April 18 – April 23.
Bimini was our very first stop in the Bahamas at the beginning of our sailing journey little over two years ago. Our impression of the island was a little sad. Things seemed half done or falling apart, people seemed to be disappearing without notice. It was as if the island was eroding, holding very thinly onto a colorful and active past that was sloughing off itâ€™s shores like a giant rusty ship gone aground on the beach so many decades before.
But the truth is we never actually spent a lot of time in Bimini. Bimini has always just been a place to check into, a quick stop over until our real journey starts. At the beginning of our cruise we tend to hold on tight to our monthly allowance, hoping to save as much as we spend. This time, though, we were at the end of our season, we were â€œstuckâ€ in Bimini until we had appropriate weather to cross back to the United States, and we had saved as much as we had spent, so we felt comfortable letting a little more of that money go. And, unlike our first visit to the island, some parts of Bimini seemed to be looking up.
The channel into the harbor has been dredged and is now clearly marked. Brownâ€™s marina had been updated and spruced up. The restaurant next to the marina, which was under construction two years ago, was now open for business.
On our sail in we noticed the north side of the island seemed to have many more houses and structures than it had only 5 months ago. We could see 6 or 7 cranes. Homes, a resort, a casino are going up. But they are all on the north side, far from town in gated communities. A new dock is being built out into the ocean for the high-speed ferry that brings passengers from Miami straight to this â€œvacation paradise,â€ bypassing the very heart and soul of Bimini, Alice Town. We heard from a local business owner that the town had lost many hotel rooms with all the tourism going north. He told us that he understands the inevitability of change, but lamented that the town is not seeing the benefit from it.
Bimini appears to be in transition, but one thing that remains consistent almost all over the Bahamas is its citizens. Forget the crystal clear water and the bright sunny days. Forget the unspoiled landscapes and the colorful sea life. Forget the dazzling sunsets and the fresh salt air. Forget the glitzy resorts and casinos (if you really must think of them at all). The real jewel of the Bahamas is itâ€™s amazingly friendly, gracious, resilient, and resourceful people.
My impression of Bimini has taken a complete turn around. Bimini is a worthy stop of any adventurer. One just needs to get out of the marina, walk around a little, play a little pool or dominoes with the locals, hoist a cold one, eat some mac and cheese, and soak up the history and culture of our closest Bahamian neighbors.