27 Man-O-War and Hope Town

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At it’s widest, it’s less than a half mile. From end-to-end it just makes 2 miles. There are two small grocery stores, a bakery, some gift shops, two restaurants and a small boat building industry. There are a couple of marinas and two very snug harbors. 360 people live on the cay full time. It’s very peaceful and quiet. We found it very much to our liking and stayed 4 days.

Our adventures took on a very different flavor. We walked to both ends of the cay, discovering the many charming houses and hints of British traditions. Where on Nassau, most of the homes had stone walls at least waist high surrounding the property, on Man-O-War, the stone walls ran only along the edge of the road and were never more than a foot high. The road itself was not much wider than a sidewalk and the vehicle of choice is a golf cart. Vegetation is lush, and many times it was difficult to see the house that was only 20 or 30 feet away. We walked the lane called the Queens Highway a number of times discovering something new each time.

On the lee side of the cay, mangroves march down to the water edge and out into harbor making walking along the shore impossible. Man-O-War Cay at narrow pointYou stick to the Queens Highway. On the ocean side, there are smooth sandy beaches that collide with sections of coral reef rocks that again loose out to the sandy beaches. The coral reef sections have incredibly sharp edges and jaded points that make walking a careful picking of your path. At one point the cay narrows down to 50 feet wide. The rocky passage is only 3 feet above high tide. The lane called the Queens Highway passes over this section. The lane builders knocked sharp edges off the rocks to make it passable for golf carts.

Downtown Man-O-WarDowntown, the Queens Highway widens to 20 feet and two golf carts can pass if they are careful. In most cases it’s not a problem because you see few people out on the streets. But then, downtown isn’t very crowded with shops or houses either.

Home for us was a mooring located in front of the marina. We had a front row seat for watching boats come and go. Shore was just a short dink ride away and provided another opportunity to mess around in boats.

Into this idyllic setting Mother Nature rolled another low and it’s associated gale warning. Seas outside the barrier reefs were forecasted to be 12-15 feet. In our snug bay, we got 30-mph winds over the deck, but the ride was smooth. We swung from side to side on the mooring, but other than the boat motion, we were very comfortable. We even slept in the next morning as the wind howled around us.

Breakfast is usually in the cockpit. I went up to set up the table. Looking around, I realized the dink wasn’t visible. A fast trip to the stern confirmed that it was gone. My heart sank. I let Ruth know and then had to fight the instinctive reaction that said: “get in the dink and go look for it.” That wasn’t going to work since there was no dink to go look from. I got on the radio and announced we’d lost our dink. Reaction was interesting. We were immediately assured that it hadn’t been stolen. Then there were comments that we’d probably find it trapped in the mangroves, or along the docks. We even got a offer to be picked up and taken to go look for it. I accepted and found the dink 5 minutes later tied to a dock. The Bahamian gentleman painting a boat bottom told me he’d seen it drifting and tied it off figuring someone would come and claim it. The dink is now very well secured to the transom each time we tie back up to Tranquility.

As the gale abated we went exploring in the dink. We motored out to the end of the cay enjoying the shoreline and shallow bottom. At one point we spotted a starfish and stopped to poke at it with one of the oars. Florescent fish would come into view and we’d attempt to follow them in the dink. We spent a couple of hours with our heads over the side looking for the next bottom attraction.

During the day we walked to Ena’s Restaurant and made reservations. Not only did they want our reservation, but also took our dinner order. That evening, we dinked ashore, walked down to Ena’s. We were greeted with: “Oh, your Tranquility, sit over there and I’ll bring out your food.” Ena’s is an outdoor restaurant. A canvas awning covers the porch where you eat. We took a table and were served our previously ordered dinner by ‘dad’ (father to the lady who took our order) in shorts and flip-flops. In the middle of dinner, the power failed all over the cay. The entire cay went pitch black. There was no moon and you couldn’t see a thing. The people at the table next to us immediately pulled out their flashlights, set them on the table pointing up to shine off the canvas roof and proceeded with dinner. Dad ran down, moved his golf cart and shined it’s lights off the canvas awning. We worried about finding our way back to the dink in pitch-blackness away from the porch, but just as they were bringing candles to the tables, power was restored.

We couldn’t resist going back to Marsh Harbor to listen to an ICW seminar put on by Skipper Bob. He publishes a number of guides for the ICW. There was a huge turnout and it was fun swapping notes and beginning to think seriously about heading north. We are itchy to travel and going further south this year has lost its appeal because of all the lows coming through and their adverse winds.

After the seminar we had a short but great sail over to Hope Town. It’s another small town of maybe 300 people and has a character that is very different than Man-O-War. It starts with the 100-foot lighthouse that is still kerosene fired. It has a weight system to rotate the light. The keeper has to crank up the weights every two hours during the night. To tour the light, you go over by boat and then climb the 101 stairs to the top.

The street in downtown Hope Town is so narrow that vehicles are not permitted. Pressing in on the narrow lane is a variety of very old, very small, but very cute houses. Many of them are for rent. We wandered around, admiring each house and trying to decide which one we’d want to rent someday. Our favorite was a ‘hobbit’ house along the waterfront. Equally appealing was the waterfront woodcarver’s workshop. The works of art scattered in among the tools, and works in process makes an interesting site.

Things got exciting in the mooring area. Yet another front with high winds rolled through. As we were sitting aboard watching the boats swing on their moorings, we realized that one named Footloose, a 47 foot sailboat, was slowly backing down on another boat dragging the mooring. No one was aboard. Our friends on Eriskay and Samum were also watching. We all headed for our dinks and went to the rescue. We went aboard and hung fenders so Footloose wouldn’t hit the boat she was dragging onto. We started the engine and cast off the mooring. By that time, the marina manager who owns the moorings was out and gave us directions to a face dock in the marina. He neglected to tell us that we’d have to go around a boat already on the dock and then fit the 47-foot boat into about 60 feet of dock between the boat and shore. With the wind registering 30-mph gusts, it was an interesting trip. We managed without causing any damage and things returned to normal.

The wind was very high. Ruth and I had a very uncomfortable night because the boat motion was so jerky. Unfortunately during the night large catamaran broke free from its mooring and hit Samum. This time there was damage. Samum has to replace their running lights and bow roller. The catamaran has scratches and has to replace lifelines. Made for an exciting night for everyone.

The front blew through and the next day we had another taste of what nice weather is like in the Bahamas. A 10-mph breeze and low humidity made the 82-degree temperature very comfortable. We headed over to the ocean side of the cay and went snorkeling. There’s a reef just off the beach. Ruth and I went out and spent all morning poking around the rocks and coral looking at a wonderful variety of fish. Think our favorites were the two manta rays we saw, or maybe it was the sole hiding in the sand in near perfect camouflage. Ruth couldn’t spot it until I dove down and made it move with a wave of my hand. It swam off maybe 20 feet, settled back in the sand and this time blended in so perfectly that neither one of us could spot it again.

When hunger got the better of us, we came out of the water and walked up the dune to the tiny resort overlooking the beach. We had a leisurely lunch sitting under the palms watching the waves break on the reef. After lunch we went back to the beach and snorkeled most of the afternoon. That evening we watched the sun set over the cay and enjoyed the flashes from the lighthouse as the dusk slowly transformed other boats on moorings into splashes of ligh as people turned on anchor and cabin lights. It was a classic summer day in the islands.

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