Nov 27-30: Manjack Cay

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Fear of sharks can keep you from a lot of things like snorkeling, walking on the beach, writing…

More sailboats had arrived during the evening, so on our way for one more explore of the island and beach we stopped off to be the Bettie Sue and Bill welcoming committee of Allans-Pensacola and share a few island secrets. After few more photos and delaying to savour the peaceful location a little more, we headed off to Manjack Cay.

Tolling lines went out but today our speed was a little faster which yielded no catch for the day. It wasn’t long before Manjack appeared in the horizon seemingly thick with trees but as we grew closer a few cottages and a perfect beach became visible.

While we dropped anchor I felt like we were being watched. Sure enough Bettie Sue, Bill and their friends had been watching for us from shore. The welcoming committee waited just long enough for us to get settled before meeting us at the boat bearing fresh gifts of starfruit, collard greens and, although only beaches are usually open to visitors, a private invite to join island residents for drinks at 4pm.

The Bill and Leslie welcomed us with warm smiles as we arrived at the dock and we were quickly whisked off on a tour of their property. Outside of fuel for machinery, everything is entirely self-sustaining. Solar power runs all of their electricity and lighting; carefully selected trees varieties, hydroponic and raised garden beds supply their fresh food needs; chickens lay eggs and they catch fish for protein; rainwater is captured to water plants; and just about all waste is recycled for use elsewhere. It was a privilege and a truly inspiring tour.

Afterwards our hosts invited us into their stunning wood-beamed house to enjoy home-made refreshments with friends. Built just large enough for their needs their charming interior had everything needed AND a view most only dream of. Cooling breezes wafted through screen walls, washing away the heat of the day and, as we watched, sunset colours settle over the boats in the inlet below. It was like we had happened upon Mr. and Mrs. Swiss Family Robinson!

While evening fell we listened eagerly to Bill and Leslie’s recount their efforts to settle Manjack island over 25 years ago. Like modern day settlers, their efforts took ingenuity and a great deal of patience to finally grow food and generate enough electricity to live on the island permanently. Their stories fueled our own thoughts of having a similar property of our own. What a great start to our visit!

We decided to spend the next three days at Manjack, some spent relaxing on the boat to wait out storms, and other time taking more tours of the island with Bill and Leslie, or exploring on our own. It was so interesting that I began to consider purchasing land here. I could see our boys, nieces and nephews enjoying 4 wheeling, diving and making forts among the trees. What a beautiful island.

One well marked path led us to a north beach and an encounter with the fabled large land crabs along the way (with legs almost twice as long as Andrew’s fingers.) After trying to coax it out of its hole we finally set out again for the beach where we were stunned with the sight of plastic debris. Apparently as storms pass by, the beaches become littered. To combat the problem, locals ask visitors to each fill a bag and leave it at a designated site where it is later picked up and disposed of. An efficient system for keeping the beaches clean I think!

Here mangrove trees grow out along the shallow coasts, creating secret alleyways and bays which can only be explored with your dingy during high tide. As we puttered through slowly we spotted a wide variety of well camouflaged fish, green sea turtles swimming in search of fresh seaweed and a white spotted eagle ray gliding gracefully just below the surface. The sea floor was often covered in interesting plant life among the seaweed which turned out to be Mangrove Jellyfish, also known as ‘upside-down jellyfish’. So fascinating!

As we have been exploring I have had this bizarre feeling. After growing up in Africa I am used to being cautious. I keep waiting for something dangerous to jump out but we have discovered that there is not much that will hurt you here . . . other than bugs uuug! Initially I was terrified of swimming off the back of the boat but most bays do not have sharks, and the ones that are near are toothless (who knew!) The saying at the top became our joke and challenge to me to keep trying new things.

The really hot or rainy days are my cue to settle in on the boat and work on writing projects. Although our exploring hampers progress, each project is moving along. While I write, it is Andrew’s cue to fish. He has been learning tips from friends and as a result his Manjack fishing was a huge success!! He snatched the much loved, but rarely caught Cero Mackerel, a member of the Spanish Mackerel family and a favorite around here. For two nights we enjoyed large filets of (not fishy) fish for dinner, cooked to perfection on the BBQ by Andrew.

Today was our last day at Manjack until the new year and a ‘thank you’ visit to our hosts was in order before leaving tomorrow morning. Bill and Leslie welcomed us with refreshments while I snapped a few more pictures. The rest of the evening was filled with heartwarming stories about visitors forever changed by Manjack, friends loved and lost, and teenagers inspired, still in touch with their adopted Manjack grandparents. Simple living, simply inspiring.

We provided a bit of tech assistance and then left, after a warm invitation to return in the new year. With a grocery bag full of starfruit, we leave with fresh vision and generous new friends. Tomorrow we are off to Treasure Cay where the boat will safely harbour while we are away . . . and ‘one of the 12 most beautiful beaches in the world’ awaits!