We left Marathon on December 30, 2019, at 8:45 AM. There was, according to meteorologist Chris Parker, a “marginal and brief” crossing window, and we were happy to take it. We motorsailed up Hawk Channel and exited it at Alligator Reef. The wind was on the nose, of course, but it was light enough that the beat wasn’t too uncomfortable. When we were in the Gulf Stream we were hitting speeds of 7.8 to 8 knots, which was exciting and fun; that’s just another day at the office for larger boats, but we’re generally more of a 5-6 knot boat. They don’t call Island Packets “Island Piglets” for nothing.
We ended up making such good time that we arrived at the Bimini entrance channel way before sunrise. We didn’t want to enter until daylight, so we circled outside until it was light enough to see.
Once we got in, we went straight to Bimini Blue Water Marina. We have stayed there before and really like it. The docks are in good condition, the showers consistently have hot water, and there’s fuel available on site. The marina staff are professional, and the grounds are maintained well. The charges are reasonable: $1.25/foot/night, 30 amp electric $10 per night, and of course the accursed 12% VAT.
The trip from Marathon to Bimini was 23 ½ hours for 132.5 nm. That includes the time spent circling outside of the channel, so the travel time could have been shorter.
Things we like about North Bimini:
Clearing in is a breeze. Immigration is in the pink government building a short walk from the marinas, and Customs is across the street at Bimini Big Game Marina. If you fill out your paperwork ahead of time, it goes even faster.
Alice Town and the adjoining Bailey Town are easily walkable. A bike makes things go faster, of course, but feet work just fine.
The beaches are gorgeous and generally pretty deserted. While we are not sunbathers, we like to look for sea glass and to metal detect along the beach.
The closest decently sized grocery store to the marinas on the southern end of the island (Sea Crest, Bimini Blue Water, Browns, Bimini Big Game) is Roberts Grocery, and it carries canned and packaged foods, refrigerated and frozen foods, fresh vegetables, and paper goods. The freight boat comes on Fridays, so the best selection of fresh goods such as vegetables and dairy is on Saturdays.
There is an excellent laundromat, Hinzey’s Coined Laundrymart, right next to Roberts Grocery Store. It is clean and orderly. You can do your own wash or drop it off for the ladies to do for an extra charge. A “regular” washer is $6 per load, and the “triple” is $8 per load (I’d consider this two loads of wash). Dryers are $5.50 per load. You don’t need quarters; you pay the woman in charge, and she starts the machines for you.
If you like homemade bread, you’ve hit pay dirt. There’s Charlie’s on Kings Highway and Nate’s on Queens Highway, both of whom offer a variety of amazing breads each day for between $5 and $8. Since I am on the all-carb diet, I’m in heaven.
Things we don’t like about North Bimini:
It is expensive, like a lot of the Bahamas, but since it sees such a high tourist traffic from Florida, we think it’s even more expensive. Many places don’t list prices for meals or drinks, and I can’t shake the impression that there’s a two-tiered pricing system, one for locals and one for tourists. I have no direct evidence of this, but it is a strong gut feeling.
Most restaurants tack on an 18% gratuity even if you are getting the food from a window, and when you couple that with the 12% VAT, you are paying 30% over the cost of the food. That adds up quickly. It also removes any financial incentive to provide good service.
It gets small. If you’re not into beaches or eating bread, there’s not a lot to do.
All in all, Bimini was a good stop. We ended up getting stuck there longer than we hoped due to weather, but such is the cruising life. Next stop: the Exumas.