14 January 2008 | Man-O-War and Sugar Loaf Cays
We had a gentle sail for all of an hour over to Man-O-War Cay. The distances are so small here that one could go cay hopping back and forth every day. Since we haven't been here before, our emphasis is on exploring each cay, and we'll enjoy more sailing later. One of the books had an anchorage marked at the north end of Man-O-War and, being a little tired of harbour life, we joined the two boats already anchored and dropped the hook. Once again, the sand was very hard and the CQR was not dug right in the way we would have liked, but the wind was light, we had about 80 feet of chain out in 10 feet of water, and we didn't move other than the swing caused by tide. On Friday evening, we just stayed on the boat to read, eat (BBQ pork chops, peas n' rice, cole slaw) and sit for hours under the glorious stars.
After the weather report on Saturday morning, we dinghied in to the beach and enjoyed a blissful walk along the little sandy road - called The Queen's Highway - that runs the length of the cay. It wound around and under mangrove trees, past carefully tended gardens, allowing glimpses of beaches on both the Atlantic and the Sea of Abaco. The houses at this end have fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean with rollers splashing up on wide stretches of sandy beach interspersed with coral. On our way back to Madcap, we stopped to talk with Thomas and Linda who run charters on their gaff rigged ketch, Ciganka. In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the harbour - going aground as we tried to take a shortcut in the northern entrance - and did a little more exploration. We weren't quite as enthralled with this part of the cay - the shops were filled with pretty much the usual kind of tourist "stuff" and the little streets and houses weren't as pretty as those of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. We were surprised that, despite it being Saturday, there were hardly any children and very few local people at all around.
A couple of encounters made it worth the trip though. We enjoyed a conversation with Andy Albury in his woodworking shop where he builds half hulls and fine furniture. Between spits of the chewing tobacco from the plug in his cheek, he talked about his father, Emmerson, and the traditions of the cay. It's a dry cay, with at least 3 churches that we saw, and seems to be holding onto a more simple way of life. As we strolled along Bay Street, Miss Lola came by in her golf cart offering fresh cinnamon buns. Neither Jim nor I can ever pass those up so we bought one - about 8 inches in diameter for $5.00 - and proceeded to devour it as we walked. Oooh - it was gooood.
After a dinghy ride past the marinas and through the harbour, we returned gratefully to our spot "outside" and went back to our idle ways of reading, swimming and appreciating the scenery.
On Sunday morning, after a vigorous walk on the beach with calves burning from moving through ankle deep sand, and a cool-down swim, we hauled anchor and motored over to Sugar Loaf Cay where we tucked in on the eastern side. We had good protection there from the Northwest wind that was due to come through. The rest of the day passed easily and although the wind direction changed, we never did get much in the way of rain or wind. I finished the third of the Mark Burnell books - espionage/suspense/thriller types. Jim and I both liked the first one - Rhythm Section - didn't care much for the next two, and now I'm going to read the fourth - The Third Woman - just to be finished with the series (Jim says it's better than books 2 and 3). Jim is reading Pat Conroy's Beach Music right now and enjoying it.
We did manage to throw off our slothful habits on Monday and do a few boat jobs. Jim did some repair work on wooden bits that have had rough encounters with docks over the last few months and I applied myself to cleaning lockers and brass. We could use a really good beating rain to rinse off the salt (and fill our water tank) but that hasn't happened. Then we'll find time to add a couple of coats of cetol on the brightwork and some wax on the decks and we'll start to look good again. Note - that poli-glow that we applied a year ago and don't like now is the very devil to get off!!
We took a dinghy ride around the area and were delighted to spot three dolphins fishing along the bank. I got out my camera and they dove and moved off. I finally put it away and they surfaced - guess they were camera shy! We watched them for a bit and visited our neighbours - Lynn and George on Ketch'n Dreams. They came over to Madcap for Happy Hour - Lynn bearing her signature drink, a smooooth Bailey's/Cinnamon/Butterscotch Schnapps concoction. We enjoyed both the drink and the conversation.
On Tuesday morning, we motored over toward Johnny's Cay, anchored and dinghied out over the reef where George was waiting for us in his dinghy. He gave us a terrific introduction to snorkeling from the dinghy and to fish hunting. Unfortunately, neither he nor Jim was able to catch dinner, but Jim tried his spear a few times, and we had a fine hour of watching the fish. We realized after we got out there that we hadn't taken a bucket to hold the fish or a knife so we would have been dependent on George for more than know-how if Jim had gotten one! Every time we go snorkeling, we are both awed all over again. It is so amazing to just float around over the coral and watch these brightly coloured fish darting or swimming slowly in and out around the reef. This was a nice reef too - with lots of holes to peer through and twists and turns to follow - all within a few metres of the dinghies.
Then we were off to Hope Town. We're planning to spend one night in the harbour on a mooring ball and another night outside. It's time to do laundry and get water and a few groceries along with exploring the town.
I sure hope we can find a wifi connection somewhere. There has been absolutely nothing since the spotty connections we found last week in Marsh Harbour - no wifi and no cell phone coverage. Jim hasn't been able to make a winlink posting either so we have been quite out of touch. But then the sun is shining brightly, and it's 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit. We're not complaining!