accept. “She’s finally gotten used to the idea that she just has to call it ‘island time’ and relax,” he said, laughing. 

Mariah Moyle explained that she’s made enormous strides in emotional healing and accepting her accepting the present. She’s become a certified yoga instructor and even participated in shamanic energy medicine training in Valparaiso, Chile. 

Now, roughly eight years after her blog’s founding, Mariah Moyle shares guides on the Bahamas’ major regions, tips for traveling about the islands, organizes wellness retreats, and promotes Mark’s construction services and portfolio. 

Moyle also published an encyclopedic tour guide called Moon Bahamas in 2019 and Escape to the Bahamas: A Guide to Relocating to and Living in the Bahamas in 2020. Both books are available on Moyle’s website, Amazon and a smattering of retailers in Harbour Island, including local art galleries and resorts.

Although the Moyles own a home in Nassau, Mariah Moyle explained that Harbour Island always lures them back. With its laidback lifestyle, sun-drenched surroundings, and seemingly endless construction opportunities, it’s tough to match. 

Since March of 2020, Moyle said COVID-19 travel restrictions have kept them in Harbour Island more consistently than anticipated, enabling them to enjoy all the island’s offerings, from locally roasted coffee and happy hours with friends to yoga on world-renowned Pink Sands Beach

“I’m in a much better place,” she said. “I’m actually loving it.”

Still, staying in one place isn’t in Mark or Mariah Moyle’s nature. When restrictions ease, they hope to split time between the Bahamas and Central America, where substantial surf and Latin cuisine abound, and “home” is always a short flight away.

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