We’ve finally drug our waterlogged selves away from Manjack and headed on south down the Abacos chain without a definite next destination lined up. Ordinarily the next stop would be the beautiful mile long crescent-beach anchorage of Bakers Bay on Guana Cay. We knew that it had been developed since we were there last. Things change and grow, we know. I thought I was prepared for it, I think Keith thought he was too. But we couldn’t have braced our selves for what we found. As we sailed up we searched for something familiar in the unrecognizable spance of concrete blocks; where there once was nothing but beautiful white beach and trees there was now the most atrociously huge, ugly eyesores of mansions. The land was stripped and bright green, reef-killing lawns and golf courses layed down. There was obviously no attempt made at gracefully blending in with natural beauty of the place. We really just couldn’t absorb it all. It hurt to look at. We sailed past as quickly as possible. I didn’t take a picture, I’d like to remember Bakers Bay the way it used to be. We reminded ourselves that least we were lucky to have seen the “before”.
The next potential anchorage was just a bit further down on Guana to the little harbor where the famous cruisers’ bar, Nippers, is located. But as we sailed up we could see the cove filled with big-money power boats. We didn’t even have to say anything to each other, we saved ourselves the disappointment and sailed on, leaving Guana behind. For us at least, Guana is gone.
Only a few miles more is the virtually unchanged settlement of Man-O-War Cay, we pulled into the anchorage and happily dropped the hook right behind the young couple, Greg and Lucie, whom we had met while in Green Turtle. Yay! I’ll write more on Man-O-War in the next post, but we spent the evening and next day enjoying their company. It was fun having a couple similar in age and cruising style as us to play with and we made the most of it. We went diving together and both the guys caught fish and we found enough conch for dinner. Lucie and I shared crafting ideas and she gave me a starter lesson on crocheting and now I have yet another project in mind. Never mind that I haven’t finished a single one since we set off. It was a fun two days and we hope our paths cross again..
They headed north and we were headed south to Hopetown on Elbow Cay, but before we left we checked in with the local dive shop. We wanted to make sure we had the latest sea-preserve boundaries as our chart wasn’t completely up to date. While talking with the guy in the shop, he took the time to warn us about “Bull Shark Alley”. At first we paid little attention thinking he might be being dramatic, he mentioned one bite last year and statistically we thought it was insignificant. Greg had seen a bull shark the day before while we were diving though, it swam past him and Lucie towards where Keith had just shot a hog fish and gotten in the dinghy. Still… that’s not unusual. He went on and told us how the water is very dark green, warm, and murky between Elbow Cay and Lubbers Cay. Both sides are lined with docks all of them with fish-cleaning tables on the ends and, for the bull sharks, this combination is the checklist for paradise. After talking more with him more we at least acknowledged his warnings. We then sailed on down and anchored in “Bull Shark Alley”-and immediately jumped in the water off the boat to cool off. The water really was dark, murky and un-refreshingly warm. And, admittedly, it did give us a bit of the creepies. Half brushing it off to the very recent warnings, we got out and got ready to take the dinghy out to the clearer cooler water of the outer reefs for some diving and dinner catching, just a minute later saw a bull shark swim right by the boat at the surface. Maybe he wasn’t just being dramatic? It wasn’t the last one we saw either. I don’t like swimming with sharks when I can’t see them and they can’t see me. We didn’t swim off the boat again.
After a dive on Johnnys reef we headed into town. I’ve read, and believe, that the fastest way to kill any experience is to have an expectation. Knowing and doing are sometimes different beasts, though. Like Bakers Bay, maybe we had a bit of an expectation or just didn’t account enough for how much change can happen over the years, but Hopetown too caught us a little off gaurd. It felt busy, in an American touristy way. Rental cottages and, more intrusively, rental power boats seemed to overwhelm us at times. There were almost no other cruising boats around. Not to say we didn’t enjoy walking around, we absolutely did. I loved looking at the cute buildings and Keith enjoyed the old boats. We both still loved going up the still-in-service lighthouse. It’s an adorable place, just busier. And less Abaco-y. In the evening we dinghied down to Tahiti beach, though it took a minute to recognize it, and stared sadly at the sprawling Florida-looking homes that have over-taken the island, most of them have scarred up their waterfront with private cut-out harbours and sea walls. It doesn’t take much to see why the water isn’t as clear here. After two days we were ready to escape the busyness and retreated back to Man-O-War from some clear water and carefree swimming under the boat.