We spent nearly a week in Bimini anchored out in a very rolley anchorage on the west side of North Bimini before we decided to cross the Great Bahamas Bank. There really isn’t too much I can say for Bimini except that it’s a nice place to stop for provisioning, coco bread (delicious Bahamian bread made from coconuts), and phone cards. The town itself is desolate, and the juxtaposition between the poor Bahamians and the rich tourists makes for an indescribably depressing place to be.
After a great debate with Frank about doing an overnight passage across the Great Bahamas Bank, we finally left on Saturday April 11th, around 11:30 pm. Reason why we had waited a week in Bimini was because, initially, Frank had wanted to wait for a good weather window to cross the bank in daylight, and anchor out on the Bank for a night. None of the days during the week had afforded this opportunity, so when I saw a good window for doing an overnighter I took it. This was after much arguing with Frank about it, as he was extremely apprehensive about crossing at night as he had heard many horror stories about people hitting coral in the middle of the night, etc. But seeing as the weather was not about to relent for another week, and there was no way I was going to spend another day in Bimini, I convinced Frank to go with my plan. He was not on board with me, even down to the last minute, asking me if I was sure, whether I understood the risk of crossing at night and warning me of the “high” chance that we’d lose the boat, and that if we did, it would be all my fault. I would not give in and pushed for us to go. I argued that there are also horror stories as well of people anchoring out on the bank and getting run over by freighters, and if we were live life by other people’s horror stories, we’d still be in St Augustine. Either way, we were risking it. That did not go so well L
The crossing itself was wonderful. Again the wind was directly on the nose, so there was really no chance of sailing, but we managed to make pretty good time motoring across. The most unnerving part of the night was in the beginning when we passed through one of the shallower areas of the bank. I was at the helm at the time and saw the water go from 30 ft to about 12 ft in a matter of minutes. I was so taken aback by it as it happened so quickly that I even slowed us down a knot or so. Craziest thing was that even in the darkness, I could see the water change to a lighter color, signifying shallower depths.
As soon as daylight broke, I gloated to Frank, “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” in which he replied, “We’re still not there yet…” but he did manage to smile a bit and put out our trolling line, and that’s when the fun began. The hand line we use is essentially a 100ft pericord with a bungee shock absorber and a 25 ft leader of 500lb test monofilament that is then attached to a squid lure. We swear by this system as we’ve been more than successful in catching fish when we troll the line. We prefer this over rods as we have found that even pulling in larger, feistier fish is quite easy compared to using a rod. We started off catching a 18” Cero, this fish is much like Spanish Mackerel, except the meat is a little lighter, but just as oily. After cleaning it off and putting it in the fridge, we dropped the line again. Within the next 15 minutes, we heard the line snap again and we managed snag another fish. This time it was a 15 lb Mutton Snapper. We were shocked. After filleting this bad boy, we decided that we’d give it one more try and see what else we could catch. Within another 20 minutes, we caught a 3 ft Great Barracuda. Seeing as we didn’t want to risk getting Ciguatera* we regretfully threw the thing back. On our last try, we managed to catch a 5 lb jackfish, but at that point, we threw it back as we had considered it a small catch compared to our other larger wins of the day. After an exciting day of catching more fish than we could store, we had a fine lunch feast of Cero and rice as we entered Frazier’s Hog Cay.
*Ciguatera is a type of poison carried by certain individual fish in tropical waters. Although ony a minute number of fish are affected, people sometimes acquire the toxin, mostly by eating very big specimens of predatory types, such as the Great Barracuda, Amberjack, and even some larger varieties of Grouper and Snapper. The resulting illness can be serious and lingering, but is rarely fatal.