Sunday dawns a bright and sunny day with 20 knots of wind clocking from the southwest to the west and barely a cloud in the sky at Man-O-War Cay. Sirius marine weather radar depicts a cold front advancing through the Florida peninsula, but at a snail’s pace. Late in the afternoon, billowy cumulus clouds begin to appear on the horizon to the northwest. Weather radar shows a line of thunderstorms in advance of the front, but these appear to be passing to the north and east of Man-O-War. After sunset, an impressive light show to the northwest makes for dramatic evening entertainment. We retire at 10 PM, secure in the protection afforded by the harbor and cautiously hopeful that the squall line will pass to the north and east. At 11 PM, we are awakened to the sound of raindrops, thunder and a freshening wind out of the northwest. During the next hour, the squall produces pelting rain and wind speeds of 35 knots gusting to 40. The wind shift causes Cutter Loose to dance around her mooring, but the water in this cozy harbor remains relatively flat. By midnight, the storm has moved on to the southeast and stars begin to reappear in the night sky.
Man-O-War Cay is primarily a working waterfront community. Although there are many visiting yachts in the harbor, tourism in general is not actively promoted. There are no guest homes or hotels. Private homes are primarily modest, working class dwellings, although there are several larger vacation homes perched on the bluff overlooking the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean beach. Seasonal slipholders at Man-O-War Marina tell us that the solitude and the absence of tourism is precisely why they return here year after year. When they need supplies, a meal or entertainment, it is a short day trip to Marsh Harbour or Hopetown.
The history of Man-O-War is steeped in boatbuilding. The vast majority of residents are Caucasian, descendants of loyalists. The Albury boatyard builds fiberglass center console outboard power boats in the 20 to 30 foot range. Man-O-War is the home base for the Albury Ferry which operates a passenger ferry service connecting the major harbors in Abaco. Then there is the Albury Sail Shop that sells various types of bags made from sailcloth. Joe Albury’s studio and gift shop is located next to Andy Albury’s woodworking shop . And, of course, there is the Albury Harbor Grocery store. In fact, the Albury family seems to run just about everything in this town.
Man-O-War residents are devout in their faith. There is an unmistakable evangelical fervor in this community, expressed through hymns as background music in the shops, bumper stickers on many of the golf carts and bible verses printed on signs in the front yards of homes. On an island of 300 residents, there is a both a public high school and a Christian high school. Alcoholic beverages are not available for sale on the island. There are no bars and only one restaurant on Man-O-War Cay. If you fancy a beer with your burger, you are out of luck. The sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants is prohibited. The upside of this phenomenon is that in the absence of bars with live bands, the harbor is very quiet at night.
No visit to Man-O-War Cay is complete without a stop at Lola’s Bakery. Lola and her husband bake fresh bread and cinnamon rolls daily in the kitchen of their home on Cemetary Lane. Lola is an exogamist, having married an outsider from Cherokee Sound, about 25 miles to the south.
A visit to the Post Office yields more interesting information. Mail posted this morning will arrive in Miami in ten to fourteen days. We are hopeful that our housekeeper is not in dire need of payment. The check is in the mail, Nora. We learn that the Postmaster’s daughter is studying at the University of Maryland. Young Bahamians who wish to further their education typically attend college in the U.S. While in school, they return home to the Bahamas infrequently. After graduation, they pursue employment opportunities abroad. As a result, the population of the Bahamas is aging and families are becoming increasingly fragmented.
As usual, the more fascinating social encounters take place in the laundry. Today we meet a variety of cruisers including a fearless young couple from the Faroe Islands. For the geographically challenged, the Faroe Islands are located in the inhospitable waters of the North Atlantic midway between Iceland and Scotland. It is a self-governing country under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. Faroese is the primary language spoken in the islands. Follow this link for a primer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTj26z1KYV8. This adventurous couple is cruising aboard a sailboat with their six month old, blue eyed daughter. When their maternity leave expires, they will return home. The boat will remain in the Bahamas, awaiting their next adventure. Our risk-taking tolerance seems miniscule in comparison to that of this young family.
These days at Man-O-War Cay are filled with relaxing walks on the beach, afternoons spent reading in the cockpit and evening board games in the salon. The relative ease of cruising in the Sea of Abaco invites this type of behavior. It feels as comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans. In a few weeks, it will be time to think about sailing Cutter Loose back to the U.S. But for now, we’ll continue to bask in the laid back lifestyle of the Bahamas.