The Soul of the Abacos
A cruising crowd revisits their favorite Bahamas haunts and finds that much has changed, but the sailing, picturesque water and friendly people remain the same
Anchoring at Guana can be challenging and we knew to search out a spot clear of weeds. It took a little maneuvering to find where we wanted to be, as we expected the wind to continue to go south, and we wanted to be tucked in as close as possible. We dinghied ashore, continuing our quest for the best conch in the Abacos. Walking up the dock to Grabbers Bar and Grill, the conch hut caught our eye and we placed our order for conch salad. Grabbers outdoor bar has been rebuilt, with new ring toss games, hammocks and picnic tables. Our drinks arrived just before the conch salad, which was so fresh, tangy and bright. The conch fritters were deemed by some in our group to be the best of the trip, while my palate prefers a lighter touch of spice.
The beach side of Guana has beautiful beaches, but the riptide was robust, so swimming was not an option. A walk on the beach with a stop at the new grocery store for dinner supplies was all we needed. We then motored back to Man-o-War, anchoring off the narrows at the north end of the island, where another Cruise Abaco customer had also decided to drop anchor. The wind finally died down, and we spent the late afternoon swimming and grilling our dinner for our last night before returning to the marina.
During the night, the wind shifted to the west. I woke around 2 a.m., as I could tell the rhythm had changed: different halyards were slapping, the boom was creaking at a different speed, and the Helia 44 that I’d seen out the starboard port when going to bed had vanished.
I sat on deck for perhaps an hour. There was no moon, so I didn’t have much to look at, but I soaked in the scene with every other sense. The humid wind, coming in from Marsh Harbor, with a hint of smoke in the air, the sounds of the waves lapping at the hulls and breaking on the shore in the distance, but not much else. I knew the morning would bring the voices of workers in golf carts, hammering and other sounds of rebuilding, as the yellow home just a few yards away was getting a new Bermuda-style roof.
But in the dark, I couldn’t see the roof, or the storage sheds stacked with lumber, waiting to be used by the construction crews. I couldn’t smell the bread that would be baked to stock the shelves at Russell’s Convenience Store. The boarded-up buildings and dangerously askew docks were in the shadows, along with the turtles that can swim remarkably fast when you startle them and the lizards that scurry across the concrete and the friendly merchants who smile at the sunburned tourists who buy locally-made canvas bags. The morning would bring new sights, more turtles and cirrus-streaked skies and a pleasant sail back to Boat Harbor Marina, where were would just beat in a storm and a 40-plus-strong flotilla of sportfishing boats.
The week we spent in the Abacos was nothing short of miraculous, a sort of rebirth and rejuvenation for all of us. The weather was fantastic, the water was warm and turquoise, the company was delightful and our boat was so comfortable. While we had all been to these islands before, this trip was different. Six years ago was pre-Dorian and only three of our seven children existed. We found the name of the boat, In Context, to be so fitting. If we had just looked at the salt-ruined trees, the piles of debris, the closed signs on former restaurants, it would be easy to be disappointed in this adventure. Instead, we tried to put it all in context. We looked at the resilience of the people, the many businesses that have returned or emerged, the dozens of turtles we spotted, the money the sportfishing tournament was bringing to the community, and the flavors of the conch that tastes better sitting in Marsh Harbor than anywhere else in the world.