Hangin' In Bimini

Let's play a little "where's Waldo" err... where's Beach House? This weather pattern is driving us crazy and keeping us at the dock in Bimini. Last night it blew pretty much all night with gusts to at least 30 or more. Another one-day window will open up tomorrow but we want more than 12 hours so we will probably pass on this one, too. In the meantime, we are doing a lot of exploration of both North and South Bimini. We are working on the Bahamas edition of The Great Book Of Anchorages but we also find time to have some fun. The area has some interesting history and very friendly locals so what's not to enjoy?

We have walked the main road from Alice Town through Bailey Town to Porgy's Bay and the Bimini Bay Resort at the northern end of the harbor. Along the way we have found several small grocery stores, some carrying the same staples as others and some carrying different goods. If one store doesn't have what you need, try another. Sooner or later you will find everything. In Alice Town, Robert's Grocery seems to carry the best selection we have found so far. It is located just next to the coin laundry, the only one in town. There is a larger store, Porgy Bay mini-mart in Bailey Town, as well as Brown's Hardware Store, but we haven't visited them yet. In Alice Town, there are 2 golf cart rental businesses and a small hardware store, Bimini General Store, next to Weech's Marina. The general store is piled with marine items, oil, filters and a variety of other products. And we do mean piled - you have to pick through stacks and piles of things to find what your looking for buried in them. The owner appears to be an American and she seems to know what is in her inventory, just not always exactly where it is.

The supply boat comes in every Thursday. You have to time your visits to the local stores to get there just as the fresh supplies are unpacked and on the shelves. Come too soon and nothing is there yet. The store will seem empty. Come too late and you miss out on the fresh fruits and vegetables as the good stuff goes quickly. There are no Publix or U.S. style supermarkets here. That's all part of the Bahamas experience. These supply boats also bring shipments and parts if you have something shipped to you here. It first goes to Nassau to clear Customs and then must be loaded on the supply boats. There are flights from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami that will bring parts to Bimini and other islands, and those clear through the local Customs office. Replacement and repair parts are not subject to duty, but they MUST be marked and shipped properly to avoid the duty charges, which means having a copy of your cruising permit attached to them that you faxed/scanned to your shipper prior to shipping.

Getting people and goods from the U.S. to Bimini has been done by boat and air for decades. One of the more fascinating forms of transportation is the seaplane from Tropic Ocean that lands and takes off 3 times a day right down the harbor channel. This is why boats are seriously discouraged from anchoring in or very near the channel. A one-way ticket is $180.00 and the plane can be chartered for trips to the mainland or other places in the Bahamas. They take almost the entire length of the harbor to take off.

Getting from North Bimini to South Bimini can only be done by boat. There are a couple of marinas on South Bimini where you can stay on your boat or you can ride the small ferries that travel back and forth many times a day. The fee is $2.00 per person each way and the ride takes all of 5 minutes at the most. The ferry drops you off at a commercial dock and you can walk a short way down the road and rent a golf cart for $20.00 for the first hour and $10.00 for each additional hour. Since we were with another couple, we split the cost so it wasn't too expensive. It was a cold and windy day but one we completely enjoyed. We visited the Bimini Sands Resort and Marina which is a very nice place with all amenities, but has a shallow bar (about 6 feet) at the narrow entrance. Deeper draft boats would have to play the tides to get in and out. Additionally, the entrance faces the channel entrance for Bimini so would be unusable in adverse conditions, such as strong westerly winds. Next we tried to visit the Shark Labratory and Research Station. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and the Lab was closed. They do tours of the local waters and lemon shark pens, preferably at low tide. They can be contacted on VHF Channel 88A to arrange a tour.

Between the town dock and the Marina Resort is a nature trail that meanders through a native hammock with lots of local flora and fauna. All along the trails are stops with descriptive information on the trees, plants and animals indigenous to the Bimini's. We found the walk both fascinating and educational. The path crosses over to the ocean, circles around and returns to the entrance at the main road. On a hill overlooking the Atlantic above the beach are the ruins of an old home built by a former Olympic athlete that came to live and work in Bimini. He fell slave to the drink, his wife divorced him and he died way too soon. A story we've heard before.

At the south end of South Bimini is The Bimini Beach Club. The marina is in serious disrepair and the pool was roped off, but the restaurant was open so we had lunch. We found the restaurant very nice with several TV sets mounted on the wall showing sports games, good food, a bar and sand floors. Our lunch was very enjoyable, even with the limited menu, and the view was terrific. There was one other couple there beside us. On the road to the marina are many very nice homes. We suspect that the locals probably come to the restaurant often.

While walking the beach, we had a first hand look at why we have been sitting in the marina for over a week. A large catamaran was leaving the harbor, struggling with seas and wind even as he made his way south, which was downwind with the seas behind him. The forecast was for conditions to worsen and we wondered what could be so important that someone needed to go out in those conditions. Another boat was heading north bashing into the waves and making little headway. It did eventually get into Bimini harbor and tied up at our marina.

Look closely at this photo and tell me honestly if you see it working yet. Our last two stops of the day were to visit the local airport where travelers fly back and forth to the mainland on small air carriers, then a stop to the "Fountain Of Youth" that we all know Ponce De Leon searched for so hard throughout the Caribbean. One look down the well and we decided to forgo a drink from the murky water. But it was fun and the time spent visiting this less traveled side of the Biminis is well worth it.

It was time to call it a day and turn in our golf cart. We owe a thanks to Doyle Saunders of D.L.P.S. Golf cart rentals for taking time from his Sunday to rent us a cart. Doyle can be contacted at 242-473-0216 to arrange a rental for the day or for a week. Once we turned in the cart, he gave us a ride down to the ferry dock. We were tired and cold, yes cold, but in a good way and so looked forward to getting back to the boat and having a hot dinner. At the same time we were crossing back to North Bimini, a seaplane was landing in the channel and our driver found himself playing chicken with the plane. We never came close but it was an exciting way to finish the day. The boat driver and pilot waved to each other as they finally safely passed each other. Now if we can just get that weather window.

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