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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hope Town, Elbow Cay

Road that bisects the length of the island from northwest to southeast.

I am writing from captivity in the Hope Town Harbour on Elbow Cay.  Quite literally, we are unable to leave except at high tide, which occurs twice each day.  We haven’t wanted to “escape” for the past several days, so you know we’re not suffering much in our “confinement.”
Harbor entrance:  Line boat up with street terminating at the water.

We were anchored off Tahiti Beach, three miles south of Hope Town when we heard someone announce there were vacant mooring balls in the harbor.  We jumped at the chance to get one of them.  There was heavy weather coming and our plan up until the very moment of that broadcast was to return to Marsh Harbour, a very large, well protected harbor some 15 miles away.  
Elbow Cay Lighthouse from within harbor

Hope Town harbor is quite small and there’s not enough room to swing at anchor, so mooring balls are the only option.  We’d met cruisers that had been waiting a month for a mooring ball to open up in the Hope Town harbor!  We pulled anchor and timed our arrival at the entrance to Hope Town Harbour to coincide with high tide, willingly choosing our captivity, at least one day at a time. 
Golf cart ride into Hope Town from Tahiti Beach

New friends gave us a ride into Hope Town only the day prior to acquiring a mooring ball inside.  People are nice like that here!  He picked us up in a golf cart from Tahiti Beach and drove us the 3 miles along the spine of the island to the northwestern part, where the Hope Town Settlement is located.   Charming little community of colorful buildings and extremely narrow little streets.
Wyannie Malone  Museum

Heavy weather rolled in over the course of the next two days, just as predicted.  Largely it was a succession of big blows but without much rain. The boat heeled far to port at times, and then far to starboard with extreme wind shifts.  It was an exhilarating time for someone like me, who enjoys experiencing the power of the wind…….from a safe and snug harbor, that is.   We enjoyed watching the wind whip up waves on the Atlantic beach side on our walks with Jax.  Awesome!
Jax met a new Border Collie bro'

Hope Town, like New Plymouth is a Loyalist settlement.  The residents found refuge here in the islands in the 1780’s during our American Revolution, which they apparently found abhorrent.   Why would anyone want to break away from the Monarchy, they must have thought.  The American history book writers refer to them as the Tories.  Here, however, history paints them as Loyalists.  It’s all about perspective.  
 ~100 residents died of cholera in the 1850's

The Bahamas did remain with the U.K.until 1973 when the U.K. no longer wanted to “own” the islands.  Many residents were quite unhappy about that development and pleaded to remain within the fold.  Alas, it was not to be.  
No vehicular traffic goes further without permit.   Jax plans to tell this golf cart they're much too noisy.

A wide gate remains closed across the little road leading into the oldest part of Hope Town.   It reminds drivers that there is no motorized traffic allowed beyond it.  The only exceptions are the very diminutive service vehicles and those with a permit to use a golf cart, owing perhaps to difficulty with ambulation, I surmise.  
Tiny little trucks.  Makes me smile.

Many of the buildings remain from the 1800’s.  Folks who build new construction are encouraged to build in keeping with the earlier architecture.  Many of those well kept little houses now are managed by real estate companies and rented by the week or month.  From our cockpit, we watch tourists arrive by ferry boat, pulling their travel cases on wheels as they head off on foot down one of the two tiny streets that follow the curve of the harbor, shaped much like a large inverted “C.” 
The extent of the Farmer's Market vegetables is displayed here.

We were eager to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday with the promise of fresh locally grown vegetables.  Expectations far exceeded the reality of the Farmer’s Market, however.   We could choose from a few types of greens, tomatoes, small bananas and cilantro.  Sigh.  All the cruisers filed into the little park area, anyway, to carry away the few fresh vegetables that were available—and glad to have them.
Elbow Cay Lighthouse

On the south side of the harbor stands the Elbow Cay Lighthouse, built by the British in the 1800’s.  The prospect of the lighthouse was one time when the Loyalists took issue with a decision by the Crown.  Their position was something like this….  "If a lighthouse warns ships away from the reefs, there will be fewer shipwrecks.   With fewer shipwrecks there will be fewer salvages and that will put a big dent in our wrecking business."   Salvaging or “wrecking” was a legitimate occupation for the Abaconians.   The folks of Hope Town (and perhaps surrounding islands too) sabotaged the building of the lighthouse in a variety of ways, but eventually the Crown won out and it was built.  
Fresnel lens.  Note kerosene lantern in the middle above.

We toured the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum yesterday.  I found myself wondering how many of the items on display were salvaged from ships torn apart on the reefs.  We found it to be a very interesting little museum, although presentation of the history of black residents of the Abacos was nearly nonexistent.  I’m hoping that will be rectified within the near future. 
"Lend a hand, or two?"

We’ve climbed the lighthouse twice.  First,  just to see it—the last remaining manually operated Fresnel lens lighthouse in the world.  The lighthouse keepers climb those steps every two hours all night long to rewind the mechanism.  They haul up kerosene hand over hand by use of a pulley and sisal rope through the center of the lighthouse.   
Last race of the season was quite distant.

The second time we climbed the lighthouse was to watch the last Hope Town Sailing Club sailboat race of the year.  We carried our binoculars up with us and enjoyed a great, albeit distant view of the race course.  All boaters were welcome to participate.  We couldn’t have raced our own boat even if we’d wanted to—we were trapped inside the harbor by virtue of low tide.  There are far worse places to be held “captive.”  
Gotta love old lighthouses.

We are, however, running low on vegetables and we’ll need to make a mad dash to Marsh Harbour on a high tide one of these days.  This may rank as the first time I’ve wanted to break free from paradise for want of a green salad.

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