Quiet Perch In a Scattering Of Islands

HE Bahamian fishermen call them the Christmas winds. We didn't learn the term until midway through our week on Elbow Cay. But soon after our charter plane touched down at the Marsh Harbour airport on Abaco the morning of Dec. 23, we felt their force firsthand. The only way to get to Elbow Cay is by boat, and although there is a covered ferry that makes regular runs from Abaco to the seven major cays scattered around it, we had planned to make the trip ourselves in the open boat we were renting for the vacation.

Undeterred by the fact that we could see no other boats braving the Sea of Abaco that morning, we set out on the 11-mile journey and were immediately drenched. Fortunately, the water was warm and so were the winds, and soon we could see the red-and-white-striped lighthouse that is Elbow Cay's most famous landmark. We headed toward the southern end of the island, where Wanda Sweeting, the caretaker for one of the two houses our group had rented, was awaiting us on the dock when we arrived. Muttering a few magic words into her walkie-talkie (Elbow Cay's preferred form of communication) she summoned our golf carts (the island's preferred form of transportation) and left us to dry off.

I was traveling with my fiance, Scott Matthews, in a group of eight assorted family members and significant others. We had flown from New York to Miami the previous afternoon and spent the night at the airport Holiday Inn since we had a 9 a.m. flight. With such a large group, the cost of the charter plane was about equal to the cost of eight commercial tickets for a commuter flight from Florida to Marsh Harbour, less than $150 each one way.

We had had a minor panic attack when Scott and I realized we had forgotten our passports -- yes, you do need one to get into the Bahamas, as we were firmly reminded by the customs officials in Abaco. Having been granted access with only a driver's license as a gesture of holiday good cheer, we were very happy to be there, winds and all. After festooning the deck of our house with wet clothes, Scott and I jumped in the cart and headed for a late lunch of fresh grouper and Bahamian beer in Hope Town, the hub of activity, such as it is, on the tiny island.

To view the original article by Amy Harmon published on April 22, 2001 by the New York Times, click here

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