Abaco — The Near Island

Adrian V. Cole
7 min readMay 19, 2018

Wyannie Malone and her children left South Carolina after her husband had been killed in battle, and her side had lost the war. It was 1785, America was independent now, and Wyannie and her loyalist sympathies were looking for a new home. Although destined for the mainland, the ship ended up 150 miles off the coast of Florida, at what is now Elbow Cay, a mile or so off the Bahamian island of Abaco. The South Carolinians liked the clear water, the abundant seafood and the fact that potatoes grew easily there, so they settled. Later, the King of England, always ready to give away a part of the earth to loyalists, granted them their home, which became Hope Town.

Today Florida is the gateway to the Bahamas for most people. The young man at the Island Express check-in desk in Fort Lauderdale looked like a skinny, Latin, George Clooney. He apologized for the half-hour weather-related delay, and when we finally walked through the gate, the plane was standing in the warm spring sun, its engines still, but ticking with heat after their morning run from Abaco. Something about the relationship between an eight-seater twin-prop and the behemoths that come and go from Fort Lauderdale eases you into Abaco’s island mentality. We hurtled down the runway, rivets vibrating and seats groaning, at full speed, as the jumbos behind us lumbered into position. Once airborne, we quickly got out of their flight path and leveled off at about five thousand feet.

“Just ask the taxi driver for ‘Tween Waters,” the owner of the rental property had said. “They’ll know it.” Approaching from the air you can believe that everyone knows each other — the island is not heavily populated. The western side is largely uninhabited, made up of very low-lying areas of pine forest, managed by the Abaco Pulp Company. The coastline here is a maze of shallows, known as “the Marls” — a 400 square-mile wonderland of lagoons, spits, sand bars and crab-claws, deeply inviting to fishermen, especially those in search the feisty Bonefish, the local specialty. Looking closely at the turquoise water as we flew over I could almost see the shadows of individual fish.

The airport was nicely secluded among the pine trees, and when we taxied to a standstill we were disgorged immediately outside a one story shed which served as both departure and arrival terminal. A decisive stamp in the passport from an enthusiastic customs official reminded us that we were, indeed, in a foreign country, although one which happily accepted our currency, (the US dollar is on…

Adrian V. Cole

Writer of fiction & non fiction. Author of “Thinking Past: Questions and Problems in World History to 1750.” Politics Reporter at the American Independent