May 18, 2018, aboard Krogen 50' Open "TOGETHER"
After a few days at Tahiti Beach, I was anxious to get to Hope Town to see another Bahamian Settlement, but also the famous candy cane striped Elbow Reef lighthouse. While we could have stayed at Tahiti beach and run our tender, "APART" (did you laugh at the name?) into Hope Town to see the lighthouse, we also needed to fill up our water tanks. While many cruisers install a watermaker, we decided to forgo one when the boat was built. Why? A watermaker is a piece of equipment that really should be utilized on a regular basis or else "pickled", a process that preserves the special (read: expensive) membranes for future use. With potable water so readily available in the US, and the operational constraint that watermakers are only useable where there is clean sea water, (meaning we would not use it while in the US), we skipped installing a watermaker and buy water in the Bahamas as we need. Now, 15 days after we filled our water tanks in Stuart (400 gallons total), we were down to about 30 gallons. What we found truly amazing is that we were able to live relatively normal lives over this period of time. We ran the dishwasher five times, did four loads of laundry and showered almost daily. Granted, they were not luxurious showers, but we stayed fresh and clean. Cost for the 370 gallons of water was $150. Not that expensive knowing that watermakers are at least $5,000 even if you build one yourself and the fully automated watermakers are in the $20,000 range.
Our trip to the lighthouse did not disappoint, although it was a bit of an adventure to get there. From the foot of the dock at the Hope Town Inn and Marina there was a sign for the lighthouse with an arrow on it. We followed the arrow which took us down a dirt road (I hesitate to use the word road as it was really more like a wide path) away from the marina. After a few hundred yards, we arrived at a fork in the road, but no sign. We guessed (correctly) that since we believed the lighthouse to be off to our right somewhere, we should take the right fork. A few minutes later we arrived at another fork where there was a sign that read “lighthouse through boat yard”. I was beginning to think we should have left bread crumbs! On through the boatyard we walked when we finally were able to see the lighthouse (the vegetation was so tall on the road), but it was on the other side of a fence! Had we missed the entrance? We walked further into the boatyard looking for a gate and found none. We walked nearly to the edge of the water in the boatyard and all we saw was fence. We even went behind one building and nothing but fence.
We were about to retrace our steps thinking that surely we had missed the entrance whe someone from the yard approached and said, “you looking for the lighthouse? Go all the way to the water and walk along the seawall”. Sure enough, the fence had ended along the seawall path and provided entre to the lighthouse grounds. For what was to become a really cool place to visit, and a major attraction, they sure did not make it easy to find. But we were finally here so we walked up the small hill to the base of the lighthouse.
Once there, we learned that the lighthouse is the last of its kind in the world – it burns pressurized kerosene just like a Coleman camping lantern. In fact, the Coleman company makes the one-of-a-kind mantle for the lighthouse and you can see the Fresnel lens by climbing just 101 steps. The whole thing is a marvel of still functioning engineering from 80 years ago which I found so interesting, I am sharing two paragraphs from their website with a few of my photos.
"The lens and turning equipment in this lighthouse, made in the early 1900s by Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England, is still in place today, working beautifully. The lighting source is a 325,000 candlepower "Hood" petroleum vapour burner. A hand pump is used to pressurize the petroleum (kerosene) in the heavy green iron containers below the lantern room. The fuel travels up a tube to a vaporizer which sprays into a preheated mantle. Pressurized camping lanterns operate similarly. The beautiful Fresnel lens with its five "bull's-eyes" concentrate the mantle's light into piercing beams straight out towards the horizon, instead of up and down and all around, as in a camp lantern.
The lens itself with its brass work, bull's eyes and additional prisms weighs about three or four tons and floats in a circular tub containing about 1,200 pounds of mercury or "quicksilver". This reduces the friction, which would otherwise be caused by wheels or rollers. Weights, when wound up to the top of the tower by a hand winch, are able to, through a series of bronze gears, rotate the heavy apparatus, once every 15 seconds. It works like a large grandfather or cuckoo clock, and the keeper on duty has to wind up the weights every two hours. The 19th century system operates totally without electricity and runs very smoothly, at that. Thanks to its dedicated keepers, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse continues to shine exactly as it has every night for almost 80 years."
After descending the lighthouse steps and making our way to the gift shop, the mystery and intrigue continued. The sign on the giftshop door read “Open daily, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm”. That is not a typo. The sign said 10 – 1 and 1 – 4. To boot, there was a big sign on the door that said they were open and the door was locked! We left a donation, departed the lighthouse grounds, walked back through the boatyard and down the paths to the marina. While it seemed like an eternity to get to the lighthouse, it was less than a ten-minute walk back.
Over the next few days we made several trips to the settlement of Hope Town proper. While I think Hope Town is physically smaller than New Plymouth on Green Turtle, it is certainly much busier and more touristy. Whereas families clearly lived in New Plymouth, most of the homes we saw in Hope Town proper were rentals, expensive rentals. Hope Town even has its own sailing club, complete with a competitive junior sailing program, another sign that not all Bahamian settlements are alike.
We took several nice walks while there, including one all the way to the northern tip of the island. Along the way, we encountered some unique signage and some stunning estate homes, most with their own structure (some were really like little houses) for the large generators that would automatically start and provide power to the home when the power would inevitably go out. While the sign post had signs from many North American destinations, I was surprised not to see one for Annapolis. We'll need to rectify the situation next year, unless I learn between now and then that the signs belong to the owners of the homes at this end of the island!