Trip to Abaco Island

In May of 1992, Beth and Michael flew out of Miami on a small twin engine plane to meet with their friends, Joan and Rod, in Marsh Harbor, on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. They were the only passengers on the flight. They learned that the pilot was training another pilot that happened to be a female. They learned of this when they took off behind a military C-141 Starlifter and the pilot was explaining to the trainee that the jet wash from a C-141 could cause a small plane to do a 360 degree flip. Beth and Michael held on tight and checked their seat belts often. They had also noticed gas leaking from one of the engines. The flight landed on Abaco Island at the Marsh Harbor Airport without incident. The taxi ride to the anchorage was almost as harrowing as the flight. It's hard to get used oncoming traffic on the right side of the road.

Beth and Michael were glad to see Joan and Rod and be on the Columbine. The trip was to last four days. It rained for three days and they all had to suffer through Conch fritters and Rum. Rod had gathered the Conch himself and kept it fresh in a bag over the side. Everyone had to remember to yell "Conch up" whenever they used the bathroom.

The weather cleared on the fourth day and they were able to sail to Man-O-War Cay on the northeast side of Abaco from Marsh Harbor. Man-O-War Cay was settled by Americans during the American War of Independence by people loyal to the British.

The seas around Abaco were gorgeous and the sailing was wonderful.

Man-O-War Cay has traditionally been the boat-building capital of Abaco, and is still home to Albury Brothers Boat Builders. Albury's Ferry, which services Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Hope Town, Great Guana Cay and other locations, is also based on Man-O-War.

Several unique shops are found on Man-O-War, such as the Sail Shop, offering canvas duffle bags, hats, jackets, and other items sewn on the premises, and Joe's Studio with hand-crafted wooden models, chairs, and other items.

The Frigate or Man-O-War Bird

From "Our Amazing Birds"
by Robert S. Lemmon:
Tropical Indolence is in its Blood.

The American Tropics are a lazy land, and when you see a group of man-o-war birds circling and floating in the air above the Bahamas, the southern Florida Keys, or westward along the Gulf Coast, slender wings, you cannot escape the notion that the general indolence of the region is in their blood. For the frigate bird, as some call it, seems never in a hurry, never in a worry, but always willing to drift for hours on invisible air currents and watch the sky stay up.

They are odd-looking birds, these sea gliders with their six to seven feet of wingspan and their long, forked tails usually closed so that they form a single point. Their thin bills are hooked at the tip, their feet surprisingly weak, their color a muddy sort of black all over in the case of males, relieved by white chests where females and young are concerned, plus the all-white heads and necks of the latter. Besides, all ages and sexes have distensible throat pouches designed to accommodate the fish they catch themselves or, more frequently, steal from other more industrious seafaring birds. Here is their one spot of bright color, for when the breeding season arrives in January and February each male pouch shows carmine red.

Of course these amazing feathered floaters do not spend all their time drifting through space. When the time comes they gather in dense colonies on favorite isolated islands so generously scattered in those parts of the ocean, and build rickety nests in the tops of low trees and scrubby sea grapes or other brush. There is only one white egg to a pair, both parents are admirably devoted to it and divide the incubation job until the completely naked youngster breaks out of the shell. Often several nests are built within reaching distance of each other, but family feuds are few. Maybe they just don't seem worth the effort.

Infant man-o-wars are no Adonis, even after they have acquired their nestling coats of white down. Like their elders, they are mostly wings, and in time these become so long that they hang down over the edges of the nests as though their owners had neither the strength nor the ambition to furl them properly. About the only sound anyone in the family makes is a bit of squealing and bill-snapping by the younger generation when something out of the ordinary happens. The old bird is said to utter an occasional croak, but few people have heard it.

But man-o-war life is not always such a somnolent affair. Occasionally some of these super-fliers are caught in the swirl of a violent hurricane roaring out of the Tropics and up the Atlantic Coast, and swept northward to New England or even farther. How many of these strays ever make their way back home is a matter of conjecture, but some at least have been found dead after the storm had passed, apparently killed by exhaustion and lack of food.

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