While gazing outward toward the indigo waters of the Gulf Stream from our perch on the iron shore in Bimini one of the "Islands in the Stream" favored by Ernest Hemingway in the 1930's, Joe and I pondered our existence. This tends to be a common occurrence while sipping ice cold Kaliks (beer of the Bahamas). Joe remarked, "We're on a perpetual spring break." Wow. Did I feel guilty? Perhaps a wee bit, but only momentarily. I recalled names of those who also languished on this island before us. Ernest Hemingway, Adam Clayton Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Al Capone were frequent visitors to Bimini and lest we not forget former Senator Gary Hart and the politically damaging photo of a blonde bombshell perched on his lap aboard the sport fishing vessel Monkey Business. Characters such as these have found shelter on this island for decades. Now we're enjoying this island too. Although, not hiding from the press, but finding shelter from the easterly trade winds that have been relentless for over a month.
One of the best features of cruising in the Bahamas is that our lives have become more spontaneous. A surprise visit from friends who were staying at a nearby marina in South Bimini made for a spontaneous and eventful afternoon. A vibrant couple, Scott and Donna from Saltine whom we'd met last year in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera had rented a golf cart for the day. They'd stopped by our boat earlier that afternoon, but we were enjoying the beach. At 3:30 I heard someone calling Simple Life. They invited us to join them on a whirlwind tour of Bimini by golf cart with a stop along the roadside at Stuart's Conch Shack of Kaliks and fresh conch salad. Joe and Scott managed to down more than enough beer and made a new Bahamian friend in the process. Fortunately, there's no breathalyzer sobriety tests on Bimini. Remember we were driving a golf cart.
A few days later Scott and Donna invited us along with a group of cruisers to South Bimini on Saturday for dinner at a restaurant on Nixons Harbour at the south end of the island. A colorful school bus provided free roundtrip transportation. Since arriving in the Bahamas we'd looked forward to having conch burgers. The conch meat is tenderized with a mallet. Strips are battered and deep fried served with lettuce, tomato, onion and fries. These were delicious and perfectly crispy.
Surprisingly, Bimini was an enjoyable stop for us. Alice Town was small with one narrow main road The Kings Highway, about the width of two golf carts. The town bustled with activity. Robert's Market had a good selection of food by Bahamian standards when the mailboat arrived, but shelves were bare toward the end of the week with one cabbage and only a few potatoes. There was no milk, eggs, bread or fresh produce. I'd hoped to provision since our plan was to head to the Berry Islands when the next sailing window opened. Unfortunately, the window came the day before the mailboat's arrival. At least we were able to have one of our propane tanks filled during our stay by Big Fred at his official "filling station truck" on the beach at the entrance point to the harbor.
Charlie's Bread baked fresh daily in his home
Several boats departed at dawn the following morning. The wind was still howling and we decided to wait for a favorable current and lighter winds before departure. No need to add to the anxiety of leaving with heavy air on the nose and opposing tide and currents. Simple Life was off the dock at 3:00 PM bound for an overnight passage over the Great Bahama Bank with an ETA of 7:00 AM at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. The passage was relatively mild until after 10:00 PM when the wind piped up to 18-20 knots. With waves breaking over the bow concern grew as we sighted numerous lighted vessels directly on the route we planned to sail. Later it became obvious as passed each one that they were commercial Bahamian fishing vessels. All were lighted, but while underway it was difficult determining whether they were moving or not. After passing the first two vessels it seemed logical to assume the remainder of the fleet was anchored as well. This lowered the stress level to a manageable degree. As far as passages go this one was relatively easy considering the wild weather conditions we've experienced this winter.
Bahamian friend Cecile fishing