Hopetown is a place that is difficult to leave. It is a quaint village of narrow streets and picket fences. At noon and again at 6 PM, the sound of chimes from the carillon at the Methodist Church descends on the village. The red and white striped lighthouse at the head of the harbor forms the town’s visual identity. Every night at sunset, the keeper of the Elbow Cay Reef Light manually ignites the brilliant kerosene lantern that illuminates the Fresnel lens. The light flickers at first, then casts a wide yellow swath across the harbor as the lens begins its slow but steady rotation. It is comforting to ease into the rhythm of this community.
Many of the older homes and cottages in the village have been restored. Collectively, these brightly painted homes serve as the town’s primary supply of transient lodging. The ferry from Marsh Harbor arrives several times each day, bringing with it a fresh supply of visitors. Whether its strolling the lanes, sampling the shops and restaurants or spending time at the beach, walking is the best way to see this community. Golf carts are restricted in certain parts of the village. Life here in Hopetown moves at a relaxed pace.
Cutter Loose is one of about fifty cruising boats moored in the inner harbor. Once through the tricky entrance channel, the inner harbor is deep, snug and secure…protected from winds of all directions. The mooring fee of $20 per day includes access to the Hopetown Sailing Club’s dinghy dock. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM, all of the cruisers carry their trash bags via dinghy to a small dock where a garbage truck is positioned. Most everything in this town is neat, tidy and well-organized.
Each day begins with coffee and muffins on the veranda at the Hopetown Coffee House. A short bicycle ride to the south of Hopetown is White Sound and Tahiti Beach. Tahiti Beach is formed by sand deposits at Tiloo Cut, a small opening between the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean. At low tide, a massive white sand bar becomes exposed, attracting sunbathers and shellseekers. Nearby, the Abaco Inn at White Sound serves lunch with a view of the ocean.
We return to the Abaco Inn in the evening for entertainment. Brown Tips and his band have the patrons on their feet, swaying to ”rake and scrape” music…calypso and reggae with live percussion parts performed on Stanley rip saws scraped with knives. Live entertainment is also provided each evening at various restaurants on the periphery of the harbor. Cruisers are normally asleep by 9 or 10 PM. The ability to fall asleep to the pounding rhythms of the reggae bands is an important skill in this harbor.
At dusk on our final evening in Hopetown, we are invited to witness the lighting of the lantern at the lighthouse. Sam, the keeper of the lighthouse expertly preheats the burner with a mixture of alcohol and kerosene. Soon, the kerosene is flowing, the burner is glowing and the Fresnel lens begins sending its warning to ships at sea. Sam will remain awake all night, hand-cranking the weights that drive the rotating mechanism every two hours. Most lighthouses of this vintage have been automated for decades. Local residents believe that the Elbow Cay Reef Light is the only manually operated lighthouse in the world.
The weather has settled significantly since our arrival in Hopetown. Out visit to Elbow Cay has been interesting and relaxing. Tomorrow, we will leave Hopetown, sailing further south in the Sea of Abaco.