Abaco, Bahamas –Elbow Cay to Green Turtle Cay
Ships Log Entry 61
6-9-12 to 6-11-12
We departed Marsh Harbour on the island of Great Abaco
around 1000 and arrived outside Hope Town on Elbow Cay where we dropped the anchor around 1230. We set the anchor and made sure it was holding good. We know several boaters who anchored their sailboats and thought their anchor was holding and left the boat and later was either told their boat drug or someone came running to find you and fix the problem. Thank goodness for good caring people, for boaters usually take care of each other. This happened twice that we remembered while we were gone. One time a sailboat was dragging toward shore and town and another time one was dragging through the anchorage with a lot of boats around,
We hopped in our dinghy with our lookey bucket (bucket with a glass/plastic bottom) and looked at our anchor and saw our anchor was buried. That is what you always like to see. We took our bucket back to the boat and headed for Hope Town.
Hope Town is one of the districts of the Bahamas, on the Abaco islands as well as a small village on Elbow Cay, located in Abaco. Golf carts are the main source of transportation, and most of the supplies for the area are brought in by barge each week. In Hope Town itself, neither cars nor golf carts are permitted in the main part of town. Only bicycles and walking are permitted on the hilly streets and must be explored by foot. However cars and golf carts are permitted on the outskirts of town. All the buildings that are built must adhere to Bahamian Architecture at the discretion of Town Planning. All the houses are painted every color of the rainbow. On top of the island ,water is visible on both sides - the blue ocean on one side, and the green harbour on the other.
Hope Town is the home to the famous red and white candy-striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Probably the most recognizable landmark in Abaco, the lighthouse is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world. The lighthouse keeper on duty must wind up the weights every 2 hours in order for the lighthouse to be seen from 17 miles away and flashes every 15 seconds. The lamp burns kerosene oil with a wick and mantle. The light is then focused as it passes through the optics of a first order Fresnel lens which floats on a bed of mercury. It was built in order to improve navigation and decrease the amount of shipwreck which in their early years was a way which they made their living. It is well worth the effort to climb up the lighthouse’s 101 steps to a breathtaking view of the outlying Parrot Cays and Elbos Cay’s enclosed harbor.
Hope Town was settled by British Loyalists who were seeking safe refuge after the American Revolution. Many of the settlers came from the Carolinas, by way of East Florida, after that area was turned over to Spain in the Peace Treaty of Paris (1783) . The same treaty called for the evacuation of New York by the loyalists. Many people moved back to England, Canada, or south to the British Caribbean. The initial settlements were at Carleton (near the current Treasure Cay) and Marsh Harbour.
By 1785, there were over 1,000 refugees in Abaco who were distributed in five or six settlements. A widow from South Carolina named Wyannie Malone founded the settlement at Hope Town in 1785, Wyannie, along with her children, started a dynasty in Hope Town that spread the Malone name throughout the Bahamas, over to Florida, and outwards from there. Every place you go you see that name.
We walked around town, which isn’t that big and saw all the improvements that had been made since the last time we were here which I believe was in 2002. We stopped at a new store, which was new to us called the Sugar Shack.
It’s not hard to tell what we bought here; “Ice Cream Cones”. It doesn’t take much to convince ourselves we need an ice cream fix anytime we come by a store that sells ice cream. We have been here in Hope Town so many times since the seventies; at first flying here in our own plane from Indianapolis, Indiana, and renting cottages; later chartering sailboats in the early 80’s; then purchasing our present sailboat Sweet Caroline in 1986 and sailing ourselves across the big pond ever since.
After getting all the exercise we could stand we departed Hope Town at 1545 and arrived at our next stopping point, Bakers Bay
on the island of Great Guana, which is located about 8 miles from Marsh Harbour.
This island has one of the prettiest beaches we think around. It has about 7 miles of beach and is a perfect place to find some superb snorkeling and diving just offshore about 50 feet. This is the place where we encountered our first shark, which has left a lasting impression in our minds. We don’t do sharks and in later years we took the dinghy out and hung onto the sides and just floated over the reefs with the current being our motor. This way in case of a sighting of that dreaded word “shark”, we could hop up over the sides of the dinghy in a flash and be safe rather than sorry. The Great Abaco Barrier Reef consists of large, branching formations of Elkhorn Coral with medium to large Brain and Star Coral tumbling down the inside of the barrier. The formations are riddled with fissures providing meandering trails and caves as well as isolated Coral Gardens. A few of the more well known sites include: The Blue Hole, Guana Gardens, The Tower, The Catacombs, Grouper Alley, Twin Sisters and Wayne's World.
The island has a population of approximately 150 people who live on a settlement which stretches along the beach.
Great Guana Cay's settlement is known for its rich loyalist culture and architecture, as well as its lively social scene.
It is home to “Nippers” the famous bar where the Barefoot Man plays. Anyone whe has ever visited these islands has heard songs played by the Barefoot Man. Several traditional loyalist homes exist in the settlement, which wraps around a natural harbor.
Later that evening we found we had a big dilemma. We started to use our last soda syrup, (used in our soda machine to make our Diet Caffeine Free Soda). What was going to happen to our Happy Hours if we didn’t have diet soda to mix with our rum or is it rum mixed with our soda? Either way we were going to have to break down and purchase some bottles or cans of soda for mix. We figured we were good until we got to Green Turtle, which was our next stop on our agenda.
I remember one trip we took a few years past to the Bahamas and we ran out of Rum at Great Sale Cay which is in the middle of nowhere, and nowhere were there any towns close by to run and get some Rum. We were two days away from civilization so we had to come up with a great plan. I think John solved that problem when he kicked one our crewmembers over the side to the dinghy and told him to go from boat to boat in the harbor and don’t come back until he had some spirits. The place was a safe and secure anchorage which was a stopping point for going or coming from the Abaco’s. After a while we heard the dinghy motor and he must have got lucky because he had a bottle held high in the air, which he must of, begged, borrowed or stole from the large luxury Motor Yacht that was anchored nearby. He was weaving a little so he must have had a few on someone’s boat. He told us that while on the Big Luxury Motor Yacht their crew said for entertainment they would throw a 20# block of ice overboard and watch all the sail boaters fight for it. In those days, most sailboats didn’t have the luxury of much ice and definitely not any to throw overboard.
The next day we took the dinghy and went exploring. We saw they had really built up here. There were quite a few houses on shore that were never here before. We found the canal they made to the new Bakers Bay Marina.
They had built all kinds of waterways with docks on a lot of them for future homes. It looked like someone put a lot of money in here and were hoping for a building boom. It would be a great investment if you had some money to build on one of these canal lots that led either to the ocean side or the bay. Wowl!!
The next day we pulled anchor and anxiously headed for the dreaded Whale Cay Passage. At least Carol dreads this passage becasue of past passages through these reefs. As a boater when you read or hear the word danger you pay attention. The Whale Cay Passage can be a rough passage at times because you leave the unprotected waters of the Sea of Abaco and the lee of the cay
to head out into unprotected ocean waters. A long sandy shoal extending from the Treasure Cay peninsula out to Whale Cay means most moderate to deep draft boats must exit the Sea of Abaco and pass on the ocean side of Whale Cay. A rage can shut this passage down for days. You really have to pay attention to weather and sea conditions here. Many a freighter or boat has gone down in this passage through the treacherous seas through the reefs. The entire Whale Cay Passage is less than 4 miles long but it is good to have it behind us.
We arrived in Green Turtle, Abaco at 1345 and glad to finally be anchored. We looked around and saw no boats in the anchorage where we ususally anchored. In times past, this time of year there would be a lot of boats here. We did see some sailboats anchored way out and we wondered why? Did they not let you anchor here anymore? We waited awhile and no one came and told us to move so it must have been OK, we hope!
Stay tuned for more adventures from John & Carol aboard the S/V Sweet Caroline