30 April 2012
Man-O-War is a great place for a boat during a hurricane but not a good place for an adult with ADHD who is used to the wonders of Chicago. That sums it up! For years, I have been reading about Man-O-War Cay and talking about how we would “base” there after we got to the Bahamas.
The harbors (there is one north and the other south of the harbor entrance) are indeed well-protected from the seas although they seemed smaller than we expected. We met a couple who keep their sailboat on a mooring at Man-O-War during the hurricane season, and their vessel survived Hurricane Irene, which was a CAT3 when it hit here.
The “settlement” is tiny. There is a dockside restaurant which serves okay food at typical Bahamian prices. There is a dive shop which never seems to be open. There are 2 boat yards run by the same people, and reported to be highly competent. There are 2 small grocery stores as well as a couple of shops. There is a cannon from a US warship wrecked during the Civil War, mounted near a dock where it rusts away, despite the coating of bright white, black, blue and yellow enamel paint (colors of the Bahamian flag). There are rusting boat engines laying around as well as beautiful little sailboats that are hand-built out of wood at Man-O-War. The museum in in an old house which contains displays of mostly things from the 1950s. The 1950s kitchen in the house is part of the museum as well as an old washing machine that sits outside.
The island seems to be marked by a certain lack of diversity. It is not just that most of the inhabitants are white, and that the black people one sees mostly just work on the island leaving by ferry every night; its that most of the white people seem to be related to one another. The all kind of look alike. We noticed the same resemblance in the many old photographs of residents displayed in the little museum. In one photo of an island wedding around 1900, the bride and groom bear a distinct family resemblance to each other. The island was settled by a handful of loyalists families who fled New York and Charleston after their side (i.e., the British) lost the American Revolutionary War. The same families are still here.
The island is very Christian. Notwithstanding its small size, the settlement boats several nice looking little churches. Any sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. The only upcoming entertainment consisted of a Christian Folk Singer, and a movie being shown at one of the local churches about a champion surfer who goes on a quest for the Big Wave and instead finds Jesus.
Much of the island is taken up by attractive private residences owned by wealthy Americans and others. They have PRIVATE PROPERTY and NO TRESPASSING signs which bar access to much of the islands beaches.
It makes us appreciate Chicago, where almost the entire majestic waterfront is park, owned by all the people, “forever open, clear, and free”.
Between that and the lack of intellectual stimulation, we quickly became homesick and spent only 2 nights at the place I had dreamed would be our base. We really haven’t given Man-O-War a good enough look; we will come back, stay a while more, and see if we still feel the same way. We plan to have some routine maintenance done on our boat by one of the yards here.
For now, we cast off the mooring and headed for historic Hope Town and its famous red and white candy striped lighthouse.