Poinciana atop the hill - N.P.

Frangipani after the rain

After school activities - N.P.

Dock at the Bay - N.P.

Lionfish cleaning table

Robertha's faith grocery

Bita Bay

Frank's Back Yard

Hill top tower view

Hope Town Cemetery

Hope Town's Newest - Wine Bar

Hope Town Garden

The most photographed chairs in Abaco

Bountiful Sea Grapes this year..??

This Year's Lighthouse Picture

HTHL Newly Landscaped Pool Entrance

Hope Town Path

Steve Dodge and myself

Abaco Regulars - Curlied Tailed Couple

Ray's Place

Junior and the Islanders

Lofty Fig Villas

Lots of charter boats awaiting captains

M O T U    I T I    II   showed up in Marsh Harbour!


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Sandy Estabrook's Abaco Guide Update No. 5

A supplement to Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos, Bahamas

The Green Turtle Club

For our ninth Abaco Update, I had to go it alone. My wife's job commitments kept her home and knowing my love of Abaco and my uninterrupted string of visits she insisted I go without her. She also preferred spending the few weeks she had off at our summer place in her home town on Lake Ontario, at Wilson, N.Y. The usual a minimum of two weeks was cut to one, and for the purpose of this update, I'll only report on what hasn't already been covered on our main page and previous updates

June trip wasn't without its surprises. I flew into Treasure Cay (Continental from Lauderdale), Hopped the ferry to New Plymouth and picked up a Golf cart at Sea Side Cart Rentals, across from the ferry dock then headed to the Green Turtle Club. I arrived in time to catch the tail end of the first annual Lionfish Derby. The Pacific Lionfish to be specific, has been written about here.

Because of the threat they cause to local fish species and unwary human folks, a market for Lionfish is being created by where ever these non indigenous fish are showing up. From the Caribbean to the Atlantic coast and especially the Bahamas the fish are really becoming a problem. On the plus side, their meat is ranks high along with snapper but the only threat is in filleting them and watching out one doesn't get poked by their poisonous spines. - Not a problem when cooked and on your plate.

L i o n f i s h

The Lionfish Derby went fantasticlly with 25 boats participating. These were all small boats in the 17 to 28 foot range. Catching was mostly by spear and believe it or not at the end of the day they had landed 1,408 fish! A few boats alone had over 70. And yes, four or five folks got poked by the fishes spines including Larry our ferry captain who brought us to G.T. Yes it is painful, worse than a jellyfish and only fatal if you are allergic to stings. Fortunately there were no serious problems and most were treated by squeezing the puncture area to remove excess venom then rinse with something acidic, Vinegar will do. Some claim urine will work but it's usually not acidic enough. Want to know more? Check out an August CBS News Brodcast on our Video Page.

Another Surprise, the Green Turtle Club now offers an ą la carte dinner menu. Before your dinner selection had to be made with your reservation (still preferred for the main dinning room). Now you can walk in at anytime and order a giant burger, local fish dishes and my favorite, conch salad. One special I tried was the sautéed grouper tossed with penne pasta in a light tomato cream sauce - delicious.

On this trip, I finally connected with the clubs new owners, brother and sister Adam & Ann Showell. They also run an establishment in Ocean City Md. I made the rounds, hit old haunts - Pineapples, Miss Emily's and the Wrecking Tree for some conch salad. I saw friends and went to the Alton Lowe Museum in town, something I haven't done in 15 years. Sadly I have to report it is still pretty much the worse for ware. Its lighting is poor, documents seem even more faded than I remember, or maybe it is the lighting. All in all a big disappointment as compared to the Wyannie Malone museum in Hope Town.

One evening at the G.T.C., I met a couple from Iowa. So what, one might ask. Well, this couple trailered their 31 foot triple outboard all the way from Iowa to Jupiter, Fl. where he launched the boat and headed for the Abacos, with a stop in West End, Grand Bahama for customs. From there what usually took me five hours took him three! Oh, did I mention, his wife doesn't like boating, she flew over from Florida and met him at Treasure Cay, Obviously she overcame her fears in the placid turquoise Abaconian waters having just come from T.C. to the G.T.C. for dinner.

New Plymouth

During my stay I met Sue Graves & Ken Jones. Both were there to officiate the Annual Green Turtle fishing tournament which had been canceled the last couple years as the club changed ownership. It was good to see all the activity especially around the scale and fish cleaning tables. Participants agreed that Billfish were NOT allowed to be landed.

Ken is a professional photographer that pretty much limits himself to all things fishing, and wildlife. He supplied me with the Lionfish photos shown here. “His website”. Sue I'd first met back in '93 on “my first trip” to the Abacos by boat. Small world.

I timed my trip so that my last night at Green Turtle would be spent with the Gully Roosters which play at the club on Wednesdays. And as always they draw a big crowd and half the towns folk "for the dancin'". The next morning I was off to Elbow Cay. Frank Delage who lives near Treasure Cay and who I met online as a result of his story on the “Little Harbour Caves”, offered to drive me from (G.T.) ferry dock on Abaco's mainland to the H.T. ferry dock ferry in Marsh Harbour normally a half hour drive or about an $85 taxi fare. We stopped at Frank's “Abaco Eco Nest” for a quick peak at his environmentally friendly home which he rents to vacationers. It’s off the main road facing a bay across from the resort area of Treasure cay. He explained there lies a “lens” about 6 feet thick of fresh water atop the sea water which is just below the ground. He showed me his well by lifting a hatch off a hole chiseled out of the hard limestone the island is made of. He has even set up his water storage tank outside, painted it black with mirrors amplifying reflected sunlight which serves as his hot water heater. All in all quite interesting. And yes he has a electricity A/C and direct TV for his rental guests.

Heading South along Queens Hwy., Frank pointed out a hill on the Sea of Abaco side of the road. It had quite some elevation a hundred feet or more it seemed. (I have not seen a higher place in all of Abaco). And atop the hill was a tower that I was told was built by real estate interests for prospective clients to view the surroundings. We climbed it and I took a couple picts.

From there it was off to Jamie’s Place, a popular restaurant with locals, and businessmen and close to the ferry dock. We finished by 1:45, plenty of time for the 2:00 ferry to Hope Town.

Upon arrival at the town dock, I spotted Wilma the proprietor of Elbow Cay Carts. She had a pretty new cart waiting for me. All her carts are new and of a sleek less boxy design. It even had directional signals! When not involved with her cart business, you'll find her working at the Abaco Inn

I headed south to the Abaco Inn. Frankly I haven’t stayed there for a few years but heard of a change of management and wanted to check it out. Much to my surprise Judy accompanied by her husband John were in charge once again. Actually Judy was the manager when we were there some years back but new ownership after Hurricane Floyd brought changes, of which Judy was a casualty. The A. I. kind of went down hill from there in this mans opinion. Two managers later, and the passing of one of the owners, Judy is back. Under the circumstances I’ll reserve comment on the A.I., however changes are in the works.

I checked in, unpacked and headed to Captain Jacks for Trivia Pursuit night, hoping team up with Roy & Katie, Bahamians I’ve known for years. Stafford Patterson, of Captain Plug’s Adventures fame, another Hope Town Local joined us making it a foursome. I cant reveal how we did, it’s too embarrassing.

The next morning it was coffee at the A.I. bar where there usually gathers a group of expatriates. This was something I looked forward to on each trip to Elbow Cay as a way to catch up on things. Steve Dodge the illustrious author of the Cruising Guide to the Abacos is often in attendance. He told of some changes to next years edition, one of which at my suggestion by e-mail during the year. Stay tuned. One of the other fellows of note was Harry Weldon, a pilot and who made a website offering large Abaco Aerial Photos suitable for screen savers and wallpaper. His site also offers a Hi-Res Webcam from his beach.

Beach Scene

After the gang broke, It was off to town and breakfast at Jacks. Then I made the rounds and took many of the photos you see here. Frankly so much has been photographed before and found on my Guide or other updates. Lunch was the The Pool Bar at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge with everybody's favorite bartender Gary.

That evening started off at Captain Jack’s. I tried a new (to me) drink called a SWIDGEL. For generations, in numerous Caribbean & Bahamian songs, Calypsonians sang about “Gin & Coconut Water”. That’s a Swidgel or as it’s called elsewhere Gully Water or Sky Juice. Understand its made with the water inside a coconut, not the pureed canned paste used for pina coladas. A little milk is added and of course your alcohol of choice. Many islands being at one time British, Gin was and still is the popular favorite.

Continuing on that evening I headed to Ray Brown’s Birthday Party at the town’s newest spot, “Wine Down, Sip Sip” It’s proprietor is none other than Bonnie Hall, preacher Vernon’s daughter. Yes Bonnie still runs Barefoot Brides/Hope Town Weddings. As for Ray Brown whose birthday I was attending, I didn’t know him, never met him. The invitation came to me via a friendly passerby and regular Hope Town visitor, Sarah whom I met on the street that morning. Hey, that’s the way things happen in Hope Town.

Now back to SIP SIP. It’s a lovely wine bar with numerous couches, small tables and WiFi. House snacks are served gratuitously. In addition to her extensive wine list, all available by the glass, Bonnie also offers a limited alcohol selection including cognac and cordials. Smoking is done in a yard outside. She’s closed on Sunday.

Afterwards the party, it was back to Jacks for bite and hear what Clint, Jack’s son and DJ was playing. I got to chatting with an Hope Town expatriate Dan MuCully. The subject was “The Bahamian Rage” something that always had my interest but of which I knew little. Well Dan helped me get it straight. The Rage is a class of sailing craft that were once used as a fishing sloop. They are made of wood and still being made today. Regattas are scheduled through out the year at different Bahamian Island locations. Last weekend being at Long Island. The super bowl of the event takes place in George Town Exuma. If you wand to know more Click Here.

A b a c o    I n n

Saturday was uneventful, Lunch at back at the Reef Bar with Gary. The Evening started at Jacks with a stop at Ray’s Place at the Lodge where I finally caught up with Ray, the proprietor of the Lodge. Ray’s Place has always been reminiscent to me of Ricks Place from Casablanca, a gathering place for locals and expatriates alike. Conversation was lively causing me to stay longer than intended. Ray, always the quintessential gentleman, picked up my tab. What I didn't know then, by the end of the year, sadly he would no longer be with us. So many will miss him.

I still had one more stop before leaving the next morning. From there it was down to the Sea Spray for a night cap and few tunes by Jr. and the Islanders a great local band. Junior is the Sea Spray’s every-smiling and popular manager.

Sunday after the buffet breakfast at the Abaco Inn, I checked out, boarded the ferry and it was off for my last day in Marsh Harbour. After the short ferry ride and taxi I checked into the “Lofty Fig Villas”. It’s owner Sid Dawes, was at the desk. The Fig is right on the main drag close to everything although of half everything is closed on Sunday. Still half was for me.

The Lofty Fig was a very pleasant surprise. There are only six units and all are efficiencies. Mine unit was cleaner than even some resort accommodations I've stayed. I’ve recommended (on other pages) that a night in Marsh Harbour before departure from the Cays is a great way to gently slide back to reality when leaving the Abacos. The leisurely pace in the morning you depart is a great sedative if you can afford the time.

Surprising Finale:I was sitting at Curly Tails at the Conch Inn over looking the harbour when I spotted a Catalina 34'. Two boats back our boat was a Catalina Islander '34. It was the only Power boat made by the reputable sailboat folks. After dinner, I meandered over to take a look for nostalgic reasons. Certain little things started to click. The first being the bracket I made to hang my dinghy engine. Then the extension canvas over the cockpit. Too much was telling me this was my old boat, no longer Motu Iti but "Madrick". (And as I would later find out for Madeline & Rick).

I knocked on the boat, the owners came out and I asked then if they bought their boat from a man in Punta Gorda. The answer was yes! This was my old boat Motu Iti II! We chatted and naturally talked all sorts of technical stuff and of some of trips made to Abaco aboard "their boat", the “last being 1997” before my Glacier Bay Cat, Motu Iti III. They have been coming every year since 2001, I mentioned to them that I have a picture of my or their boat, anchored in front of the Hope Town Light house, They replied, they already have it. Seems the folks I sold my boat passed it along to them. Motu Iti along with the second boat owner's name are painted on the inside wall of the hull, I presume to eliminate any superstition about changing a boats name.

Monday it was off to Jamie's Place my new found discovery for breakfast. Its just a 7-8 minute walk from the Lofty Fig or Conch Inn in the direction of the ferry dock. From there I headed hailed a taxi the Airport for a departing Kalik with Ruthie at the "7 till Late" before my flight to Lauderdale and my 3 hour drive across the state to Sarasota.

S c h o o l    R e c e s s

In Summary: This trek was my first alone. I can say it was lonely at times to be without Debbie in this lovely part of the world. I’d describe my visit as a business trip - updating my website. It was also the first trip I didn't rent a boat. And I violated one of my sacred principals, I brought my lap top. I had an excuse since I was traveling alone and since I started accepting advertising in the form of banner ads on My Abaco Guide.

Abaco had been unusually dry with just three rain storms of note from fall through spring until three weeks before I arrived June 8th. Then it rained non stop for those weeks bringing out mosquitos in droves like no one can remember. I swear they even caught up with my golf cart. Their live expectancy s about 6-10 days then they will abate, barring heavy rain. My wife & I would often lay out in a hammock gazing at the stars at night with no problem. If she had to skip a trip this was a good year.

Economically speaking, I chatted with management of many of the resorts and their story was the same; Business is off 30 - 50% with future bookings impacted the most, despite the many bargains and reduced rates being offered. One general complaint is the cost of airfare especially for just the short hop from Southeast Fla. $300 +. And speaking of travel, one thing I learned, of importance to visitors; The reason they want you to check in so early before departure, is not to deal with lines, but to allow time for your passport number to clear with Homeland Secutity. It’s not uncommon to have heard of a passenger arriving 15 minutes before departure and not be allowed to board even on a half empty plane.

In Marsh Harbour, I observed the docks were full of Moorings & Sunsail's Charter Boats, and the usually over crowded harbour mooring field was 30% of what it usually is this time of year. Even the “Cruisers Net” seemed less active than usual. And finally, "visits" to my website showed the first down turn this April and May and that's since it started in '05. No doubt folks are just not traveling as much. ..

Trip TRIVIA learned:
Kalik, the local brew comes in Light 4.5% Alcohol, Regular 5.0% and Gold 7.0% or three lights equals two golds!.
I was told an old Bahamian tale regarding Sea Grapes. During years of abundance, and this is one of those years, one can expect a hurricane. Hopefully not, but time will tell.
Hope Town will also be having a Lionfish derby next year.
The Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay closed their elegant upper dining room and bar and is having serious struggles and for sale. Happily the new Plymouth Inn was open on my visit.
I never knew the late Miss Emily's daughter Violet's brother Michael, owns the Wrecking Tree, just steps away.
Till now the Green Turtle fishery had been the only turtle species allowed to be caught. But it now seems that turtle harvesting will be shut down permanently.
I was told back in the late 60's a major hotel chain wanted to build a hotel on the fragile north end of Elbow Cay. The town folks were unanimously against it even though it had gov't. approval. Then the developer was simply told them "If you build it we'll burn it". It never got built.
Believe it or not, there is a second traffic light up in Marsh Harbour. It was flashing for a while, now it's not working at all, but don't give up.
November around thanksgiving Hope Town has its Soap Box Derby a major event and fun time in Abaco. Folks from Akron beware. It takes place on the big hill south of Hope Town

The Weather