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.

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