Well, we spent over a week in Bimini, which they call the gateway to the Bahamas. We pulled into the north island after a rolling, puking, awful trip. By the time we motored up to Brown’s Marina, it was pouring rain and it was starting to thunder and lightning. (The beautiful 60 foot catamaran parked two slips over from us actually got struck by lightning that night and it fried all of their electronics.) There was a strong current so we had to circle around a couple of times before we actually docked while three or four people waited and watched on deck, standing in the pouring rain, to help us dock Viatori. Not a great way to enter a new place.
Then there was the laundry, dishes and general clean-up to be done after a travel day. We had a bit more laundry than usual as most of the bedding needed changing after Ethan puked on everything. Poor little guy, he continued to get sick during the night and for part of the next morning, even after we had pulled into the marina. Maybe a touch of the flu or else it just takes that little body longer to settle.
We got in late Wednesday evening and Thursday is market day in Bimini and we needed some groceries so Richard walked up with some of the cruisers we met in the marina. Everything comes to Bimini on a boat or an airplane and everything has to go through customs first so the first market trip was only partially successful as the produce container hadn’t cleared customs yet. It meant walking into town later in the day to get fresh fruit and vegetables.
Our first day was spent recuperating from our travel day and the boys had a playdate with an 9 year old girl, named Abby, who was from Ontario and staying in the same marina. Unfortunately, they left a day later as their weather window opened up for them and they were headed to Nassau. The boys also got friendly with another boat, Quest and a woman named Judy. We had coffee with her one morning and then the boys took a deck of cards over and played games and watched television with her. Her husband was away for a week on business so she was by herself and liked the company. Their boat is a trawler with an actual living room on it, so the boys loved being over at Judy’s place.
We rented a golf cart for an hour and half one day and drove the entire length of North Bimini in about 30 minutes. At the far end of North Bimini (as far north as King’s Highway goes) it is like another world. There is a large resort there, Bimini Bay Resort and Marina and driving through it is like being in the twilight zone, with rows and rows of pastel luxury condos, manicured lawns, no garbage anywhere in sight. Everything is clipped and cleaned and everyone drives around on golf carts. They have a cruise ship as well and they are working on putting in a huge dock for the ship to park at. Conservationists and environmentalists are up in arms because they are chopping down and destroying acres of mangroves to make room for more resort, but the son of the “prime minister” of the Bahamas is the land developer for all of this.
Another day, we spent an afternoon at the beach, finding shells and smooth pieces of glass, eating snacks and wading in the water. The people of Bimini collect all of their glass “garbage” and dump it in the ocean, where it gets broken up into a million pieces, smoothed out and then it gets washed back onto shore, where they pick it up and use it for jewelry and other things.
We went on a very cool field trip that included a water taxi and regular taxi ride, a walk, pizza at a beach bar and then on to the Bimini Shark Lab. We listened to one of researchers, a girl from the UK, talk about the facility and the work they do at the shark lab. She showed us the wall of photos and gave a us a bit of a tour. Researchers and volunteers live and work at the facility, so it has bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room and sleeping quarters. People there are doing research on lemon sharks that come and have their babies in the shallow waters near the mangroves that surround Bimini. They are doing studies on shark personalities, social groups, and how they elude predators and how they catch their prey. Very cool stuff and the boys listened intently. Then, because it was low tide, we all waded out into the mud flats where they have lemon sharks in pens that they tag, release, then recapture and research. Richard, James and even Matthew climbed into one of the enclosures that had a juvenile lemon shark and three sting rays in it. They clip the tails on the rays so they are harmless and one of them came quite close to James. It was very cool and the boys were impressed. That was a good day.
We also checked out the Bimini Museum which was kind of a joke. It is up a rickety staircase and it has some sun-bleached and water stained photos and newspaper clippings telling the history of Bimini. Bimini is known for bone-fishing, a fighter fish that is a cousin to the herring. So there are lots of fishing pictures and Hemingway photos and articles. Ernest Hemingway helped to make Bimini famous. He actually docked his boat at Brown’s Marina where we stayed and we walked past the burnt down ruins of a hotel he used to box at.
Our last afternoon here we went to the Dolphin Museum, where a man named Ashley Saunders has spent two decades building and decorating this two story building with shells, conch, bottles, tiles and coral. He searches the dump, the beach, and condemned buildings for all of his building materials. He makes murals of dolphins with marbles and glass, hence the name. There are pictures on the walls made out of coins, drift wood on the ceiling and a glowing lamp made from a pink conch shell. The boys were very impressed and Matthew snapped pictures for half an hour. Ashley’s brother is a boat builder and his other brother makes fishing rods and miniature boats from coconuts. It is a very interesting and artistic family.
We kind of fell into a routine, breakfast on the boat, an hour or two of school and then the afternoons were ours to explore and play and see stuff. The people here are friendly, everyone greets you and says hello and good afternoon. The weather was great, it was hot and sunny everyday. But Bimini is run down, fences in disrepair, piles of garbage, abandoned golf carts and old boats parked on the beach or in the water. It is kind of junky and parts of it have a foul smell. We were ready to move on. After spending almost ten days here, we can honestly say that we have been there, done that and we got the t-shirt, well not actually but…