The title is intriguing isn’t it? This post is not about Bob Marley. It’s not about mangos, although I love them. This blog post is about construction on a little island in the Bahamas, namely, here in Hope Town on Elbow Cay. Al had the opportunity to use his construction skills, something he loves to do and is really, really good at. It was even more fascinating to him because down here in the islands, construction can sometimes be a little unusual compared to the U.S. I decided that this definitely deserved a blog post.
During our 2013-2014 trip to the Abacos, we met a couple from Maine (and Nova Scotia) who spend the winters in the Bahamas – John & Carol. As a creative and dynamic team, they sometimes flip houses, and do an excellent job of it. Last year they found a piece of land in Hope Town that suited them just right, on the outer harbor, for a house of their own. After completing the piles of paperwork necessary to begin construction, the work began.
January 7th, 2016 — John and Carol proudly show off their official building permit. Off they go to post it on the lane that leads to their property.
Their cottage will be named (all cottages have names, just like boats) Mango & Marley. The idea for the name came from the Kenny Chesney song, “Guitars & Tiki Bars.” Mango & Marley conjures images of that island life, doesn’t it?
When I’ve had it up to here
I go down there
To guitars, tiki bars and a whole lotta love
Mangoes and Marley, you know, fit me like a glove
Sixth gear with nowhere to steer, when enough is enough
It’s guitars, tiki bars and a whole lotta love
John and Carol are a great team, but sometimes it is nice, and necessary, to have a crew on hand. Al, as a retired builder, was thrilled to hang out and help John, especially during this rather cool Bahamian winter.
After clearing the lot themselves, the septic tank was delivered. This became quite an unusual event and I took a lot of photos.
The tank arrived on the supply boat, the same boat that brings all of our necessary stuff over to Elbow Cay from the bigger islands and the U.S. It is the noisiest boat ever, but we still welcome the sound in the hopes that fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy products will soon be on the shelves. This time it brought John and Carol’s septic tank.
The septic tank arrives on the supply boat. Who knew it would be such a pretty yellow?
The crane lifts the tank off of the boat and onto the dock, but that is as far as it goes.
Now it is up to John and crew to get it from there to the lot. It has to go by water because the “roads” are too narrow and no one has a truck. What a sight this was!
Prepping the tank for its voyage required ropes and tape. The ropes around it are for holding. The open end was plugged by taping over it so that no water will enter and sink it.
Ready to launch into the water! See the splash? It IS floating!!
With a dinghy on each side of the tank, it was guided out of the Hope Town harbor, to the outer harbor and then to John and Carol’s lot. Al and Marty in one dink, John and Carol in the other.
Arrival in front of the building lot, but still floating in the water.
From sea to land, it gets rolled up onto the sandy shore. I wonder how many septic tanks have had an adventure like this?
The septic tank now in its temporary location until a hole is ready. TaDa! With a little help from your friends……
We always checked on the progress of Mango & Marley whenever we left the harbor to go out and play. Al didn’t work all the time, after all he is retired.
Carol waves to us as we buzz by while John continues working on his “electrical wall.” Island cottages have these cinder block and concrete outdoor walls on which to mount the electrical service.
Notice that old upside down boat on the right in the photo above? Every builder on an island needs a “work boat.”
John acquired this old whaler to use as his work boat. After some nifty fiberglass work and some other repairs, the whaler was put to use as a commuter boat and a hauling boat.
Sometimes help from friends isn’t enough and you need the big guys with big toys.
There was only one way to get this digger to the lot. Wait until low tide and drive it from the nearest “normal” road (the word normal is relative) on to the beach, and then drive it over the sandy shoreline until you reach John and Carol’s lot.
John with attitude – I took this photo and don’t remember what was happening at that moment. John certainly looks like he has some attitude going on – too many watchers and not enough workers? Or is it that the digger was delivered but the driver was on island time and didn’t join his equipment? Or was this the time the driver had to leave it until a hydraulic hose could be fixed??
The porosity of the soil presents interesting challenges, especially for septic tanks.
Al chatting with John (in the septic tank hole). The digger dug the two holes for the septic tank. The tank will go into the one John is standing in. The other hole is the leaching field, filled with rocks and then a hand-poured concrete cover will top it off. ~~ Notice that John is standing in water in the top photo — At high tide the water flows through the sandstone earth and into the hole so John can only work in there during lower tides. Hard to believe, but he would be waist deep in water at high tide!
The cisterns arrived next. These are the tanks to hold fresh water. Water is precious in the islands. Surrounded by all of that beautiful clear blue salt water does not mean that there is enough fresh water for washing and drinking. Our options on a boat are to have a watermaker (expensive) or to buy RO (fresh water made from the ocean water through the process of reverse osmosis) or have a collection system like Al created. On land, most cottages have cisterns that are used to collect the rainwater from the roofs or to hold purchased water. Since the soil is rocky and porous, John will position his water tanks under the first floor at ground level. The first floor of living space is really one floor above the ground level.
The three cisterns arrived. The same delivery and floatation system was used as for the septic tank. (I missed this flotilla event – must have been off at the school or lighthouse, or laundry duties.)
John even built a storage shed. It’s a must-have on a building site. Palm Pilot (John and Carol’s catamaran) can’t store all of the building tools and supplies.
By the first week in February it was time to position the timbers that will support the four corners of the cottage. Sam sketched out an idea to raise these 8×8 pressure-treated 20-foot long timbers without power equipment.
John built Sam’s tripod/block & tackle system to haul the 8″x8″x20′ pressure-treated timbers upright so that they could be dropped into the hole, standing vertically. Very similar to the mast hoist system at our yacht club in Connecticut.
Al is right in there, loving every minute. First corner is already upright. Sam is in the background (green shirt), John (white t-shir)t, and I don’t know the others’ names.
Checking how straight it is with a line of sight. Is it straight?? Carol leaning in, John standing. Al with Sam behind him.
How many sailors does it take to hoist a post? By my count, there were 7 plus John.
John and Al and three corners, braced with diagonals to hold them straight, temporarily.
Looking good. The cottage has four corners now (one is hidden behind).
And then there was enough of a floor to stand upon – Joe, Al, Carol, John. Joe and Al were the most consistent crew that John had for most of January and February. (There’s my favorite lighthouse in the background.)
Feb 18th – Carpenters’ dinner on our boat, but John cooked. This was a really good deal for me. I invited Carol and John to our boat for dinner, but he wanted to make his Caribbean lobster chowder. OMG – soo delicious! We also invited Joe and Paula as part of John’s “core” building crew. Paula baked corn bread in a cast iron frying pan that complimented the chowder perfectly.
By February 22nd, it was time for Carol to head back to Maine to her candle business, Salty Beach Studio — “100% eco-friendly soy candles hand-poured in Maine.” The flavor combinations are inspiring and blend the Caribbean soul with the spirit of Maine.
Carol’s candle company, Salty Beach Studio. Upper left, clockwise– Tropics Collection, Holiday Collection, Starfish Collection, Beach Collection
Before Carol left, there was an impromptu happy hour, the very first one at Mango and Marley, held on the newly built first floor, overlooking the harbor. Hot lobster dip with rum and beer. We were honored to be invited and glad we were available.
Me, Carol, and John.
The make-shift serving table holding the hot lobster dip. Look at the view!
Dave and Jill from Jilly-Q.
The view…. Oh the view! John and Carol will be able to see the Elbow Reef Lighthouse (the “candy-striped lighthouse”) from their cottage. Wouldn’t you just love to live here?? Or even visit?
Feb 27th – Progress is visible from the water. John gives us a wave as we pass by.
Feb 29th – Even more progress! There is a wall.
Sam and John admiring the progress contemplating the next step.
The larger walls required more assistance. Would that be “Many hands make light work” ?
Ready, set, on the count of three…… LIFT!
Anthony, John, Dan, and Al
Up and up it goes. The guys are really “doing the heavy lifting.” Sam, John, Al and Dan this time around.
That’s as much as Al was able to contribute to the construction of Mango & Marley. He was loving every minute of it, but it was time for us to leave the Abacos. 🙁 Through the wonders of technology and digital cameras, friends have sent photos of the progress during the past three weeks.
March 8-10th – John seems to be working all alone now.
John up on the floor of what will become the second story. Yes, that is pretty high up there.
You can see Mango & Marley from top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. It seems fitting that Carol and John will be able to see the lighthouse and the lighthouse has a view of them.
The walls are taking shape with plywood over the studs, and the deck of a porch appears.
The porch will have a wonderful view of the harbor for watching all of the comings and goings.
It will probably take another year or two to finish the cottage. John returns to Maine before the hot Bahamian summer begins. We look forward to seeing the cottage become their Bahama “home.”