Home is said to be,” where your heart is,” and for most people this goes along with the place they sleep, keep their belongings, have pets, raise their children and build their life. For Duncan and I the meaning is a bit more literal, with home being where our hearts, as physical organs, happen to be. We spend most of the year on the road and have, without even realizing it, become accustom to defining wherever we are as home. It is not home by most definitions, but it works for us. We even say we are heading home when leaving a restaurant or pub in some strange city rather than saying we are going back to the hotel. It just seems natural and happens without us realizing it, although we usually have a giggle about it. Sometimes we even get to unpack our suitcases and put clothes into drawers. It is strange and aside from their week vacation, the idea probably terrifies most people, but we have made it our life.
This uncanny ability flows with us across the globe, invisibly packed in our checked luggage, never costing us overage, only bringing us a sense of comfort wherever we are. I am sure being a working couple, traveling together, also aides in the process. There are, however, some places that really feel like home in the more traditional sense of the word and the islands of Bimini are one of those places for us. Bimini is located approximately 50 miles from the east coast of Florida and has a rich history of fishing, rum and mystery. Hemingway and the Rat Pack were regulars in their hay day, rumrunners used the island during prohibition and the road to Atlantis is thought to lie just off shore. The islands are also home to the world-renowned Bimini Biological Field Station (Sharklab) and the ocean is teaming with a diverse population of sharks.
Continental has a larger plane that flies to the island, but the standard planes are 8-10 passenger because the runway is fairly small. The great thing about small planes is the view of the island as you approach and a unique feeling of being closer to everything as you take off and land. On large planes you can get lost in the mass of people and may not even be able to see out a window. There is no bad seat on a tiny plane, well unless your head is hitting the ceiling. You might also have a big screen television or other home appliance buckled into the seat next to you. We have buckled in camera housings and Pelican cases before. The journey is really the start of the island experience.
When I wrenched myself out of the tiny seat at the back of the plane and unfolded my legs hoping they would work, I breathed in the island air. The islands run on a different schedule and it takes a minute to get into that groove. We flew Pioneer Air for the first time and arrived at a warehouse in Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport that was shut up and looked abandoned. Their agent assured us over the phone that we were in the right place, but they were running a little late. And so it starts. We corralled our luggage around the door and waited. I am drafting an email to my friends, who will be flying over for our wedding in a month, regarding the less than strict flight schedule they may encounter. We checked in for our 12 o’clock flight at 11:30 and Duncan helped the pilot load luggage onto the plane.
Duncan and I had 10 bags with us including 2 computers, hard drives, 2 full scuba kits, 2 underwater camera housings, 3 cameras, wedding favors, 3 wedding dresses, a kilt and a few other clothing items. Shenae and Craig were great and managed to get all but 3 of our bags on our flight. They assured us that they would arrive on the 4 pm flight. No worries. Probably seems bizarre to people reading this that we would just leave our luggage, but if you think about it you leave your luggage with less caring strangers every single time you fly! We had a full house of 8 on the plane and although I wanted to fly as co pilot, I opted to stay in the back on hold gear along with Duncan. The plane seats 10 with the pilot, having one seat in the cockpit next to him.
There is no lengthy safety briefing, no beverages or peanuts are served and there is no toilet. You reach altitude and begin your descent with the total flight time being approximately 20 minutes. We lucked out with a clear day and could see the island from quite a distance. There is a shade of blue that I have only ever seen in the ocean around Bimini and it is always a magical sight that makes my heart happy.
The tight quarters of the plane make for an easy conversation starter and we chatted with 2 girls that had just traveled to the states from Australia. I always get excited chatting about Australia. One was American now living in Australia, bringing her friend to see the island. We chatted about Aus and things to do on the island and pretty soon the landing gear was going down. Dunk helped unload the luggage again, as it seems a bit unfair that the pilot has to not only fly the plane, but also deal with everyone’s luggage. I fought with 3 dresses and headed to customs. We waited our turn before heading in. The typical questions of “why you are here,” and, “ how long do you want to stay,” were asked as the customs agent stamped my passport. I could feel myself glowing as I answered that I was here to get married in a month! We got our visas and loaded the gear into Nasty’s cab. A nice new carrier van has replaced his old passenger van. Nasty is one of the regular drivers on the island and his megawatt smile is anything but nasty.
The air, the water and the people wrap around you like a massive hug and I immediately felt a sense of ease and comfort. Getting all the gear over and moving it all around was a bit stressful, but all of that melted away. For us, Bimini is like slipping into your favorite pair of comfy pants; all seems right in the world and your entire being settles into a state of relaxation. They might be a bit ratty or frayed, but you cannot get rid of them.
We settled into our home for next 6 weeks at the Bimini Sands before hitting the Petite Conch for lunch. We headed for the beach after lunch to take a walk and test the temperature of that Bimini blue water. This is home for me, the salt air, the sand between my toes and the gorgeous sea surrounding us. These are my white picket fence and well-manicured yard in a safe neighborhood. I made several trips to Bimini before making it my home in 2009. Duncan managed the Sharklab before we both took a job working on a dolphin boat. We have a big family on the island and love hitching rides in golf carts, pot cakes, the water taxi, Saturday morning souse at the Beach Club and all the little nooks and crannies of the underwater world. We are greeted with massive smiles and hugs that make you feel like you are visiting a favorite uncle.
The South Island of Bimini is about 6 miles long and is where we stay when we are on the rock. There are very few cars with golf carts being a more sensible option. You can easily walk everywhere, but most people offer you a lift when they pass by. It’s fun to jump on the back and make new friends or catch up with old ones. Pot cakes are the stray dogs, “ a little bit of everything in the pot,” that roam the island. Souse is a traditional island dish that is anything (meat or fish) boiled down in the juice of fresh limes, lemons or sour oranges. Other ingredients include diced celery, carrot, potato, sliced onions, green peppers, black pepper, Bahamian red peppers and a touch of garlic. The water taxi is a five-minute boat ride between the north and south islands that costs $2.00. All little treasures of this gem floating in the Gulf Stream.