Friday, April 15, 2016

Arrival in Bimini

As we approached Bimini in the dark, Brian and I discussed what we knew about the entrance channel. Many sailors will not attempt it after dark for fear of running aground on the shifting shoals that would be clearly visible during daylight in the clear Bahamian waters. They would anchor off the beach on the southwest corner of North Bimini and wait for dawn. But we were tired and wanted the endless day to be over, motivating us to push on regardless. And besides, our chart plotter featured a dotted line through the channel that I was sure I could follow.

Darkness on the water is disorienting, especially on a moonless night. What at first we took to be blinking lights on the outermost channel markers turned out to be police boat lights. Welcome to the Bahamas! But they were not interested in us and slowly motored on. I quickly spotted the relatively dim channel marker lights blinking off to the east and made the turn. With Mike and Brian out on the bow, yelling and pointing directions, and Nan back with me in the cockpit, squinting at the boat's image on the chart plotter's dotted line and playing the steering like a video game, we made slow idle-speed progress, with only a few sandy bumps along the way.

It was almost 11:30 by this time and not much was happening ashore. We motored slowly past Browns Marina and then Sea Crest Marina, which I knew from Google Maps was right before Blue Water Marina, where we had reserved a slip, but there was no obvious sign and we were more than a hundred yards offshore. Brian and Mike flashed spotlights around and managed to get the attention of two people on the pier who yelled to confirm that we were at Blue Water, whereupon we promptly ran aground. With much forward-reverse and varying throttle, we managed to get the boat off the shoal in about ten minutes and headed toward Blue Water, coming in with the bow facing back the way we had come to avoid having to make another turn over the shoal when we departed. The two people on the pier turned out to be Cedric from Trillium Wind and the marina's night security guard, and they gave us a warm but incredulous welcome at our somewhat daring late-night arrival. Congratulatory drinks went down and sleep quickly followed.

Early the next morning, I checked in at the marina office to announce our arrival and then gathered up everyone's passports, along with the entry forms I had filled out from the official Bahamas website, and went off on foot to clear us in at Customs and Immigration, while everyone else waited at the boat as required. Customs in now at the Big Game Resort, not in the pink building down by the Government Dock, as reported on Check-in was relatively quick and easy, except that it cost $320. For that amount, we get to return to the Bahamas within 90 days free of charge. Not likely. Immigration was farther up the main road on the other side of the street. The official there asked me for our tourist visas, which I did not have. He showed me the form and said the marina office should have given them to us when we checked in. I hoofed it back to the marina office to request the forms I should have been given earlier, had everyone complete them, and then returned to Immigration. Stamp-stamp, rip-rip, and we were cleared in to the Bahamas. The first order of business back at the boat was to take down the "Q" quarantine flag and run up the Bahamas courtesy flag. Then it was off to breakfast at Capt. Bob's, followed by a leisurely walking tour of the area, which took less time than you would think. Bimini is a small place.


P. S. said...

Christ, that sounds like a harrowing approach. Was Mike on the bow with a pole extended to check for obstacles? Clinch!

John Lichty said...

Mike and Brian were out on the bow with spotlights shining on the unlit channel markers. The dotted line on the chart plotter was crucial, though.