Hello Bimini! (Part of the Covid/Weather/Repairs Loop)
Many of you have wondered how we ended up where we've been in The Bahamas (West End, Lucaya, Alice Town) when we had planned to be in the less-populated northern Abacos! Our original plan: Sail from Lake Worth inlet near West Palm... all the way to Spanish Cay or even Green Turtle Cay to check in to the Bahamas. (Likely stopping at Great Sale Cay for a night to anchor and sleep but not get off the boat as we would still be in customs quarantine.) Then enjoy the Abacos, and perhaps if there was time, keep heading further south. Instead, we're currently in (beautiful) Bimini.
What actually happened (/is happening) is a route based on Covid, weather, and some needed repairs. Covid requirements in early January when we wanted to cross from Lake Worth included a rapid PCR test within 72 hours/3 days of arrival, filing for a health visa after we had the rapid PCR results and then waiting up to 24 hours for a health visa approval.
So we had to make it to an open customs office to check in The Bahamas within 72 hours of taking our PCR tests. We decided to go for a much closer check in point of West End on the Great Bahama Island, and then head over to Great Sale Cay and Turtle Cay after that. Note that super fast boats can make this Lake Worth to West End Gulf Stream crossing in a couple of hours; with our 5kts average speed, we would take about 13 hours.
After we made it to West End and checked in, we were waiting for a long enough weather window to get to Green Turtle Cay (or even just Great Sale Cay, our intermediate anchor stop). We got bored. There just wasn't a suitable weather window on the horizon. We found a nice one day window for sailing southish and decided to sail to Lucaya for something new, including really spectacular beaches and fewer noseeums. On the way to Lucaya, we realized we needed more than our wind instrument repaired/replaced, so we searched for the expertise we wanted to do those repairs... and found them in Fort Lauderdale. To get to Fort Lauderdale, we would have to go south either in the Bahamas or along the Florida coast: It is not advisable to head south against the strong current of the gulf stream. We decided to head south from Lucaya to Bimini to see something new instead of heading back to West End. Again, fast boats could easily get from Lucaya to Fort Lauderdale in one daylight hop, no problem. It will take us two hops. So, for now, we're in Bimini, waiting for a weather window to get to Fort Lauderdale. The next hop to Fort Lauderdale sail/motor should take us about 12-13 hours. Then, maybe, we'll try for the Abacos again? I don't know. I miss having friends and family around, and having more time to connect and write with co-workers.
Day Sail to Bimini
Sailing south to Bimini from Lucaya was a long day sail. We left Lucaya well before daylight on a dark night—the moon was not up when we left. I’ve come to adore our underwater lights not just for seeing fish and sharks in the evening, but for helping us leave a dock at night—wonderful light that doesn’t glare into the night and wake others, destroy our night vision. We had been in and out of the smaller Bell Channel so many times on our dinghy that we felt comfortable leaving Lucaya in the dark.
We did made the mistake we’ve been annoyed (scared?!) about with other vessels making in the past, though: For the first couple of minutes we forgot to have our navigation and steaming lights on! Ugh. Fortunately there were zero other boats around and also we had our underwater lights on, lighting up SV Banksy and the water around us.
This trip was the first time we had put our main sail up in the dark, and it was no problem. We had beautiful stars out, then a nice sunrise, and light and variable wind day. We got to sail almost all day long! YAY! Note: There is a video of the lovely sounds of sailing on Facebook and Instagram if you somehow came here directly.
I wish I could say that I enjoyed this sail more. I did enjoy parts of it. The nausea just really gets old. There was a certain motion when we were surfing, the waves rolling from behind us, and the wind would die… and the boat would slow. And then be picked up and moved forward by the next wave. Bleh. The best way for me to feel better when I get nauseous is to take a nap. So I miss lots of the journey. Ryan thankfully, thoughtfully, single hands. I do wake up for some parts (raising, lowering, gybing, and whenever the nausea subsides for a bit). But I wish I had more time that wasn’t just sleeping to keep the nausea at bay. I tried Sea Bands again this time. I may try Scopolamine this next trip—I have some already. It just has such weird potential possible side effects listed that I've been hesitant to try it. At least my view is always lovely when not feeling so great--the horizon as seen off the deck cushion from SV Banksy:
Along the way, we had been seeing lots of flying fish--they really fly pretty far! We were thinking SV Banksy was likely too far out of the water for them to land on, but we found one on the deck. It was too late to save this little guy:
Ryan caught the first fish on the hand line, which was also our first fish while sailing (vs while motoring). Again a small member of the tuna family. Lovely.
When we had to turn into the channel to get to North Bimini marinas, it was the perfect angle to take down the main sail. A lovely coincidence. We motored in using visual navigation along with advice we had received from a couple of written guides as well as from Mark, an anatomy professor we met in Lucaya. Mark was wonderful to hang with a bit and had great stories of sailing, mountain climbing, and more. I wish I had a picture of his dog Wilson, who was very cute and let me play with him a bit—I definitely need some wonderfully silly doggie play time. Thanks for the connection and advice, Mark. Hello, beautiful Bimini!
Southern Parts of North Bimini Island: Alice Town
So we are currently hanging out and exploring the island of North Bimini. We have walked around a bit, along the gorgeous beaches and interesting roads. We have also rented a golf cart, like the other hundreds of tourists that are here by cruise ship (x3). We are docked at a marina in the quieter area of southern North Bimini island, in Alice Town, where more locals live. We may try an anchorage nearby when we head out, but the winds when we were coming in were not going to be favorable for anchoring on the west side of the island.
Bimini has long been a favorite of fisherpeople, including Hemingway, and has been strongly influenced by MLK. I downloaded Islands In the Stream and MLK's biography but haven't started either yet--I'm still early in The Republic of Pirates.
On our first walk we were accompanied by a couple of local dogs who would not “go home”. There were lots of local dogs in yards not tied up, so it seems like these two youngsters just felt like taking us for a walk. They listened fairly well (beyond ignoring "go home"), but I eventually got so worried about them walking along the busy road with us that we turned around and tried to get them back. We stopped on a quiet side street at a bakery near their home area and bought some coconut bread rolls. Yum! Never had these before. The dogs were gone by the time we left the bakery. Hopefully they made it the rest of the way home safely.
We later walked along the southern point of North Bimini, along Radio Beach (radio tower there) and Blister Beach. I’m imagining Blister Beach got its name from all the man o’ wars that were obviously there as loads were washed up on shore? There was a lot of trash along the high tide of this beach, unlike later beaches near the cruise ship landing grounds. I’m guessing the locals here have enough to do to keep the trash off the tourist beaches...?
Conch is prolific in The Bahamas—on every menu. We have had it in salad (think ceviche) and breaded and fried. The best fried conch that we’ve had so far, btw, was in West End at the Straw Bar. Conch is actually a large snail. Yep. We enjoyed looking in the tidal pools and musing if any of the little snails we could see were tiny conch. (I've not researched, yet...)
There are people at the next door Bimini Big Game Club Marina who don wetsuits and get into a shark cage. Yesterday we went over to the restaurant there and ordered a drink and watched the show up close. I had a Goombay Smash (a delicious rum and juice cocktail) and Ryan a local beer called Kalik Gold. The sharks had lots of frozen fish. The person feeding them just kept providing more and more. On rare occasion a pelican would get a piece of fish before the sharks got to it. The pelicans seemed to operate as if the sharks would not eat them, sometimes swimming in the water just above the sharks.
This shark feeding is so close to our boat that it killed any desire for us to get in the water near our boat—or even get out the inflatable SUPs. (See SV Banksy in the background?) However, getting in the cage seems interesting?
Northern North Bimini Island
The northern part of North Bimini island is fairly dominated by the Hilton Resorts World and beach neighborhoods with mostly empty (or abandoned?) larger houses. We rented a golf cart from our marina and drove up there. (It might be the first time I’ve ever driven a golf cart?)
Public beach access nearby the Hilton allowed us to walk along these lovely northern beaches— beaches in The Bahamas are apparently public up to the highest tide line.
As usual, we will be here until the weather allows us to move on...