Monday, 8 June 2015

 March 22, 2015

Before we left Gun Cay in the morning, we toured around the anchorage trying to spot Stingrays that are written about in the Cruising Guides but we didn’t see any.  Our plan was to time our departure so that we would arrive in North Bimini at slack tide.  All the marinas are located on the east side of the island between the island and a mud flat, which is exposed at low tide.  The three foot tide coming in and out of this narrow channel creates a very strong current that changes direction four times a day.  Our trip to North Bimini was sunny with calm seas and very light winds and we had to motor all the way.  We arrived at Brown’s Marina late morning where we planned to spend the next four weeks. 

Once we had cleared Customs and Immigration, Bimini was ours to discover.  The Island  of North Bimini is only about 7 miles long, with only 2 roads, the Queen’s Road and the King’s Road that run most of the length of the island.  The Island has 2 towns Alice Town and Bailey Town, except for the signs saying that you are entering the town, it would have been impossible to tell which you were in.  The traffic on the Island runs the full range from golf carts to full size garbage trucks that are all travelling on a road that is the width of 2 golf carts.  If you are walking you had better be prepared to get well off to the side as they don’t give pedestrians much room.  They also drive on the opposite side of the road, so we always seemed to be on the wrong side at first.  
The islands only source of income is tourism, with the main focus until recently, being sport fishing as they are located close to the Gulf Stream.  In the last few years there has been a large condominium complex built on the north end of the island complete with a casino, mega yacht marina and soon to be completed large hotel.  This is serviced by a high speed ferry that runs between Miami and Bimini. 

We spent our first few days on the island exploring the different shops trying to find where we would be able to go for supplies.  The island has several grocery stores none of which could supply us with all the things we would expect to find in a grocery store in Canada.  This meant we had to find which store carried which products and also plan our shopping around the once a week island supply ship. 

At first it didn’t appear to be a lot to do on the island but as we explored and slowed down to island time we found loads of things to do when you factor in walking everywhere and the hot weather. 
  • Our first take away meal was from ‘The Taste of Home Bakery’ in Alicetown and we were invited by the lady who operated Jontras Grocery store across the road to join her and eat in the grocery store out of the flies and heat.  It was fun as we were included in the conversations with the local people as they came and went from the store.
  • We got a ride on the Tram that was used to transport the people from the resort on the north end of the island down to the towns on the south end for shopping. We wanted to see the resort and casino that we had heard about.  What we found was a gated complex with a subdivision of condos with perfectly manicured lawns, a yacht harbour that was set up to cater to the mega yachts, and a casino that was empty except for the employees.  We caught the first tram we could back to the south end of the island. This was not our idea of the Bahamas.
  • We had read in the tourist information about a museum called the Dolphin House.  We went to see and found a museum, gift shop and motel rooms all built by the owner Ashley.  The Dolphin House is one one of those places you would expect to see on a TV show about incredible homes.  The building was the standard concrete block construction seen everywhere here but he had stuccoed the outside of his building with conch shells, sea glass and ceramic tile all of which he had found on the beaches or diving nearby.  This unusual exterior was matched on the interior with things he had collected or been given such as licence plates for every state in the US as well as most of Canada, and a complete 20 year collection of National Geographic Magazine.
  • Talking to the dock master we found that we could buy lobster tails off a fishing boat that had just come in.  The Freedom Rider was a larger fishing boat that would come into Bimini when the weather was too rough for them to be out fishing off the Bahama Banks.   At $20.00 a dozen you could get tired of eating lobster ;) .  All the lobster that is caught is speared so any lobster that are too small for export are sold from the boat on the island.
  • We have been hearing a really annoying tune being played each evening near our Marina.  This would last for about 15 minutes and then the music would disappear.  We found out after several days that it was an ice cream truck.  Ice cream was something we hadn’t had in some time and the music stopped being annoyance and something we started  to look forward to hearing.
  • Our first trip to the beach, we saw 2 Stingrays swimming at least a hundred yards off shore (the water clarity is just incredible) as we watched, one of them flew completely out of the water.  What an incredible experience seeing something that large, powerful and beautiful doing something we weren’t expecting to see.
  • Between the beach and the road back to our boat, is a small building called Sherry and Erik’s Sunset Beach Bar, which makes some really good and powerful rum concoctions.  We stopped in one afternoon to try them out and asked Sherry where we could find some shade to sit and enjoy our drinks. Her answer was that we could sit on the deck around the beach side of her building or we could sit with her in front of the bar.  We chose to sit with her and had a great visit with her and several colourful local individuals that hung around there.  Sherry had just reopened recently after being closed for cancer treatment, when Dave questioned her about her health care and her treatment, she lifted her top and pulled her pants down enough to show him the scar. He was speechless.  A wonderful lady and a must place to stop for a drink on North Bimini.
  • On South Bimini a professor from the University of Miami has set up a lab to study sharks.  Bimini’s  closeness to the Gulf Stream makes it is a good spot to find and tag many of the different species of shark.  The lab is staffed by grad students and they will give tours of their facilities.  We took the water taxi over to see and were taken out to pens that they use to hold sharks for study and after listening to a talk on the work that is being done here, we were allowed to pet a Lemon Shark.
  • A marina down from where we are staying has set up a cage, that for $100.00 you can get into, while they feed very large Bull sharks in the water around you.  The second option here is to stand on the dock and watch the guy feed these huge sharks for free staying dry and $100.00 better off.  We took the second option, eight to ten foot Bull sharks are really something to see that close up. 
  • Before we left Bimini, we needed some rubber gasket cement so we went to  Moonglow Battery and Tire.  We ordered it and were told that it would arrive on the mail boat on Thursday.  When we arrived back, no one was in the store but we could hear a TV in a room off the store and knocked on the door.  When the owner Sol opened the door, the walls of the room were covered with trophies which looked like something from body building competitions.  We asked Sol about them and we found out that he had won competitions all over the Caribbean, was a member of the Bahama’s Sports Hall of Fame  and at 78 years of age, was training to possibly compete in a senior’s body building competition this summer.
  • After our first 2 weeks on the island watching a lady serve take away lunches out of the trunk of her car, we got up enough nerve to try it.  The food was incredible for $9.00 each we ended up with enough food for our lunch and the leftovers were enough for supper.  That day, she had a choice of 3 styles of chicken, either coleslaw or mac and cheese served on peas and rice.  We managed to go a second day when it was pork chops or ham steaks and we left with the same opinion as our first meal -great food served Bimini style.

After almost 4 weeks on Bimini we hadn’t run out of things to do and see but it was getting to the time when we needed to find a weather window to get us back to Florida. On March 22, 2015 at 6:45 AM we left on a slack tide and pointed Time 2 Go towards Fort Lauderdale.

The Dolphin House, Alicetown, North Bimini

Art work inside Dolphin House

Mermaid corner in the Dolphin House

Shark Research Lab on South Bimini

Petting a Lemon Shark

Bull shark feeding at Bimini Big Game Club

Beach on North Bimini

Sherri and Erik's Beach Bar

Cary the Coconut Man preparing a coconut for us

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