A newcomer to the Abacos, Alex registers increasing dismay at our lack of concern about his bag. It’ll turn up, everyone promises. He looks even less convinced when he realizes that the only way to get to Elbow Cay, our final destination, is by boat. But sure enough, the very next morning, his suitcase shows up on our doorstep. See, Alex? Told you so!
Six years ago, a friend of my father’s tipped him off to the tiny settlement of Hope Town on Elbow Cay, a six-mile-long angled island in the Abacos. Marked by its signature red-and-white striped lighthouse, Hope Town is the kind of place that has one of just about everything: There’s one liquor store, one post office and one bank that’s only open for four hours on Tuesdays. The town is lined with tiny colonial-looking houses in a palette of tropical hues. Only pedestrians and the occasional golf cart pass by, and bougainvillea, hibiscus and the Bahamian yellow elder flower perfume the air.
For some reason, my family never seems able to get to Hope Town without any hiccups. On our last trip, the heavens opened just as we left the Marsh Harbour marina, smiting us with an epic electrical storm that left us — and our luggage — completely soaked. This time, the day is flawless as we set off aboard the boat we’ve rented for the week, mostly to get us to and from Marsh Harbour and out to the Sunday pig roast at Nipper’s on the island of Great Guana Cay. Small cotton-ball clouds gently punctuate the blue sky, and only the ripple of our wake interrupts the glassy turquoise sea.
Soon we pass the familiar lighthouse and my favorite sign, at the entrance to the marina: “Slow Down. You’re in Hope Town.” I’ve come to take this both literally and figuratively. For me, Hope Town is synonymous with decompressing, disconnecting and taking a hiatus from the mad dash of life. On the literal side, I know from experience that in these shallow waters, one wrong move and we’ll be in the water pushing our boat off the sand banks.
We don’t make any navigational mistakes until we head for Two Rock Reef, the four-bedroom house we’ll be calling home for the next 10 days. That’s when we walk to the wrong beachfront house and spend a good while lounging on someone else’s deck until we find it a bit too odd that the door is locked and there’s no key for us to let ourselves in.