Sunday, May 24, 2015

Full house

We are still in Bimini, Bahamas, having spent the last week in no fewer than five different spots around the island. Our good friends Mary and Mark arrived Wednesday, and we've had a full house on board since then; I expect to be posting a bit irregularly while we have guests aboard.

Shortly after I last posted here, we assisted in two additional distress calls. That's over and above the vessel that sank at the beach which I wrote about in my last post. It was, in fact, only a few minutes after I posted that the radio came to life with lots of traffic concerning two missing jet skis with three young adults aboard. The concerned skipper who was coordinating the search was in a small center console, the tender to a large yacht, with a short antenna, and we ended up relaying traffic between them, the other boats in the search, the US Coast Guard, and the local constabulary.

All's well that ends well and the two jet skis were found high and dry on the sand flats east of the island, stranded by a very low outgoing tide. Then late in the evening we heard a very faint transmission from someone halfway to Cat Cay who had run out of fuel and was dead in the water; apparently we were the only boat that could hear him. I ended up calling the police and they called someone to get him some fuel; it was late enough that none of the marinas I tried was still answering the radio.

We did take the tender over to the Bimini Sands Marina for dinner, which was pleasant. We were the only patrons in the restaurant. There was no sign of the previously sunken vessel which had been towed there earlier, so we presume it was towed out of the water on a trailer at the boat ramp there. We also stopped in the marina store, which had a very limited selection.

Monday we ran into Alice Town Harbor on the tender to check it out. The tiny anchorage near the Bimini Big Game Club was unappealing, and the harbor was quite choppy in the easterlies. We landed at the old seaplane dock and walked the town a bit before heading back to the boat.

Not relishing a return to the harbor in the tender, we decided to move Vector north to an anchorage off the beach at Alice Town (map). That gave us a very short tender ride to the beach if we wanted to go into town, and that evening we ate right on the same beach at CJ's Deli, next door to Sheri's Beach Bar. Those two businesses cause that stretch of the beach to attract quite a number of tourists during the day, and I think Vector at anchor became the backdrop for a fair number of vacation photos.

Sunset over the Alice Town beach, with Scalar in the foreground.

We remained in that spot for two nights, and Tuesday we returned to the beach and walked across town to the Big Game Club for dinner. The restaurant was nicer than I expected, having been recently updated, and the food and service were very good. That said, I'm glad we decided against a stay at the marina there, because the ongoing renovations have the pool and many of the docks closed.

Vector from the deck at CJ's Deli.

Wednesday we moved to the marina at Resorts World Bimini, at the north end of the island and accessed by a long, straight, narrow dredged channel. In a preview of things to come for the holiday weekend, I negotiated with a 150' megayacht coming south down the channel to wait for him to clear before entering, only to then be passed by some idiot in a motor yacht who had no clue. The megayacht wisely kept his course and speed and the motor yacht nearly ran out of the channel to miss him.

There are actually two marinas at this resort, with the same rates and amenities. One is called Fisherman's Village and the other the Megayacht Docks. The latter is something of a misnomer, in the sense that both marinas have a selection of slip sizes, including ones too small even for Vector. We requested a slip at the Megayacht Docks because they are closer to the pool and nice restaurants, but when we arrived we were told they were full and we were placed instead at Fisherman's Village (map).

While water is metered here at 45 cents a gallon, electric power was a flat $32 per day and we cranked the A/C up to full blast for our entire stay. We enjoyed a pizza for dinner at Amici's in the small complex of shops at the marina. I also walked most of the resort and spent a little time in the very nice infinity-edge pool on the ocean side of the island.

The Bimini Superfast at her berth, as seen from our nice anchorage off Alice Town.

The Bimini Superfast arrived shortly after 10pm and Mark and Mary cleared customs and arrived at the marina on the resort tram shortly before 11. We all spent Thursday enjoying the resort, which was much busier with the ferry in port. Whereas I had the infinity pool to myself Wednesday, on Thursday it was fairly crowded, and the poolside bar and grill was in full swing.

New crew members Mary and Mark join Louise aboard Vector.

We ended up having dinner at Hemingways, in the casino, which was quite good. We then walked around the other marina and pool complex, where I noted the majority of the docks were empty, contrary to the claim when we arrived. We did have to cut through the brand new Hilton hotel to reach the casino area while the construction there is ongoing.

Vector at the Fisherman's Village docks, before they got busy.

Friday morning the marina tried to boot us out by 9am for the holiday inrush, but I groused until they gave us an 11am checkout. By the time we left, the megayacht side was still mostly empty, and I read them the riot act over keeping us out of our requested docks for no good reason. Their claim was that too many boaters overstay their reservation, which I find to be a poor reason to fail to honor reservations for paying guests. They made no concession whatsoever, and I have a review to cover that. On our way out we heard them do the same thing to someone else, and we commiserated over the radio.

We provisioned at the nice and fairly well stocked store in the marina complex before casting off right before 11. We then played channel-marker pachinko with hordes of incoming powerboats our whole way out of the harbor. Many of these skippers have more money than skill, and the radio cackled with dockmasters yelling at skippers to slow down. I think we were well served to be out of the harbor before any more of the south Florida bikinis-and-bourbon crowd showed up.

We chugged around to the northwest side of the island, curled around inside a rock formation, and dropped the hook just a few hundred yards off the resort's swimming and watersports beach (map). With the ferry gone, it was pretty quiet when we anchored there, and we tendered in to the beach bar for dinner, having kept our resort wrist bands for the day. The activity board showed that Saturday evening would be a DJ followed by a live band, but we had a quiet dinner Friday evening.

Saturday the beach filled up, and a bunch of boats anchored around us for the day. All manner of water toys came out, and Vector found herself the principal object in the jet-ski obstacle course. Before things got too crowded, we took the tender over and snorkeled the underwater rock formation known as "Bimini Road." We also tendered to the nearby rock formations, where we found a tidal zone teeming with marine life. Ironically, we found that to be the best snorkeling we've encountered in all the Bahamas. Both Bimini Road and the rock snorkel sites had mooring balls for the tender.

The beach club area in full swing, from our deck.

By mid-afternoon we had had enough of the PWC rodeo and the loud music, and knowing there was even louder music of unknown caliber forthcoming, we weighed anchor to move on. We motored north and around North Rock and came here to the flats on the east side of the island, anchoring in 14 feet (map). We had a bit of a rolly night, but not intolerable. Today the wind and waves will pick up again so we will need to motor back around to the west side someplace before it gets too much choppier.

Weather is not favorable for a crossing either to the US or to any of the other Bahamian destinations, so we'll be pinned down here in the Bimini/Gun/Cat area for the next few days. It's looking like we will cross over to Palm Beach next weekend as our port of entry, with no real multi-day windows on the horizon. At least by next weekend the holiday shenanigans should be winding down if not over. For now, it's still amateur hour out here, and I'm half expecting to hear another rescue call before the weekend is out. The mess of boats that showed up on Friday will probably try to make it home in that aforementioned unfavorable weather.

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