Man o war- cay: The hidden boat building village

Maurice Albury building dinghy on MOW cay 19xx

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 wh albury yard 1960

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 renown fishing and sailing vessels.

Basil sands working on a boat, at the wh albury yard 1960

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.

william h albury schooner

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.

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15 Responses to “Man o war- cay: The hidden boat building village”

  1. I’ve enjoyed this interesting article. All the best from RH

  2. BahamasDread says:

    Im glad you enjoyed it. your website has a wealth of information also, and I’ll definitely be reading through it.
    thanks for stopping by.

  3. RumShopRyan says:

    Great story Dread! I love the history of boat building and glad to see that some are keeping that culture alive in this modern time. I’m heading over to Elbow Cay in the Abacos on Monday and the Ferry that takes you from Abaco to Elbow is an Albury boat I believe. At least it’s called the Albury Ferry Service.

    Cheers my friend.

  4. BahamasDread says:

    thanks ryan. elbow cay should be fun, take lots of good pics.

  5. I love this post, Fabian! Interesting and fantastic pics. I have a soft spot in my heart for Bahamian boat building. My little corner of the world is home to champion sailboats, and, over the years, I’ve watched local boatbuilders replank, repair and build traditional Bahamian sloops. Amazing! A true art. I’m interested in checking out MOW Cay sometime now, too! Thanks for this inspiration.

  6. BahamasDread says:

    thanks dawn, boat building is truly an art. and to watch someone craft something this majestic by hand is truly a special feat. maybe we’ll cross paths at a local regatta sometime :)

  7. Indeed! Next big one . . . George Town in April!

  8. BahamasDread says:

    wow that would be exciting. not sure if i can make that one, but I’ll keep you posted. :)

  9. I’ve nominated you for a blog award – for what it’s worth. :) Keep up the good work!

  10. Brian Crumb says:

    It’s amazing that some of the boats are made without plans. It really says a lot about how much they love building boats and the instructions passed down from generation to generation. I once saw an Outboard Runabout (but didn’t know that was the name) and always wondered about the people who build such a beautify craft. I don’t remember if it was fiberglass or not but it might have been. It was a in the 1980′s so probably was fiberglass.

  11. BahamasDread says:

    I agree brian. once the passion is passed down, it runs in their veins.

  12. bubbles says:

    how does boat building affect the Bahamas tourism on the marine Environment?

  13. BahamasDread says:

    Hi bubbles, I was unsure on how to answer your question. Do you main does boat building increase the Bahamas tourism, or did you mean does it damage the marine environment. If you could be a little more detailed, I can answer your questions a little better. I do think both aspects are intriguing

  14. KMartin says:

    Do you know if there is a tour I can take of the island and of the Albury Boat Building Company / boat yard?? .. A friend of mine has been expressing his interest in boat building and I think that would make an excellent birthday gift for him!!

  15. BahamasDread says:

    There isn’t a tour martin. But if you do want to take the ferry to man o war cay, after arriving in abaco.
    You would visit or call the ferry station and get the ferry departure time.

    Man o war cay is very small, and you can walk around the cay within an hour. The locals are friendly, and anybody along the street would be happy to tell you about the island.

    when do you plan on visiting?

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