Hope Town, home to the last hand wound kerosene burning lighthouse in the world, but that’s not all this town has to offer.
It’s situated on Elbow Cay, the first of the Abaconian islands along our route that stretches down to the south, rather than across to the east. The town centres around a natural harbour that offers marinas and mooring buoys along with public docks for accessing the town itself. There’s everything you need here to get by…grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and bars. The buildings are quaint, the streets clean and the vibe is friendly.
As we wander the streets casually looking for the farmers market we ask a man walking the other way for directions. Turns out we’re going totally the wrong direction so we turn and walk with him whilst he explains where to go. We chat further and within a couple of minutes we’ve been invited in to his place for coffee. After a quick trip to the farmers market and some conch fritters at Munchies we pop in for the cuppa. He and his wife live in England but are staying here at a friends house cat sitting whilst they’re away. We spend the next hour or so sat at the garden table chatting away over coffee and cake. They love it here and I can absolutely see why. Also here having a cuppa is a lady who we assume they’d been friends with for years, but it turns out she lives on the island and they only met each other yesterday. They’re a super friendly bunch here!
A short climb over a sand dune reveals views of the Atlantic and a long white sandy beach. As we stroll along it we pass a scattering of people relaxing in sun loungers, reading books whilst hiding from the sun under straw hats. There are a few beachfront houses elevated on the sand dunes, each has a set of wooden steps leading down to the white sand below. It looks like paradise here now but when I consider the hurricanes that pass through here and the properties vulnerable location I wonder what the future has in store for them.
Back over in the town we wander the quiet streets some more before making our way towards Elbow Reef Lighthouse. Understandably the red and white striped building is a very prominent feature here and has been since 1864. There are around 15,000 lighthouses spread across the globe. However Elbow Reef Lighthouse is the only remaining lighthouse in the world to be hand cranked and kerosene burning. Every night a lighthouse keeper works hard to keep the light burning and every two hours hand cranks weights to the top of the lighthouse to keep the light turning. It’s visible up to 15 miles away and was initially built as a result of ships constantly colliding with the extensive nearby reef. After many crew and cargoes were lost the British government decided to build the lighthouse in an attempt to safely guide ships through the shallow waters….much to the disappointment of local looters who in fact deliberately guided ships into the reefs in order to benefit from the wreckage.
On our visit we’re pleased to discover you can not only enter the lighthouse, but you’re allowed to climb to the top….and it’s free! We like free!
We climb the 101 steps and clamber out through a small door onto the walkway outside. We’re 120ft above sea level and the views are gorgeous. To the east is the harbour and the sprawling Atlantic in the distance. To the west the turquoise waters of the Sea of Abaco where we’re anchored. As we leave we donate a few dollars to the lighthouse society to help them keep the lighthouse going for many more years to come.
One evening we make our way to Firefly, a luxurious resort with accommodation, restaurants and a bar. Tonight there’s a Bahamian reggae band playing and it’s a tribute to Bob Marley. We tie up the dinghy at the dock outside and make our way to the open air bar. It’s got a nice vibe here, there’s palm trees swaying overhead, groups of friends just finishing their meals and the cocktails are flowing. For the first time in a while I’ve made an effort to look half respectable…I’ve washed, combed my hair, put on clean clothes and even put on a flick of mascara. Ben on the other hand didn’t realise it was a fancy establishment so he’s wearing combat shorts and has a baseball hat on keeping his hair under control…which, despite growing it for 11 months, still hasn’t quite got to a long enough length to tie up. Inappropriate clothing to one side we have a couple of drinks, bop along to the band and later head back to the boat singing “One looove. One heaarrt. Let’s get together and feel alriiiight”
On the morning of our departure from Hope Town we make a final attempt to locate an Eleuthera Explorer Chartbook. These are the printed nautical maps we use to navigate around the Bahamas. We just realised a couple of days ago we don’t have the correct chart book for our next destination. Despite checking in all the stores here and asking around we haven’t managed to find a new, or used one for sale. Every morning at 8.15 on VHF channel 68 there’s a cruisers net. They provide a bundle of information such as the weather forecast, local events and they also offer an “open mic” section where cruisers can radio in with any information or questions. We put out a request for any unwanted new or used Eleuthera chart books. We don’t hear back from anyone on the radio but an hour later there’s a knock on our hull…a nearby cruiser heard our request and just happened to have recently updated their chart books. They have their old Eleuthera one going spare which is just the one we need! We ask what we can offer him for it (they’re around $70 new) but he insists we can take it off his hands for free. He explains it was given to him for free, and now he’s passing on the good deed.
This just tops off our visit here. The people we’ve met have been welcoming, friendly and generous and the town is just lovely. We couldn’t have asked for a better final port of call in the Abacos.
Hope Town, remember the name and make sure you visit one day.
As for us, we’re heading south to Eleuthera!