Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South Bimini

“Ain’t no time zone here”, smiled a Bimini local. It’s true. This place is really special and we’re falling more in love every day.

An excursion from North Bimini to South Bimini introduced us to the tranquility and magic of the south island. Eco-tour guide Grant met us at the dock.

He and his girlfriend Katie have established an Activity Centre at the Bimini Sands Resort encouraging eco-explorations and a Nature Trail introducing tourists and locals to wildlife of the island including the Bimini Boa, a rare and beautiful snake.

Later that afternoon, Sean, the manager of the Bimini Biological Station, or, “Sharklab”, explained the work of the centre.

Their research includes tagging lemon sharks and studies of the Bimini shark population by marine academics assisted by a team of volunteers.

The shark pen tour had been at low tide, a few hours before. Our appetite was whetted. We wanted to know more about this island.

The next day Seraphim motored down to South Bimini.

After leaving the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina we learnt of the destruction building the resort had wrought upon the mangroves, essential nurseries for marine life. When the dredgers fail to use “curtains”, silt from the construction clogs up the sea grass beds, home to juvenile fish, shrimp, lobster and conch so important to Bimini fisherman and restaurants. Bahamian politicians with incentives from the developers  allowed the original site to grow almost out of control until pressure from international environmentalists forced a preservation order on East Bimini which means no resort golf course but the survival of indigenous wild life.

Even at high tide with slow rolling three foot waves, the shifting sand bars make the entrance to the Bimini Sands marina on South Bimini, a heart-in-mouth experience.

But once in, it’s great. Fishing off the dock, a swimming pool two minutes from the boat, a stunning beach five minutes away plus the other resort site the Bimini Beach Club and Mackey’s Bar.

It is a marina for cruisers rather than a boat park for weekend hoppers from Miami.  First on the to-do list was laundry, epic laundry.

The scores of nappies loaded in Fort Lauderdale for James were running low. Small’s, the only grocery on South Bimini did not carry them.  The supply boats bringing goods from Fort Lauderdale and Nassau arrive on Thursday. So Friday morning was a good time to cross back to North Bimini on the water taxi for essentials. Brown bread and parmesan rolls ordered from Tammy at Taste of Heaven Bakery, re-victualed and nappied up, we headed back to the ferry/water taxi. I was relieved that new friends Linda and Chrissie golf carted us to and from the dock. It’s a comparatively short walk but in 90 degrees on a dusty road with children it can become a task. Especially after one of my meltdowns when I sob that it’s all too much and want to go home. John ducks and dives through these monthly crises til an hour or so later the sun is shining in paradise, physically and metaphorically.

The mundane was forgotten when Jim the assistant manager of the Shark Lab waded out with us to the pen where young sharks were swimming. Jim fished out a lemon and then a nurse shark describing their characteristics, life style and idiosyncrasies. Touching these creatures was thrill for Jack and James. When John commented that they felt like sandpaper, Jim told that “back in the day”, sailors used their skins to sand the decks.  Jim has worked, voluntarily, at the lab for almost three years since he graduated.

On Saturday, Jim was fishing for bone fish off the beach, on his day off, at the Bimini Beach Club. On the horizon is the wreck of the Sapona, on the edge of the Bahama Banks. She was a concrete vessel used for hooch. Numerous schooners were sunk on the Banks in the hurricane of 1926.

Inside Mackey’s Sand Bar there is sand on the floor and on the wall photographs of Bimini in the 20s – 50s including the harbor full of schooners, proof that the island thrived during Prohibition.

The phrase the Real McCoy comes from those spirited days when Bill McCoy was known for his undiluted liquor. Predictably there are photos of the famous writer and big game fisher with quotes from his work. Being on a Hemingway Island I messed with long sentences linked by “and” with the odd comma but after a few breathless goes, let it go.

It’s a bus or taxi to the Bimni Beach. Tony who sometimes drives a bus for the Bimini Sands, has eight children from four girlfriends. He looks after the children during the day and escapes to the bus in the evening and Sundays.

On our trips into Alice Town we met various taxi drivers. The tram was not as reliable as we had hoped so we spent more than we had hoped on taxis. $20 return.  The best taxi is Milton or Scooper Taxi. Someone smashed one of the other taxi drivers windows.  Our concern over a taxi war turned to amusement when we heard from a South Bimini taxi that our windowless friend  is a “lover”. It was probably the fury of a scorned girlfriend. The taxi driver grinned over the “lover”. “I tell him man you got to slow down, but he don’t do dat”.

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