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Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas

September 4, 2019 in Hurricane Dorian

2-6-20

A long weekend at Calypso was recently spent making a detailed assessment of the labor and materials needed for restoring the house to top notch condition.  A schedule is evolving for shipping building materials, tools, household items, and workers as these are all quite limited on the island. Most of the work should be completed by this summer. Every home owner with whom we spoke is committed to restoring their houses and the island to its former glory, if not better.

Previous visitors who know their way around the island and are comfortable making their own fun will find plenty to do and enjoy once power is restored, currently predicted to be in June. First time visitors would be advised to wait until next year, when communications are better, clean up is further along, and more businesses open.

12-3-19

After 10 days on Elbow Cay, it is obvious that Calypso was extremely fortunate. There is a lot to be done – roof repair, window repair, siding replacement, painting, new HVAC, and new furnishings, but no rebuilding. Calypso is worn, but now habitable, and will be available for rent as soon as power to the island is restored, hopefully this spring.  The island needs visitors and their love, energy, and injection of money into the local economy. The water and beaches are perfectly fine, and rental boats and carts will be available.

Clean-up of the island progresses at an impressive rate, and the locals and property owners remain in good spirits and optimistic. Enough homes and businesses survive to insure the island and area remains an appealing place to visit. The brilliant stars,  fresh salt air,  clear blue waters, and lull of the surf are all truly timeless.

11-13-19

Wow. A lot has happened in the last 6 weeks. Ferry service has been re-established. The Abaco Inn bar and restaurant has opened to join On Da Beach and Firefly. Fuel and other goods are starting to flow. Groceries are available at LVA and Harbour View.  Regular community planning meetings are being held,  and cleanup continues with the help of many  workers and volunteers across the island. Debris is regularly being barged off  island to Marsh Harbour.

Second home owners have been invited to visit their homes, with the understanding that there is still no power other than individual generators, and resources are very limited. We are scheduled to spend Thanksgiving week on Elbow Cay, which will be our first visit since Dorian. Our primary objectives are:

  • meet with our contractor
  • meet with the insurance adjuster
  • determine the scope of repair work needed
  • compile a list of needed building materials
  • compile a list of replacement furnishings
  • clean the house as much as possible
  • conduct simple repairs
  • prepare the house for housing recovery workers
  • devote time to projects benefiting the community

Somewhere in there we hope to hoist a glass with our island friends, give thanks for everyone surviving, and toast the incredible efforts being made to put the island on a firm path to recovery.

9-26-19

Clean up has commenced, but progress is very slow due to the extent of the damage to the island, the volume of debris, and lack of grid power.

Calypso is one of the best built homes on the island, and durability was paramount during its construction. The framing is  treated wood, the interior siding is cypress sealed on all sides, and the exterior is primarily Hardie shingle/ply. Tile floors are mostly indestructible. Damage was primarily cosmetic, and we expect to return Calypso to excellent condition rapidly once power is restored and workers are available.  Our neighbor owns a landscaping business, and we are hopeful that with his help, we can quickly replace the lost palm trees and perhaps improve the overall landscaping. While none of the work on Calypso helps the community specifically, every small part of a return to normalcy contributes to the whole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9-19-19

We have received more pictures from our neighbor, but not much else in terms of an update. Second homeowners  have been discouraged from visiting as there is minimal transportation, no utility power, and no lodging. We will visit to assess Calypso as soon as all the challenges and logistics permit.

Based on information we have thus far, damage to the house is not major. Under normal circumstances, it could be easily repaired.  Once power is restored to the house, we can begin serious cleanup and repair. We don’t know if our generator can be made operational, or when, and supplying fuel is problematic. Everyone on the island is contending with the same power problem.

9-10-19

This blog will concentrate primarily on Elbow Cay, acknowledging with great respect the severity of damage to other parts of the Bahamas.

The Marsh Harbour airport is open and huge efforts are underway on all affected islands to evacuate people and bring in relief/recovery manpower and supplies.

Elbow Cay has received an amazing amount of support. Now that evacuation of those in greatest need has been completed, the focus has been on damage assessment and organizing resources. Clearing the roads, and restoration of power and communications are a priority, but the infrastructure has been severely damaged. More information is available at the previously suggested links.

Thankfully, Calypso appears to be structurally sound and repairable. The ocean side homes, for a change, seem to have sustained much less damage than homes on the sound side of the island.

The economy on Elbow Cay depends upon renters and second home owners. Residents and visitors are highly motivated to return the island  to its former glory, and this will occur, probably more rapidly than anyone would expect. The things that make Elbow Cay special have not been destroyed!

9-4-19

The thoughts and prayers offered by so many friends are greatly appreciated.  It is simply not possible to individually respond to such an outpouring of concern, or provide everyone with regular updates.

The damage inflicted upon Elbow Cay, Man-O-War, Marsh Harbour, and other Bahamas  islands can only be described as apocalyptic. That more people did not perish is a miracle. The main airports are closed. All ferries sunk. There is no power, and generators are running out of gas. Food supplies are dwindling. Elbow Cay and Marsh Harbour look as if they had been bombed. The islanders are in survival mode. Rescue and relief efforts are being organized, but the magnitude of the task is barely comprehensible, and it will take a while.

Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue is the coordinating relief entity on Elbow Cay, and is recommended as the recipient of any donations. Your donation will go directly  to the people that need it the most on Elbow Cay, as determined by the people best qualified to make those decisions.

Here are links for current information, including pictures and videos:

Hope Town Sailing Club 

Facebook – Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue

Facebook – Hope Town Bulletin Group

We know that Calypso stands, verified by a few low resolution pictures of our neighbor’s house with Calypso in the background. Our caretaker, Jamie Williams, serves with Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and our house is, and should be, a very low priority. This blog will be updated when we learn more.

Coincidentally, Category 4  hurricane Floyd hit Elbow Cay 20 years ago this month, destroying the house which Calypso replaced and causing widespread damage. Though the island was not nearly so devastated, it bounced back to be the place that so many of us have enjoyed and come to love. Don’t give up on Elbow Cay, it will recover.

What you can do now is to support relief efforts with a monetary donation. What you can do in the future is to support the economy of Elbow Cay by returning as a visitor.

Securing Your Boat at the Calypso Slip

June 2, 2015 in Practical Infomation

The Calypso slip is located at a 12 slip T dock on Nigh Creek about halfway between town and the house, along the main road that parallels the creek and ocean.  With plenty of water for any outboard boat, the dock is well protected from wind and there is no boat traffic, so the water is always calm. Nigh Creek is clearly  identified on marine charts of the Hope Town Harbour, and the boat rental agencies will gladly locate the creek on the charts they typically provide. The multiple signs and pink gate help identify the dock from the street and the water.

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Securing your boat with crossing and spring lines does not work well at this dock due to the unusual position of the pilings off the dock. The best (and easiest) way is to drop a stern anchor 1-2 boat lengths from the boat’s final position in the slip, and tighten the line enough to keep the bow from getting under the dock. Secure the bow with a single line with enough length to account for the tidal change. Lines on the side pilings are not necessary! It is perfectly fine for your boat to rub against the side pilings in these calm waters, and they will help separate your boat from the neighboring boats. This method of securing your boat (stern anchor and bow to dock) is how you will tie up to most every dock in the area- they just won’t have the side pilings. (Of course, things are different with larger boats at the marinas.)

 

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Where to Buy Groceries, and Beer/Wine?

December 11, 2014 in Best Vacation Ever, Practical Infomation

A frequent question is whether to buy groceries in Marsh Harbour or on Elbow Cay, and the choice is between Marsh Harbour’s large grocery store, similar to a mid-sized US supermarket, and the 4 smaller grocery stores on Elbow Cay, similar to a neighborhood grocery . The answer greatly depends upon your situation. How much time do you have? Do you have help? Are you particular about your food products or flexible? Is grocery shopping an adventure or a chore? Hopefully, these suggestions will provide some guidance.

For most people, the decision comes down to convenience and time. If you have time between landing and getting to your boat or the ferry, and don’t mind having to deal with groceries while in transit, then grocery shopping in Marsh Harbour on the way to Elbow Cay makes sense. If you have lots of luggage, lack patience hauling boxes/bags around, and/or little time, then grocery shopping in Elbow Cay may be the better choice.

Don’t underestimate the 4 grocery stores on Elbow Cay. They supply about 600 residents and visitors to the 200+ rental homes. Over time, they have learned to stock what people need most often, or with which they can make do. There may not be 30 brands of breakfast cereal, but the 6 in stock are popular and acceptable.

About the stores…

In Marsh Harbour, Maxwell’s is the largest grocery store in the area with good variety and the best prices.

On Elbow Cay, Harbour View and Vernon‘s are in town. (Golf carts are not allowed in town, which may be an issue with large purchases.) LVA is in the middle of the island, just “around the corner” and a very short cart ride from Calypso.  The Food Store is  about a 5-8 minute cart ride to the south, is the largest and best stocked grocery on the island, and will deliver upon request.

Making a round trip between Elbow Cay and Marsh Harbour specifically to shop for groceries is rarely justifiable, unless you need something essential that is unavailable on Elbow Cay, because the ferry/taxi fares or boat gas will cost more than you would save.

With respect to adult beverages, there are 3 stores on Elbow Cay with a very acceptable selection. Hopetown Wine and Spirits is located at the harbor entrance adjacent to the lighthouse and only accessible by boat. Lighthouse Liquors is at the base of the main public dock. A&E Liquors is a 5 minute cart ride to the south of Calypso.

The owners of Calypso greatly prefer to buy groceries (and wine/beer) on Elbow Cay, primarily for the convenience, but also because it’s part of the “island experience”. Very rarely have we been unable to find what we need, or an acceptable substitute.

As everything has to be imported, you will find most prices higher than in the states. Really, this holds true with just about anything purchased in the islands.

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The Food Store, Elbow Cay

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The Food Store, Elbow Cay

A Boater’s Paradise – Boat Rental Advice

November 4, 2013 in Practical Infomation

FamilyBoatEveryone who visits Elbow Cay should take advantage of the beautiful surrounding waters and neighboring islands. Fantastic snorkeling, outstanding fishing, pristine beaches, charming harbours, and interesting communities are within a safe and easy boat ride. One does not have to be an old salt – navigation is “eyeball” simple and hazards few.  Abaco Sound, the body of water between the outer islands and the larger Great Abaco Island, is well protected and rarely rough. Excellent published guides are available, and rental boat companies typically provide excellent charts and advice.Tom Conching (Small)

A frequent question is “What boat should I rent?” and the answer is “Rent as large a boat as you can.”  Don’t skimp in this department. A few extra dollars spent on a larger boat is almost always worth the enhanced enjoyment of your trip. If your experience is limited or with smaller boats, don’t be daunted. Most all of your docking or anchoring will be in protected waters or harbours, and boat size won’t make much difference. However, when the gang packs all the snorkel gear, coolers, and beach bags – and invites some newfound friends along – you’ll be glad to have the extra space and capacity. A larger boat will also be more comfortable in a greater variety of conditions, and allow you to travel farther without worry. Most of what you will encounter will be wind chop on the sound, and a larger boat is less affected. You would be hard pressed, in a 23’ to  27’ boat, to encounter any conditions in the sound that would be uncomfortable or remotely dangerous.

albury23Calypso’s favorite boat is an Albury, built on the neighboring island of Man-O-War and optimized for the local waters. They ride great, are well designed, and are built like tanks. Island Marine, located just outside the Hope Town harbour entrance on Parrot Cay, is our preferred boat rental agent, and has the largest fleet of exceptionally well maintained boats. Their customer service is also outstanding. (Calypso renters qualify for a 10% discount on weekly rentals.) The 20’Albury is comfortable for 4-6 people, but is a little tender – meaning it is a bit sensitive to weight distribution and tends to lean to the side. On a windy day, the ride can be slightly uncomfortable, but tolerable. The 23’ Albury is a real workhorse, and ideal for 6-10 people, or as many as 12 in a pinch. With lots of seats and storage, it swallows people and gear. The ride is stable and minimally affected by weight distribution or wind chop on the sound. The 27’ Albury is a beast – in a good way- able to handle just about any weather conditions without worry, and a Calypso houseful with all the gear imaginable. The twin engines are remarkably fuel efficient.  Island Marine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two other companies of note. Sea Horse Boat Rentals, based on Hope Town and Marsh Harbour, also has Albury boats available. Cat’s Paw, located in Hope Town harbour, has a small fleet or 4 boats and is worth a try for a short term and/or convenient rental.

There are other companies located in Marsh Harbour, but if you are at the end of a long travel day and the sound is windy, carting your people and luggage across the sound may be a challenge, and wet. Also be aware that it’s a long run around the point from the rental companies on the east side of Marsh Harbour, within the actual harbour, to Elbow Cay.

Regardless of which boat you rent, you’ll be glad you took advantage of one of the greatest attractions of the area!

Getting Around on Elbow Cay

October 7, 2013 in Practical Information

Because Elbow Cay is focused on the enjoyment of vacation visitors and second home owners, the industrial/commercial activities of a major population center are thankfully absent. A noticeable  benefit is how few cars and trucks there are and the lack of traffic – most everyone walks, rides a bike, or uses a golf cart.  The lanes of Hope Town proper are wonderful for casual strolling – motorized traffic is restricted (even golf carts) to only those necessary for supplying the local businesses – so you won’t get run off the road by a speeding truck or a screaming obnoxious moped. (Sorry Man-O-War Cay, I love you but hate those tranquility destroyers!)

So, are you ready for a golf cart?  They are available for rent from several excellent companies on Elbow Cay, but the conundrum becomes whether to choose gas or electric. There are good arguments for each, but what do the owners of Calypso personally use, and why? ELECTRIC! (Yes, I am shouting.) Electric carts are quiet, gas carts are not. Do you want to enjoy your  site-seeing ride in comfortable conversation or do you like to shout?  The island is quiet. Why disturb this peacefulness?  Simple, isn’t it? With that out of the way, let’s talk practical matters. Gas carts are preferred by the cart rental companies because they are easier and cheaper to maintain in the long run, they don’t require charging, and people don’t forget to charge them and/or abandon them when the batteries die. Okay, so you caught that charging the battery thing  just mentioned and that’s got you thinking. Really, keeping the cart charged is  not that big a deal. Every house has an outlet close to the cart parking area, and it only takes seconds to plug in. Just remember to plug in when you don’t plan to use the cart for a while, and do your part to protect the tranquility of a beautiful island.

The Goldilocks Island

September 11, 2013 in Best Vacation Ever

Pelican Cay Paradise

Pelican Cay Paradise

The islands of the Bahamas offer an incredibly wide range of vacation opportunities, ranging from peaceful isolated coves to mega-resorts with casinos and high action night life.

Elbow Cay is “just right” – the Goldilocks Island – not too big and not too small, plenty of activity but never crowded, and friendly locals that really care about you – always feel comfortable and welcome. It’s the perfect balance of tranquility, natural beauty, and civilized comforts, without overdevelopment. But there’s more than just one island,  the  surrounding cays are a water lover’s playground that must be explored!

 

Fish Finding Expedition

Want a pristine beach with clear waters all to yourself, or maybe you’d prefer watching surfers rip a perfect wave? No problem. How about a sunset blazing with color, a fantastic meal with fresh local cuisine,  or live island music? You can do all that – in one night. Feel like snorkeling? Many great spots with incredible sea life await. Choose what you want, when you want. There’s no schedule and it’s all there for you.

Sunset Cocktail at Firefly Bar

Sunset Cocktail at Firefly Bar

What makes Calypso such a great rental house?

June 30, 2013 in Best Vacation Ever

Calypso Land ViewIn 1982, my wife and I honeymooned on Elbow Cay, and over the ensuing years were drawn us back on a regular basis. In July of 1999, with the interest and support of a good friend, we made the leap to island home ownership. Months later the house was damaged beyond repair by Hurricane Floyd. This happens to older homes in the paths of hurricanes. With a lovely piece of land in a prime location and a clean slate, we chose to design and build Calypso.

After nearly 2 decades of renting numerous houses on Elbow Cay, we saw a glaring deficiency in the rental market – there were no houses that would comfortably accommodate large groups or several vacationing families. Our goal became the building of a house that was designed from scratch to be our dream rental house – what we would want to rent ourselves with 2 or 3 other families, or a group of our closest  friends.

Most homes on Elbow Cay were designed and built as personal residences, with the owner’s specific wants and needs taken into account, and then rented  when the owner is absent. We wanted a house that could be enjoyed by a broad spectrum of people.

Upstairs North Master Bedroom

Downstairs Southeast Bathroom

Our goals…

Every guest should have comparable accommodations, with appealing bedrooms that have their own bathrooms and storage optimized for brief stays. (Large closets simply aren’t needed, shelves are.) The bedrooms should be separated as much as possible from each other and the common areas of the house for better privacy and quiet. This is accomplished by spreading bedrooms on multiple wings and floors.

Calypso Living Room

The common areas need to be large and open, so everyone can comfortably gather, and especially suited for entertaining. There must be multiple places to gather, reflecting different moods and, in the case of an ocean location, differing wind/weather conditions. A large yard, ocean deck, land-side deck, screened porch, game room, away room, and multiple dining areas allow plenty of places for spreading out, so guests never feel crowded and everyone can find a favorite spot to call their  own.

 

Calypso Screened Porch and Grill DeckAesthetically, the ideal Bahamas rental home should be informal, relaxing, comfortable and, of utmost importance, FUN. Art, furnishing, and decor should bring smiles, not worries. Vaulted ceilings, tile floors, cypress paneling, lots of windows, and stunning views provide a sense of being in the right place – a casual and stunningly beautiful island in the Bahamas.

 

Calypso at dusk from the beach.So now you know what drove the creation of Calypso. We designed it. We built it.  We love it. We hope you will too.