December 6: Ahoy from Hope Town, Abaco!
We left Marsh Harbour on Monday, December 3rd at 8:30 am, to make the short jaunt across the Sea of Abaco alongside our buddy boat, La Toison D’Or. There was a little chop but it was a lovely sunny day as we approached the Hope Town lighthouse and rounded the point into the sheltered harbour using the deep-draft channel – all of 8 feet deep at high tide. We were hailed by Silver Maple as we passed each other going in opposite directions, and were happy to see Liliana again in the harbour. We docked at the Hope Town Inn and Marina where we get a special discounted rate thanks to our Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club membership. Bill and Kate were waving from the dock as we tied up – you gotta love this cruising life!!
Hope Town is a charming little settlement on Elbow Cay, kind of like a toy town – a mix of well-kept holiday homes and permanent residences, whose owners know that their economic well-being is dependent on absentee home-owners and their paying guests so everyone is friendly and everyone gets along. People from many different countries call Hope Town home for all or part of the year, and Canadians abound. The Harbour itself is full of transient boats on moorings and there are a good number of long-stay boats here too.
The Hope Town Inn and Marina is a beautiful new resort with two pools, a pool-side bar and lovely facilities. The only things it is missing is guests…it is rather empty. It is on the lighthouse side of the bay, opposite the settlement, but there is a pontoon shuttle to take guests across whenever they want and pick them up ‘on demand. Being on a dock for the first time since our Bluff House arrival in the Bahamas, we took advantage of the facilities on the first day to do laundry, used the good wifi connection to make phone calls, blog, download software updates, contact Seafrost and Richard Cook, the local refrigerator repair guy about our faulty fridge, and meet up with friends. Bill and Kate on Bella Mare invited us for sundowner drinks, along with Claude and Marie on La Toison D’or, and we invited our friends John and Sally from Liliana for dinner afterwards on Tai Chi. We had a lovely evening in great company and enjoyed every minute.
The next day we set out to explore first the lighthouse, and then the settlement. The lighthouse is one of only two original kerosene-burning lights left in the world – the other being somewhere in Central America. It is 150 years old and nothing has changed in that time. The two keepers live near the lighthouse and their fathers were keepers before them. The both also have ‘day jobs’ – Sam as dockmaster at the Hope Town Inn and Marina, and Jeffrey works at the Abaco Inn. The lighthouse was a short 10 minute hike up a trail behind the swimming pool. It is open to the public during the day. We were the only ones there and enjoyed the climb up the spiral stairs and the view in all directions from the windows along the way as well as from the top. We tried to go back the next night to watch it being lit but just missed the keeper so the base was locked when we got there.
In the afternoon we took the shuttle to Hope Town and wandered through the pretty settlement of well-kept pastel-coloured clapboard homes, sprinkled with a few shops, a gallery and the museum. It straddles a narrow part of Elbow Cay with two narrow lanes that serve as roads separating houses on both the ocean side and the harbour or Sea of Abaco side. A church overlooks a sandy ocean beach, where a grader was busy pushing the sand back up to restore the eroded banks damaged by Sandy.
We walked on through the town, passed the lodge and the school and continued out of town on the ‘main’ road along Elbow Cay for about a mile or two before reaching “On Da Beach” a colourful beachside bar where we stopped for lunch. Catch of the day was wahoo, and I enjoyed the grilled wahoo fingers washed down with iced virgin pina colada!
Refreshed and re-fueled, we continued on down the island to the Abaco Inn, another beach-side resort where we happened to bump into Claude and Marie who were just finishing lunch there. We walked along the beach with them afterwards, beachcombing and marveling at the houses which looked about to fall off the shelf onto the beach any time soon. We wandered back along the road stopping at the Seabreeze Marina, at the Abaco Inn we decided we had walked enough for the day so we got the golf-cart shuttle from the Inn back to Hope Town where we picked up a few groceries before returning to the boat.
The next day, Richard Cook came over to fix our refrigerator. He seems to really know what he’s doing and we were able to pass along advice from Cleave, the owner/designer of Seafrost. Fingers crossed…we are hoping for the best.
We went over to Cap’n Jacks that evening with Bill and Kate, Claude and Marie for happy hour and fish tacos. The next day we spent doing chores as it was cool and rainy.
We gave mail to Kate and said goodbye before she headed back home to Ontario. In the evening we joined a small crowd (for the first time) for happy hour at the pool-side bar, and then took the shuttle with Claude and Marie over to Hope Town for the open house at the Museum. The whole town had turned out for the event…glasses of punch and a table full of baked goodies were laid on. The museum was quaint and interesting, recounting the history of Elbow Cay and its residents, from the original Lucayans, through years of sponge fishing, rum running, wrecking and salvaging to current days of fishing and tourism.
We really enjoyed our stay in Hope Town – it is the place we would recommend to friends wanting a beach house for a holiday in the Abacos. It has a sense of community but is very welcoming of visitors. It is pretty and quaint, has little shops and café’s. It is a sufficient distance from, but an easy ferry ride to Marsh Harbour with its bigger stores and airport. And Elbow Cay is big enough to explore by boat, golf cart or on foot – with its ocean beaches and reefs on the outside, and the calmer sea of Abaco on the inside. We are pushing on now, leaving an hour before high tide today to go a short distance down the cay to anchor off Tahiti Beach, before heading to Lynyard Cay and hopefully, the crossing to Eleuthra on Sunday.
View our photo journal for Hope Town.
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