Friday, December 22, 2006

Man-o-War Cay, Merry Christmas, Farewell Sam

We arrived at the settlement on Man-o-War Cay on a gusty Tuesday afternoon with mixed expectations, since some of tour cruising guides are scarcely willing to recommend anchoring here. A substantial percentage of cruisers consider rich food and strong drink as the essential to the the lifestyle, but there are only two restaurants on Man-o-War Cay and no bars or liquor stores. Man-o-War turns out to be unusual in many ways.
Upon arriving, we first encountered a 60-year-old black Bahamian man, John, in the shack on the fuel dock watching Dr. Phil on TV who was discussing threats to family relationships at Christmas.
Surprisingly, Man-o-War is very clean. The Bahamas (and Eric might suggest most second and third world countries) are afflicted with litter, but not here. The streets are clean, and the yards are not just well-maintained, but garden like. (I have included several garden photos Mary Ann took while walking the island.) Although the harbor and marina are full of boats, the island is dominated by the locals (probably 90% are white descendants of the Loyalists who colonized the cay 200 years ago) and unlike Hope Town, there are few rental cottages or evidence of tourists.
The very industrious folks apparently support themselves through their own labor. The original wood boat-building industry has been replaced by construction of fiberglass boats at Albury Brothers boatyard. There are two other boatyards, Edwins 1 and Edwins 2 (I think Edwin owns both of them) which build and repair various boats. On Wednesday night, Mary Ann and I were surprised to see at 8:00 PM that Albury Brothers shop (full of tools and materials) was left open and unlocked after the employees had departed for home.
We also noticed that services were being held at the New Life Bible Church and the ladies in church were wearing chapel veils. Three protestant churches serve the spiritual needs of the town’s 600 residents.
There are no full-size cars or trucks on the island; everyone drives golf carts or surprisingly tiny trucks. And the residents appear to be fertile; the golf carts frequently contain more than one child (though they are never wearing safety belts).
So, Man-o-War Cay is a clean, safe, picturesque, Christian, industrious community where alcoholism is pursued in private (rather than celebrated in waterside bars), and which seems to have just about perfect weather (except for hurricanes). The coastal scenery is also gorgeous, but you’ve probably grown tired of me telling you that; I’ll just attach some photos.
We are a bit melancholy right now since we are away from all of you at Christmas and because we must say good-bye to Sam on the morning of the 26th; Sam is returning to his engineering studies at the University of Toledo. He is probably feeling ready to return home, but we will miss him much. Sam has: been good and cheering company, helped move the boat in the right direction, spent untold hours forcing the principles of algebra in Annie’s sometimes resistant head, been a friend to all of us, playing countless games of “crazy eights” with his sister (including their own variations of the game). An important member of our crew will be missing when Sam’s plane lifts off Tuesday morning. God’s speed, Sam.
Finally, the merriest of Christmas to you all; enjoy all the delights of the season which we will miss.