27/04/2008/11:29 am, Man-O-War Cay
We moved over to Man-O-War on Sunday, anchoring up by the narrow bit at the northern end of the Cay. When we stopped there in January, we were one of 2 boats. This time there were 10 during the day and 5 overnight. We had been warned that Abaco anchorages are much busier in the spring and it has sure proven to be true. We're really glad we took the time to explore this area early in the winter when there was lots of space everywhere and the weather was only a couple of degrees cooler than it is now.
When we visited Man-O-War last time, we had mixed feelings about it so we decided to have another look. We also had a mission - to see the new house owned by a colleague of my sister's at Acadia University in Nova Scotia - my alma mater.
If I may just go off on a little tangent for a moment, when we were in Eleuthera, we picked up a brand new local paper, "The Eleutheran" (www.theelutheran.com) and discovered that the publisher/managing editor, Elizabeth Bryan is also an Acadia grad. Yeah Acadia!
And so..."our" anchorage was lovely as always even if more crowded with daytrippers, and the scenery just over the narrows on the ocean side was breathtaking. The beautifully kept properties along the Queen's Highway down to the centre of town were just as fine. Flowers bloomed, the houses were all painted up in pretty pastel colours, yards were swept, beaches were garbage free. Along the waterfront, boats were lined up at the docks and the boatyards were pristine. So why did we still feel uneasy here? What was missing? People!
Our last visit was on a Saturday, and although there were folks working in the boatyards and the shops were open, there were no local people casually around on porches or in the streets. Man-O-War is a dry cay and its inhabitants have a reputation as skilled carpenters and boatbuilders - people who work hard and take their religion seriously. This visit was on a Sunday, and we knew stores would be closed, but being a day of rest, we fully expected to see families out and about.
We started walking about 1 pm, went pretty much one end of the Queen's Highway to the other and strolled along 2 or 3 of the streets leading out to the beaches. We passed playgrounds, a ball field and gazebos. We passed 4 or 5 churches with doors and windows closed (services were listed for morning and evening) and ended up back at the boat at about 4:30 pm. That is roughly 3 ½ hours of strolling. In that time we met probably 7 or 8 golf carts - all but 3 I'd wager were visitors. One of the local ones had an older gentleman and his dog. He gave a careful nod and answered our waves. Another held a beaming and friendly grandparent-looking couple with a pretty little girl on their laps, and the third held a young couple with a baby, none of whom nodded nor smiled.
We saw not one single person relaxing on a porch, not one single child on a bicycle or playing in a yard. No one sat on the benches; no one walked the beaches (except the visitors to the beach where we left the dinghy). There was not one single shop open for an ice-cream or a bottle of water - even the marina store was locked up tight.
We are used to finding folks out around, going to and from work or visiting; we are used to seeing children laughing and playing; we are used to waving to folks on their porches as we pass by; we've visited stores where, even if no one is there, we could grab a bottle of soda or water or beer from the cooler and leave the money on the counter.
Man-O-War is lovely - there is no doubt about that - but it didn't feel like a place to linger. In fact, it felt just plain weird.
We did find Mike's new house and a beautiful one it is. We stood on the wide breezy deck and looked out through the trees to the brilliant green water. We took the sandy path to the beach and listened to the waves roar in. The property looked like a fine spot from which to enjoy the Bahamas weather. And perhaps if one spent months here instead of days, it might even become a place from which to enjoy the community.
We enjoyed a beautiful evening from the deck of our boat and then headed out on Monday morning to Great Guana Cay.
26/04/2008/11:22 am, Marsh Harbour, Abacos
Saturday and Sunday were race days in Marsh Harbour and we had ringside seats. Little boats were flying back and forth all day long as young folks and older folks zipped in and out among the vessels at anchor in the harbour.
Mike on Sapphire took this shot of us, as Jim and I moved from one side of the boat to the other watching skippers clear our anchor chain or stern by no more than a foot sometimes. If I had it to do again, I'd get my family into dinghies like this when they were young. In fact, it would be great experience for anyone at any age. That's how we really learn to sail - in a little boat with a tiller, a mainsheet and a centerboard. Jim and I spent many hours sailing our Invitation (a Bombardier boat like a laser) at Amherst Shore, honing our skills, and ending up in the water when we didn't get it just right. It would be a pile of fun to do it with lots of other little boats in warm water!
We paid a visit to Long's Landing Seafood store and picked up some fresh mahi-mahi, along with a bag of ground conch ready to be made into fritters and a bag of field ripened tomatoes. Ooh yes - the eating is good. One more trip to the large and well stocked grocery stores filled our larder again, and we bought a couple of cases of Ginger Beer to take along with us. We have come to love that drink, with or without rum, and always with a squeeze of lime.
At the end of the day we introduced Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) to the delights of Dark & Stormies - the "with rum" version, and then on our way home, we stopped to visit our neighbours, Lori and Ian on Lorian - a Morgan Classic. They hail from Sarnia and are having a fine first year cruising.and learning to sail this boat - their first!
25/04/2008/6:04 pm, Marsh Harbour, Abacos
"If you don't leave, you can't come back." That was an expression I used frequently when our children were small and didn't want to leave a friend's house. It's one we've heard here in the Abacos as folks head north, and it's one into which I would now put a slight twist. "If you don't part, you can't have a reunion."
We arrived in Marsh Harbour Thursday to see a familiar profile - Sapphire! We last saw Kathy and Mike on their 40 ' Bayfield ketch in Black Sound, Exumas when, after spending a few weeks together, we headed off on separate timetables. Our reunion took place in their cockpit in the form of an evening of rollicking laughter, spicy and satisfying jambalaya, multiple bottles of wine, and dozens of stories of the "Did you see...? Did you go...? What did you think of...? Oh, we'll have to do that next time!" variety.
Jim spent most of Friday on the internet researching power options - wind generators, solar panels, batteries etc, while I did laundry and engaged in a most frustrating retrieval of our ship's clock. I left it to be repaired back in January and went in to pick it up only to find out that not only had the man not gotten around to repairing it, there had been some kind of mix-up in the clock itself. From being all silver coloured when it went in, it now has the same face but on a brass body. The owner of the shop assured me it had come in like that just as much as I assured him it hadn't. We parted ways with him saying, "That's why I put a numbered sticker the clock - so there will be no mistake" and me saying, "Next time I'm taking a picture of any article I leave for service - so there will be no mistake." I'll get it checked and fixed back in Canada (although interestingly enough, this guy is a Canadian who moved here 20 years ago.)
Going back to the Laundromat was therapeutic. It was just some local women and me - the cruisers had finished up early - and as we all stood at the counters sorting and folding, the woman next to me singing away, it felt soothing and calming, and things kind of got into perspective again. I've got clean sheets to sleep in tonight and a clock on the wall.
Solitaire arrived this afternoon and had a chance to get reunited with Sapphire (they last saw each other at American Thanksgiving in St Mary's). We joined them and as the six of us walked down the street to dinner, we gathered in Carol and Steve (Restless). The others all knew each other, and despite Jim's reply of "It must be a case of mistaken identity!" when Steve said to him "I was right behind you when you went aground near Daytona Beach," we laughingly agreed that it was a reunion for them too.
As we sat at a table in Snappas enjoying delicious fish, burgers and salads, more reunion related information emerged. Solitaire Jim, Nancy and Steve found all sorts of connections in their history as pilots - the sort the just make you wonder about the degrees of separation in this world. Among cruisers, it has to be far fewer than six! While Steve and Carol headed back to their boat, the rest of us piled into Solitaire's cockpit once more for songs from Nancy's enormous collection with added percussion from the wonderfully rattly pods from the Poinciana trees, and reminiscences about the music of our youth. Oooh - doesn't that sound like we're oldies?
We had never met these people before we started this trip, have now met them again and again, and know that we have many reunions ahead of us for they have become dear friends.
When eventually we decided we really must go home, we discovered that our dinghy was well and truly wedged in under the dock and Jim had to partially deflate it, haul it out and pump it up again before we could depart. Those tides - even though they aren't very high, they can take boats where they were never meant to go!