Can’t believe it is so long since I have done a blog. Being the second time we have done this trip we are much more relaxed and when I go ashore I think – should I take my big camera? …. Nah!! So I have fewer photos to spur me into sharing. But there is no excuse for the long delay except that it was the holiday season and we were busy.
December in Hope Town is non-stop. Lots of annual events, and there is a wonderful network of volunteers, both local and those who are regular visitors, who make sure that there’s always something on the go. One of those events is the Soap Box Derby. Garth, having built and raced soap box carts at varsity, was keenly interested. Unfortunately I had put my back out and was having a (wonderful!) massage so got there late with the camera. The children went first and my photos show the competitors being towed back to the top of the “big hill” for another heat. The girl in the checked shirt was the overall winner – I saw her coming down the hill, hell for leather, and she did a spectacular wipe-out at the bottom. Missed a telephone pole by inches, but went back undeterred.
We took a trip down to Little Harbour and visited Pete’s Pub – a legendary stop when you are in the Abacos. Everyone leaves a t-shirt hanging in the eaves – I think it was hit by one of the recent storms as most of the shirts only seem to go back to about 2015 or so. There are wonderful walks on the harbor side and also the Atlantic side – the wind was howling so we stayed in the calm. I loved the humor of the “palm room” and the “bump” was a 10’ length of 4” braided fishermans’ rope lying across the road.
Back to Hope Town with some threatening skies along the way.
When you are tied up in the harbor, all manner of craft pass you by. The supply boat comes in once a day and everything that comes into or goes out of the island gets unloaded and loaded. We were surprised to see a billiard table being towed on a float making its way through the anchorage to be loaded onto the ship.
Early one morning two men went sailing by – no engine – on their way over to Man ‘O War Cay. This is one of the traditional sailing boats which used to be the way everyone got from island to island in the early days. Man ‘O War is famous for its boat building tradition and they still make Albury Power Boats there- Garth really, really, would love to have one!
We went across to visit; the islands in the Abacos are only about an hour’s sail apart and it is very easy to hop around. Man ‘O War is very religious and used to be a dry island with no liquor allowed – only in the last few years did a restaurant open in the marina that got a permit to serve alcohol. It is boycotted by the local inhabitants, but much appreciated by the cruisers! We found a great coffee shop (Garth’s quest whenever we reach a new place!) which also houses a local history museum. So interesting to pore over all the found items and household goods that have been accumulated and donated – many of which I have owned and used myself (like the round washing machine on legs that has a mangle over the top – made me feel like a bit of a museum piece myself!). Walking around I came across a beautiful old weathered house, and also realized that Santa must get very hot in this climate!
The school play in Hope Town was touted as not to be missed. We went – and agreed. They put on a production of Annie, with kids from 4-17. Full-on musical, with Annie being played by a girl of 10 with a most beautiful voice. She was the daughter of Ken, who runs our favorite restaurant, who is in turn the grandson of Margaret, 81, the island hairdresser. We both went for haircuts – actually one of the better ones I have had! It is a small, close community where everyone helps and supports everyone else. All proceeds go to local island charities, as do the proceeds from an art and craft show that we went to. The highlight as we got closer to Christmas, was the Christmas Village. (They had to wait for the Christmas play to be over so that they could borrow the stage from the community center for the village!) It opened after everyone had gathered, wearing red and green, at the beach where they had written Peace on Earth in big letters in the sand. Someone had a drone which flew over the crowd and took photos. They then created a Christmas Card with this picture that you could buy the next day .
The Christmas Village was fabulous! Food and drink and games and stalls with wonderful things to buy and …… an ice rink!!! They put down interlocking tiles of starboard to create the rink; real ice skates and the kids had a ball. They even had a snow machine! It was strange seeing them all dressed up in hats and jackets in the warmth – but they got into the swing of it. Even Santa!
On the last night everyone was invited to join in for caroling – we wound our way through the streets singing from song sheets – luckily, as there were some songs where I had no clue! Homeowners and establishments passed out drinks as we went by – and the volume increased along the way!! Barry Tulley from Annapolis, who has a house in Hope Town and comes for 6 months a year, is one of the main organizers (he used to be the choir master for the Naval Academy). He has a rousing voice and personality and it was great fun.
And then on the 22nd, Kate, Will and Penny arrived!! So much anticipation, and the visit was everything we hoped for. The kids are at the age where they are interested and enthusiastic about everything. After picking them up in Marsh Harbour, we stayed the night at the Jib Room – they had a steak night and a “rake and scrape” guy playing the saw who was just amazing! ( I have video on my phone and will try and find someone knowledgeable enough to help me make it a bit shorter and get it onto my computer to share). We spent Kate’s birthday and Christmas at Green Turtle Cay; attended the 10.30 carol service at the Anglican Church; visited the pigs again and then went down to Treasure Cay which has a well deserved reputation as one of the ten best beaches in the world. We swam, we ate (conch fritters being the kids’ food of choice on every menu!), we explored – had the best 8 days together. I will put another blog together with pictures of the kids – it says it all.
At New Plymouth we stopped at Pineapples. Garth enjoyed the bar, but I went down and watched as this old man cleaned and prepared conch salad. The freshest conch, mixed together with tomato, onion, green pepper and “cooked” with lime and orange juice and a dash of hot pepper – yum!
We went up to Manjack Cay and took the dinghy into the mangrove swamp. It is completely protected and the water was like glass. We must have seen 20 turtles – the water is so clear and shallow. We also saw two eagle rays but the pictures are on the underwater camera we borrowed from Melanie.
There is a path over the island – kids felt like explorers! – with a most beautiful beach on the other side. Just a perfect time with our family – we will never lose these memories.
Sadly they had to leave and our boat became organized again – but just so empty. I will post another blog along with this one with just pictures – I think it will be self explanatory – kids having a ball!!!
We are now down in the Exumas – and lots to share. So will start on another one as soon as possible and catch up. We are having a great time – travelling with Mel and Gary is always fun; we have had many, many gourmet meals on Second Sojourn drinking wonderful wine and watching beautiful sunsets.