3 days in Bimini
When I was invited on a 3 day trip to Bimini aboard the new 35’ Bertram I was excited to say the very least. An incredible boat plus an incredible destination make for an irresistible combination. The trip represented many firsts for me: my first time running the 35’, my first Gulf Stream crossing, first trip to the Bahamas, and first spearfishing experience. I was fortunate to be in the company of an experienced and patient crew that were eager to share their knowledge.
Passports firmly in hand, we left Ft Lauderdale mid afternoon and made a heading for Bimini. Watching the depth drop from 20’ to 1,000’+ in a matter of minutes is not something we get in New England! With a 12-15kt breeze out of the southeast we were able to run with the sea all the way across.
I’d been on the 35’ at the dock a few times, but never under way. The boat is simply a very comfortable boat, particularly for a guy coming from an older boat without a/c, a full berth, freezer, and so on. The livability is simply a different world from our 1973 31' Bertram.
That said, the first thing I noticed about the ride in the 35’ was just how much she reminded me of our 31’ Bertram. She’s solid as a rock and powerful as hell. Looking at our speed was where the difference between a 10 ton boat and our 6 ton boat was most evident. Where the 35’ is capable of handling a 2-3’ chop at 26 knots we’d be more comfortable at 16-18 knots in the 31.
2 1/2 hours after leaving Ft Lauderdale in our wake, I watched the water change from inky blue to iridescent turquoise as the depth runs from 2000’ to 10’. As we tied up at Customs I noticed an old 31’ sitting in a nearby slip which seemed fitting. The sun never sets on the Bertram empire, after all.
As Tommy, our companion and Captain, ran all passports and paperwork through customs the three of us hopped off the boat. We strolled up the dock only to find a local with a wheelbarrow of fish guts hootin n’ hollerin as he hurled pieces into the water. I strolled up casually until I noticed.... “holy shit! That’s a 9’ f’ing bull shark!” Half a dozen sharks served as our welcoming committee as they enjoyed an afternoon snack.
After clearing customs and running up the channel to Resort World we treated our selves to a dinner of cold fried chicken and beer on the boat. Dinner of champions? Maybe not... but dinner of 4 dudes too tired to look further than the fridge on the boat.
The agenda on Day 2 was to put ourselves in the water with some fish. The first stop was a sunken plane that served as a great photo opp, as well as my first experience with a spear. Sitting in 15’ of water, the plane was just plain cool. Lots of small mangrove snapper called this place home and a few of them wound up in our fish box.
Our second spot, north east of Alice Town, ended with a nice Hogfish in the killbox. Later in the day we stopped at a sunken fuel tank or generator box of some sort where Tom and another companion, Mark, hopped in and reported a “big Cubera Snapper!” in about 20' of water. The next 5 minutes went like this:
Tom dives down twice
Tom shoots once and misses; fish swims into box and hides.
Tom surfaces and weaves a tapestry of profanity
Max (our 4th companion who rendered me “the other Max”) and I anchored the boat and jumped in. I’ll hand it to Tom- he was relentless chasing this fish. I watched him dive down, stick his head into the hole where the Cubera had gone, shove his spear inside and instantly jerk his head back like he’d been shocked. I followed him to the surface where the first thing he said was “that f*cker gave me a bloody nose!” A headbutt was the final knockout. Cubera: 1, Tom: 0.
Back at the dock that evening we cleaned our catch, throwing the scraps to the local bull shark prowling the harbor:
We found a ride to Alice Town courtesy of a cabby, "Butter", where we convinced the bartender at the Bimini Big Game Club to have the kitchen prepare 4 plates of fish tacos and some conch fritters. Butter promised us a ride back unless he "got lucky", which I guess he did, because it wasn't until we'd walked for a mile or so that two guys in a golf cart earned a few bucks hauling us back to to the hotel.
Our ride back to Fort Lauderdale on Day 3 was marked by 6-7' swells with a chop on top. Moppie shrugged the conditions off and little more than 2 hours after leaving Bimini we were home.
As far as trips go, my time in Bimini was a 10. There isn't a 35' boat I'd take over the Bertram; she looks great and performs even better. Swimming and fishing in 78 degree, clear-as-gin water in April, well... for a New Englander, it can only be characterized as heaven.