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.
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.
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!
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.
Notice that old upside down boat on the right in the photo above? Every builder on an island needs a “work boat.”
Sometimes help from friends isn’t enough and you need the big guys with big toys.
The porosity of the soil presents interesting challenges, especially for septic tanks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The larger walls required more assistance. Would that be “Many hands make light work” ?
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.
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.”
A very sad update – On September 1, 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, devastating Elbow Cay and much of the Abacos. John and Carol had completed Mango & Marley the year before. Sadly, the cottage was destroyed during Dorian.