The islands of the Abacos differ as much as one sailor’s recipe for rum punch to another. For nature lovers, there’s Manjack Cay, criss-crossed with nature trails leading to the Atlantic Ocean. Elbow Cay claims the most photographed landmark in the isles, the Hope Town Lighthouse. Treasure Cay has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Man-O-War Cay is the working man’s island.
It’s a place where everybody knows your name, because just about everybody bears the same last name: Albury. (That’s Ahl-bury, mate.) The permanent residents, numbering about 350, descended from the Albury family of North Carolina who moved to these parts in the 1800s. They are a self-sufficent, industrious, temperate and wholly Christian lot. Widely known for their wooden boat-building skills, they since have turned to fiberglass boat construction and other industrial arts passed down from one family member to the next.
Andy Albury carries on his father’s legacy at the place that still bears his father’s name, Emerson’s Shop. Emerson began building wooden boats at an early age, constructing his first wooden dinghy at fifteen. But he refused to teach his son how to do the same, because a market for wooden boats no longer existed. His son had to learn to make a living, especially in such an isolated place as Man-O-War Cay.
Instead Emerson taught the eighth of his nine children how to make half-models using the identical patterns as his wooden boats. They’re half-sized ship models built to scale and attached to a wooden plaque for hanging. They’re made of a combination of dogwood, American pine, Madeira and mahogany.
Andy doesn’t claim to have inherited his father’s talents. He’s simply good at what he does due to hard work and practice. He makes lamps and rocking chairs as well, and he’ll display a few at the island’s annual fundraiser for the local school.
One day he plans to make a wooden dinghy using the patterns handed down by his father. He proudly shows off the stem, or bow, gathering dust in a corner. In the meantime, guests are invited to sit a spell in Emerson’s rocker and enjoy the view of the Albury Ferry, (Yes, owned by a relation) passing by.
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Whether a homegrown Albury or a second homeowner, the residents of Man-O-War Cay share an appreciation for landscaping. They take pride in designing gardens whose winding paths beckon with a sense of mystery and desire. They display their treasures from the sea and proudly post the name of their cottage. Still others show off a quirky sense of humor like the Brit who installed the kingdom’s mail boxes at the entrance to his drive.