Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Manjack Cay, Man O' War Cay, Marsh Harbor

Here's a catch up on our past five days of cruising the Abacos.

We left White Sound and Green Turtle Cay on Friday morning an motored a few miles north to drop anchor off of Manjack (or Nunjack) Cay, an undeveloped and mostly uninhabited islet with a large anchorage that affords good protection from easterly and southerly winds. We inflated the kayaks and did some exploring of the shallow shoreline waters and a mangrove estuary that extends into the center of the island. After lunch, Bill picked us up on his boat and took us to what he calls "Sting Ray Bay" a cove at the north end of the island. We enjoyed swimming, walking along the beach and drinking "wine cocktails", cheap white wine spiked with Stolichnaya. A fun, relaxing afternoon.

Saturday we took landed the dinghy on a beach to hike across the island to the Atlantic side. The island is owned by a couple, Bill and Leslie, two retired sea captains who have lived there for over 25 years. They built a nice rustic home and planted gardens for fresh produce and vegetables, some of which they grow hydroponically in a simple but effective array of interconnected PVC pipes with sockets for plastic cups that serve as containers for the plant. They are very friendly and generous to allow visitors to roam around their island homestead.

The trail across the island took us through low, dense forest and then opened up to a white sand beach and turquoise water. We walked from one end to the other, taking a break for a light lunch midway. The sun was bright, the air warm and the scenery was spectacular.

Sunday morning we weighed anchor and set out for Man O' War Cay, about 27 nautical miles (nm) south. It was a bash, motoring into 20-plus knot headwinds and steep choppy seas. The waters on the inside of the Abacos cays and reef gets too shallow to pass about 4 nm south of Green Turtle Cay, so we had to make our way through the narrow Whale Cay Cut ("The Whale") out into the ocean, sail on the outside a few miles and then re-enter the protected inside waters through a ship channel. With southerly winds blowing, the sea conditions through The Whale were just a bit choppy. I could see how a strong northerly and ocean swells could turn the cut very nasty though, the rapid shallowing of water and reefs resulting in big breaking waves. When such conditions occur, it is called a "rage". You don't go through a cut during a rage.

To get into the harbor at Man O' War Cay, I had to pilot Intermezzo through one of the narrowest entrances I've ever negotiated. I had just ten feet on either side between gunwales and the rocks and only 2 feet of water under the keels. The wind was blowing over 20 knots, the chart noted "sand bars" and it was low tide. I made it.

As we made our way into the harbor, we saw wrecked boats washed up on one shore and torn up piers and wharves on the other, all casualties of Hurricane Dorian. From the water, it looked dismal.

We took a mooring ball in the center of the harbor and ventured on to shore. While there was a lot of damage along the waterfront, things weren't so bad on the interior of the cay along its narrow golf cart streets. Lots of repair and rebuilding has been completed or is underway, though there is still much to do. I  got the sense that the cay is about 50 percent towards to its pre-hurricane condition.

Monday we walked around the island, found a bakery and bought fresh-baked bread and cinnamon rolls and took in a bit of the island's history, in which boat building played a large part. I'll cover this in a separate post.

Today we crossed over to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island, a big, roughly crescent-shaped island about 70 miles long that locals refer to as "the mainland". Marsh Harbor is the main commercial hub of the Abacos. It has "everything", including a well-connected airport. Or rather, it had everything. The hurricane destroyed every marina in the harbor, every shorefront structure and almost all the retail infrastructure. We took the dinghy to shore to re-provision at the big Maxwell's Supermarket and getting there was like walking through a war zone. Total devastation. It was so bad, that I didn't feel like taking pictures. Work is being done to rebuild, at the current rate of work, I figure it will take a decade or more to return to pre-hurricane conditions. I'd estimate only 10% progress has been made. I wonder where the money will come from to rebuild. It doesn't seem to be flowing here very quickly.

Despite the physical devastation, the people seem to be in decent spirits, carrying on, making do, getting by. I'm sure times are really tough for most of them, but I see lots of smiles, hear lots of happy greetings, people are friendly and quick to give a wave or say "hello".  I wish them the best and hope the rebuilding happens more quickly than I think it will happen.

Tomorrow we head over to Hope Town.  A cold front with northerly winds is forecast for the weekend. We'll use it to make our way further south to Eleuthra, an open ocean passage.

Rainbow over White Sound, Green Turtle Cay


Robin and Amy hiking the cross-island trail on Manjack Cay



Beautiful color scheme, Manjack Cay (Atlantic side)



Hurricane wreck on Man O' War Cay

Atlantic beach, Man O' War Cay

British Seagull outboard engine in museum on Man O' War Cay. This is the first outboard I ever used. Does that make me old?