Cities of the Abacos
10 April 2016 | Abaco
Or as they call them, Settlements. We visited several and they offered very different aspects of life in the Abacos.
Marsh Harbor is the 'big' city with several large marinas, shops, hardware stores and banks that are open most days. We easily found a good selection of ice cream and liquor. There are cars that go fast (on the 'wrong'' side of the street), and trucks that take up most of the two lane road. There are even a few sidewalks. Most cruisers stop in Marsh Harbor to provision because the Maxwell grocery is as huge as a Pick N Save with the same kind of selection, albeit higher priced (it is on an island after all). There are also many restaurants from the local conch stand to a lovely colonial-style house with gourmet menu. Right next to our marina we found a sports bar with several TVs on which to watch the NCAA tournament games. Marsh Harbor is very much ike home.
In contrast, the other towns are on smaller islands, more remote but each with it's own charm. In common, each was settled by Loyalists to the Crown after the American Revolution. Hopetown appears to be the vacation choice of many. The harbor, filled with boats on mooring balls, is surrounded by hills dotted with quaint cottages of many hues offered for rent. Transportation is via golf cart, if you can get one, (we couldn't) or ferry from one side of the harbor to the other. The properties are beautifully kept, with unbelievable flowers of every color. Streets are narrow, some are restricted to foot traffic only. In support of the tourists, there are numerous shops offering Bahamian goods, a several restaurants offering daily specials. Nightly entertainment is available as well as weekly Bingo. Hopetown handles trash for transients three days a week. Cruisers dinghy their trash bags to a designated dock for disposal (in contrast to many communities where cruisers pay up to $5 per bag for disposal).
West of Hopetown is Man O War, on the Cay of the same name. We visited there by ferry with Beth and Toby when the weather did not allow us to sail. Boats who do go there must take a mooring ball in one of two narrow harbors. Again, the only transportation is golf cart, and we did rent one to traverse the island. The roads are about as wide as one cart, so meeting a cart from the opposite direction means finding a place to pull over. There are two highlights at Man O War. One is the Albury Brothers Boat Company, where most of the island boats have been built for years. All of the ferry boats bear this name and are run by a member of this family. The other shop is a canvas shop where bags are made from sailcloth and remnant sails. I have one given to me that I've used as my main sailbag for fifteen years. Our cart trip took us out to The Low Place, where only a narrow band of coral separates the Sea of Abaco from the Atlantic Ocean, and you have magnificent views from every angle. We have put this on our list of places to anchor next year as we didn't have the weather to do so this time.
Finally, we visited New Plymouth, on Green Turtle Cay, after transiting the Whale Channel on a calm day. Whale Channel is notorious for dangerous sailing as the whole area is surrounded by reefs and if the wind is out of an unfavorable direction, passage is impossible. Since we are anchored in White Sound, a couple of miles north of the town, we rented a golf cart to get there by land. The drive along the ocean beaches was breathtaking. We were surprised that New Plymouth was so quiet with the number of tourists visiting both by boats and at the resorts. There are several restaurants and bars, a few shops, a hardware store a couple of groceries and a bank open one day a week (We learned the same people service the island banks, visiting a designated island one day a week for limited hours). But there are many boarded and shuttered buildings. The highlight of our afternoon was a stop at the Blue Bee Bar, where Miss Emily first invented the Goombay Smash. Her daughter mixed up two for us as she explained that Goombay means celebration for Bahamians.