One of the most interesting islands in the Bahamas is Man O War Cay. We found it quite charming with a lot of character, but very different than some of the other stops. We were drawn to the simple life and their history. They also have a very protected harbor for anchoring or docking.
Man O War is the boat building capital of the Bahamas. Albury Boats are specifically made for Bahamian waters. The first Albury came to the island in the 1870’s and started building boats. These Albury boats are seen all over the islands, especially for rentals and ferries between the islands. While on Man O War you can see boats that are still being built right there. In addition to that there is a canvas/ sail making operation that is run by 3 generations of women. They sew canvas bags and hats – none of which are cheap! But, it makes for a really nice industry for them.
Things are definitely quiet on Man O War. The inhabitants are very religious. There are no liquor stores. Just this year the Dock and Dine Restaurant can now sell beer and wine. Prior to that no alcohol sales were permitted on Man O War. I am sure that not many people know this yet that haven’t been back to the Abacos.
Part of the charm of their island is that it is small and it is easy to walk to the beach on the other side. There is a cemetery is right by the beach. A sign tells the story that during a storm many of the graves were washed away. They have restored the location further from the ocean. We noticed that most of the headstones have the name Albury since they were the first settlers. We saw several Russells, too!
We found it very relaxing to stay at Man O War, but maybe the best draw for us was the ice cream stand. It was the best we had in the Bahamas and you know that made Capt. Steve happy!
Hope Town is a village on Elbow Cay that has one of the most recognizable lighthouses anywhere. It is candy striped and lighted by kerosene, which is only one of three that exist. Everyone looks forward to arriving in Hope Town since it is a true village with shops, restaurants and cottages. Most of the transportation is by golf cart, bike or walking. As with the other islands, supplies arrive once a week by barge. All of the locals know when this is and make it a point to get to the markets when supplies are re-stocked.
We delayed our arrival in Hope Town by visiting other cays and really didn’t plan ahead for our arrival. We had been anchoring in Marsh Harbor without a problem. We knew that most boaters in Hope Town Harbor are on a mooring ball. Our plan was just to grab one that was not being used. Well, that didn’t work at all! It seems that staying in Hope Town Harbor is so popular boaters stay for the whole season!
We entered the Harbor and we pretty much aghast at how many boaters were in such a small area. We maneuvered ourselves around looking for an empty mooring ball. We found one and hooked ourselves up. Five minutes later we were told by “neighbors” that we would need to move because that mooring ball belonged to someone who had left to make water and dump their holding tanks. In the Bahamas most of the boats have a water maker on board because water is metered. In order to make water (desalinate) it is necessary to find clean water and that would not be in any harbor. The process can take over four hours. Embarrassed we promptly disconnected and went in search of another location. To shorten the story after five hours of waiting the Hope Town Marina was finally able to confirm dockage for us. This was probably the ONLY time we were stressed in the Bahamas!
Hope Town is enjoyable though and definitely worth the hassle. In the harbor there is a water shuttle that will pick you up at the marina or any boat and drop you around town. It is really easier than using a dinghy. The brightly colored houses make for an interesting walk. We quickly found out that we needed to be at Vernon’s Market at 2:00 for the arrival of their baked goods. We heard about the coconut bread and pies and were not disappointed. Imagine eating coconut bread French toast with Canadian maple syrup from the Loop! It was so yummy!
Hope Town Harbor is where everyone blows a conch shell at sundown. It is wonderful to hear everyone answering each other. Steve really developed quite a talent for holding the note the longest and received applause where ever we went!!
Hope Town is also very close to Tahiti Beach, which is also on Elbow Cay. Boats anchor off of the beach at low tide. Everyone is walking in knee deep water to collect sand dollars or sun bathe on the beach. It really is pretty cool to be in beautiful clear water and find these sand dollars. Jazzy loved it! He was able to run around and had no qualms about getting his legs wet. Note, he did not swim, but would wade. On weekends they have a bar anchored off of the beach, too. It is a must experience when you are close to Hope Town.
We had guests twice while in the Abacos and each time we brought them to Hope Town. They loved the quaintness and the ability to stroll around the village. There is even a song about going to Hope Town that sings in my head when I want to be back!
Great Guana is an island that is 7 miles long protected by a reef that stretches for 5.5 miles off of the beach. It was a frequent stop for us. The beaches are gorgeous with every shade of blue, aqua marine and turquoise. Not much is on the island – a couple of souvenir shops, a food store and a liquor store. That is what makes the Bahamas special. The pace is slower and the scenery is spectacular. We found it a great place to anchor that was protected. They even had mooring balls at $20 a night. The holding was good so we just anchored unless we expected high winds.
At one end of the island is the Orchid Bay Marina. We never stayed there because the anchoring was so good at Guana. However, we would take our dinghy over on Saturdays because they had a wonderful fresh produce stand. Oh, the $5 bloody marys didn’t hurt either! I think we paid $27 for the produce and the bread.Their property is very pretty with a lot of bougainvillea’s.
On Sunday all of the boaters come for the pig roast at Nippers. Nippers is the most popular bar in the Bahamas and we were anxious to check it out. The pathway is clearly marked as we walked up the hill. Music and dancing is a must at Nippers. It is a lively crowd and we met several Loopers there at various times. One of the nicest draws about Nippers is that it is on a bluff with snorkeling from the beach. The first time we were there the beach area was large. After there was a big winter storm, the sea took out their stairs and a lot of their beach.
One of our highlights is that we were there for the annual Barefoot Man concert. He has been performing at Nippers for years and is a legend. Well, of course, we couldn’t miss it. The place was packed and we met many of our fellow boaters there. The Barefoot Man is a hoot and we really enjoyed the music. He told the crowd that next year may be his last appearance there so we are going to need to mark it on our calendar for 2019!
Another reason that Guana is so popular is another bar called Grappers. This is the place where all of the boats dingy to when they are anchored at Guana. It really is a perfect sunset bar. They have their own conch salad stand and we saw live entertainment.
One night we came back to Guana for the Full Moon Glo Party at Guana. Everyone was supposed to wear white for their black lights. This was a lot of fun with their decorations and party favors.
We returned to Guana numerous times. We had guests that came to cruise with us and we made sure they got to have the Nipper Experience!