MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO: THE HIDDEN BOAT-BUILDING VILLAGE
I am very pleased to be able to feature a Guest Contributor Fabian Fernander, managing editor and owner of SANDY SLIPPER TRAVEL and online magazine. The boat-building history of the Bahamas, of Abaco, and in particular of Man-o-War Cay, is a fascinating one. It is not a subject in my own repertoire, so I welcome the chance to showcase Fabian’s article and the wonderful historic photos courtesy of the MAN-O-WAR HERITAGE MUSEUM.
Maurice Albury building dinghy on MOW cay 19xx
“Who would ever think nestled in the heart of the Bahamas. Hidden away from view. Inaccessible by large planes and removed from the hum of technology; would be a boat building village in the Bahamas.
Man of war cay (named after the bird) is a small yet well knitted community of bustling boat builders, that have been graced with their skill from generation to generation.
Residents here have always depended on shipbuilding for its livelihood and some boats are still handmade-without-plans in a tradition that has been passed down for centuries.”
Boat under construction W.H. Albury yard 1960
“The town has remained untransformed over time and resembles a New England sea-side village; and rightly so.
As its original inhabitants were both religious and political escapees; loyalist to be exact.
It is through resilience that these men and women who fled from their homes, picked up and honed the trait of boat building.
In the early days of boat building the residents began by using Abaco Pine to craft their world renowned fishing and sailing vessels.”
Basil Sands working on a boat, at the W.H. Albury yard 1960
“Boats were originally built by crafting a skeleton or rib of the boat from pine that grew locally in the Abaco forests. These skeletons were then hand carved and shaved to conform perfectly to the palms-up-spread template of the hull.
After the ribs were coupled, pine wood planks were then affixed to form the hull of the boat.
During the 1960′s when Abaco pine became a quintessential element in building structures and homes in all of the islands, the procurement of pine for boat building became harder and harder.
It is during that period that innovation reared its head once again and fiberglass became the material of choice to continue the successful process of building renown fishing and sailing vessels.
Using fiberglass as molds was a very expensive process, but in modernization a necessary tool that reduced the amount of manual labor required.
The frame of the wooden boat was coated with the fiberglass material and from this a permanent mold was created, which was then used to make the outer shell of numerous boats.
This style of boat is called the Outboard Runabout (or the Outboard Fishing Boat).
Many other types of boats are also made including model boats, 14 ‘ wooden Man O’War sailing dinghies and 21′ Man O’War speed boats.
The boats have become collectors items and much requested custom designed artifacts.”
The William H Albury Schooner
“Man o’ War Village: another one of the hidden secrets of the Bahama Islands”
“About the author: Fabian Christopher is the Managing editor and owner of Sandy Slipper Travel and online magazine. An avid enthusiast of the Bahamas, he is always ready and available to make your vacation dreams in the islands a memorable experience.”
Photo credits MAN-O-WAR HERITAGE MUSEUM
(except for historic 1803 aquatint header of the ‘late’ Hole-in-the Wall)
[RH note: If you have enjoyed this article, I recommend a visit both to Fabian’s website (link in the first para), and to the Museum’s website, also linked above, where you will find a wealth of historical Abaco material]
I’d like to mention that the theme of the Man-O-War heritage day celebration this year (a.k.a. Sojer Day) is “Celebrating Our Boat Building Heritage”. We’re expecting several of the boats built on MOW in that era to be here. Here is the list so far: http://svbreakaway.info/SojerDay/publicdock.html (rough yet.. a work in progress). The date is April 6th, if you’re in the area.
Thanks for the heads-up, Mike. Sadly, we’ll miss it. May I add your link to the post for any readers who might like to be there? RH
Great! Here’s the event as posted on FB:
Beautiful craftsmanship.., an art! The 1960 picture was really inspiring. Love the pine wood planks! Gorgeous works of art!
Hey, p4c – you are becoming so interested in Abaco… and it’s only 200 miles off the Florida coast, a hop from Miami to Marsh Harbour. Bring cake! Yes, the preservation of old photos of ways of life in small communities is important. And so often they border on ‘art’ – I agree about the plank one especially.