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Hope to Hope Town: Part One

‘It seems the guest house we were going to stay in might be uninhabitable,’ my friend Brid said, calling me in early December.

I put him on speaker and opened the two pictures he sent me.

In what appeared to be the main living area, there was sand on the floor in varying depths, higher in the corners, up to 3 feet around the center beam, which was listing to the front side of the house. The door hung by one hinge, a chair was on its side, up against the wall.

‘Wait. I thought you said this cottage was on the ridge along the top of the island, near the center…’

It is.

The ocean came through the house??

There were a few seconds of silence as I took it in. I pictured the wind pushing the storm surge up from the Atlantic on one side, the harbor on the other. I could see the wind pushing sand and water against the doors and windows until it finally won, coming through and then receding, then surging through again, the winds ripping house parts loose, the water carrying them away.

‘You need to know exactly what we’re looking at,’ he continued, ‘before you decide to go.’

I opened the second picture, of the bedroom. It looked better than the living room, but everything must have gotten soaked. There were gaps in the corners as if it had shifted off the foundation.

‘There is also the issue of mold,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I answered.

Constance Chatfield-Taylor
Constance Chatfield-Taylor

‘So, I’m still going – I’m taking a tent, and an air mattress, a generator for charging devices an hour in the morning and an hour at night.’ But I wasn’t sure if you’d still want to join me.’

In March of 2019, we had taken a wonderful trip to Elbow Cay. It was one of those romantic, spring break getaways to a beautiful island with crystal clear water and white sand beaches. We had a golf cart to get around, a boat to visit nearby islands, there were 5 or 6 restaurants, several bars.

It was a tiny island brimming with color and vibrancy and beautiful breezes and nice people, the kind of place in which island kids stand with their backpacks and lunch boxes on one of the roads crisscrossing the island and tourists and residents alike offer them a ride to school in the center of town. They always said thank you at the long set of stairs leading up to the school, the sounds of the kids and teachers and tiny playground reaching the road below, lined with palm trees. The schoolhouse sits at the top of the steps across the road from the harbor, but from the playground at the top looking east, the ocean is directly on the other side, down a slope. This is the ridge that I remember that runs along the center of town, with cottages and the Hopetown Harbor lodge and a little further, Vernon’s market (Vernon makes fresh bread daily}, the basket shop and an ice cream store. Golf carts are allowed on the ridge, but not in the center of town, pedestrian traffic only.

It reminds me a bit of ‘Sconset in Nantucket, with little winding streets that connect cottages with names like ‘Southern Fancy’, but also intertwining islanders who have lived there for two and a half centuries, and whose families are boat makers, basket makers, carpenters, bakers. The essence of the community, of the island.

Six months after our Bahamian adventure, on September 1st, 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck, a category 5 storm that stalled over the Abacos for 48 hours, with winds of up to 220 miles an hour. So really, Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the 1st, but stayed into the early hours of the 3rd. In that time period, 22 tornadoes touched down, taking houses that had not been washed away by the storm surge, and ripping apart buildings and trees that had managed to survive the wind and water force of the hurricane.

And now, in December, we are ready to go to the Abacos, to Elbow Cay, to help in any way we could. Brid owned a construction company for 30 years, and has put together 30,000 nails, screws, an assortment of power tools, devices that I cannot even describe (a ‘come along’ to straighten posts?), a variety of battery operated tools, a generator, living supplies. We’ve both had tetanus, hepatitis, shingles and typhoid vaccines, flu shots. A friend who is a doctor put together a medical kit.

‘Why don’t you think about it,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what to expect but I’m going to charter a plane from Fort Lauderdale so I can get all this equipment down to Marsh Harbor. From there, I’ll take a ferry to Elbow Cay, and hopefully find help to get it to the house. I’ll clear the sand out to make space for the equipment. I’m pretty self-sufficient, I don’t want to burden the island by needing anything.’

‘Think about it and let me know.’


‘OK,’’ I said. ‘I’ve thought about it. When and where do I meet you?’