When we arrived at Bimini Blue Water Marina, we were flying our Q flag because we hadn’t checked in to the Bahamas yet. Because we heard that most marinas no longer provide the necessary forms, we went to the Explorer Charts website, downloaded the Bahamas Customs Clearance forms, and filled them out when we were still in Marathon. When we arrived at the marina, they provided us with the Immigration cards that are not available online.
Once we were tied up, the Captain walked about five minutes away to the Bahamian Customs office, which is located in Big Game Marina. Once done with Customs, he walked another five minutes down to the Bimini Administrative Offices to go to Bahamian Immigration. Filling out the paperwork ahead of time made all the difference, and the entire process was relatively quick and simple. Our Certificate of Documentation lists our length as 35.3 feet, so we paid a $300 entry fee; we received a Temporary Cruising Permit and a fishing permit. Once the Captain returned to Kestrel, we lowered the Q flag and hoisted our Bahamian courtesy flag.
We ended up staying in Bimini from February 26 through March 4, primarily due to weather. We were glad to be stopped for a little while, as it feels like we’ve been going 1000 miles per hour lately. Many people treat Bimini as an overnight stop before heading deeper into the Bahamas, but since I had never been to Bimini, I wanted to have the opportunity to actually see it.
Bimini is actually made up of two islands, North Bimini and South Bimini. We were on North Bimini, which is where the largest town, Alice Town, is located. The inhabited part of North Bimini is a long spit consisting of three towns: Alice Town, Bailey Town, and Porgy Bay. The towns all bleed together, and I wouldn’t have known which town I was in without the “Welcome To” signs.
Conch shells are everywhere: in piles, lining front gardens, atop fences, along the road.
There is one main road along the spit called Kings Highway. It is a two lane road with narrow, sandy shoulders where people walk.
The road that leads everywhere: Kings Highway. The shoulder is, if described generously, a person-and-a-half wide.
The buildings come right up to the shoulders, and it can be a claustrophobic experience walking down the road. It’s also important to remember that they drive on the opposite side of the road than in the US. Fortunately, at least half of the vehicles are either scooters or golf carts, so the odds of being flattened are somewhat reduced.
When you turn right out of Bimini Blue Water Marina, you pass through a small commercial district. Every building sells a little bit of something. This gentleman sold cold drinks and trophies. The building next door is a bar that might fit about six people if they all held their breaths.
The houses in Bimini are an eclectic mix. I think the prevailing architectural style is “what we’ve got and what works,” which is a necessity on an island.
We walked all over the island, from the beginning of Kings Highway to the effective end. The trees are an interesting mix of palm trees, deciduous tress, and pine trees (of all things!).
When you are a tourist, it’s easy to forget that people live where you are vacationing. This was a quiet and beautiful reminder that people spend their lives here, and their deaths. This graveyard was at the tip of the island, away from the bustle of the shops and businesses.
The ground is marl (coral) covered with white sand, and you are almost always in view of water on one side or the other. The weather was perfect, low to mid-80s with sunny skies and nice breezes. All in all, it was a wonderful stop.
Some highlights were:
The water: The water, the water, the water. The colors of the water are indescribable. Aqua, turquoise, sea green, navy, indigo. Depending on tide we had 6 ½ to 8 ½ foot depth in the marina, and it was absolutely clear to the bottom. We watched a starfish make its way under our boat for days. We saw Sergeant Majors, angelfish, small grunts, small wrasses, and tarpon swimming through the marina all the time. The tarpon was at least five feet long and would lounge under the boats, taking advantage of the shade. We even saw six to seven foot bull sharks swimming through on occasion, especially when the fisherman were cleaning their catches. Seeing one of those will really get your attention.
This is the bull shark that liked to hang around. Unfortunately, he wasn’t close enough to any structure for me to capture scale.
People: We met so many wonderfully friendly people, and in general everyone greets you pleasantly. Folks are quick to horse around and be playful (which is my default mode of communication), so I had a blast cutting up with people I didn’t even know.
Other cruisers: As I mentioned in the earlier post, there were quite a few cruisers from Boot Key Harbor in the same marina. We had sundowners together and ended up helping each other out on many tasks. It seems like something is always wonky on a boat, whether it’s full-on broken or just acting weird, and having a few heads and hands working on problems fixes them faster. I pulled out my sewing machine and made some repairs to s/v Empress’ main sail, which had torn in two places on the crossing over from Marathon. The Captain met with other captains and went over weather for a few days before departure, and we sat down with other people to go over charts of the Bahamas and US east coast to trade information.
Charlie’s Bread: All groceries arrive by boat, of course, and the bread is frozen (yuck). However, Charlie’s Bread cranks out some of the best bread we’ve ever had, and the folks that work there are so fun and friendly. We ended up buying white loaf bread, guava pastries, coconut twists, beef empanadas, lobster empanadas (the Captain cried a tear of joy when eating these), and a loaf of coconut bread. WHERE HAS COCONUT BREAD BEEN ALL OF MY LIFE? Imagine white loaf bread, sweet, with a strong aroma of coconut and tiny coconut flakes in the bread. Then imagine toasting it and slathering on butter. I could die happy with a slice of coconut bread in each hand.
Watching the mail boat come in: The mail boat (which is also the everything-else-shipped boat) came in while we watching, and it was a fascinating show. Apparently someone shipped a boat trailer, and it was on the mail boat’s bow, sticking over on each side. We got a kick out of the fact that about 80% of what was offloaded was beer and alcohol. The crane kept lifting pallet after pallet out of the hold, and people from all over the island were loading things into pickup truck beds.
Cargo won’t fit on deck? No worries, just hang it over the sides. Surely it won’t fall off.
Product delivery, island style.
The fish fry lady outside of Stuart’s Conch Stand: You didn’t think that we’d miss eating, did you? We heard from a man at Stuart’s (probably Stuart) that on Fridays, a lady sets up hot chafing dishes in a little shed in front of his restaurant. She sells fried fish, cracked (fried) lobster, cracked (fried) conch, conch fritters, and macaroni and cheese. We had the conch fritters (6 for $2) and the macaroni and cheese ($3 for a generous portion). Holy cow, it was amazing.
I can still smell food. Is there ANYTHING that isn’t good fried?
Lunch at Tropics: If you like Jamaican jerked meat, this is the place. It’s a bit of a walk from the marina but well worth it. They offered plates of jerk chicken, jerk pork, BBQ ribs, or brown stew chicken with rice and beans and a pasta salad or coleslaw for $12. We also got authentic Jamaican sodas (Bigga brand) that were a heart-racing mix of pure cane sugar, water, and some dye. Heaven. I ignored my screaming teeth as I downed my pineapple Bigga.
The owner showing us the jerk chicken. He had an ingenious smoker/BBQ made out of an oil drum, resting on two boards on a patio table.
Breakfast at Captain Bob’s: Okay, it’s getting embarrassing talking about so much eating, but oh well. Captain Bob’s is right outside of the marina, and although it said it was open at 6:30 AM every day, we only saw it open for breakfast on Sunday. We each had coconut bread French toast with scrambled eggs and bacon (I gave the Captain my bacon). It was $12 per plate, and we more than got our money’s worth. It was outstanding.
Things we noted:
Bikes aren’t necessary for getting around, but of course they make trips faster. We don’t have any and didn’t notice the lack of them, but we’re pretty used to walking.
The two best-stocked grocery stores that we found were Roberts Grocery and King Brown Grocery. They had fresh vegetables and extensive canned and packaged goods as well as frozen meat.
This is NOT Robert’s Grocery. This is what most “grocery stores” look like on Bimini: a chaotic mix of canned goods, packaged goods, drinks, and snack foods all piled in towering stacks. The chips stack was taller than me.
There is a coin laundry about a ten minute walk from the marina. Washing machines range from $3.50 to $8.50 per load, depending on size, and the dryers are $4.50. They offer same-day wash service for $3 over the price of the wash/dry. There’s no name that I saw, just “Coin Laundry.”
Liquor is surprisingly inexpensive, particularly compared to US prices.
There is a Bank of the Bahamas right across from the marina, but it’s not open on the weekends.
There is a BTC office within walking distance of the marina for buying SIM cards ($16) or asking questions, and it seems like every store offers top up services for your BTC card. The marina does as well, if you don’t feel like walking.
We would definitely go back to Bimini again, and if we did we’d stay at Bimini Blue Water Marina. We really enjoyed our trip.