Abaco: First Impressions

 Waking up to a pastel sky on our pre-dawn flight out of New England.

Waking up to a pastel sky on our pre-dawn flight out of New England.

We didn't plan on this. Eight months ago we signed the charter contract for two weeks in December on fully crewed Yacht Promenade, our go-to trimaran in the British Virgin Islands. Then, in July, the Promenade was lost in a fire. So we chartered a bareboat and hired a crew of our friends to fly in. Then, in September, Hurricane Irma destroyed the Islands. Now we were left with no boat and a crippled island chain. Then Randall, a friend of ours from Maine said, "have you checked out the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas?"  We made the switch, and were very grateful our guests switched with us. We are also very grateful for Randall, who graciously showed us his favorite swimming spots.  Thanks, man.

Not so fast, mister. Sure, the Abacos look like a great place to swim, but we have no boat there, no captain, no chef, no deckhand, no island man or woman to drive us around and give us advice. So we got to work. Lots of research. Found the right boats via our friend Kerry. Switched the crew's flights. Lost a chef.  Found an old chef friend. 

Bareboats, as the name suggests, are boats that aren't equipped with much more than sheets and towels and a steering wheel. Fitting up a bareboat for 8 guests, "full board" (all meals) is a trick. Back in Maine, we bought a bunch of soft YETI coolers and filled them with things like duct tape, clothes pins, and garbage bags. 

Just before landing here in the Bahamas today, I looked down on the Abacos chain. Lots of interesting little islands ringed wth blue water.  Sparsely developed. Good. Once on the ground, I saw big cypress trees, an airport terminal with clean lines, good signage and and friendly ground crew and customs workers. First impressions are important. 

Our bungalow rental came with a driver, Abigail. She greeted us outside the terminal and led us to her big Chevy, which I noticed could hold 8 passengers and a LOT of gear. We talked a little. She was born and raised here on Great Abaco, and has a bright smile and an intimate knowledge of the area. We immediately hired her for all of our transportation needs, including picking up all of our guests. Our first order of business was to get new SIM cards, turning our iPhones into  Island phones, a standard procedure for us, but often fraught with long lines and spotty service in Tortola. We were pleasantly surprised with a fairly smooth experience here, but still had not found a WiFi router for the boat. 

 Hopper killing time in the Fort Lauderdale Airport, the pretty pink prop of Silver Airlines carrying us to Great Abaco, Heather and our new island family, Abigail, and Chef Chris plotting to sate us with chicken Souse, made with all local ingredients. First 5 hours on the ground, awesome.

Hopper killing time in the Fort Lauderdale Airport, the pretty pink prop of Silver Airlines carrying us to Great Abaco, Heather and our new island family, Abigail, and Chef Chris plotting to sate us with chicken Souse, made with all local ingredients. First 5 hours on the ground, awesome.

We rented a little bungalow for the crew for the two days before we can get the boat. After unpacking and watching a flock of Parrots fly around, Abigail dropped chef Chris at the grocery store for a reconnaissance mission, then dropped Heather and me at a hole-in the wall electronics shop to look for a Wifi router. An old English looking guy behind a massive desk covered in pirated DVDs looked at us from behind smudged spectacles, grunted something to an unseen person out back, then sent us across the street to yet another local cell phone company. We exited to a torrential rain, and ran across the street though sandy, warm puddles. As in many Caribbean towns, this store also served as part daycare, part community center, part pickup joint. A really nice young woman knew exactly what we were looking for, and we spent an hour there talking and laughing and testing our new equipment.

 Heather making friends at Aliv, where we acquired fast internet for our two weeks of charters. 

Heather making friends at Aliv, where we acquired fast internet for our two weeks of charters. 

Next stop: the liquor store. I wanted to taste a few local beers to see which one(s) to serve our guests this week. The clerk let us pop a few open right there in the store. Kalik standard brew won best in show. We'll do wine tomorrow.  

Now back in the bungalow, chef Chris is making an island favorite, chicken souse. It's a test batch for the week ahead.  I'm going to wrap this up now to dig into it. I've got a very good feeling about this place.  - Hopper

PS. Souse gone. All of it. Every drop. An amazing first meal by Chris for we three at the table of our little Bahamian bungalow. Tomorrow we'll welcome our Captain and Deck hand, and Saturday Guide Dave. No, we didn't plan on this. But after all of these months of turning and pivoting, it feels now like we've landed right where we belong. - Heather