Abaco Cays, Bahamas - Hope Town | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Abaco Cays, Bahamas - Hope Town

June 21, 2009 - Summer Solstice

Hope Town,
Elbow Cay, Abaco Cays

Elbow Cay Light, Hope Town

Happy Summer Solstice, Everyone!

I don't know why there aren't more official celebrations for the Summer Solstice. It is such a cosmic event! And don't we all eagerly await the start of summer? As Canadians, Paul and I sure do!

Downwind sailing on Abaco Sound

Well this year we have been blessed with a wonderful winter of warm-weather cruising in the Caribbean and a spring cruise of the Bahamas which, after cruising to over 50 countries worldwide, still remains one of our favourite cruising grounds. The crystal clear water, abundant reefs for diving and snorkelling, great fishing, white sand beaches, and small quiet settlements with friendly people, and are the main attractions for us. So we were very happy today to celebrate the longest day of the year and the start of summer today in a new-for-us Bahamian destination, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, in the Abaco Cays, the most northern island group of the Bahamas.

Hope Town Harbour

Over our 20 years of cruising we have visited the Bahamas several times: winter 1989/90, spring 1992, winter 1994/95, winter 95/96, spring 2008, fall 2008, spring 2009. We have filmed the islands extensively. Our "Cruising the Bahamas" documentary which is on the Cruising with the Shards DVD is still our most popular and bestselling DVD. Last year we filmed 4 new half-hour episodes on the southern islands groups of the Bahamas which you can view on the Distant Shores Season 5 - The Med to the Caribbean and the Bahamas DVD. This year we have been filming additional episodes on the Jumento Cays, Eleuthera, and the Abacos for Distant Shores Season 6. (The Season 6 DVD will be released in November 2009.)

Paul aboard Distant Shores at Lighthouse Marina at the Elbow Cay light in Hope Town

The Elbow Cay lighthouse that overlooks Hope Town Harbour is one of the few lighthouses in the world that is still manually operated. Last night we met lighthouse keeper, Franklyn Sweeting, who invites visiting boaters to climb up the 101 steps of the lighthouse to enjoy the spectacular view of the historic harbour, the sea, and Abaco Sound. The lighthouse was built in 1864 and the same mechanisms are used today to run it. Franklyn demonstrated the process of priming and lighting the lamp with kerosene and he let Paul give it a try. We have seen so many pictures and films of this lighthouse it was quite a thrill to see it and learn about it!

The first night we stayed at the Lighthouse Marina at the foot of the light. The rate was $1 per foot ($2 per foot is the average marina rate we have found this year throughout the islands so Lighthouse Marina was a good deal.) The drinking water was excellent and only 25 cents per US gallon. There is a boat yard and good little chandlery and very friendly and helpful staff. It is a basic marina. If you are looking for something more fancy with more facilities such as a freshwater swimming pool there are 2 other marinas in the harbour. We went for location!

View of the Elbow Cay lighthouse from our Southerly 42, Distant Shores, on a mooring.

Tonight we decided to go out to one of the moorings in the harbour which cost $20 per night. There is a better breeze out on the moorings (yes it is hot tonight!) and less flying insects at dusk now that we're away from the mangroves and marshy shoreline. Plus the view of the lighthouse and town is even more delightful from the water!

Hope Town in the Abacos is amongst the oldest settlements in the Bahamas and a real effort has been made to preserve the style of homes to fit the original loyalist cottages. Many are available for rent. There's a really interesting museum, a couple of grocery stores, gift shops, and good restaurants including a really nice coffee house.

If you are planning to visit the Bahamas be sure to sail through the Abaco Cays. We are sorry that it took us this long to discover them! But that's what is so great about the Bahamas - there are SO many places to explore! You can come back year after year after year (and many people do) and have whole new island groups to discover.
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