(12X13) - (24X26) - (48X52)
Click to Enlarge All Pictures
And as is our policy, all unsightly
overhead wiring has been removed
Taxi Driver No.1, Mr. Victor Russell.
Outside Dining area a GTC.
Old Joe Sawyer
Windy Ocean Beach - G.T.
McIntosh Restaurant - New Plymouth
Pineapples Restaurant - New Plymouth
Crown Haven - End of the line Ferry Dock
Tit's Take Away - Crown Haven
Fox Town Scene
Treasure Cay Pool and Marina
Brent at Treasure Divers - T.C.
Abaco Horse Country
Joey - at Curly Tails
Nick Miaoulis of Abaco Neem
Pretty Road Sign
A Casurina Pt. Welcome
The Different of Abaco
Just as it Says
Sandy Point Beach
Sandy Point Girls
Sandy Point Groceries, Drugs, Dry Goods and Notions all in one store
Rickmon Bonefish Lodge and Hotel
The Abacos other Light House
Hope Town Light View
Hope Town Scene
Guana Cay Home
Milo - Guana
Most Photographed Beach at Nippers
Captain Jack's Mgr - Mike
Hope Town Coffee House (new)
Chad of the Islanders (at Sea Spray)
Vernon's Grocery Store and Bakery
Vernon doing his thing
Hope Town Methodist Church
Tiny , Sandy, Debby Vernon, Larry
At Ray's Place that evening
Larry and Tiny waving good by
For Quick Access to the most recent update, just remember - AbacoUpdate.com
Last year's update was appropriately called the year of the wedding because of all the weddings we had going on at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge where we stayed for the 2nd half of our trip. Little did I know then that as part of this year's exploration of the Big Island of Great Abaco, I , I should say Debbie and I, would be partaking in Preacher Vernon's services ourselves at the little Methodist Church on the hill in Hope Town. Our friends, the Thompsons whom we met on a trip some years ago and have been rendezvousing regularly, stood in for us at at our wedding. But more on that later.
Sandy Estabrook's Abaco Guide Update No. 3
A supplement to Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos, Bahamas
The Year of the Big Island
(and number 618)
Green Turtle Club Bar
Treasure Cay Sunset
- - - - - Ø - - - - - Our Trip
May 27th, Debbie and I were off on another Abaco journey. Not unlike previous years we spent the night before at the Marriot at Tampa's Airport prior to our early Memorial Day departure. Our plan was to explore the Big Island so often over looked by tourists heading for the cays. We made out an itinerary that would include Blue Holes, the wild Abaco Barbs (horses) and of course the settlements of Little Abaco- Crown Haven and Fox Town in the north all the way to the bottom of Great Abaco and my name sake in the south, Sandy Point.
May 28th, Our Memorial Day and Bahamian Whit Monday and thus most businesses were closed including our car rental. Upon arrival in Marsh Harbour, instead of renting a boat as we usually do we planned to rent a car and leave it at the Green Turtle Cay Ferry Dock. With our agency being closed (I had confirmed only two days prior), we took a Taxi to the G.T. Ferry Dock ($75). To our surprise our driver was none other than Taxi No.1, Mr. Victor Russell. He informed us of having the first taxi license in Abaco and is 82 years old. I inquired will we make the 2:30 ferry? I'll try was the reply and at times we were hitting 80 mph!
Well we made it in time - just. The Ferry was waiting as Victor radioed ahead. We jumped in said hi to always friendly Josh our captain and thanked him for waiting the extra couple minutes. As usual after check at the Green Turtle Club, we headed the the Tipsy Bar to see my other Debbie, the Club's bartender of 25 years and the 2007 the winner of the Bahamian CACIQUE Award for sustainable tourism. Tipsy Turtles were in order. We were Surprised to meet Molly, once manager at the Bluff House now managing things at the G.T. Club. Renee their restaurant manager also came over.
On our first evening the G.T.C. was presenting a fashion show modeled by their staff. I cant say I got worked up over this but I'm sure the ladies liked it.
Tuesday Morning was bright and sunny but still windy. My habit at 7 AM is to head down to the coffee pot on the porch of the club. About that time old Joe Sawyer meandered in as usual and told me, like we didn't already know, that the wind had been relentless for months. And that in his 80 years he has never seen anything like it. Fishing tournaments were canceled, boating activities or renting a boat was impractical, And sadly our Dive Picnic with Brendal was out of the question. However those of us who planned to stay inland or ashore the impact was only slight. Old Joe is still taking folks deep sea fishing, weather permitting of course.
We picked up a golf cart at D & P Rentals, whose office is conveniently located at the Club and headed to the beach with lunch planned in New Plymouth. We made the usual stops in town having lunch (conch salad) at the Wrecking Tree. With Miss Emily's being closed, we hit Pineapples for a quickie.
Wednesday it was still windy so it was off to Abaco for some exploring. We rented a car from O.C. at Cornish Car Rentals near the Ferry Dock. He told us that for $25 we could leave it in Marsh Harbour at our boat rental agency. We headed due north for a trip to the top of Abaco and the settlements of Fox Town and Crown Haven. In a word - uneventful. There was some nice scenery and a few native restaurants. Crown Haven is the end of the line. There is a dock there that you can hop a ferry to Grand Bahama Island and a bus ride to Freeport (see Ferries). Enroute one passes through the settlement of Coopers Town, the home of the recently reelected Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingram.
That completed, it was off in search of a Blue Hole near the the Green Turtle Ferry Dock we heard tell about. It was easily found and a pleasant surprise to see this glistening sapphire blue pond. I later read, that this pond was over 200 feet deep!
From there if was off to the Treasure Cay Resort Area. This area despite its beautiful beach and facilities is often over looked by folks (like ourselves) that head straight to the Cays. We stopped by Treasure Divers, the Pool Bar Spinnakers and had a Kalik, went for a swim then headed over to the Beach Bar Coconuts for lunch lunch explored the area and tried to catch up with some internet comrades with the help of an employee named Trevor, but no luck. Afterwards we left our car at the ferry dock and headed back to GTC.
Incidentally, Treasure Cay is not a Cay "any more" but the name of the airport serving that area of Great Abaco Island and the two resorts in the vicinity. They are the Treasure Cay Resort and Marina and Bahama Beach Club at Treasure Cay. There is no actual hotel. Accommodations are mostly in the form of condos, villas and homes which management or private agency rents to vacationers.
Wednesday evening, as they do every Wednesday, The Gully Roosters come to the Club to play their island music. They are always a perfect way to cap a lovely day in the Abacos.
Thursday is a day we've been waiting for. For sometime we have heard about the Wild Abaco Horses (or Barbs). Debbie being a horse lover and one time jumper and having had three of her own horses was fascinated by possibility of seeing them. We made an appointment with Melenne AKA Mini Rehor who is conservator of the remaining animals. She met us outside her electric gate and escorted us into the 3800 acre fenced area. The first sight we came upon was a large kennel set up for stray dogs locally called potcakes. Frankly most looked like Yellow Labs. She feeds them with scraps and ribs from Marsh Harbour restaurants. From there it was a trek through the woods to find the horses which we came upon in about 15 minutes. All the wile dodging the skin irritating poison wood tree. For the latter we were not prepared nor dressed properly. Mimi strongly suggests long pants and shoes. Maybe a long sleeved shirt too.
As mentioned we were in shorts and sandals but with Mimi's help, avoided all of the many trees and their lover level bushes. It only slowed us down effecting a few detours. Anyway we came upon five of the eight in existence.: one stallion and four mares. The other three stallions had been separated for obvious reasons. As of the late 60's there were 200 of these magnificent horses. Most were slaughtered which a sensitive subject and was not related to us. By 1992 there were 35 none of which have had offspring since Hurricane Floyd in 1999 which brings us to today's number of eight. Mimi told us that there were indications that three of the mares were in foal. If you want to know more click on the links above.
We made it back to the ferry dock to catch the 11:30 ferry. Picked up our golf cart and headed to New Plymouth. We ate at Pineapples this time where, completely by coincidence bumped into a one time Sarasota friend who moved to Maryland. I must mention, Yvonne served an absolutely delicious grilled fish sandwich (Mahi). It ranks 2nd on our Fish sandwich tasting. See our Food and Drink page. That day Miss Emily's was open! We stopped in and noticed a newly a whole new room freshly painted with tile floors. Charlotte informed us of her plans to open a restaurant within a couple months. We wish her luck. And speaking of new restaurants while cruising New Plymouth, we happened upon Harvey's. Well, new to us anyway as we didn't notice it last year. They serve the usual fare at a reasonable price, cracked conch, grouper, burgers, macaroni 'n cheese, peas 'n rice etc. etc. There are now more restaurants in New Plymouth than Hope Town - at time of writing anyway.
Pelican Beach Villas - Marsh Harbour
Friday, another holiday - Labour Day, we drove to Marsh Harbour and our base of operations for South Abaco exploring. We checked into the Pelican Beach Villas - brightly colored cottages directly on the Sea of Abaco and close to the popular Mermaid Reef. We had heard a front would be passing through and sure enough it was starting to get cloudy. Before it got too dark we headed to Mermaid for quick snorkel then it was off to the Corner Family Market, the only store opened on the holiday, for coffee, milk and sugar and other items to stock our kitchen. Dinner that night was at Curly Tails accompanied by the music of Clint Sawyer.
Sandy Point - Southwest Abaco Mainland
Saturday was the first day we could receive the Cruisers Net on VHF Ch 68. It was nice to hear Patti's voice again. And as Barometer Bob's weather reported, today was going to be pretty much a washout. But we had a schedule to keep, so we jumped in our rental car and headed for Sandy Point. Well, we didn't quite make it but instead wound up going as far as the settlement of Cherokee. We has intended to check out "Pepper Pot Farms" which was in the area and pick up on some fresh produce and honey from the owner, Mel Well's bee keeping operation. Unfortunately we didn't find it and the weather prevented further serious exploration.
Leaving Marsh Harbour we stopped in the Abaco Neem store which we read about in the Airline Magazine on the flight over. We met with Nick Miaoulis and his marketing director Daphne who explained the healing qualities of Neem and it's popularity in India. His also told us about his efforts in launching his Neem product line from his orchard of Neem trees on Abaco, to drying the leaves and extracting the oil from it's olive like berries.
At Cherokee the shoals there seem to go on for a miles before becoming deep enough for a boat. From there it was over the hill to and then on to Pete's Pub at harbours edge at Little Harbour (First time we ever "drove" there). Pete was offering a grilled Hog Fish Sandwich (a type of snapper) which was the number one fish sandwich of our trip. From there it was home for a nap on that rainy day. We had heard on the cruiser's net that morning, that the Jib Room and Marina, only 100 yards away from where we were staying, was having their Saturday Night Grill special dinner. For $25 you get a choice of chicken, steak or fish accompanied with absolutely fresh and crisp vegetables and bake potato. Salad and dessert too. The Steak we had was the best in all the Abacos and better than some of those big name steak houses stateside. Another coincidence; we met up with Big Tim and his wife Julia. I met Tim on the Abaco Message Board and at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge while they were attending their friends wedding last year.
Sunday another try for my namesake town, Sandy Point. I had the feeling as we headed south it might clear up. It did and finally the wind died down! In route we stopped in the small fishing settlement of Casurina Point and a place called "The Different of Abaco" best defined as a nature / fish camp. It looked interesting but didn't see a soul. The area is renouned for bone fishing and must have been out on the flats. If you prefer a home instead of the camp check out Sand Dollar Cove Cottages and Abaco Palms, both are in the area and caters to bone fisherman and will even connect you with a guide.
Southeastern Abaco has some of the loveliest white sand beaches to be found anywhere in the Abacos and not accessible by boat. So anytime we saw a road to the left, we took it and did a little exploring with the help of, believe it or not, "Steve Dodges Cruising Guide". It even includes a section on "Exploring Abaco by Land". There are at least 3-4 of these left turns (when heading south) taking you to such settlements as Bahama Palm Shores, Schooner Bay and Crossing rocks. Think we took every one in search of the ultimate beach. We were not disappointed.
Eventually you will come to the fork in the road. Actually it looks like just another turn to the left and it's unpaved. It takes you on an arduous 15 mile journey to the Hole in the Wall Lighthouse - Abaco's other lighthouse. Don't take it unless you are in a four wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance and have specifically planned for this trip. Don't misunderstand me, it's a great trip for the adventurous and a whole day affair. To the roads east lies the Abaco National Park and one of the primary habitats of the endangered "Bahamian Parrot". More information on Hole in the Wall can be found by clicking on the picture of "Abaco's other Light House" in the left column.
I had been to Sandy Point in '97 on a trip to the Abacos aboard Motu Iti (34 Catalina Islander) and was looking forward to seeing the changes to this little community whose primary occupation is working for the Disney Company whose Castaway Island (Gorda Cay) lies off shore about five miles. The first indication of change(s) was the Sandy Point Airport - more like an Air Strip, just outside of town as you enter. We Happened to hit upon their Homecoming and Conch Fest which was rained out the day before but being set up for that afternoon. In the meantime we cruised up and down just about all Sandy Points streets and wound up in a restaurant / bar called Nancy's. It's it one of those friendly fun joints that one happens upon completely unexpectedly now and then. We got talking to Leslie, the gentleman boss who filled me on conch fest and all the happenings at Sandy Point and yes, just about all of the 20 young men on the porch having lunch worked for Disney. At the dock was the sleek catamaran used for transport to the island. We enjoyed the chat with Leslie, a philosopher of sorts. Continuing our exploration we came across another restaurant nest to the Ferry Office where you can buy a ticket to Nassau ($45). It leaves for Nassau Friday morning and returns Sunday Evening (see Ferries). At one point a young fellow with a camera was taking picture of a bunch of teenage girls clowning around. I also captured the moment.
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed Sandy Point. As the sign says, it's friendly people and quaintness at lands edge. We came across a couple of Inn's and heard of a new small health spa being planned for the area. Then we read about another mega development planned for this area and what this man considers an all too fragile environment. Later we learned it to be called Gilpin Point. The Airport should have been the clue. We returned home had dinner ar Snappas, one of just two places opened on Sunday. The other being the Conch Inn/Curly Tails.
Marsh Harbour had started a Goombay Summer Festival this year. It runs for four consecutive Fridays., but for us started June 9th when we would be in Hope Town. If you plan a trip early June, you might want to check it out.
Monday was the day our friends the Thompsons were going to meet us at Rainbow Boat Rentals at 10:00. More importantly we had to get our marriage license early, in order to meet them on time. We headed over to the Commissioners office early and had breakfast at the Golden Grouper in the same building. We were first in line at 9:00. Actually we were the only ones there. Miss Flowers greeted us took our our passports and application which we filled out while waiting. (You'll need to show divorce papers if that be the case). The whole matter was quite simple plus a $100 fee and a small affidavit fee. It is a lot simpler as lead to believe from the Abaco message Board. The one day wait requirement is from your arrival into the Bahamas NOT from presentation of the papers. We were in and out in no time and even had time to hit an ATM before meeting our friends at 10:00.
Hope Town Harbour Entrance
Hope Town Harbour Lodge Park
The Thompsons arrived on time and we were off to the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. We booked a pool side cabana and they a cottage thus eliminating the water pressure problems the Lodge has on the top floors. We headed straight away to use our fee drink coupon at the pool side bar and had lunch. Our assignment for the afternoon was to meet Preacher Vernon and his daughter Bonny to work our our wedding arrangements. That done we headed to Captain Jacks for a quickie where we met up with a local artist in woodwork, Perrec Petry. We got to chatting and he took us to his studio on the Sea of Abaco, west side of Elbow Cay and only accessible by boat is a section called Fryes Mangrove and was once the home of the famous "Elbow Cay Club".
I didn't have my camera and would have liked to take some picts of his lovely carvings which he sells world wide. His studio is adjacent to the Tomato Paste Cottages and soon he will be linked to their website. He'll be worth a look. While at Jack's we heard that on Mondays they play Bingo - no kidding. So Larry and Tiny and ourselves went back for dinner and serious wagering.
Tuesday was hot and sunny. We took it easy read a little and stayed close to port. We wound up across the bay at Cracker P's for Lunch. Larry and Tiny must have had similar thoughts as they wound up there too on their boat. Why we rented two boats I'll never know. That afternoon I radioed The Abaco Inn to pick the four of us up for dinner at 7:30. Tuesday was buffet night. I'd call it a half buffet because you order your dinner of about 6 grilled items from a menu and choose from the buffet line your soup, salad and vegetable accompaniments. I highly recommend you try their Kebabs of Lobster, Fish and Shrimp. Its a sizable quantity and absolutely delicious.
Wednesday - The Big Day. We cruised through Hope Town and noticed the new Starbucks like coffee shop in town, WiFi and all, called appropriately enough the Hope Town Coffee House. Afterwards we took it easy and read a little more, stopped by the pool bar to see Garry but limited ourselves to one Kalik before the big occasion. It wasn't long before we were chatting with Cal Byers (AKA Jeep Byers) a local artist and writer. He presented us with a copy of his new book featured on our Abaco Reading Page. He told us in all of his books, the main character at one point or another touches down in Abaco. It was lots of fun chatting and laughing with him.
At 6:15 we arrived at the church. Bonny was still setting things up. We had chosen not to have a photographer just for the four of us so Bonny accepted my request to take a few pictures with my camera. They all came out great. Vernon's service was truly heart felt and spiritual. All of us were enamored by his service which got underway at 6:30. He touched you even though you might be a stranger. Afterwards we stepped out to the sea side of the Church and Bonny took some more pictures before heading back to the Lodge for our special dinner. Recently is was published the Vernon reached the milestone of having presided over his 500th wedding, I asked where we fit in the scheme of things? We are number 618!
If you have need of Bonny's wedding services including her Dad, she can be reached at Barefoot Brides / Hope Town Weddings, By the way, by day Vernon runs his grocery store and is the islands baker. If you get a craving for a cake or pie, go see Vernon. He will gladly make it for you.
That evening we had our special table in the Lodges dining room overlooking the lighthouse and where we enjoyed our dinner. Then we migrated to Ray's Place the adjoining bar (reminiscent of Rick's Place in Casablanca). It's a smoking bar cigars too, they'll even sell you a Cuban, so the men lit up and enjoyed a cognac. The women, Tia Maria.
Thursday, Larry returned his boat and they jumped into ours. We headed south to Pete's Pub with a stop at the Pelican Cays. We had to for go the Sandy Cay underwater park as it was a gray and breezy day. Dinner that evening was at the Harbours Edge.
Friday Larry and Tiny left for home. As I mentioned we met the Thompsons a few years back and try to connect each spring in Abaco. Prior to his retirement Larry worked for NASA and trained all the Gemini and Apollo Astronauts in their simulators. Their son is the comedian Carrot Top.
That evening there was a scheduled shuttle launch at 7:38 from the cape only 180 mile to our west hovever our western horizon was cloud covered. Still we watched intently when the cloud above us seemed to brighten up. Then we saw the shuttle pass over in a hole in the cloud. An exhilarating sight.
Saturday, early in the morning, I radioed the Sea Spray Resort for a dinner reservation as I heard Abaco's newest band would be performing. Afterwards, Debbie and I jumped into the boat and headed north for a quick stop at Man-O-War and of course the Canvas Shop on the way to Nipper's. I have to say that the prices there are in line with Gucci and Prada - Yikes! We got to chatting with Tommy at the Man-O-War Marina as we have a common friend in the internet business who designed the Marinas and other Abaco Websites. Then it was off to Guana and Nippers. We said hi to Milo and checked out Johnny Nipper's new restaurant the Dolphin Beach Resort called Docksiders. Some folks may remember it as the Blue Water Grill. Unfortunately it is only opened for dinner and we didn't get the opportunity to get inside.
Pass seperating Guana Cay from its southern neighbor Scotland Cay
That Evening the Sea Sprays van was right on time to pick us up. We dined outside on their pool deck by their Tiki bar as the Hope Town Islanders started playing. I hear tell the group was organized when an American homeowner was planning a party and wanted a band. there was no official band thereabouts. So with the help of Junior, Sea Sprays manager, and drummer he put together a group of old high school friends. Only problem no drums! So the party giver had a set sent over from the States. That's the way I heard it.
The five piece band plus Chad as lead singer is quite good. Chad has all the right moves reminiscent of Smoky Robinson. They play traditional Bahamian Music plus a little rock and contemporary songs. The Gully Roosters finally has some competition in the Abacos.
Sunday, the morning of departure, while having coffee I got to chatting with our neighbor Chris Clarige and his wife Tara. Chris runs the Out Island Internet (WiFi) service. The big surprise was that he has a streaming link to Cruisers Net. It's on his page under audio services. NOTE: broadcast is an hour out of sync with the usual 8:15 start - it's all explained. I can imagine folks up in the frozen northland in winter listening to Patti with their morning coffee.
- - - - - Ø - - - - -
This year's trip weather looked like this:
I mentioned this last year but think it needs mentioning again since there has been no change. There is no cooperation between the resorts on Green Turtle Cay. If you want to have dinner other than where you are staying, you'll have to hike in the dark or rent a golf cart. And if you want to go to New Plymouth, there is only a single 2 hour day trip available. a situation unheard of on Elbow Cay.
We heard reports about the Pacific Lionfish being spotted in Abaconian waters. It's a beautiful fish but has very poisonous spines. It wont bother you; just don't touch it. Update #3
After arriving home, the first line of print of the June 14th business page of the NY Times went like this As you may have heard Air Travel this summer isn't going to be pretty - No Kidding!
Our flight home was one of those.. We arrived at the Continental / Gulfstream desk in Marsh Harbour and hour and a half before departure at 2:00. Nobody was in line - amazing so we promptly checked in and headed over to the airport restaurant for lunch and a last Kalik.
At 1:30 they announced that our flight was late to arrive at 2:40.
At 2:15 they said the flight would be late to arrive at 3:40.
At 3:15 they said the flight would be late to arrive at 4:40.
(at this point another Lauderdale flight arrives - and departs)
At 4:15 they said the flight would be late to arrive at 5:40.
At 5:20 they said the flight HAD FINALLY TAKEN OFF and would be late to arrive at 6:25.
We eventually took off after 7. After clearing customs we had to take a buss to another terminal where we were booked on a 7AM flight to Tampa and issued our vouchers. We missed both Tampa Connections and were put up in a Holiday Inn along with everybody else on the 20 seater plane. Unfortunately the Holiday Inn dining room closed at 9:00 and more importantly their bar also (I really needed a Drink). Not to worry, we were told, our vouchers, also work at Denny's. I really needed a "Grand Slam".
Monday - Up at 5 AM this morning and were back in Sarasota by 9:30 AM Monday. Oh. in both legs of the trip, as the plane was landing the automatic message comes on about not unsnapping your seat belt until the plane comes to a complete stop etc, and "We Hope You Enjoyed Flying With Continental / Gulfstream". You gota be kidding! The irony here is; I didn't follow my own suggestion found on my Air Carrier Page that travelers connect through West Palm Beach as we did last year in record time. If we'd have, we could have eliminated all this hassle.
During the lengthy delay in our return flight while sitting on the bench in front of the terminal. A large silver SUV pulled up. Out jumped some uniformed police along with the Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingram. A couple of men in business suits also tagged along and the whole entourage walked right through the terminal building to a waiting Bahamas Air Plane. Wouldn't know, this whole situation caught me off guard that I forgot to pull out my camera in time.