In January 2000, just three months after Hurricane Floyd ripped through the Bahamas, Barry and I first sailed into those pristine waters. Four years later, we were back, and after 2006, not a year went by that we weren’t sailing our stalwart Tartan37 among the “Family Islands” or renting a cottage on one of them when family wanted to visit or we needed a little time on dry land.
There are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, but we found ourselves drawn to one, Elbow Cay in the Abacos with its quaint Loyalist settlement and iconic candy-striped lighthouse. Three years ago, our visit to Hope Town coincided with Christmas. We fell deeply in love with the village – was it the lights? the caroling? the community spirit? – and by some miraculous coincidence, we were offered the opportunity to buy a cottage there. Our feet got planted for good.
Temperatures in the Abacos at this time of year average in the high 70s, so there’s no hope of snow, but that doesn’t stop villagers from throwing one of the biggest Christmas parties ever. Couldn’t be there this year? Join me now.
Deck the town with lights!
Our lighthouse, one of the last kerosene-fueled, hand-wound in the world, all 121 feet of her wearing a skirt of lights courtesy of the Hope Town Sailing Club.
Jason and Roger Malone win the yard decoration contest year after year.
Even the cemetery is lit at night, fairy lights that flit like the spirits of those who died here in a cholera epidemic in the 1850s.
On a happier note, the elementary school puts on their annual Christmas play. Two of the cast of thousands!
Almost everyone -- local residents, second home owners and cruising sailors -- shows up for Christmas caroling, while select residents stay home to provide singers with hot rum, egg nog and sangria to refresh our vocal cords as we wind our way through town.
Ending up at the ball field where for three nights in a row, the Christmas Village is in full swing. (That's our cottage, SeaLeggs, in the background!
No snow, no problem! Build an igloo out of milk jugs!
And thanks to a generous donor, the village has an artificial ice rink.
On the miniature golf course, the stockings, er, swim fins were hung by the chimney with care ...
... while waiting for Santa who arrives, as is island custom, in a golf cart.
Local restaurants provide food ...
Including Carleton, master conch salad chef. (Think ceviche!)
Arts and crafts, too. Here's my next door neighbor, Candy Key, selling items to benefit the lighthouse.
And what Christmas Eve would be complete without attending the Candlelight Service at St James Methodist Church?
One sunny afternoon, residents and visitors alike clambered over the dune, gathering on Hope Town's spectacular pink sand beach for a group shot taken by drone. Where's Marcia? First person to find me in the crowd wins a free copy of my latest novel, Footprints to Murder.
Happy Holidays from SeaLeggs!
[Photos by Marcia Talley, Monica Cook and several others.]