Boat building, a revered Bahamian tradition

When I last visited the Bahamian Out Islands, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joe Albury, one of the oldest living descendants of the famous Albury boat building dynasty.

Joe Albury (front row, second from left) as a young boy surrounded by his famaily
Joe Albury (front row, second from left) as a young boy surrounded by his family

Joe is a soft-spoken man of medium height and build who moves with slow steps. At a glance, his weather-beaten skin tells a vivid story of a lifetime lived on the open seas and under the blazing Caribbean sun. However, don’t let his crown of silver hair and his slightly slurred speech fool you.

Joe Albury in his workshop
Joe Albury in his workshop

He is a testament to mental and physical strength. And his intimate knowledge of his craft is undeniable. I never asked him his age but Mr. Albury must be older than 80. Yet, this wizened seafarer makes boat making look easy – in a studio in his backyard!

The exterior of Joe's Studio
The exterior of Joe’s Studio

His trademark design is called an ‘Abaco dinghy’ and a specially commissioned 13-footer built by Joe Albury will cost you somewhere in the region of US$18,000. As he works on his own and does it in his spare time, expect at least an 18 month wait if you place an order. His boats are very much in demand.

A dinghy in progress
A dinghy in progress

Can’t afford one or have no reason or desire to go sailing? Don’t despair. He sells hand-made 1/2″, 1″ and 1 1/2″ scale models in his store at much more affordable rates. What’s more, the miniatures are made from local woods such as madiera and corkwood so they serve as lasting and unique souvenirs.

The “Yippee” dinghy, built on Man-O-War Cay circa 1948 and displayed near the dock
The “Yippee” dinghy, built on Man-O-War Cay circa 1948 and displayed near the dock

Across the street, his relatives Don and Jamie run the more modern center-console and runabout boat production operation known as Albury Brothers Boats.

A center- console boat design
A center- console boat design

During my brief time with him, I learnt he had no heir or able apprentice waiting in line to carry on this venerable dinghy building tradition. I thought to myself, “how sad!’”  It’s always disheartening to learn that long-held skills will not be passed on to future generations.

Four great beach bars in the Bahamas Out Islands

The 120-mile long chain of islands and cays scattered in the northern part of the Bahamas could be the reason the Abacos is a boater’s paradise. But just as easily,the blatant lack of hustle and bustle and the sheer luxury of non-existent deadlines could hold the larger appeal.

Whatever the reason, it cannot be denied that where men go beer, rum and other adult beverages often follow. Simply translated that means the area is brimming with great bars; there is one almost at every ferry or dinghy stop.

Now THAT is a rum list!
Now THAT is a rum list! (Cracker P’s)

If you ever have reason to visit the Out Islands of the Bahamas, I recommend that you visit at least one of these four beach bars:

Cracker P’s Bar and Grill on Lubbers Quarters.

Cracker P's
Cracker P’s

You pull up to the dock and walk directly into an indoor/outdoor space that vibrates with positive energy. Perhaps the only thing more expansive than the panoramic views and the bar itself is the owner’s engaging personality. Patrick and his wife, Linda, and their staff make you feel at home from the get-go. The bar has an extensive rum list, a specially crafted hot sauce, and a casual menu chock-full of seafood options. You simply must try the cheesy fish dip! Even my hips will tell you it’s sinfully good. And ask about their legendary Full Moon Parties. I heard they are not to be missed.

Curly Tails in Marsh Harbor.

Curly Tails Beach Bar
Curly Tails Beach Bar

This spot is a great place to unwind, meet up with friends and enjoy some libations and food while you bask in the view or wait for the ferry to Great Guana Cay. It is a casually chic hangout that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have a wide selection of fine wines, premium liquors and beers. Try their conch fritters or grouper burger, and look around for the fast-moving curly tail lizards for which the bar got its name.

Nipper’s is the place to be on a Sunday afternoon.

NIpper's Beach Bar
NIpper’s Beach Bar

It is a colorful and vibrant bar in Guana Cay that sits atop a sand cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Locals and visitors converge there for the weekly pig roast and to sip some of the best frozen drinks you’ll find anywhere. If you go on Sunday, expect a crowd and be prepared to have fun. It gets loud, and sometimes a little crazy so no party poopers are allowed.

Snappas Chill and Grill is a great spot for cocktails.

The sunset at Snappas
The sunset at Snappas

It has a relaxing atmosphere and friendly staff, and it’s right on the water. I watched the sunset from there on the second night of my trip and it was simply breathtaking. They offer daily Happy Hour specials from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays.


Note: A version of this post originally appeared on TravelDudes.org as I am one of the many contributors to the site. Check it out.