Abaco Life Magazine

Abaco Life, An Island Magazine

 
   
       

With Kids in Tow

How they spent their summer vacation - again.

(From the Summer/Fall, 2005 issue of Abaco Life)

By Jim Kerr

Every July, gliding into Hope Town Harbour on the ferry, you see them everywhere. They wave from the tower railing of the old lighthouse. They ride in boats, their suntanned bodies glistening with lotion. They seem to be fishing from every dock.
Along the beaches, they splash in the surf or ride bogey boards. Along the roads they wave happily from passing golf carts. And at local restaurants, between giant bites of cheeseburgers, they laugh a lot.
While it’s impossible to estimate their total number, especially when you add the locals whose children are out of school (and have friends visiting) with all those who are on vacation with Local Abaco girls fishing from the docktheir parents, it is safe to say there are a WHOLE LOT of kids in Hope Town, an occurrence which has become an annual event.
Hope Town, once an isolated village with few conveniences and even fewer forums for entertainment, is now a magnet for visiting families. Today there are several hundred rental houses and villas, as well as two small resorts, the venerable Hope Town Harbour Lodge in the settlement and Turtle Hill located just south of town. And although the settlement itself, established in 1785, has neither a movie theater nor video arcade, its natural resources prove infinitely more entertaining than any TV program or gameboy.
Like most small towns, everyone knows everyone. For the younger set, this includes not only the local kids, but those who are here annually on vacation. It’s a mix that many kids and parents look forward to every summer, and while a similar family atmosphere can be found in several Abaco locales, particularly on Green Turtle Cay, and more recently, on Guana Cay, Hope Town is Abaco’s primary sun and sea summer camp. Here the great outdoors awaits. Fish are jumpin’. Sailing is sensational. Surf’s up, and coral reefs spread their sea fans like sirens waving to young snorkelers. And while it tends to be quiet in town most nights, Cap’n Jack’s rocks with music and dancing Wednesdays and Fridays, while Harbour’s Edge lures a crowd for pizzas and music on Saturday night, with dancing under the stars and the lighthouse beam. Teens and young-at-heart adults fill the place, while knots of friends spill out onto the street outside.
Take a stroll down the upper road, also known as Back Street, and you’ll bump into visitors like Cameron Saffell, 10, a Jacksonville, Fla. beach enthusiast visiting Hope Town with her folks for the third time. She has stopped to admire the shell crafts designed by Nicky Maltarp, 11, who has grown up here.
Meanwhile, Dylan Thompson, 9, and his two friends, Aston Kemp, 10, and Eli Lowe, 8, have hauled their surfboards down to the beach, only to find the sea is flat calm this day. His sister, Shannon Thompson, 11, has a better idea. The fifth grader has found a good fishing spot from a dock with her two visiting pals, Lia Nixon, 11, of Nassau and Hailey Lee, 11, from Local Abaco surfersMarsh Harbour.
For the past 13 years, Jim Laughlin has run a special summer program for Hope Town kids ages four to 15 which includes windsurfing, sailing, group games, arts and crafts and other sports. “The idea was to create a summer program for local kids,” says Jim, “but now we include visiting kids as well.” Sponsored by the Hope Town Sailing Club, one of the settlement’s most active civic groups, the summer camp had 34 participating kids this year, including Jim and Margie Laughin’s children, Katelyn, 8, and Maggie, 4.
Like many second homeowners here, Jim’s family has been highly supportive of the community. He spent much of his youth here, drawn to the same summer pastimes he now teaches. There are many others like him, and there will likely be more as new foreign homeowners arrive with their children and grandchildren.
Kids sometimes have trouble expressing exactly what it is about Hope Town that enthralls them. It’s the beach, some exclaim. It’s the beautiful sea and all that it holds, others attest. “They paint the houses with happy colors,” said one small observer with regard to the pink, green, blue and pastel-shaded houses. The adults, who may have a better grasp of both language and intangible concepts, are more succinct in their assessments.
“It’s freedom,” said one mother with a 14-year-old son. “They have an independence and freedom here they don’t have in any city. Here they can go to a grocery store or a restaurant, as well as ride bikes or walk to the beach. It’s safe to just let them go. They’re able to form bonds with good kids who are involved with things like surfing, fishing and other sports.”
Put into a visiting family’s perspective, the activities available also make for family cohesiveness and sharing that is rarely found in other vacation locales. Parents who find it difficult to interact with their children as much as they would like to because of work and other obligations find a rewarding togetherness with them here.
“I’m switched on 24/7 in my real estate business,” says Christopher Breda, whose wife, Gina, has a similarly high-profile public relations job. They have two daughters, Caroline, 10, and Meredith, 7. “Here I unwind, disconnect from that other world, and see the islands through their eyes while I recharge. We snorkel, collect shells and visit every little place on the island. At night we play cards, and this year maybe I’ll teach them spades and poker.”
Getting here has always been the hard part. For most people it means early wake-up calls, airline connections, baggage and security hassles and sometimes an overnight stay along the way. As the distance closes, however, anticipation rises. Families have been known to change into shorts and bathing suits in South Florida airports so they won’t waste any time getting started on the fun as they jump into rental boats in Marsh Harbour or onto the ferry bound for Hope Town.
This is the fifth trip to Abaco for Chris and Gina, including a honeymoon in Green Turtle Cay in 1990, a return trip there four years ago, a stay on Guana Cay three years ago and last year’s first visit to Hope Town.
“Hope Town has plenty to do, and the girls are never bored,” says Dad. “They meet lots of other kids and make many new friends. When we have to leave, they cry.”
Well, there’s always next year.

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©  Jim Kerr, Abaco Life Magazine
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