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Bahamas: Sailing to a fairy-tale wedding

Two years ago we bumped into our good friends Sharon and Fred in Kalk Bay, Cape Town of all places. We both live in Johannesburg.
“Come to our daughter’s wedding – we’re having it in the Bahamas!”
Well, of course we said yes! And we suggested a week of sailing ahead of Shawni and Craig’s wedding.

The time flew past and before we knew it, 4 couples met at the Sunsail base in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, ready for a week’s cruising amongst the islands of the Abacos archipelago. Sharon and Fred; Rosella and Neville; Natalie and Vincent hadn’t sailed much before, but everyone was game, excited and ready for an adventure. We all fell in love with “Caprice”, our beautiful and sleek, catamaran charter.

The motley crew of "Caprice"

 

Our home for the week was the dual-hulled, Leopard 38, which had 4 modern and spacious cabins. Well at least Geoff and I thought they were spacious after being accustomed to mostly smaller, single-hulled crafts.

The setting couldn’t really have been more perfect. The colour of the water was unbelievable. Sharon pondered its unique turquoise and pronounced the shade of blue to be ‘cerulean’. Just below the surface of these warm waters lies one of the world’s most abundant coral reefs, home to a spectacular array of tropical marine life and a snorkeling paradise. It is speculated that the name ‘Bahamas’, may come from the Spanish baja mar – meaning “shallow sea”.

Geoff, our experienced skipper, got briefed on the intricacies of our yacht and studied the navigational area and everyone got to work preparing for departure. Fred hoisted the South African flag with much aplomb and the ladies unpacked the provisions into the compact storage compartments in the saloon.

Rosella had amused us all by dismissing our initial basic provisioning list in favour of all sorts of delicious Italian delicacies. “Cereal and yoghurt? Frittata, people…frittata!” 😄 We were certainly going to eat like Kings!

The Lonely Planet describes our playground as follows:”The Abacos – Great and Little Abaco, and their offshore cays – are one of the jewels of the Bahamas: a 320km crescent of sand that’s a sailor’s paradise, a history-buff’s delight, a seafood-lover’s dream and a bold entry in any diver’s wish list.”

Our first day of sailing was an opportunity for everyone to find their sea-legs. There had been a bit of a breeze the preceding day and the sea was still a bit bumpy. Some struggled more than others and were relieved when we reached a narrow but exquisite strip of beach. Fred was delighted to be made Master of the Dinghy and took everyone across for some fun in the sun, swimming and snorkelling. On one side were the peaceful waters of our sailing territory, the Abaco Sea. On the other, the pounding Atlantic ocean and a popular surfing area.

By the following morning, conditions were perfect for smooth sailing and plenty of fun in the water. Geoff had a hard-working crew, eager to learn everything from new knots, rope furling, and mooring skills. Most bays had buoys available for mooring. It required sailing closely but slowly alongside while the crew snags one of them with the boat hook and quickly slides a rope through to tie the craft fast. Sometimes it took more than one attempt, with Fred swearing that it would be easier if he simply jumped overboard, rope between his teeth 😂

The days flew past punctuated by delicious meals. We spent a lovely day at Great Guana Cay (Cay is pronounced “key”) with its crescent shaped, mile long beach, picturesque jetty and famous Nipper’s bar and restaurant.

Another interesting island was Man o’ War Cay. The beach was impressive and the town very pretty. We wandered about and took pictures of the resident curly tail lizards. Famed as a busy boat-building island of God-fearing, hard-working folks, this is the island of the Albury family, 70% of whom can trace their ancestry to the first Albury who settled on this island in the 1870’s. The island featured Albury Brothers’ Boats and the Albury’s Canvas and Sail Shop, where three generations of town ladies were making all sorts of bags and hats out of colourful canvas, traditionally used for sails. I bought a nifty toiletry bag. Then there was the showroom of the resident master of wood carving, yup, you guessed it – Mr Joe Albury.

A week flew past and we sailed back to Marsh Harbour to return our beautiful “Caprice”. We took a ferry to Hopetown on Elbow Cay, where the wedding festivities would be held.

Elbow Cay is typified by beautifully preserved colonial architecture with a touch of delightful Bahamian pastels. Golf carts are the main source of transportation, and most of the supplies for the area are brought in by barge each week. In Hopetown centre, neither cars nor golf carts are allowed. Only bicycles and walking are permitted. Golf carts are used on the outskirts of town, however, and we were excited to hire one with Rosella and Neville as we were staying together at the far end of the island.

Seascape”, our rental beach cottage, was perfect. Perched on a slight hill, we had views on both sides of the island and were able to catch a cooling breeze in an otherwise stifling warm environment. We soon found our local pub for cocktails and the very more-ish conch fritters.

The next days were packed with exciting wedding fun. Everyone got together for the “I do” barbecue, a brilliant opportunity to get to know some of the other guests. While the menfolk went off deep sea fishing for the bachelor bash, the bachelorette party was somewhat more sophisticated.

Elbow Cay is a magical place to explore. We visited Tahiti beach, a picture perfect bay with soft white sand, lined with coconut trees, that arcs out into calm, crystal-clear water. It is secluded, accessible only on foot or by boat.

The wedding day finally dawned and the conditions were perfect. The guests were asked to wear pinks or blues and the effect was ideal for a tropical island. Shawni was a princess – ethereal, composed and gorgeous, bringing a tear to the eyes of both the groom and the father-of-the-bride.

In such an idyllic setting, the guests had an outstanding time celebrating with the young couple and their parents. A destination wedding and a holiday with wonderful friends that would be remembered by us all.

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