My Early Days in Abaco, on Green Turtle Cay
or as the Abacos Come of Age.
by Sandy Estabrook
As part of My Guide to the Abacos, Bahamas
- Evolution of the Bahamian Dollar Bill -
(Click on above to enlarge and show reverse side.)
Bahamas Monetary Authority (British) 1968, The Central Bank of the Bahamas 1973, Improved Design 1974,
Columbus Land fall Commemorative 1992, New Queen Portrait 1996.
First President Pindling 2001, 2008 & 2017
I have been vacationing in The Abacos almost annually since 1973. The earlier times almost exclusively at the Green Turtle Club on the Cay of the same name. (Map in Relation to U.S.) That was just months prior to their independence from Great Britain. The Abacos fought to remain part of the British Commonwealth but failed in their bid to do so. However Turks and Caicos the two most southeasterly islands, remained under the British crown.
The 70's was the era of Mackey Airlines, Eastern Express, Out Island Airlines and others all of which have come and gone. Things have changed considerably since those times. Back in the 70's, there were no cars on the cays and only a couple hundred local residents on Green Turtle. By 2000 there are over 600 not including tourists. Electricity was only provided for the village of New Plymouth by the town generator. The two resorts at the other end of the cay had their own generators, but no matter where you stayed power was intermittent at best. For this reason, a flash light was a necessary item and usually the first thing we packed. Eventually the north end of Green Turtle was wired to the town plant then in 1997 Green Turtle started getting it's electricity directly from the mainland of Great Abaco.
The New Plymouth Inn was then owned by Harold Lowe, and managed by Bill and Donna Rossbach. Mr. Lowe sold the New Plymouth Inn to Walter Davies, who in turn appointed his son Wally Jr. as innkeeper. In the meantime the Rossbachs would go on to become the managers at the G.T.C. Around the same time, Walter Davies also purchased the Bluff House and set up his son Leslie and daughter Melissa as Managers. Wally Jr. still owns the Inn (2009). Donna and Bill continued running the Green Turtle Club through the early 90' for the Charleswoth family only now with their heirs now coming aboard. About the same time, an additional managing couple, Julie and Chris Farrington were brought aboard to assist the Rossbachs.
The Charlesworth's son-in-law Roger eventually took full management responsibility and over saw the departure of Donna, Bill, Julie and Chris. The happenings from this point forward pertaining to the GTC and the Bluff House is the stuff of a novel. Yet through it all remained Bartender Debbie, who in 2016 celebrated her 35th anniversary in that position. Oh, the New Plymouth Inn closed in 2006 and was put up for sale. With no luck in that regard it opens and closed periodically depend on the whim of it's owner.
The last quarter of the last century, can still be described as my "Good ole days in the Bahamas". Water in the outlying cays was exclusively obtained from the rain caught in cisterns and sometimes barged in during drought. Today you will find desalinization (reverse osmosis) equipment at the resorts and marinas. For marinas guests, water can cost upwards of 30 cents a gallon - a pretty penny to wash down your yacht.
1st visit 1973. Shown: Mackey Airlines DC6 at the old Treasure Cay Airport. - That's me on a later visit 1977 also at TCB.
Another bygone carrier is Eastern Express shown here at Marsh Harbour. Some flying tales of those early days can be found at AbacoAirlines.com.
CB Radio was the primary means of communications between folks and their boats, ferry too. Now VHF marine radios have replaced CB's. Phone lines were limited and calls had to be made at the telephone company usually high on a hill away from the water and where the reception best. Time improved the situation but you'll seldom see a phone in your hotel room. Then things changed abruptly in the 90's which brought cellular, and is wide spread today, although not always accessible from all US cell companies.
The early 80's saw the rise of those massive satellite dishes adjacent to a charming little Bahamian house. Now-a-days, Direct TV has replaced those unsightly arrays with small dishes. Then in 1996 high tech really arrived in the Abacos with the arrival of Marsh Harbour's first internet site. As of spring '04 wireless internet (WiFi) service became available! And today, webcams have sprouted up at numerous locations in the Abacos. ALL the latter was made possible by single handed efforts of "everybody's friend", the late Sinclair Frederick who passed away in 2005. During the late 90's with the aid of Mr. Cecil Mills, the Abacos realized its first radio station in Marsh Harbour - Radio Abaco, 93.5 FM. It's A low power station that just barely reaches Green Turtle Cay. Mr. Mills not happy with radio, in 2009 went on the air with Abaco's first TV station, all be it on an intermittent basis.
The flag to the left was the British Colonial Flag prior to independence which was replaced by the flag to the right.
The new Crest or Great Seal of the Bahamas shown below is features on the back of most of the Bahamian Dollars above.
Mr. Lynden Pindling, of the progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was the often controversial first prime minister the Bahamas since independence from Britain in 1973. After nineteen years in office with the latter part being tainted with corruption, 1992 saw the election swing to the Free National Movement (FNM) and Mr. Hubert Ingraham as Prime Minister. As a result the Abacos moved forward and developed at a far greater pace. No doubt it's growth was a reflection of the booming economy in the US during the the same period. But this writer would suggest that it had more to do with Mr. Hubert Ingraham who unlike his predecessor directed massive improvements to the infrastructure of the less developed out islands. Add to this his tourist friendly policies and the fact that he happens to be a native of Coopers Town on the island of Great Abaco. No longer were the cruising folks required to leave after 6 months or pay a 25% duty on the value of their boat. American investment in a home no longer carried the fear of being heavily taxed or even nationalized. Ingraham policies for the most part are still intact today. The 2002 election saw the election of new prime minister, Perry Christie (PLP) of Nassau defeating Mr. Ingraham who then took his old house seat in Coopers Town, Abaco. Disenchantment with Mr. Christie set in during the next five years and Mr. Ingraham was elected once again in 2007. But wait! Mr. Christie was elected again in the spring of 2012. The big news, and subject for it's own webpage was the dubious arrival of the Chinese in 2017.
Today's populace of the Abacos can trace their ancestors to the loyalists who settled here in the late 1700's during our revolution. Fact is, on Man-O-War Cay the boat building capitol of the Abacos, 70% of it's inhabitants can trace their ancestry to the first Albury who at age 16 fathered the first of 13 children with his 13 year old wife. The Cay's residents have a lot of similar looking features (understandably). Many attend college in the states and have taken to marry Americans in recent times. Today the family names of those original settlers still predominate the Abacos. More so on some cays than the others. Some of those names are Bethel, Sawyer, Lowe, Albury, Malone, Sands, Thompson, Roberts, Pinder and Macintosh.
One of the most fascinating Abaconians I've met but not in Abaco is Hope Town native Robert Carey, AKA, Robert I. Carey, MD, PhD Urology and early pioneer of robotic surgery. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Carey at Sarasota Memorial Hospital where I volunteered for 16 years. We'd chat about his early days in Hope Town and the fact that his grandmothers home is still there. Such a world renowned man from this small out island settlement. An earlier story is here.
In 1990 we moved to Longboat Key (Sarasota) Fl. This afforded us the ability to travel to the Abacos and see the islands the way they should be seen, by boat. I made six trips in all in three different boats and all named Motu Iti. Their stories are here
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For some serious reading on the Abacos, pick up a copy of The History of an Out Island and it's cays by Steve Dodge. Its available throughout the islands or at his website White Sound Press. Or for other books and fun reading,
There are two museums on the Abaco Cays that exhibit artifacts of earlier times.
On Green Turtle Cay there is the Albert Lowe Museum and in
Hope Town, the Wyannie Malone Museum,
named after Hope Town's first settler in 1875.
For a more still more detailed synopsis, please read Abaco Live Magazine.
And to put things into perspective of those good old days read what Sarah Bird Wright
has to say in a Travel Section Article in the NY Times dated Jan. 1987. (click logo)
As Sarah includes mention of the Sea View Restaurant we sent Maxine McIntosh a copy of the article
which she prowdly hung on the restaurant's wall. That article is here