Friday, February 13, 2015

Bimini Dayze

I’m not sure exactly what I though Bimini would be like, but it was different.  You know how you have a picture in your head about future events?  I guess for me, Bimini was more “real”.  Like my mental image was a simplistic and tidy cartoon.  Bimini is an untidy, poor, ramshackle group of mini-towns with splashes of unparalleled beauty.  The streets are very narrow and made of concrete or sand.  There is no waste here.  They are just wide enough and sometimes NOT wide enough at all.  Driving is done on the left, which messes with my brain.  But even though we traipsed all through the towns, wandering the streets as if lost… drivers were courteous and indulgent.  In fact, we never met a single soul that was less than friendly and welcoming.  It was such a pleasure to be amongst the people of Bimini after the hostility of the Miami rat race and Florida in general.  

The marina was packed with cruisers who had made the Gulf Stream crossing on the long awaited and short lived weather window the previous day.  We were all “stuck” here until the weather released us again.  High winds would hold us for at least the next two days.  But what a place to be STUCK!  We took off exploring before breakfast hoping to stop and taste the famous baked goods at A Taste of Heaven.  I have no idea what we ate, but they were sort of like a cinnamon roll without the cinnamon.  We had one cream cheese and one made with small bits of some sort of fruit.  And heavenly they were…. we ate them as we followed our friends through the streets of Bailey Town.  

Our destination was the Batelco office.  First order of business was to obtain a sim card for the iPad so that we could remain connected.  I know, I know… but forget-about-it.  I need my DATA!  It’s really so that we have access to cruising information and weather… yeah right…  Anyway, we ended up with a data card for the iPad and a new Bahamas phone with voice and text.  At least we know that we can be reached if the kids need us or whatever… I feel better now.

Business now out of the way, we wandered next towards a place called Dolphin House.  I had seen a few pictures of it on the internet but had no idea how wondrous it would be.  Of course in our current frame of mind… everything is wondrous.. but this place really IS a wonder.  

Meet Ashley Saunders
Ashley Saunders is a true Bahamian… his parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on… have lived right here on this one street, Saunders Street… on Bimini for EVER.  Along about 1993, Ashley let his artistic tendencies run amok and he ended up with a HOUSE!  He began to painstakingly build his home by hand out of cinderblock filled with concrete.  This is a common thing here on the island where a hurricane could wipe the island flat if the homes weren’t built very stoutly… but this is where the common thread stops for Dolphin House. 
A bottle becomes part of the wall

Bottle bottoms in plaster

Rollicking Dolphin Mosaic
Ashley’s love of dolphins and his art are much evident in the intricate creations to be found everywhere your gaze happens to wander…  Bits and pieces of tiles, sea glass, broken dishes, flotsam and jetsam have been incorporated into a hodgepodge of epic proportions that I would bet is unequalled anywhere in the world.  The ground floor is a museum of sorts, with all kinds of things that have washed ashore on Bimini and are carefully preserved by Ashley.  There is a small store where you can buy trinkets and shell jewelry… but upstairs… that is, up the narrow and steep set of stairs is a different world.  

Stairs steep and narrow... watch your head!
Ashley first led us up the far stairway to the third floor. This is a work in progress.  A work that has just barely begun.  The walls are built but there is no roof.  The floors have tile bits inlaid into the cement that point in the direction of all points of the world.  The rest is just piles of rubble that will become the next generation of dolphin house.  I wonder what it will look like…  But for now, the view is the prettiest thing about it.  You can look out over the rooftops to the Atlantic and if it weren’t for the old power lines… it would be world class.

Third Floor - A Work In Progress

All Points Set Into The Floor

The view from the stairs

Looking out what will be a patio door

The winds were trying to blow us off the house so we looked around and then back downstairs we went.  Finally we were led up the opposite staircase to the main house on the second floor.  My jaw dropped as I walked through the threshold…  This place defies description.  From the tile floors to the ceiling decorated with bamboo, lobster traps and floats, this place is mind blowing.  It’s difficult to even take it all in with only a few minutes to devote…  But… should you wish to spent a little longer here, you may have it all to yourself for $100 per night.  It’s rented out like a B&B, just 20 steps from a perfect beach… for a hundred bucks per night!  All of this could be yours. 

Living area

Ceilings stuffed with flotsam and jetsam

The kitchen
There is, if you let your mind make sense of it all, a kitchen with utensils stacked on a shelf.  A spaciousl living room with a bookshelf and free wi-fi.  There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms all tiled and very unique.  The only problem I can see with this is the fact that groceries, as we know them, are scarce.  I have no idea how a family could be fed with the things found in these several small grocery stores.  I hear that there is a way to order groceries brought to you, so maybe this would be a good plan… Anyway, it would be a nice getaway and your eyes would never be the same after leaving the dolphin house.

Sister Johnny serving up lunch
We signed the guest book, left a donation and continued on back towards our marina to find lunch.  The scent of something scrumptious drew us to the back of a small SUV parked on the side of the street where Sister Johnny was serving up lunches to-go.  

A whole new meaning for Meals-On-Wheels
We were drawn in and chose BBQ Chicken, a pork chop, peas-n-rice and bahamian mac-n-cheese.  I couldn’t wait until we got home to dive in!  We dined in local splendor in our cockpit and could only finish half of it.  Yay leftovers!  
Lunch Al Fresco in the cockpit
Bruce and Sandra (Stephanie Dawn)
After a short nap… we’re cruisers, we get naps… we got up and started getting ready for a Cruiser’s Happy Hour.  Earlier in the day, I had started inviting everyone on the dock to come to the marina common area at five and bring a snack and drinks.  Those I told invited others and by 5 PM we had quite a crowd of people from the boats here at Browns as well as people from other marinas.  What an awesome turnout for our first real Cruiser Happy Hour!  

We grazed and chatted and met folks from all over the place.  Everyone was friendly and we all shared a common achievement in having just crossed the stream… We were all excited to be on our way to adventure and just lovin’ life in general.  Not a grumble was to be heard from this crowd.  We shared laughs and stories and FOOD until after dark when it began to get chilly and one by one, people disappeared back to their own boats.

The marina is well protected from the winds, but not from the swell coming in through the gateway to the Atlantic.  Looking down the dock, you could see a raucous sight as the boats all bounded and strained at their mooring lines.  The swell never ceased for those two days, making getting on and off the boat a challenge.  I felt kind of badly for our cats as they were there on the boat 24/7 without the opportunity to get to solid ground for a rest.  But they were troupers and never got sick, even though the ride in the slip was much worse than the Gulf Stream crossing.  

Every morning at 6:30 am we listened to Chris Parker’s weather report to see when we would be able to continue on.  We needed two good days for travel to get across the Great Bahama Bank.  It looked like we would be able to leave on Thursday, so that left us one more free day here in Bimini.  ROCK ON!!!  One of the other Cruisers, Phyllis from O My, had made arrangements for three golf carts to be delivered to us at 10 am the next morning.  That would accommodate 16 people and we ended up with 20, so another cart was quickly added.  We all gathered, boarded and puttered away down the narrow streets to tour the island.  
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Dawn

Typical street view
We headed first for the far north tip of the island.  We had heard that there was a resort being built that had slips and we wanted to check it out.  We crossed through the gate of the property and into another world.  Suddenly we were back in the US where the townhouses were brightly colored with manicured grassy lawns.  Everything was clean and tidy… and deserted.  There were few people in evidence aside from construction workers continuing to build this empire.  

End of the line - a luxury resort
We found the resort at the end of the line, a beautiful beach with waves crashing ashore in the north winds.  Beckoning beach chairs and a nice bar and grill… all closed.  We wandered around… where IS everybody?  Why are there no people here?  This is the perfect time of year for this place to be jumpin’…  Have we missed a memo?  Has the world ended and we weren’t told?  It was erie as our small group milled around unchallenged, roaming wherever we chose…
Beautiful deserted beach

Where IS everybody???
Nice beach bar and restaurant... empty!

The pool by the Casino Marina... empty!

The Casino Marina had just a few boats

We continued on to the shopping mecca… again, deserted.  Only a couple of stores were open and one pizza joint.  We looked at the wares and found them to be exorbitantly priced, just what one would expect at a resort…  We looked our fill and took our leave… back to the real Bimini we went!

The marinas in the distance

Typical Bimini streets
Sandra and Phyllis looking for the perfect shell
We retraced our former path along the coast road and made a stop to look for conch shells. They were all piled along the shore where the local conch fishermen had removed their contents and tossed them away.  

Just across the street was a small Cemetery.  There are several here on the island, all with gorgeous eternal views.

The graves were scattered haphazardly, some better attended than others.  The markers were varied as well.  Everything from faded and weathered boards, to sticks, to marble... one even consisted of a board marked in sharpie...  Many of the graves had cement lids with ropes still attached.  Should you wish to do so, you could lift off the top and see what's inside...

Random seaplane landing

We headed up a hill on the narrow cement road and found ourselves touring the neighborhoods of the average Bimini family.  There were piles of rubble and modest (in the extreme) homes, many unfinished with rebar sticking out at odd angles.  There were no cats.  No dogs.  Few people wandering the streets.  We wondered if the people here were happy with what they had and decided that they must be.  Stresses would be few and problems would be basic ones of survival.

Glimpses of stunning beauty amid streets of modest homes
A conversation earlier in the morning comes to mind in which I asked Humphrey, our marina host, if he knew what the tide times were for the following day.  He said yes… you look out there at those boats anchored on the reef and if you see sand… its low tide.  If you don’t see sand… it’s high tide.  My knee jerk reaction was “how can they live like that?”… but in retrospect, I guess that’s all Humphrey need to know or cared about.  He wasn’t going anywhere and it didn’t really matter to him.
Another tiny cemetery in the neighborhood

Religion has a strong presence here on Bimini.  There are quite a few small churches all within walking distance of the homes they serve.  They are much nicer than those homes, which is evidence of their importance in the lives of these people.  Graffiti can be found here and there, all of it of a religious nature…  These are gentle people.  It's no wonder they are friendly and welcoming of strangers bearing gifts of money coming into their town.

Blocking the road for bread!
We passed a bakery and I called for a STOP!  We blocked the roads with our carts as we all piled off and crowded into this small establishment.  There were only three types of Bimini Bread offered today and I picked up a still-warm loaf of Coconut Bread.  It will make lovely breakfasts for our trip eastward…
The promise of treasures...

And all that was left was bread...  But GOOD bread!

Random beach

Bimini's equivalent to a "food court"  Street lined with restaurants
We loaded back onto our carts and continued on the last part of our journey.  It was time to return the carts.  Some bought lunch at Sister Johnny’s but we would return to the boat for leftovers and another nap…what wait!  No nap!  There’s a whole nother island to check out here… South Bimini was calling our names.  

Water Taxi Landing North Bimini
We joined Stephanie Dawn and O My for a brief water taxi ride to the landing (such as it is) on South Bimini.

Can you see me in my camo next to Sandra?
We didn’t really do our homework and had no idea what was over there. When we arrived we milled around until the van came back to get us and the driver suggested Bimini Sands… OK, lets do that!
Leaving North Bimini behind

The Water Taxi Landing
There is a well protected marina circled by condos and a bar/restaurant with a nice pool… and no people.  Where ARE they all?  We had expected there to be crowds of people all over the place, but it’s like a ghost town.  

We found the bar to be open and had a mid afternoon drink, entertained by a very lively bar tender.  She noticed our confusion about being unceremoniously dropped off here with no real idea of how we would get back… something about the bus outside…  It didn’t help our plight that we STILL had no idea what we wanted to do…
Our group bellied up to the bar

Bruce's very first Selfie!!!

So she called the bus driver and instructed him to take us to the far south end of the island to the other Bimini Sands facility.  OK, lets do THAT!!  

The Partridge Family Bus!
I’ll bet you’ve always wondered what ever happened to the Partridge Family bus…right?  Well, here it is.  Alive and (not so) well.  We boarded and were whisked away along sand streets past bushes and brambles to the other end of South Bimini.

There, we were once again deposited with vague mention of the bus coming back every half hour or so.  We wandered aimlessly around the deserted beach resort.  It’s very beautiful here, but very old.  Like being lost in time, taken back to the 60s.  I expected Dean Martin to stroll up with a martini wearing european swim shorts…  So many ghosts here…  Very erie.

The docks

The beach

The pool
We were a little bit relieved to see the Partridge Family Bus rumbling in our direction in a cloud of dusty sand.  We made a b-line to board and not be left behind.  The ride back to the water-taxi landing seemed shorter and was just finishing boarding when we tumbled onto the boat and found our seats for the ride back to “civilization”.  We arrived back just in time to throw together the side dish we would make for tonight’s dinner.

It was another Cruiser party… this time a real Pot Luck.  Since the whole thing was kind of our idea, we bought charcoal from the marina and used their two nice charcoal grills and the patio was ours.  It’s such a nice perk that Brown’s offers.  We have our own little world here…  Everyone brought meat to grill and a side dish and we ate like kings here on this tiny speck of an island in the middle of the ocean.  We met new friends and shared information and stories.  The meal was certainly better than what we would have had on our own and the company was too!  Again we partied until after sundown and were just finishing up when it began to rain… we gathered our stuff and dashed to our boats.  As we were settling into bed, it began to rain in earnest.  

And thus ended our days on Bimini.  Tomorrow we would leave here and continue on, scattered to the many island choices to meet up somewhere else, maybe.  I was nervous.  We had made and changed plans so many times with the changing weather forecast.  I think we have a good plan.  


  1. I find the emptiness of Bimini in the developed areas to be astonishing. I live in Boca Raton, FL and the real estate costs here, with ocean access are astronomical. I can see on Google earth there are many canals and roads on Grand Bahama around Freeport, which are so similar to those along the East coast of Florida, and there are virtually no houses. It makes me wonder why people spend millions here when the same ocean access, the same weather, the same language, is available just a few miles away. I'm going to have to explore this sometime in the future. I am curious to know the time period when these photos/events happened, not that I'm trying to search you out, I'm curious what I was doing on those days back here in the "States".

  2. I can't agree with you more. If someone can afford to have waterfront property on the US East Coast... they can surely afford to get themselves over hear and have a paradise without the US hassles.