Saturday, April 3, 2010

Islands in the stream

BIMINI, Bahamas

The Bahamas are so close and yet utterly different to the States in all ways.  Less than 50 miles from Florida across the Gulfstream, Bimini has a strange captivating charm.

Bimini claims to be the sports fishing capital of the world. These tiny islands on the edge of the Gulfstream and The Bahama Banks have attracted sports fisherman for decades.

Six hundred pound fish which fight for hours such as Marlin and Sailfish team just off these “Islands in the Stream”. Ernest Hemingway’s book was based on his three seasons here between 1935 – 37.  The house he first describes, The Anchorage, still exists as a hotel attached to the Bimini Blue Water Marina where we stayed on our arrival to the “Gateway of the Bahamas”.

Two days later another cold front passed through providing a good opportunity to catch rain water to fill the tanks, one of Jack’s favourite games.

The small Bimini museum is a fascinating guide to the colourful history of the island. There are pictures of the rich Americans who made homes here and attracted royal, wealthy and famous guests. Hemingway and one of his four wives, Pauline, are photographed with Baron and Baroness von Blixen of “Out of Africa” notoriety.  The photographs taken in the 1930s show fit hunters and their ladies who have no hips and long legs. The real boom time was during Prohibition when Bimini harbour was littered with liquor cases. The ultimate booze cruise, when schooners from Europe loaded with alcohol anchored in the harbour, unloaded and fast boats (rum runners) sped the illegal drink across to the US.

The north island is seven miles long and almost a half a mile wide at one point. A beach runs along the Atlantic side. Jack and James played with new friends during a cruisers gathering outside Shelley’s beach bar in Alice Town.

An evening of indulging in Shelly’s conch fritters, up-and-down island banter, the magnificent sunset and driftwood bonfire. CJ’s, next door was John’s breakfast sandwich venue.

Bimini’s main islands are North and South Bimini. North Bimini has two faces, the village of Alice Town for island life, and at the other end of the island Bimini Bay Resort and Marina.

As with many islands golf carts are the vehicle of choice. During our $40 worth of golf cart rental we discovered the Resort and Marina.  John’s careful questioning elicited the useful information that although it is $3 a foot per day, it is $1.20 per foot if you stay a week, not many people know that.

Even though it is a minimum of 40 feet, it was still the same price as Alice Town but includes restaurants, (selling grouper fingers – mmm), an infinity pool, uber pool, children’s pool (pee pool), children’s playground, children’s play room and non-stop WIFI.  We headed up the new deep channel cut through the shallows for a week on Wahoo Pontoon. Now we have the best of both worlds. A $6 tram driven by Humphrey or $10 taxi with Max takes us back to Alice Town, through the villages of Porgy Bay and Bailey Town. I window shop at the expensive Bimini Bay shop fronts but we head to Alice Town to shop.

Tamy runs the Taste of Home bakery, a green building where she sells many goodies. Our favourite are her Parmesan and Garlic rolls.

Just before Easter the local school sold hot cross buns. A pupil, Paulette showed us through the school grounds to the Bimini mummies working hard over the buns.

They were delicious, and literally hot.

One of our most charming father and sons moments occurred when John made a coconut sailboat for the boys, and accompanied by happy squeals set it afloat.

This Easter weekend our tranquil resort has become Miami in the Stream. One of scores of sports fishing boasts powering into the marina was 900 horse power Down Time. It took just 1 hour 20 minutes to reach Bimini from Miami, top speed is 55 knots with  a cruising speed of 33 knots.  Seraphim’s 50 horse power and sail took eight hours with our cruising speed of 7 knots. Sleigh riding down a big wave our top speed is 12 knots.

We’re off to see Junkanoo, the local Carnival in Alice Town.
There are at least eight churches to choose from.  Wishing you all a Happy Easter.

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