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Hope Town

I’m just gonna jump right in…

Last night we went to bed to a completely quiet, flat, calm and perfect Cormorant Cay anchorage. Then 2AM rolled around. Winds began to howl and the sky lit up with a lightning show, courtesy of mother nature (or god!).

I was sleeping up front in the V-berth, and Jake was out in the salon area. We’ve come to find that we sleep better if we spread out (especially when its warm). It was so loud and rocky in the V-berth I had to move out in the salon. Both Jake and I shared the big pullout for the remainder of the night. It was much better (and less rocky) out here, but it was so loud I had a hard time falling back to sleep.

Eventually sleep came, and a few hours went by. The weather went from bad to worse over the course of that time. We were up before dawn to a bucking Bosco. Our anchorage was protected from the North / Northeast (which is where the wind was supposed to be from), but storms were rolling in from the East, and we were completely exposed.

The Sea of Abaco is relatively protected, but its still a few miles wide. So despite the fact that its shallow and surrounded, there was still more than enough ammo for the waves to build up into a BIG chop (3-feet every 2 seconds). Its not “BIG” like out in the ocean, but it is VERY uncomfortable.

Today we planned (yet again) to go to Marsh Harbour. It was about 17 miles from our position. I got in the cockpit while Jake worked the anchor. We have this system pretty much wired to the point that we don’t even need to speak. Today proved very difficult, however. Jake worked the anchor for about 10 minutes before coming back in the cockpit because it just wouldn’t budge.

I ended up putting her in gear to about 28 RPM before Jake could make any progress. It took him 15 minutes to haul the thing in the bucking waves (it was quite a sight). We were off now, but it was slow going. Barely 2 knots at full-throttle. At this pace we won’t get there until dusk. And with this nasty weather it was a very unpleasant (and violent) ride. Nobody else was out on the water today, this should be a sign if nothing else, that today is not a good travel day.

So, again, I checked the charts and thought maybe we should just hunker down until it calms down. We had already made progress north, but decided to bail out across the bay in an anchorage called Tavern Cay South. The land should block our wind and waves, coming from the NE / E.

I made a B-line for it.

There were a half dozen boats when we arrived to the anchorage. After reading Active Captain, we also learned that there is an underground cable that can get snagged on anchors, so we made sure to steer clear as best we could, using the land-features as queues.

The wind continued to howl, but now there were no waves. It was actually very flat despite the weather and the big storm rolled in just as we set. Perfect timing.

We decided to investigate this whole customs / immigration thing a bit more. I looked at our passports and flipped to the first page. It said we had 90 days from December 31. Then I kept flipping and saw the stamp for Turks & Caicos. I completely forgot that we had to have our books re-stamped, so our new 90-day period is good until May.

Well that’s awesome! But I still wasn’t sure about the cruising permit. So we did the easiest thing…hailed a neighbor on the radio. 2 Outrageous was the closest boat we could see, and we’ve seen this boat a bunch all throughout the Bahamas. We’ve definitely heard them chatter on the radio (A LOT) and figured we’d give them a call.

They were super nice and extremely willing to help. (Love that cruiser mentality!). We learned after a bit of digging that the cruising permit is valid for 6 months (I guess I missed the tiny print, but there it is!). And now we know our passports are good. So that means we don’t have to rush off to Marsh Harbour anymore! Thats really great news because its not the easiest place to get to (OBVIOUSLY!).

2 Outrageous was really nice and chatted with us a bit about our travels. We learned that they, too, had issues with charter boats around these parts. I guess its a HUGE chartering area, and their best advice was to steer clear of the popular anchorages (like Hopetown, Marsh Harbour, etc). Especially if there are marinas nearby.

Its funny that those of us who are cruisers have an unspoken bond that is almost like being part of a club. Because cruising isn’t a vacation, its a lot slogging and suffering and sacrifice. People who charter boats have no clue. So when they come in and somehow affect your mojo, its irritating to say the least. But it was fun to commiserate with other folks about it. 🙂

We were extremely relieved. One less chore to deal with and now we can relax (and not feel bad about it).

We probably should have cleaned the boat but we really had no interest. It felt great to just sit around and read, take naps and listen to the VHF radio (boat chatter can be really entertaining). By the afternoon, the storms passed. Evening came and brought a magnificent sunset! And our anchorage proved wonderful.

March 31 brought with it completely different conditions than yesterday. Winds were less than half as strong and the clouds dispersed. Because we had such a restful day yesterday, both of us were up and ready before sunrise. I was energized and looked forward to visiting Hope Town proper today. Its only 5 miles north and should offer great opportunity to explore (and have some land-fun). Plus we can top off diesel and toss trash and maybe even go out to eat! So novel.

Sunrise aboard Bosco was spectacular.

After breakfast, we got down to business. There are 2 different ways to get to Hope Town from where we are. There is the long way (for boats who draw more than 5 feet) around the shoals OR there is the short way that is almost directly north, winding through some very narrow spots.

We decided to try the short way. OH the glory of our shallow draft! We also timed it well with tide coming in, so we knew that no matter what, the depths will be a bit more than the charts. But still, it was a little scary when the depth sounder reported 4.2 feet at times. Luckily those TWO times were early on, and the journey was on average between 5.5-6.5 feet.

Today was a completely different story. Boats were rocketing around all over (power and fishing boats), the water was perfection and the sky was bright and sunny. Despite the shallow jaunt, it was simply gorgeous. We passed a lot of hot-spots including Tilloo Cay, Lubbers Landing (restaurant), Cracker P’s (another restaurant), Aunt Pat’s Bay (next to a HUGE fancy resort and marina) and then up north just outside of the entrance to Hope Town Harbour.

Aaaaand its PACKED. It kind of felt like we were back in Florida, with all these crowds (mostly charters and power boaters). The Harbour was like a city on water. We had no interest in getting a mooring (or paying for one) so we anchored just outside the channel entrance. Good news it that we are super close to town. Bad news is that this channel is so packed with boats kicking up wakes, we were getting pummeled.

We didn’t linger at all, the boat was all locked and loaded and we were geared to go to town. First round was to simply load up with fuel and dump trash. This takes a surprisingly long time, about 45 minutes in total.

Round 2 we dinghied all the way into the town dock and it was packed. I couldn’t imagine trying to get a mooring here (or why anyone would want to).

Upon first inspection, Hope Town is a plethora of colorfully painted gingerbread houses and cottages and gorgeous flora and fauna and beautiful crystal blue water of the Bahamas. Its very well-kept and looks to have TONS of charm.

The downside is that its obviously a mega-tourist town. There are far too many people here (Especially compared to the other island’s we’ve explored). All of the people that live and work here are Americans. There’s none of that local, Bahamian charm like the other islands. And all of the tourists and “American” workers were just not friendly.

Jake and I spent the day hiking around the town. Much of it is taken up by rental cottages or big resorts, but all of it is so beautiful. We hiked along the coast marveling at its beauty and then back around downtown area a bit.

I was eager to check out the lighthouse. This is one of the most significant landmarks of Hope Town (and maybe all of Abacos). The lighthouse, known as Elbow Reef Lighthouse, was built in 1864. It was rebuilt in 1930’s and stands a whopping 89 feet tall, with 101 steps to the top. It is the only remaining beacon that retains its kerosene-burning apparatus. Pretty cool eh?

The hike up the stairs was a little dizzying. Round and round we go step-by-step. At the top is a landing and a small little opening you have to climb through to fit (unless you are a hobbit or a child). Outside on the platform overlooks the entire island (which is called Elbow Cay). It was a magical sight from above. I think we spent 20 minutes relishing the fresh air and sunlight and perfect scenery.

We hiked back down and decided that we had our fill of the town. Though very cute, its just too busy and crowded for us.

Back aboard Bosco, I was eager to leave this anchorage and move up north a few miles away from these packs of people. But before we could get our charts in hand, a dinghy pulled up alongside us. And guess who it is? Its our friend’s Kathleen and Wes from Anomaly! They are anchored RIGHT BEHIND US!!! What a crazy coincidence. We haven’t seen them since we left Emerald Bay!

One funny thing, Wes and Kathleen are 11 and 14 years old and are SUPER cool! We got along with them so well (we paddled and hung out with them a few times, and Jake taught them guitar). We’ve never met their parents!

They came onboard and hung out for about an hour. They also invited us over to their boat for dessert tonight. So I guess it’d be silly to leave now that we have plans!

We went over to Anomaly around 6PM. These guys are on a catamaran, and have been cruising for about a year now. They, like us, started on the east coast and slowly worked their way south. The family of 4 has found a rhythm living on the boat, with their adorable lab, Pirate (who is really roudy and super cute).

They were still enjoying their dinner (homemade pizza courtesy of Kathleen) when we arrived. I was full from our late lunch, but Jake scored a piece of pizza (which he said tasted amazing). And for dessert, Kathleen (who is only 14) made HOMEMADE chocolate cake – from scratch. It was SO DELICIOUS.

What a blast we had. We learned about their travels since we last saw them and shared our experiences. They gave us some great tips for snorkeling around here, which we will probably go check out tomorrow (weather pending).

We didn’t get back to Bosco until after 9PM (cruisers midnight!). We decided that we would try to move early tomorrow to Great Guana Cay, a recommendation from our friends. This is an area off of the island (exposed to ocean) that has one of the largest expanse of coral reef still in tact. I CAN’T WAIT!!!

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4 comments on “Hope Town

  1. Nice blog. I remember a time over 25 years ago when the Abacos Islands were not much more than a few small hotels and lots of sandy beaches with no one as far as the eye could see. Its obviously come a long way since that time, but its unfortunate how much it has changed. Sounds like you were better off in the southern islands. Keep up the great writing.

  2. Always nice to follow your adventures. The Bahamas have been under a lot of tourist pressure because it is sort of the newly rediscovered destination. Boaters have access to many places that are still “wild” and remote. The crowd will look at the easy way to be near nature but not far from the services. The first time we were in the Bahamas, we felt it was flat and not interesting vs Virgin Islands or St-Martin . Rick Moore has a nice blog and plenty videos on youtube about St-Martin. We will eventually return to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. From Canada it is easy to go there with numerous flights, for family or job matters back home. Soon retirement will change our priorities … kite surf spots , beach catamaran etc will be the base for decisions. One place you can look at back from your adventures will be the Iles de la Madeleine in Quebec province. It is not child play to get there , there are flights from Quebec city (enjoy that old part of town few days) you can rent a car on the islands there. My sister goes there each year on her safari condo. (like a westfalia). Enjoy the end of your trip.

  3. Enjoy following you guys. We had a 1986 IP31 (sailed out of Mystic CT) for years… sold it when both children were in college – thought we’d jump back into sailing after they graduated. Here we sit now living in FL – saving pennies so we can get back into sailing… Until we do, hope you don’t mind us “tagging along” via your blogs and videos. Smooth sailing. EB

    • Thanks so much! We had so much fun sailing our little dinghy – Coronado 15, she was the first Bosco (our IP is really Bosco 2). Its a great way to get back into sailing without the large investment right off the bat. Good luck to you!

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