On September first of 2019 Hurricane Dorian forever changed Abaco. All of the “heart of Abaco” including Marsh Harbour, Elbow Cay/Hopetown, Man O War Cay, Scotland Cay, Guana Cay, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay and all the wonderful places nearby were severely damaged by this powerful storm that not only pummeled the area with sustained 185 mph winds, giant seas and storm surge, but then stalled and sat over the area for days with sustained hurricane force winds and rain making rescue operations truly daring -and proved the US Coast Guard and other American military are amazing heroes who deserve our praise and support.
The tight-knit community that is Man O War lost many homes, one church was flattened, most of the boats that were in the harbour were destroyed, but amazingly did not lose one life! The stories from the folks who rode out the storm there are harrowing to say the least. As soon as the storm began to relent these brave folks immediately began to pick up the pieces and restore some sense of order to the chaos as US Coast Guard helicoptered the sick and injured to Nassau. The first big hand of help they got was in the form of a barge from the island of Spanish Wells, Eleuthera that braved significant seas and wind to bring food, water, fuel and materials. Next came a flood of private boats from Florida, and then aircraft. Since the storm there has been a sustained and organized effort to repair roofs, repair damaged homes and businesses, clean up the massive piles of debris, repair roads, re-float boats and bring Man O War back to some semblance of normalcy. There has been a massive outpouring of help from America by many many volunteers, donors, second homeowners and of course tremendous effort by the resilient islanders. There are two Christian organizations that played and outsize role in this effort: Samaritan’s Purse https://www.samaritanspurse.org and Missionary Flights International https://www.missionaryflights.org. Samaritan’s Purse arrived on the scene with a big barge full of supplies for their skilled volunteers to immediately begin putting up their signature blue tarps over peoples roofs to keep out the rain. They brought small but rugged trucks with rubber treads that were perfectly sized for clearing and circulating on Man O War’s tiny streets to clean up the giant mess. They have barged massive piles of debris off of the island and restored livability. They have done all of this with kindness and humbleness. Missionary Flights International provided an easy and free (for those who could not afford to make a donations) way to quickly and easily move people and materials to and from Florida. They provided a critical flow of food and volunteers using their two beautifully restored DC-3 aircraft and some other wonderful planes on loan from fantastic donors. There are many other volunteer groups that have helped Abaco and Man O War dig out from Dorian but World Central Kitchen https://wck.org also deserves special credit for giving those of us who were there working warm and wonderful meals that were cooked in a large tent kitchen near the Marsh Harbour airport and flown by helicopter to the different islands twice a day. This fueled the volunteer workforce and made it so that they could concentrate of getting stuff done.
If you come back to visit Abaco and Man O War Cay (and they really want you to!) you will find a place that is familiar in many ways, but still recovering with a long way to green again. The water is still unbelievably gorgeous. The people are humble, honest and helpful. Their spirit is not broken. There is very much a will to bring Abaco back; many businesses in Marsh Harbour are back in operation including Maxwell’s Grocery. There are taxi’s waiting at the airports. Many of the ferry boats are back in service and they are repairing more every day. They are rebuilding docks. There are rental boats available, some with scars and Dorian stories to tell -but ready to go play! A dive operation recently did a survey of the reef systems all around Abaco including Sandy Cay National Park and Fowl Cay Park and found them to be amazingly undamaged. Soon the Dive Time boats will be ready to fill tanks and be back out there. On Man O War you will find that sadly the Sail Shop that was built out over the water is gone, but you will find that many of those sewing machines were plucked out of the destruction and have been restored. The nice ladies are turning out the same beautiful bags from a house right up the hill. The boatyards are untangling the mess and making the beat-up boats beautiful again. The Man O War grocery did well and remains one of the most well-stocked in Abaco. The Hardware Store lost a wall of their wood warehouse, but has plenty of good stuff and helpful guys just like before. Our coffee shop/Museum survived and serves wonderful things. The Hibiscus Cafe survived and has since the storm served as a place for throngs of volunteers to meet and eat. They have now begun to segue back into “normal” restaurant mode and I can personally attest serve up a great conchburger, fish sandwich and wonderful pasta dishes just like before. You will find that the things that made Abaco and Man O War great are still very much there, but they are a bit rough around the edges right now. Certainly a visit will provide an experience of what a Category 5 hurricane can do. It will also show you what Love, kindness, humbleness and hard work can do. The volunteer experience can indeed be life changing for some, if that is what you do when you come. There is still plenty of that to be done. But just coming back to visit and leave a smile and some commerce is a very good thing for both you and for Man O War. They will be happy to see you and tell you a story that you will never forget as they point up the hill or out in the harbour to show you where they were. They will be happy to see you taking a boat out to catch a fish, lounge on the beach or just gaze at the beauty that they love to share. When you do come back you will find that Blue Sargasso did amazingly well. We believe it is because it is in a kind of low place in the interior of the island that it only received minor roof damage (some gutters and a bit of the metal roof above one porch). The shutters held fast and no windows blew out, so no rain came inside. We did get salt water flooding around the out side of the house as the massive waves crashed on the ocean beach and flowed over the island (and around the other houses) and filled our little area. We had to replace the main part of the generator, replace the water heater and air conditioner as well as clean out our cisterns (now cleaner than ever but still have filter/treatment system) and the water pump is new. Most importantly we now have a set of 20 solar panels on the roof, a large Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, and a nice inverter that will start the generator automatically if the battery gets low. No more power outages for Sargasso! We have reduced our rates a bit to reflect the fact that a vacation there is a bit different now and with the expectation that many who rent from us will be second homeowners coming back to work on their own properties. We think that when you come you will find Blue Sargasso as comfortable and inviting as ever -but now with the sun as a more reliable power source. We look forward to hearing form you again. Jimmy and Darlene Rawls Blue Sargasso is a very comfortable 3 bedroom/3 bath cottage one block from the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on Man O War, Abacos, Bahamas. The cottage rental includes nearby dockage for up to a 23 foot boat. The village of Man O War is a wonderful community with friendly people, 2 great restaurants, a take-away, incredible boat builders, Community Museum, Fully stocked grocery, multiple locals that prepare meals out of their homes, 3 churches, oceanfront baseball field, fantastic beaches and harbor, boat rental companies, gift shops, custom sail bags and clothing shops, and much much more.