Saturday, May 16, 2020

Still Stuck

Just a brief update. The Bahamas continue to prohibit any visitors to the country, although some citizens and permanent residents have finally been allowed to return home if they agree to be quarantined for two weeks. The current order will expire at the end of May unless it is extended again. There have been a total of 96 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Bahamas and you can see the breakdown of status and location on the government dashboard here.

Bimini, where Division Belle is located, has become something of a hotspot for the virus. There have been 13 cases reported there among the roughly 2,000 residents, so the island is under a total lockdown. Bimini is very densely populated and it is difficult to maintain social distancing there.

Being optimistic, it might be possible for me to return to my boat by June 1, but if either of these two current orders are extended, the wait will be longer, and extend into the early part of hurricane season. I have a couple of possible ways to fly into Bimini directly from home by private plane whenever it is permitted, and my thinking is that I should go as quickly as possible to retrieve the boat in case travel restrictions are reimposed. We could distance ourselves when we arrive and go straight into self-quarantine on the boat until weather permits a departure to Florida.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Division Belle during Covid-19

I am acutely aware of the suffering of so many people all over the world during this pandemic. My heart goes out to those who are sick and to the untold millions of people in severe economic distress caused by this tragedy. We are doing fine and are very fortunate to live in a community that has battened down the hatches. Any small misstep can put many in danger, so I urge everyone to stay strong and in place.

As for Division Belle, she is still safely tied up at Brown's Marina in Bimini, and I am informed by the dock master that they are keeping an eye on her for me. She is still transmitting her AIS position regularly, and it shows up on the marinetraffic.com website like this:

The Bahamas have completely closed their borders to everyone, including their own citizens and residents who might be stuck elsewhere. There is no telling when it might be safe to travel again or when The Bahamas might begin to let people in. These islands are mostly quite poor and have very limited health care facilities. It took more than 24 hours to get one citizen of Bimini airlifted to a hospital in Nassau and she unfortunately passed away upon arrival. I wish nothing but the best for the gentle people of The Bahamas.

One final screenshot of the marinetraffic website. If you look carefully you can see eight Carnival cruise ships anchored together off the Bahamas, and numerous other cruise ships just aimlessly meandering between Florida and The Bahamas. One ship's AIS transmitter shows its destination as "drifting".

Stay safe everyone, and I'll check back in when there is something to report.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus

It has become obvious now that the Coronavirus pandemic will affect our cruising plans on Division Belle. While being anchored out in the Bahamas is probably the safest place we could be, we had been planning to come and go from the boat while leaving it in the Exumas. From there, this would involve taking international flights and spending time in international airports, things that people my age have been advised not to do unnecessarily. On my trip home from Bimini a week ago, I took a small seaplane with seven passengers to Sheltair in Fort Lauderdale, the fixed based operator there for private planes. I then rented a car to drive home. I was well-equipped with hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for the entire trip.

I'm not in any kind of panic, but I am trying to listen carefully to the expert advice that is given. It seems logical that social distancing now will slow the spread, so as not to overwhelm our medical facilities. I'm washing my hands frequently, bumping elbows instead of shaking hands, and reconsidering gatherings and air travel that are not necessary. It just makes sense. One article I just read recommends against almost any social contact such as having friends to dinner in your home

I have said many times that I love being on the boat, no matter where it is. It is certainly not necessary to get to the Exumas this year, so I'm now focusing on how to get to Bimini to bring the boat back closer to home. If I can't get there next week, the boat may just sit where it is until I can safely travel. I'll be trying to figure it out over the next few days and watching the weather for a good time to start back. Here's hoping more travel restrictions are not enacted before I can get there.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Bimini Update and Photos


Bimini doesn't change much. The End of the World Bar is still open. I stuck my head in after arrival and it was very dark, with no customers. No doubt it will liven up as spring breakers begin arriving later this month.


I earlier mentioned that the Compleat Angler Hotel had burned down prior to my last visit in 2008. The ruins are still here with a couple of markers attesting to its history. It is sad that it was not rebuilt, as it was the place to go on Bimini for about 70 years. An awful lot of valuable memorabilia was lost in the fire, along with the life of its owner.
Ruins of the Compleat Angler Hotel
Note the list of guests includes Senator Gary Hart. His famous photo with Donna Rice on the yacht Monkey Business was taken right here in Bimini. What happens in Bimini doesn't just stay in Bimini.


This being the Bahamas, it is not unusual to go to odd places to locate goods or services. Years ago in Georgetown, Exuma we inquired where we could purchase fresh fish or Bahamian lobster and were directed to a beauty shop. The owner's husband caught fish and she sold it out of coolers in the back room. Here in Bimini, if you need a propane tank filled, a couple of large tanks and trucks are parked under some trees at the very south end of the island. If the proprietor is there, you will see his white pickup truck. Otherwise he can be found at the liquor store across the street from Brown's marina. I got one of our tanks filled yesterday ($15 for a small two-pound tank).

While here, I have enjoyed catching up with Sean and Louise, owners of my previous boat Steel Magnolia, now named Vector. We both left Florida Wednesday, they from Miami and I from Fort Lauderdale, and we have ended up docked next to each other for a few days.
Division Belle and Vector crossing the Gulf Stream

I will be cleaning up and packing today for my seaplane flight back to the states tomorrow. I hope to get back down here soon to resume travels in the Bahamas.






Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Brown's Marina, Bimini, Bahamas

We made it across the Gulf Stream today, but not without a good bit of rocking and rolling. When I awoke this morning, the weather for today had turned a little worse. Winds were mostly around 15 knots and seas were three to four feet with an occasional perhaps five foot wave. The problem was that we were heading almost directly into the waves and they had a short period, or time between waves. So it was something like riding a hobby horse for much of the day. Running against both wind and the strong Gulf Stream current, we were only doing around 5.5 knots most of the day instead of our usual seven to eight knots. We left our dock at 7:10 this morning and were finally docked here at 4:10 pm.

I spent the next hour filling out paperwork and going through the tedious process of going through customs and then immigration, both about a half mile walk away. I'll spend tomorrow figuring out details about leaving the boat here and getting back home for a while. I'll update the photo section a little if I can get decent internet access.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Islands in the Stream

Weather changes and plans change. The Lovely Laura Lee headed home today and I stayed with the boat because it looked like I might have a weather window to get to the Bahamas this week. I am planning to depart Wednesday morning to Bimini, the closest of the islands of the Bahamas. Seas are projected to be quite comfortable and we should make it across in about seven to eight hours depending on seas and the strength of the Gulf Stream current. I will be accompanied by a hired captain recommended by my old friend Joel Davidson who is a yacht broker here with Outer Reef Yachts https://www.outerreefyachts.com/bio-joeldavidson.cfm

I first visited Bimini in the 1990's when The Compleat Angler Hotel was still standing. It was where Ernest Hemingway apparently lived and wrote in the 1930's when he was not staying on his boat in Bimini. The old bar in the downstairs of the hotel was thriving, and the walls were covered with Hemingway photos and memorobilia. This bar was the also site of the original ring toss game, where a ring is attached to a string hooked to the ceiling, and the object is to swing the ring and have it land on a hook attached to the wall. I credit my friend Chuck Butterworth with introducing this game to me well before I ever visited Bimini. You can still find kits of ring and string for sale called the "Bimini Ring Toss Game".

My last visit to Bimini was in 2008 with my friend James Abele (Perfect Deck Hand). Here is the blog entry from that visit on March 13, 2008 when we travelled from Chub Cay to Bimini:

Yesterday, we departed early for the long run across the Banks to Bimini. We covered some 83 nautical miles and anchored just before dark on the east side of Bimini, as it was too close to dark to attempt coming around the island and into the harbor. We thought we had found a perfect anchorage off a beautiful beach but it became very rough when the wind moved around to northwest during the night and swells came around the island, hitting us from the north. The boat rolled and doors rattled, and our anchor dragged slightly. But we made it through the night. This morning, we came around into the harbor and tied up at Brown’s Hotel and Marina, right next to the famous “End of the World Bar”, which we’ll check out tonight. 
Bimini has seen some improvement since last I was here. A gigantic development is going on at the north end of the island called “Bimini Bay”. We checked it out by golf cart today and it is going to be very nice. Unfortunately, the Compleat Angler Hotel, hangout of Earnest Hemingway, had a fire and may be gone for good. The outside walls are still standing but we don’t know if it will be salvaged or torn down. The remainder of Alicetown is still pretty run down, but there are signs of improvement, including the new docks at Brown’s where we are staying. 

In preparation for this visit, I have been re-reading Hemingway's "Islands in the Stream". In Part One of the book, entitled "Bimini", the main character, who resembles Hemingway himself, lives in a house that actually matches the description of the Compleat Angler Hotel. The hotel and bar are part of the story, but were called the "Ponce De Leon" in the book. I will again be docking at Brown's, mentioned in my old blog and the site of a great fistfight in Hemingway's book.

I'm excited to get back to Bimini, and I want to check out a few things. First, what I wrote of previously as "Bimini Bay" became "Resort World", and I will be interested to see how the resort has fared. Second, I want to return to the "End of the World Saloon", also known as the "Sand Bar" and see if it is still flourishing. It was a dive with Graffiti-covered walls, and the primary decor consisted of hundreds of pairs of women's underwear hanging from the walls and ceiling. There is just no telling what it is like today. And finally, I want to revisit the location of the Compleat Angler to see what, if anything, is left.

The weather has been terrible of late for crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas. We have had one cold front after another for weeks, leaving few good "windows" for a crossing. Wednesday looks like a good one, but we shall see. I'm excited to get this boat out in the open ocean, because so far I have only had a few calm days at sea. I'll perhaps find out what needs to be better secured and what falls off the kitchen counter. I'll report back to let you know how the trip went.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Dania Beach

We are in Harbour Towne Marina in Dania Beach, Florida, just south of Fort Lauderdale. We have had a fun week, topped off by an incredible dinner last night at Valentino Cucina Italiana in Fort Lauderdale .  While the weather has prevented crossing to Bimini, we have enjoyed our time on the boat.

Wednesday night we had the pleasure of dinner with our old friends Sean and Louise Welsh, who purchased our previous boat Steel Magnolia, now named Vector. (See www.ourodyssey.blogspot.com.) As always, I learn quite a bit from Sean and Louise, as they live full time on the boat and have become quite knowledgeable. And it's also just good to see them.

Tomorrow we plan to head back home for a little while, because it seems clear there is no good weather for getting to the Bahamas in the coming week. I'll be watching it closely and heading back this way when possible.