Here is a story I put together for PULSE magazine out of Naples, Florida. Thought you guys might like a story about our closest Bahamian neighbor. Have a great weekend everyone!
Islands in the Stream
There is an old saying in real estate – it’s all about location, location, location. The Bahamian islands are a location gold mine, but one group in particular commands the corner office in this sea of a million blues: Bimini.
Why exactly are they a location gold mine? Bimini is the westernmost district of the Bahamas located about 53 miles due east of Miami, FL. It is the closest point in the Bahamas to the mainland United States, and approximately 137 miles west-northwest of Nassau. Its close proximity to the US and the fact that it’s bordered on the west by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and eastward by the Great Bahama Bank makes Bimini prime real estate. It has traditionally been referred to as the big game fishing capital of the world.
Bimini consists of two islands, North Bimini and South Bimini, connected by a small flat. These small unassuming islands have a treasured and legendary history. These special scraps of land have had, and will continue to have, fortunes and fun.
The Gulf Stream rushes north, washing past Bimini Island and serving as a watery highway for everything from marlin to mantas, tuna to sea turtles. Its unique location coupled with a roguish history makes Bimini the Out Islands’ favorite diving and fishing frontier outpost. The fishing, pirate tales and its rum soaked history have lured many people, with Ernest Hemmingway being one of the most famous.
For Ernest Hemingway, it was love at first sight when he docked his boat, Pilar, on Bimini Island back in the 1930’s. He lived on the island from 1935-1937, falling into the laid-back Bahamian way of life that included swimming off the beach, snorkeling, trolling for monster game fish and, yes, tossing back more than a few rums with the locals. Hemingway fished and wrote while in Bimini. While angling there, he garnered knowledge that would enable him to write The Old Man and The Sea and Islands in the Stream.
Some of Bimini’s darker history includes stories of pirates and rum runners. During the period of Prohibition in the United States, Bimini was a favorite haven and supply point for the rum-running trade. Rum runners flooded Bimini with cases and barrels of liquor to be smuggled to the US. The islands were awash not only with booze, but also with money. The liquor came from Cuba, the Caribbean and especially Europe. Locals and Americans were engaged in the rum-running trade in every possible way. My kind of crowd!
Bimini was the haunt of pirates during the 1600’s and 1700’s. Its location on the edge of the Gulf Stream made it a perfect place to engage Spanish galleons laden with treasure on their return route to Spain. Sir Francis Drake, Sir Henry Morgan and Blackbeard all knew Bimini well. The fresh water pools on South Bimini were also useful to the pirates and privateers.
Hemingway is, of course, closely tied to Bimini’s history, leading the way for generations of fishermen. Many of them pilot their own boats across the 50 miles of Gulf Stream from Florida in order to follow in Papa’s bare footsteps, pitting themselves against some of the world’s feistiest game fish and against each other as they down rum at local watering holes like the famed and funky End of the World Bar.
Beyond the fishing, diving and kayaking, Bimini Island offers both the quiet escape of empty beaches and the boisterous camaraderie of sportsmen gathering at the marinas after a successful day on the water in the hot sun. Other attractions include the Bimini Road, The Fountain of Youth, The Healing Hole and snorkeling on ship wrecks such as the Sapona. The Sapona was a concrete-hulled World War I liberty ship that a rum runner brought across the Gulf Stream to use as a floating booze warehouse during Prohibition.
Travel to Bimini usually begins in South Florida. Current air services include Continental and Bimini Island Air. Proof of citizenship and photo ID are required upon entry. Casual attire is the norm with summer temperatures in the mid-80’s and winter in the mid-70’s. US currency is used freely, so there are no exchange concerns.
Over and out from somewhere south,