Bimini
 
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"It was cool and almost dark after the glare of the coral road and (he) had a gin and tonic water with a piece of lime peel in the glass and a few drops of Angostura in the drink. Mr. Bobby was behind the bar looking terrible. Four Negro boys were playing billiards, occasionally lifting the table when necessary to bring off a difficult carom. Two of the crew of the yacht that was tied up at the slip were in the bar and as Thomas Hudson's eyes adjusted to the light it was dim and cool and pleasant." So said Ernest Hemingway in his novel, Islands in the Stream, describing quasi-fictional adventures in Bimini.

Now, here I was 65 years later drinking a Kalik beer in the same bar with my new dive buddy Paul. It was still dim and cool and pleasant, but Mr. Bobby was long gone and no one, not even those of politically incorrect appellation, were shooting pool. Yet the spirit of Hemingway still seemed to prevail in the Compleat Angler bar. I felt I had stepped through a time warp, as if the 50 miles between Bimini and Miami were a portal to the past instead of an easy seaplane flight to modern-day dive adventure.

Outside, in Alice Town, the golf carts and mopeds plied the colorful King's Highway (obviously not a very powerful king to have so short and insignificant a road named in his honor) while fishing yachts lined the docks at the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club and Weech's Marina. Here, inside the bar, the CNN broadcast sort of spoiled the illusion of yesteryear. But at least they had the volume turned down making it possible for us to easily carry on about the wonders of the day's dive holiday. "Did you see how many fish there were on that wreck!" "The sponges on the wall were awesome!" "Can you even believe the vis we had today!?" "I'm amazed that nurse shark just stayed there and let me take his picture!". The pictures on the bar's walls showed men and fish, each long dead by now, ghosts from a time when the sea was deemed an inexhaustible resource for the pure pleasure of manly men. But this day, our conversation was about the glory that still remains and the beauty that defines the Bimini underwater world.

The Biminis represent the closest Bahamian islands to the U.S. mainland, and as such get significant visitation by pleasure yachts, as well as tourists who arrive by air. While North and South Bimini are the best known of the islands, the string of islands extends 28 miles and includes Turtle Rocks, Piquet Rocks, Holm Cay, Gun Cay, North and South Cat Cays, Sandy Cay, and Ocean Cay. Aside from an exclusive private enclave on Cat Cay, the population of the Biminis is concentrated on North and South Bimini.

Ponce de Leon searched for his Fountain of Youth here, and the famed sunken road of Atlantis supposedly lies just offshore. But despite the mythical symbolism attached to these islands, the Bimini that most tourists will experience is the quiet relaxation of South Bimini, or perhaps the casual commerce of the small bars and restaurants nestled between the King's and Queen's Highway on North Bimini. Mostly though, it's about the sea. For sportfishing or for diving, in our times as in Hemingway's, Bimini is about the sea.

My Bimini expedition began aboard a Chalk's Ocean Airways flight departing from Miami's Watson Island. After so many overcrowded and frenetic airports in my life, the Chalks' experience has always been a bit of a relief. Just a short cab ride from Miami International (or in my case, an hour's drive from Key Largo), the small terminal has easy parking right outside and no-hassle check-in procedures. Of course, these 17-passenger Gruman Mallard seaplanes are a bit light on cargo capacity, so I had an excess baggage charge for traveling with both camera and dive gear. But less equipment-intensive divers should have no trouble, especially since there is little need to pack lots of clothes when traveling to Bimini. Casual is definitely the style of both the clothing and the life of this particular Island in the (Gulf) Stream. |Bimini Big Game Club PADI Dive Center| or |Bimini Undersea|


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