Hope Town Harbor on Elbow Cay
is without question, the photographic jewel of the Abacos.
Home of the world-famous Hope Town Lighthouse, this small
harbor is lined with marinas and pastel-painted cottages,
making it a photographer’s paradise.
This can be tricky. Real
tricky. The Cruising Guide to Abaco provides
excellent step-by-step instructions so I will not attempt to duplicate that
work here. I recommend that you navigate to a spot just
west of the waypoint at N 26° 32.608' W 76° 58.063', midway
between the flashing green light on the north point of Parrot
Cays. There is always plenty of traffic in and out that
you can follow.
The course is a complicated
zig-zag that first takes you on a course towards Elbow Cay
just a little right of the lighthouse, then northeast along
the shore around the corner of the opening to the
harbor. The extremely narrow channel is marked with red
and green balls, and you will pass to the right of a small
island with a yellow house with a satellite disk on the
porch. Head straight for the home-made range markers
lined up with one of the town streets. Bear right as you
get near the road and head right in.
The channel is extremely
narrow so stay in the center. If you are piloting a
catamaran, there is only room for one boat, so be particularly
observant of oncoming commercial traffic.
There is virtually no room to
anchor, so a mooring is almost mandatory. This could be
difficult at times because Hope Town is not that large,
extremely popular, and has a large population of long-term
boaters. Expect to see a fair number of moorings marked “Reserved”.
I expect that in a few years, it will not be possible for
visiting boats to moor in Hope Town at all because the
permanent and long-term populations will have all moorings
tied up permanently. Hope Town Marina, Abaco
Bahama Charters, and Lucky Strike own the moorings
and will be along to collect a fee. I recommend calling
ahead for a reservation to avoid disappointment.
Hope Town Lighthouse
Built in 1863 by the British
Imperial Lighthouse Service, it still uses the original
equipment. The massive glass fresnel lens rotates on a
circular track that is still lubricated with mercury to reduce
friction. Power for rotation is provided by a huge
counterweight that suspends down the centre of the tower,
something like a cuckoo clock. The light is created
using a complex kerosene-fueled mantle. Today, the sole
purpose of the lighthouse is to guide sailors from surrounding
dry islands to the bars in Hope Town.
A visit to the lighthouse is a
must. You can climb the 500 steps up the circular
staircase that winds itself up the inside of the tower.
Electro-cardiogram units are strategically placed every 100
steps for your convenience. At the top, you can inspect
the light mechanism closely. There is a small trap door
that takes you to the balcony that surrounds the tower and the
360° view from there is spectacular.
The Streets of Hope Town
Just walking around the settlement is an adventure in
itself. The narrow streets will accommodate two golf-carts
(the official mode of transit) passing each way, and little
else. There is no defined center of town as we understand
it - charming old houses and quaint pastel-colored cottages are
stitched into the foliage, a few shops and stores are strewn
about wherever. It is truly unique.
Let them Eat Key Lime Pie!
No trip to Hope Town is complete
without a visit to Vernon’s
Grocery. Humorous quotations, jokes, and sayings are written
on pieces of paper and pinned on the walls everywhere.
There is a door specifically designated for customers coming IN
to the store, and a completely separate door for those going OUT
- it is extremely well-marked, so be prepared for an earful if
you violate this. Do not leave without buying one of their
Key Lime Pies - they are exquisite.
If you are in the mood for a
good stroll, follow the streets to the north part of the
settlement and keep going. You will be treated to some
great scenery and a whole lot of peace and quiet. Some
of the vacation villas along this route are worth a look.
There are a few places in Hope
Town that serve a decent meal. Cap’n
Jack’s is right on the water
and affords a great view of the lighthouse as you dine.
Their Conch Chowder is simply excellent. Other notable
places include Harbor’s Edge
and Club Soleil Resort and Restaurant.
Hope Town Harbor Webcam
Club Soleil has set up
that provides a view of the harbor to the world over the
Internet. Updated every hour, it is almost as good as
Click on the image above to go to the latest webcam photo