After crossing the Gulf Stream our first stop in the Caribbean is at Bimini. Not quite the Abacos, which was the initial plan but having waited for weather to allow us to get up there for too long, Bimini seemed to be the next best thing.
Bimini itself is split into two small island – North and South – and has a total population of about 1600. There is a huge very shallow area to the E of N Bimini where the water is never more than 3-4 feet deep and a deep channel with a very fast current running beside the island, giving access to the various villages and marinas.
S Bimini is a little different with one water taxi point on the N side connecting to N island, a made to measure posh resort with a deep water basin blown out of rock and a very small fishing port to the S side of the island. It also has the airport.
We arrived in North Bimini and parked up at Brown’s Marina, famous (as it would seem most of the Marinas here would claim) for its association with Ernest Hemmingway and being one of the oldest on the island. Certainly there is a big plaque with a quote from him referring to Browns just beside the bar. Prices are reasonably high in the marinas. Beer is $5 a bottle for the local brew, more for import brands and food starts at about $12-16 a main. On the basis that we have stocked up and the fact that money is now tight, we won’t be wanting to spend anything like that – welcome to the life of a liveaboard!
We cleared in without issue. The Customs post is now in the Big Game Marina building and I was processed by a lovely lady with a big smile and a very obvious grip on the male staff there. I didn’t quite understand the requirement to declare my GPS type (I have three, we settled on one) and the girls mini scooters but saw no reason to query it – better just to smile. I presume some legacy regulations in force!
Passport at the island’s Admin Centre (shared by the Police, post office, immigration and, I think, council equivalent) was even quicker. There was obviously a very good TV programme on and I was taking the lady away from it. “Fill these with your names”, four thumps as she stamped the passports and about 60 seconds later I was marching out again. Who said clearing in would be difficult?
North Island is not difficult to explore. There are three nominal villages all in a row, each pretty much up against the other on the main road running N/S on the island, which is for the most part no more than a few hundred metres wide. We walked along to see the sites. We found and visited the museum – all about the settling of the islands but mainly to do with the rich big game fishing history the island has. Hannah had a lovely time reading everything out aloud to us, great for Lou and I to listen to but a bit wearing for big sister!
We also found the War memorial and another for the worst air crash that Bimini had just a few years ago.
It is obvious that the Island has been hit hard by the recent financial woes. Most buildings and the marinas are tired and could do with a lick of paint. Houses are old and most look a little decrepit. Tourist shops are v few in number, mainly dealing in garishly coloured t-shirts. Restaurants amount to two conch salad bars. Even though we are in the winter months and the tourist numbers will be a lot lower now, times are obviously difficult.
Perhaps the most telling of pictures was the number of young men and woman grouping together to drink hard through the day outside the one bank on the island. It seemed to be an everyday occurrence.
No work to be had.
Saying that, it is a pretty place but not somewhere I would want to stay for any length of time. Although it could be said the glory days of Bimini are behind it, the people here are v friendly and optimistic that they will return.