Surrounded by water, islands are an oasis for the body and the mind. The best ones are difficult to get to, no jet liner or cruise ship will take you there, no bridge will let you drive your minivan loaded with kids there. The only way to get there is by boat, simple, slow, romantic.
During my four day trip to Elbow Cay in the Abacos, I talked to many people about getting around the many different islands of the Abacos. If you didn’t have you’re own boat there was only one answer…the Albury Ferry. We all know that ferries are people movers in their most basic practice, but if you twist your mind a little they are so much more.
Ask yourself, what would the Abaco Islands be without the ferries? It would be a much much different place. The beautiful outer cays might just be simple settlements, no tourism, no humble resorts. Just places local Bahamians call home and a place for yachties to anchor.
The Albury Ferry system is the life line for the outer islands like Green Turtle Cay, Man-O-War, Elbow Cay and the others. 72 trips to and from the cays each day. The ferries not only carry tourist and locals, but they carry supplies, food, doctors, rum and tons of other things that we take for granted. All day every day these unique boats give life to the islands of the Abacos.
What’s special about the Albury Ferries is that the company is locally owned and started back in 1959 when the March Harbour airport opened up. The first ferry was the “Junonia”, a 40 foot Maine built lobster boat. As the service grew additional boats were built of wood at the yards of Edwin Albury on Man-O-War. The switch from wood construction to fiberglass began 21 years ago. Today the fleet is made up of twelve “Donnies”, wide body fiberglass diesel powered boats built to Albury’s Ferry specifications in Florida.
My ride to Hope Town from Marsh Harbour was a relaxing 20-25 minutes. The ferry plowed its way though the water, I could feel the power beneath my feet as I stood there and watched the Hope Town Lighthouse grow larger and larger.
While researching the island before my trip I called a gentleman that lives in the Bahamas and has ties to the Abacos. We talked about this and that but one thing he said stuck with me. He said, “Riding on the Albury Ferries is a very emotional trip for people visiting the Abacos. On one side of the coin it’s their most enjoyable boat ride ever, then on the flip side it’s one of the saddest boat rides they’ve had.” Going to their island destination is exhilarating, the happiest of feelings. Leaving is always sweet sweet sorrow.
I remembered that quote as I was leaving Hope Town. I stood on the back of that ferry watching Elbow Cay grow smaller and smaller. Not wanting to leave…ever.
Next time you’re on a ferry somewhere in the Caribbean, remember that it’s more than just a people mover. It’s the life blood for small, not so easy to get to island groups.