We have caught the Bahamas slow paced “island time” bug! After several months of rushing from port to port on our journey south through the canals, along the jersey coast and then through the ICW, we finally have time to rest. And we have! In total we stayed five days in Bimini and enjoyed every last moment.
Well, except when our bilge pump stopped working. That was pretty annoying but we had brought a spare along so it really only took a few hours out of our blissful island days to do the required plumbing and electrical work to get the new (and higher powered) bilge pump installed.
With our bilge pump fixed, we set about enjoying all that Bimini has to offer. Bimini is a tiny set of islands and sits in the westernmost part of the Bahamas. Less than 2,000 people make Bimini their home and although there are cars on the narrow streets, most people get around on golf carts, motorcycles or bicycles. Or they do as we did - they walk! And they all give cheery hellos to all passersby. It is comfortable and homey, even to us non-locals.
Getting into the vibe and culture of Bimini was a real pleasure. We spent time talking with Star and Techo (their Biminite nick names), old-timer locals who are the soul of the island. Every day we chatted and every day we learned lots of the history of Bimini. We also took part in the Junkanoo festival in Alice Town, which is the capital of Bimini and where our marina was located. Junkanoo festivals are street parades with lots of music and great food. They are celebrated around Christmas and New Years and we were thrilled one was taking place on the Saturday we were in Bimini.
Of course, we also spent lots of time on the beach. Radio beach is a huge stretch of white sand along the western edge of Bimini. And there are none of the rules that we are used to with beaches in Canada. As one local told me “The beach is for everyone”. Dogs are allowed and access to the beach is from wherever you happen to be – someone’s back yard, through a café or just a pathway. We spent a lot of time on Radio Beach – soaking up the sunshine, walking, swimming and just good old relaxing.
The most fun we had in Bimini, though, was watching how people would react to Ocean. There are some dogs in Bimini but mostly medium or small sized. Ocean really stood out. No one could go by us without saying “Well, that’s a big dog” or “yeah, you’re a good dog” directly to Ocean. The one that really made us giggle was a young lad about 7 who spied Ocean coming down the street. He yelled to us “I’m Scared!!!” and then very quickly “Does she bite?”. When we assured him that she did not bite, he then cheerfully asked if he could meet her. And he did. And then he followed us for a quite a bit, while also petting Ocean. Very. Sweet.
What else did we spend our time doing in Bimini? We finally installed our Rainman water maker. This is the system that will allow us to pull saltwater from the ocean around us and convert it into drinking water. Very necessary if we want to be fully sustainable on our boat (i.e. never need to go to land unless we want to). Mike plumbed the system to be able to either manually fill our water jerry cans or to pump directly into our water tanks. And it works! The best part? The water is delicious!!
After five glorious and successful days in Bimini, we decided it was time to start exploring the rest of the 699 islands in the Bahamas. At our spot at Blue Water Marina, we were lucky enough to meet a wonderful chap from Ottawa, who is solo sailing his Alberg 37 sailboat “Lola” through the Bahamas. We hit it off right away so decided to buddy boat our way across the Grand Bahama Bank and to Chub Cay, the most southern island in what is called the “Berry Islands” chain in the Bahamas.
Tuesday morning, Wild Horses and Lola set off into light winds, through the Bimini entrance and then to the northern tip of the island before turning east at “North Rock” towards the “Mackie Shoal” and the Grand Bahama Bank. Although Chub Key is the next closest island to Bimini, it is about 90 miles away. Too far for us to transit in the daylight of one day. The solution to this problem is the Grand Bahama Bank. It is a long stretch of water that is deep enough to transit but shallow enough for us to set our anchor. And that is exactly what we did. 60 miles into our journey, the sun was starting to slide away, so Wild Horses and Lola dropped their hooks. It was the middle of the Bank, with no land in sight. This was an incredible and magical experience. Quiet serenity in calm Bahamian waters, with just the slight roll of the ocean to rock us to sleep. No lights from land, no sounds from afar. Just a full canvas of stars, including the incredible and elusive Milky Way, to highlight our evening. Sigh. Like I said, it was magical.
The next morning, we weighed anchor once again for a short hop to Chub Cay. On the way, Lola suggested over the VHF that he was going to try his hand at fishing off the boat. With all our new gear on board, we also decided to get a fishing pole out. To our amazement, we caught one! Our happiness was fleeting, however, as we realized right away that it was a Barracuda. These fish, as well as other reef fish, can cause ciguatera poisoning, which is an illness that can cause neurological dysfunction. Um, no thanks. The fish was released but we were happy to have successfully tried out our gear. Yay!
Tonight we are anchored on the eastern side of Chub Cay. We are enjoying light winds and the beautiful warm sunshine. Oh and we are also enjoying that Ocean (finally) did her business on the boat. We can now officially call her a “boat dog”. Yay Ocean!!!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.