Monday, September 26, 2016

Back in Bimini

June 26-28, 2016

We woke up in Nixon's Harbor to windless flats reflecting the clouds. There wasn't even enough disturbance in the surface to obscure the view of the sea floor.

Low wind is terrible for sailing, but glorious for swimming.  By noon, the tidal current arrived generating swells that created velvety emerald luminescent swirls on the otherwise undisturbed surface of the water.

The next day was almost as calm. I sat on deck and watched light rain fall off the coast of Bimini. The ability to see full weather systems move across the sky is my favorite thing about being on a boat. I grew up in a densely forested mountainous region where you can barely see the stars through the trees. I'd never seen rain fall anywhere but above my head until I moved to the level lands of Florida.

With no wind for our sails we went ashore, took a short bus ride across the south island, then took the watertaxi to Alice Town on the north island.

We were looking for a liquor store to buy a couple cases of our favorite Bahamian exclusives before we left.  If you told me that a grapefruit beverage was delicious, or even drinkable, I wouldn't believe you. But it's true. It's light and sweet, and perfect to drink in the heat. Sands Pink Radler is brewed by Sands Bahamian Brewery, who, as far as I know, does not export. I already miss it.  Guinness foreign Extra was formulated over a century ago with extra hops for global export to the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, which are just about the only places you're likely to find it. Although, I hear that the surge in interest in Craft beer in the UK and US has lead to occasional limited releases. So it could be coming to a city near you.

After acquiring the beer and returning to Nixon's Harbor, I went to comb the beach for keepsakes brewed by the sea. The public beach at Nixon's harbor was just as deserted as it was the last time I was there in March. There is definitely no shortage of the private~beach~experience in the Bahamas. In fact, I'd say it's harder to find company than it is to find a empty beach. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, of which only 30 are inhabited. That's 670 islands that are almost guaranteed to be void of human life. With only 394,000 people spread across the 30 inhabited islands, chances are still good no one is going to be at a particular beach on any given day.  Even on the inhabited and tourist-ed Island of South Bimini on June 27th, it was just me and the trilobites.


While I was wandering the beach, stirring up the sand looking for fans and shells, I was taken by surprise when I looked down and saw that I had company.  A stingray was right next to my feet and appeared to be looking up at me.  He/She seemed more curious than aggressive so I stayed in the water and went about my business. He stayed close and fluttered around me for a while, before finally losing interest and gliding away.

After I found a few sea fans, and took in the novelty of being alone in such a place for the last time, I re-joined AJ in the Mackey's Sandbar to discuss the weather and the Gulf Stream crossing game plan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When the Wind Dies: Sailing from Andros to Bimini

June  25, 2016

After eight days in Andros waiting for a weather window to continue sailing, the radar was finally clear of sporadic red dots.  We departed during the best wind window, that evening around 5pm, and sailed gracefully into the sunset. 

Sailing remained as pleasant through the night and into the morning.  We were able to use the windvane and take turns keeping watch. But as the sun rose higher the wind blew lighter until there was none at all. By noon we were adrift in the doldrums. The sails flopped, the water was calm enough to swim in, and we were going nowhere.  

While I wasn't elated to be delayed, I was glad to see doldrums before our journey ended; for the same reason I'm retro-spectively glad we were caught in storms.  Because, it is now forever part of my mind's landscape, and before it certainly was not.  Whether it's 360 degrees of raging water, wind and darkness, or 360 degrees of glaring windless flat crystal sea bleeding into the sky, it's not something you get front row seats to every day, even if you are in the habit of losing sight of land. So, as our voyage was coming to and end, I felt terribly appreciative to have seen so many varied seascapes in only four months. 


We waited for the wind to pick up for a few hours. The sun was so severe that the cockpit was getting too hot for bare feet.  We clipped a bed sheet to the dodger for shade while we waited. We really didn't want to burn fuel all the way to Bimini. However, preferring to reach Bimini before dark, we eventually gave in and started chugging, breaking the beautiful silence.

Luckily we were reunited with the wind along the way, and shut down the engine promptly.  Bimini was in our sights about 25 hours after leaving Andros.  As we sailed into South Bimini we passed the shipwreck of the SS Sapona.

The SS Sapona is a concrete cargo ship that ran aground off the coast of Bimini in 1926 during a hurricane. It was used as a warehouse for booze supplying Miami during prohibition. During WWII is was used as target practice.  In 1965 it was featured in 007 Thunderball.  Now it is a popular site for divers.

28 hours after leaving Andros, we dropped anchor as the sun set in the familiar pillowy sand of Nixon's harbor, South Bimini, about 100 yards from the first place we anchored when we arrived in the Bahamas four months earlier.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Pineville Motel, North Andros

Mid-June 2016

While driving around North Andros we saw an advertisement for the Pineville Motel and decided to check it out.  From the outside there's nothing to indicate the colorful oasis that lies behind the fences around the property on a dusty sandy road on the outskirts of Nicholls Town. The proprietor of the hotel was exceedingly welcoming and excited to show off what they had done with the place. Before checking in he gave us a tour of the grounds.  First he took us to a room near the office that they converted into a little movie theater, that also could double as a party/event room, complete with a disco ball and a fog machine.  Next to that was a large craft room where women were making beautiful elaborate masks and costumes, as well as crafts made with sea shells and sponges. He explained that they were getting ready to host a family festival, with face-painting, food, music, dancing, and even a North Andros fashion show!  After the tour of the new activity rooms he took us into a beautiful garden oasis. 

The hotel rooms are in a brightly painted concrete structure, with an AC window unit in the wall of each room.  They have basic rooms with a double bed and shower, as well as suites with kitchenettes and living rooms. The decor inside the rooms was very unique and I can't believe I didn't take a picture. But I can explain. On the edges of the room, where the wall meets the floor, seashells and other sea formations were implanted in poured concrete. It was quite beautiful and creative.

In the center was a garden with each plant species labeled. As guests of the hotel you are allowed to pick and eat anything in it! They also had a few crabs.. but I don't think you were allowed to eat those.

Disco house!

Food service areas for events:

While I had only curiosity and no real expectations of what the Pineville Motel would be, I never could have expected a place as unique and fanciful as this.  Which is why I often prefer to wander, rather than google.. It's much more fun to be surprised than it is to be expectant.  After walking the grounds we took our first real shower in over four months, collapsed on the bed in the little room with air conditioning, and had our best night of sleep in weeks.  

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