a Bahama Category 5 Hurricane
If you look back in this blog, you will find plenty of stories from our 2019 journey to the Bahamas. Over the course of 8 weeks, we had the privilege of visiting a wide array of remote anchorages, quaint villages, and bustling towns – along with Tonto’s Reward and our expert fisher friends Treble in Paradise. It was a splendid introduction to the Bahamian culture, its natural beauty, lively sounds, sweet aromas, and unique fresh flavors. If you peruse those old posts, you will also find that Maddie Sue loved the Bahamas, except for those rascal pigs.
In 2019 we left the Bahamas in late July – shortly before Dorian pummeled the islands.
On September 1, 2019, the Category 5 hurricane Dorian struck Hope Town, Elbow Cay, in the Abaco Islands with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 km/h), the highest wind speeds ever recorded at landfall in the Atlantic. As a comparison, 2021 Hurricane Ida was a Category 4 Hurricane, with winds of 150 mph when it hit Louisiana.
Dorian went on to strike Grand Bahama at similar intensity, stalling just north of the territory with unrelenting winds for more than 36 hours. Never before had a hurricane been so brutal.
Damage in the Bahamas was catastrophic. Prolonged and intense storm conditions, heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surge left thousands of homes destroyed. Structures were flattened or swept to sea, and ~70,000 people were left homeless. At least 77 direct deaths were recorded, and 245 people were still missing one year later.
These photos are from Hope Town United (more on that later.)
Nearly 3 years have elapsed since the natural disaster. As we continue to explore the Bahamas we wondered, why did some communities seem to be paralyzed after the devastation, while others have been more resilient?
A few places seemed to be spared. A little like the lottery – some had winning numbers. True to the story of the Three Little Pigs, construction materials are a major factor. The Elbow Reef Lighthouse is a great example.
Although she looks weathered, that old girl was built to last.
We took the dinghy’s to Pete’s Pub, a familiar spot in the Abaco’s, and determined it was doing well! A hefty clean up, and a fresh batch of autographed shirts and burgees hanging from the ceiling put it back into business in short order.
There was a new addition for loyal patrons – Front Row Observation Seats.
Returning to the question of why some, but not all, places successfully rebounded? I am absolutely convinced, it’s the Power of Community with GREAT Leadership – when people bond together, the phoenix will rise out of the ashes! Hope Town, so aptly named, is the most dramatic example of a community that has successfully “re-opened for business.”
On the topic of leadership, let’s take a look at just two of the families, the Malones and the Sands, who were key in the revival of their communities.
The Malone Family
The Malone family helped build Hope Town almost 240 years ago. In 2019 Vernon Malone and his son Brian Malone, the former Hope Town Fire Chief and emergency responder, were early leaders in the resurgence of their hometown.
Vernon Malone is a seventh generation descendant of Wyannie Malone, who arrived in Hope Town in 1785, as a young widow, with four children. Brian Malone is eighth generation, also born and raised in Hope Town.
Nine weeks after being evacuated from Hope Town, at 81 years young, the island’s beloved grocer, baker and Methodist minister went home to reopen his store and bakery, dig through the rubble of his flattened home and sketch out a plan to rebuild.
The Sands Dynasty
Dating back to 1648, the Sands family tree of entrepreneurs is deeply rooted throughout the Bahamas. In 1945, at age 21, Marvin Sands launched the humble beginnings of Constellation Brands, now the largest multi-category beverage alcohol company in the world.
Check out this link and see how many international brands you recognize and consume, including Kim Crawford, Prisoner, Mount Veeder Winery, Belle Meade Bourbon, Corona, Funky Buddha and LOTS more https://globalbrandcenter.cbrands.com/
Oh but wait, can you guess what popular Bahamian brewksi Constellation Brands doesn’t own? Sands beer!
More Sands Family Members
Yet another great Bahama leader, Everette Sands, was the patriarch of Bahamian Brewery. Born in 1925, he passed away the same year as Dorian, at age 94. His son, Jimmy Sands took over the Brewery and launched Sands Beer, later passing the torch to his son, Gary Sands, at age 27!
The Sands Beer family line includes Sands Gold, Sands Regular, Sands Light, High Rock Lager, Sands Pink Radler, Strong Back Stout, Bush Crack, 66 Steps Ale, and Triple B malt drink. https://southernboating.com/life/people/sands-beer/
The formation of a grass roots nonprofit – Hope Town United
The Sands and the Malones, supported by a LOT of community members, formed Hope Town United – the economic engine that lead the restoration of Elbow Cay. To truly understand the level of devastation, set a-side a moment in your busy life and watch this short video. It’s a testimony to how a community can come together, in a moment of tragedy, and rebuild with true grit and purpose. “Picking up just one piece of garbage at a time.”
WATCH THIS VIDEO: OUR VISION FOR HOPE
The list of first responders is heartwarming and overwhelming. You might recognize several.
Restoration in Progress – Vernon’s Grocery
As we strolled through the town we found numerous brightly painted renovations and we could see and hear more construction underway. We were also thrilled to see Vernon Malone behind the counter at his iconic Vernon’s Grocery – where masks are mandated, and strictly enforced. Now in his mid-eighties, he continues to keep his mercantile well stocked to provide for his community. Still an active Justice of the Peace for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and a master baker, this beloved preacher nourishes the bodies and souls of the island.
He also has some very humorous signs on the walls:
Another note about that lighthouse. Yes, we climbed up, and Capt. Rick was very brave. A total of 101 steps to the Lantern. It’s 120 feet above sea level.
The view was spectacular. Full of hope.
Cap’n Jacks – something for even the most difficult diner!
We strongly recommend you dine at Cap’n Jacks. Here’s the menu, zoom in. No wonder the kids love it here!
Bonus Photo from the marina- Bridget’s Rare Rums for Ray
Sandy and Iron Bear Arrive
Welcome to Sandy and Iron Bear, guests on Tonto’s Reward, so glad you are here! Special note to Ray and Caryl – Sandy said hello!
Sending a little hope to Meghan and her family, and a little celebration of the sun for my little sister, Frances, and my Aussie sister, Heather.
Celebrations and Milestones
Birthdays: June 9, little sister Frances (Finny); June 10, cousin Debra McGhan; June 15, Heather Rutherford; Anniversary: June 14, Paul and Celeste
Next Stop: Anchored out in the Abacos