26˚ 32.32’N 76˚ 57.37’W (published March 2015)
“ONLY ENTER AND LEAVE HOPE Town on a high or rising tide,” we were warned with a good amount of seriousness during our navigation briefing at the charter base. And even though the cat we had waiting at the dock drew a modest four and a half feet, it seemed like good advice to heed for my first time transiting the narrow entrance. “Once you’re inside, though, it’s deep and you won’t want to leave for days,” he finished. Both ended up being true.
At high tide we slowly inched our way forward in the narrow entrance to Elbow Cay. With an eye on the depth meter, I watched as it went from seven to six feet, and never any lower. It would have been a much different story had we been there three hours earlier. Once inside the lagoon, we bee-lined for what seemed to be the last mooring ball available and quickly got two lines attached. It was a warm spring day and the sun was blazing. A gentle breeze worked through the mooring field, but it did little to cool us off, so we jumped in the dinghy and headed to shore in search of the beach and reef on the east side of the island.
We landed at a dock on the south side of town and made our way to Hope Town Harbour Lodge. Following a tip from sailors we had met in an anchorage just a few nights earlier, we were told that if we bought drinks at the bar we’d have access to the pool and beach. They didn’t steer us wrong and we spent the rest of the day alternating between the pool and beach, snorkeling the reef and enjoying rum punches at the bar with the friendly staff.
The following day we took the dinghy to the other side of the harbor to climb Hope Town’s iconic Elbow Reef Lighthouse and tour the grounds. Built in 1864 by the Imperial Lighthouse Service, it is one of the only remaining kerosene-burning lamps left in the world, and is probably the most photo-graphed landmark in the Abacos.
From there it was tempting to head back to the pool and beach, but high tide was closing in so we reluctantly got underway. It was true, we didn’t want to leave for days.