car-hopetown-largeThe first thing I see on my approach to Hopetown is an undulating emerald silhouette rising up from the horizon, dominated by a circa-1864, candy-cane-painted lighthouse that still uses kerosene for power.

Inside the harbour is a forest of sailboat masts. A chorus of dancing casuarinas trees, feathery branches seductive as a burlesque dancer's boa, serenades me.

And then I see the village – a sort of psychedelic Nantucket.

Think New England with pastel colours. Clapboard houses and shops capped by dormered roofs and gables. Some roofs have a Norman influence – steeply pitched and curved like you'd see in rural Quebec. But there's no snow here.

We're in the Sea of Abaco in the northern Bahamas, a shallow sea that stretches roughly two hundred kilometers along the Bahama Bank. The waters outside Hopetown are neon lime and incandescent turquoise, testament to the fact that depths here are never more than twenty feet. They make for gorgeous if unnerving sailing. In his book, Sailing Away From Winter, Silver Donald Cameron called sailing here "champagne cruising."

The Abacos boast two actual islands, eighty two cays and two hundred and eight rocks.

And Hopetown.

In his definitive cruising guide to the Abacos, Steve Dodge writes that "Hopetown is clearly one of the most picturesque settlements in the Bahamas." That's partly due to the striking geography: lush vegetation towers over a town that strolls up a gentle dune to the east, fronting on a pink coral beach decorated by sea oats and bay lavender. It's partly due to the architecture, the result of a fascinating history close to my own heart.

On a visit to the United Loyalist Cemetery in St. John, New Brunswick, I long ago discovered my own pedigree. My Loyalist ancestors helped settle Canada. But a whole lot of other Loyalists – the ones I now envy – came to Hopetown.

The Wiannie Malone Historical Museum, housed in an imposing white clapboard house with green trim, vividly outlines Hopetown's early history. Curator Linda Cole explains that Wiannie Malone was a Loyalist from South Carolina who was forced to move from the United States in the aftermath of the American Revolution. "According to all of our records Malone was one of the first settlers here, arriving around 1784," says Cole. "Hopetown was a staunch Loyalist colony. Even its name attests to this history. The earliest visitors disembarked from a brigantine named 'Hope'."

As I later stroll along the two village streets – Front Street and the King's Highway – I reflect on my own history and wonder what my life would be like if my forebears headed south.

On my first reconnaissance mission I also note that Hopetown is oriented first and foremost to the water. Cap'n Jack's, a rambling white clapboard structure with bubblegum pink trim, perches on stilts above the water, boasting its own dinghy docks. All wood inside and sporting a multitude of nautical bric-a-brac, it is a meeting place for visiting cruisers and the more lubberly types who usually come for long stays and are, for the most part, repeat offenders. "I've been here twenty times," says Oakville resident Ally Munro. "And I'm going to keep coming back."

The health clinic is a coral-painted building right beside a police station that scowls down on Front Street like a colonial great house, painted powder blue with white trim. Behind the police station stands a Methodist Church that bursts, at noon, into a carillon concert of hymns. The melodies mesh with the grumble of outboard motors on the dinghies that criss-cross the bay, with the wind that rustles the palm fronds overhead, with the murmur of the surf just past the dunes.

But it's the people that are Hopetown's biggest draw. "The policeman is the DJ too," says Munro. Graham Lavender of the Abaco Journal likes the fact that "there are no strangers here." According to Peggy Thompson, who runs Hopetown Hideaways, an eclectic collection of inns and villas, "the proprietor of Vernon's grocery, who's famous for his pies and breads, is also the lay minister at the Methodist church."

The accommodations we discover at Hopetown Hideaways add to a feeling that, for all its raucous colour, for all its semi-tropical ambiance, this place still feels like home. Our digs at Hideaway Villas sport a private pool ten feet from a row of docks, a huge deck with its own barbecue, gardens and groves where we can harvest fresh limes for our drinks, mangos and bananas for our breakfast, avocados for lunch, and a twelve-foot fiberglass launch for our exclusive use.

Early in the morning on New Year's Day, I am sitting on the deck of Hopetown Coffee Shop, meditating over a homemade chicken curry quiche that I wash down with a coffee made from beans that are roasted on site.

The street below meanders along the shore of the harbour on its morning constitutional. Just around the corner neat white picket fences worthy of Cape Cop border colonial homes and shops. But these buildings boast pink and lemon, turquoise and lavender with aquamarine trim. Blossoming bougainvilleas decorate these gardens. Palms and casuarinas stand in for oaks and maples.

This village may share its history with Upper Canada but I find myself wishing, as the breezes riffle the harbour waters, sending sailboat masts swaying before the candycane lighthouse backdrop, that I was descended instead from those other Loyalists.

Then I could claim, as my birthright, a storybook village called Hopetown.

Lifestyle

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DIY & How to

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Leasing a YachtBy Andy Adams

When I first saw the display at the Toronto International Boat Show saying that you could lease a new yacht, it stopped me dead in my tracks. While I had never considered leasing boats, we are certainly seeing growth in boat rental organizations, so leasing didn’t seem out of line. In fact, I wondered why it had taken this long to see boat leasing come to the market.

However, I have a reasonable understanding of how leasing works compared to financing a purchase and I wondered how the numbers could work for something like a yacht. The sign was in front of a 60 foot Princess Express Cruiser – about $3,000,000 

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Boat Reviews

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Beneteau Oceanis 30.1The Oceanis official US debut will be at the upcoming Newport International Boat Show in September and will be featured at the United States Sailboat show in Annapolis in October.

With an overall size under 30 feet and a light displacement of less than 8,805 lbs., the Oceanis is easily trailerable without a wide load permit. If you prefer to access your sailing grounds by canals and rivers, the lifting keel and rotating mast open a world of endless possibilities. Perfect for sailing on lakes or for coastal hopping, this new Oceanis is, nevertheless, a robust category B sailing yacht, fitted for offshore sailing. The smallest of the range offers the biggest choice of programs! 

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Grady White Freedom 235 Dual ConsoleBy Jill Snider

Once again, I had the pleasure of joining CY’s test guru Andy Adams on a boat review. This time, out on Georgian Bay, we put the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console to the test. There are so many great things to tell you about this classic beauty.

Andy
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Port Severn's Lock 45Blake Marchand


As the final link between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, Port Severn’s Lock 45 is the gateway to the beautiful Trent-Severn Waterway. The first and smallest lock to be constructed on the Severn portion, Lock 45 is entrenched in Canadian History and is worth the trip in itself. However, it is the waterway and its idyllic surroundings that will keep you coming back.

The canal connects Lake Ontario and Lake Huron with an eastern terminus in Trenton and a western terminus in Port Severn. Its amazing natural waterways include the Trent River, Otonabee River, The Kawartha Lakes, Lake Simcoe, Lake Couchiching and Severn River.

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Marine Products

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