I assume that Bimini Sands Resort is a shadow of its former glory. There are hints of that glory everywhere: the two swimming pools, the floating docks, the abandoned tiki bar, the coral-pink townhouses that are visible from miles out to sea.
But the entire time we stayed there, I never saw a single guest staying in the hotel rooms or timeshare condos. And they are so desperate to look like the marina is still in business, that if you commit to staying for an entire week, it will only cost you $100.
The regular nightly rate of $1 per foot isn’t bad either. This is the point where I usually say, “But it has everything a cruiser needs” but this time it wasn’t really the case. The reverse-osmosis water filtration system was broken, so the only available water was salt water. We had filled our tanks in Marathon, so we didn’t really need water, but when you’re paying for a marina, you want the luxury of or a hot shower and the chance to wash to salt off your boat or to do laundry. The small cafe only served breakfast. The ship’s store stocked no produce or ice cream. There was no place to buy a beer, or even a bag of ice. And the sand flies were atrocious! After the first evening, my legs were covered in thousands of bites, and I itched too much to sleep. Capt. Mike decided we must have timed our arrival just after a Zombie apocalypse. It’s the only reasonable explanation for the fact that the only two things left alive at the resort were Donnie the dock master and the ravenous sand flies.
But we were finally in the Bahamas, and we were going to enjoy ourselves. In addition to SV Elixir, there were two other boats in the marina: SV Providence, captained by Bill who organizes the dinghy poker run during the Cruisers’ Regatta in Georgetown, and Leef Nu, owned by Kevin and Cheryl from Hamilton, Ontario. The Canadians are starting to outnumber us!
We got some work done; cleaning Sanitas up after the crossing, varnishing the steering wheel, and replacing a mysteriously missing prop anode. Then we played tourist – exploring every inch of South Bimini, including the original Fountain of Youth, and taking a $3 water taxi across to North Bimini where we took a golf cart tour with Anthony.
After a quick loop through Alicetown and Baileytown, we learned another reason why everything was so quiet. The huge Hilton Resort World which contains two marinas, a casino, and several hotels and restaurants was closed for two weeks. That meant no guests, no employees, and very little of the businesses that spring up to keep them entertained. One local said he had never seen Bimini this quiet in his 37 years. Luckily Stuart’s Conch Stand was open and serving fresh conch salad and rum punch.
We also visited the intriguing and bizarre labor of love that is Ashley Saunders’ Dolphin House. Ashley was born in Bimini, studied in the US, and returned home to become its unofficial historian and to write several books about the island. He says that after a chance encounter with dolphins out on the water, the dolphins brought out something buried deep with him, and he became an artist. To thank the dolphins for this gift, he began building Dolphin House back in 1993 and it’s now a complex mosaic-covered building that evokes Gaudi’s Barcelona Park. Ashley says that his house contains a bit of everything built on Bimini, and I believe him. It’s decorated entirely with found objects such as leftover tiles of all shapes and colors, buoys and corals washed ashore on the beach. And whatever bottles and jars and plaster animals caught his eye. I really enjoyed our tour, exploring every corner of every beadazzled room, and even climbing a narrow flight of concrete stairs to the “observation deck” and a view of the town. As we left, we taped one of Sanitas’ boat cards on the gift shop wall to prove we’d passed through.
Back on South Bimini, we visited The Shark Lab. We learned all about the almost 30 years of research that The Lab has performed on the habitat, biology, reproduction, and behaviors of nurse sharks, lemon sharks, hammerhead sharks, and tiger sharks. Fascinating stuff. Did you know that lemon sharks always return to the same nursery where they were born to give birth to their own young? Even a dozen years later and after migrating all over the waters of the Bahamas and Florida? Or than sharks have personalities? A Shark Lab investigator spent several years proving that some sharks individual sharks are shy, some are bold, some are curious, and some are aggressive and they exhibit these same characteristics in captivity or in the wild and over a period of years. The first afternoon, we weren’t allowed to walk down the beach to the shark pens because a group was filming a music video for Baby Shark Doo Doo Doo. (Ok, not really. But a film crew was working on something, and our guide was sworn to secrecy and couldn’t tell us who they represented or where we’d see the results). But Jessie, our guide, did bring a juvenile nurse shark up to the beach where we could see it and briefly touch it. Jeff and I returned the next afternoon to get the chance to see the pens and a juvenile lemon shark that had been captured the day before. Each shark is kept for no more than two weeks of study and tagging so that they are not stressed, and can be returned to the wild to live a long and happy shark-y life.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to get ashore easily, so I ran everyday around South Bimini and had the chance to explore a nature trail, some lovely homes, and rustic beach art. It’s a lovely introduction to the Bahamas and island life. Just hope that the water filter has been repaired, and don’t forget your sunblock!