Hope Town on Elbow Cay is the most scenic and charming island we have visited in the Abacos. We can see why it is a popular spot for cruising sailors and vacationers. The natural harbor offers protection from storms and all wind directions. The township is packed with delightful cottages. Instead of numbers, the cottages have adorable names such as The Little Yellow House or Tranquil Landing. The township is made up of narrow lanes just wide enough for one golf cart. The homes are packed in tightly and have small well kept gardens with tropical plants. While roaming down the side streets we often caught a slight aroma of garden flowers.
The first most notable feature of Elbow Cay is the candy striped Elbow Reef lighthouse standing 89 feet tall across the harbour from the township. This is one of only three kerosene powered lighthouses in the world and is one of only two remaining beacons saved from automation. During the darkness, every two hours, the lighthouse keeper must winch the very heavy weight system up to the top of the building. As gravity brings the weights down a series of bronze gears rotate the four-ton apparatus that turns the beacon. The beam of light rotates every 15 seconds warning ships of the nearby treacherous Elbow Cay reefs.
There is some irony here. When the lighthouse was built in the 1860’s, the local residents were adamantly opposed to the construction. The town prospered from the merchant ships hitting the reef. The cargo was raided from the distressed vessels and resold. The last thing the locals wanted was a light to warn the ships away. Now, the local residents fight to preserve the lighthouse. They raise funds to keep the structure sound and have thwarted several attempts to automate the lighthouse with an electric light. Parts are no longer available for the kerosene lamp and rotation system, so the residents have to have broken items custom made for any repairs. The lighthouse today works as it did when it was first lit over 150 years ago and continues to warn sailors. An image of the lighthouse is proudly exhibited on the Bahamian $10 bill.