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TRIP TO BIMINI  

By Bob Johnson

Bimini is part of the Bahamian Islands and is 50 statue miles East of Miami Florida.  Bimini is composed of three small islands - North Bimini, South Bimini, and East Bimini. Together, they are only a "dot" on the map.

There are two ways to get to Bimini - pleasure boats and private or commercial aircraft. There is a  commercial seaplane service from Miami and commuter type air service from a few South Florida airports to the Bimini airport located on South Bimini.

Clear water is the reason you go to Bimini.  The clear water provides opportunities for fishing, skin diving and snorkeling.  The water is clear because the islands are in the Gulf stream.  One fourth of a mile from the Western shore of the islands is a sharp drop off  to over a thousand feet.  This ledge in the ocean contains a large variety of fish.

Boaters in South Florida all have a dream to take their boat across the Gulf stream to the Bahamas.  That is what I did with a group of 20 other saltwater fishing boats ranging in size of 20 to 31 feet.  On my boat was the First mate, my 26 year old Son and his girlfriend.  The First mate and I knew the dangers of the trip and spent weeks preparing.  My Son and girlfriend only got anxious a day or so before the trip but the weather and sea forecast looked good - "it was a GO".

The trip was worse than I expected.  Seas were forecast at two feet or less on the 87 mile outbound trip.  The truth was seas were 4-6 feet in the middle of the Gulf stream.  Seas were forecast 2-4 feet on the return trip but were 6-10 in the middle of the Gulf stream.  On the outbound trip we set a direct course from the Palm Beach inlet (home port) to Bimini which put us in the middle of the Northerly flow of the Gulf stream for most of the trip.  We were going at a speed that would be 30 miles an hour (mph) in waters without currents or waves but our actual forward progress was 20 to 24 mph in that environment.  The four hour trip was the worse this captain and crew had experienced in any mode of transportation.  Our bodies were actually bruised from the pounding and bouncing.  The return trip was better even though seas were higher because we went directly to Ft. Lauderdale.  That route allowed us to be in the middle of the Gulf stream for only an hour.

Upon arrival at Bimini we spent a couple of hours waiting and clearing Bahamian customs at Alice Town, North Bimini.  It took a long time because there was so many boats and people in our group.  I didn't care because I was at least standing on Mother Earth.

After doing the paper work and paying the fees, we had to get back on the boat and go to South Bimini where our hotel was located.  It was only about three miles.  Once checked in at the  hotel (no keys and no locks), it was nice to relax and contemplate the day. 

My son and girlfriend slept on the boat that night.  However, they were in the hotel room at daylight because of mosquitos.  Very hungry small black mosquitos!  Oh well, the purpose of the trip was to fish.  We were awake so we went fishing.

As soon as we got near the drop off in the ocean, you couldn't keep the trigger and angel fish away from your bait.  I guess a true sport fisherman would be mad about the bait thieves but at least there was a lot of action.  After a couple of hours, we decided to go to Alice Town, explore the town and refuel for the return trip.  We didn't realize that we had already seen all of the town when we  were doing customs the previous day.  The town is four blocks long and the main street is more like an alley.  Fortunately, there are not many autos.  Golf carts are the main mode of transportation other than walking.  There is one of each type of store.  No bargains on anything.

The best thing is the washer and hook game you see in the bars.  There is a hook on the wall and a washer tied to a string attached to the ceiling.  You try to find a position to release the washer that will cause the washer to hook on the hook on the wall.  Simple game but very difficult!  Don't sign up to "washer/hook" sharks.  You will lose your money. We enjoyed dancing the limbo to Bahaman music which is the typical Caribbean reggae.

After getting our fuel at $2.65 a gallon (a bargain if you think about it) we went back to fishing.  With the Sun high in the sky, my Son said he can see the bottom - what is the depth?  The depth finder said 70 feet.  Hum, that is what I call clear water!  I even accidentally caught a yellow tail snapper that won third place in the fishing contest.  We all had fun catching fish.
 
Bimini is truly a water world where the people are totally dependent on the sea.  Bimini communications are via VHF marine radio.  Bimini's 1600 residents are very nice.  Bimini and the Bahamas is the nearest foreign country to South Florida but so far away because of the Gulf stream.

Go there, it is a bitter sweet adventure you will never forget.

Read Waterway Guide - Southern edition if you are planning to go.  It is published annually and is available in most boat supply stores.  There are many pages on the net about Bimini and the Bahamas.

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