The Watercraft Journal: How did you first find out it was possible to ride a PWC from the US to the Bahamas?
Lucas Harris: We didn’t come up with the idea of crossing to Bimini on our own. Rather, our friend Dan was intrigued by the idea after hearing the stories from the previous Jetski Junnkies trips. I think he had also seen the videos put together by the Tampa Sea-Doo Crew. Basically, he tricked Ginger into this, and together they pressured me into it. I begrudgingly agreed, and so we began planning and booking.
WCJ: Who was part of your crew?
LH: We had my fiancé (and soon to be wife), Ginger Benham, myself and our two friends Daniel Waltemate and Tiffany Burgess. We met up with additional Club members Leslie Baute, Vince and Linda Cobelo later that day.
WCJ: What are the essential items you needed to make the trip?
LH: There are only a few real essentials to make the crossing. Obviously, if you have flat water and great luck, you could make it across with any 4-stroke PWC, a GPS unit, and some sunglasses. Being the ever-vigilant worriers that Dan and I are, we knew that there were a ton of other things we’d need to feel safe.
– Gas: Dan and Tiffany had 20 gallons of it in cans on their boat in case any of us used more fuel than planned. This also gave us a buffer in case it took a day to get fuel in Bimini. (The fuel tankers aren’t exactly reliable)
– GPS: We had two Garmin handheld units mounted securely in RAM mounts. One on my WaveRunner, one on the boat. In hindsight, we should have also had magnetic compasses in case of equipment failure.
– Emergency Locators: We had a SPOT tracker that a generous friend loaned us for the trip. This not only allowed our friends and family to follow our trip from the safety of their internet browsers, but also gave us the option to signal the coast guard for assistance in the event of an emergency. I think it would be a wise investment for each PWC rider to be equipped with a personal locator beacon (PLB) secured to their life jackets. 25 miles from land, groups could very easily get separated, and $250 is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
– Radios: Once you get about 5 miles from Florida, your cell phone becomes worthless. If you need to communicate to anyone else in the group, you’re going to need a waterproof radio. We were loaned 2 very nice floating Cobra marine VHF radios, complete with waterproof lapel speaker/microphones. Both of those died on the way over. My recommendation is to bring spares!
– Cash: Cash is king in Bimini. There are places where you can use credit cards, but you’re going to want cash for most purchases. The ferry? Taxis? The best conch salad you’ve ever had? The $150 at customs? Yeah, all cash.
WCJ: What requirements does traveling to the Bahamas have?
LH: To legally visit the Bahamas you’ll need a few things: $150 per vessel for customs, a valid passport, vessel registration, and pens. Yes, ink pens. Good luck finding pens at customs to fill out your paperwork! If you don’t have any of these things, you’re going to have a bad time.
WCJ: What planning steps did your group take?
LH: Our planning wasn’t too difficult. We relied on recommendations from experienced travelers to determine the best place to launch/park our trailers, where to stay, and how to plan for the weather. We booked our rooms well in advance to make sure we could stay where we wanted to. We also spent the night in Miami to make sure we were leaving the ramp as early as possible to avoid any rough water. Knowing that the internet wasn’t entirely reliable in Bimini, we made sure to research all of the sites we wanted to see while we were there, and save them as GPS waypoints before the trip.
WCJ: Who was with your group, what PWC’s and boats, if any?
LH: On the way over to Bimini, our group consisted of 4 people, 2 Yamaha WaveRunners, and a Yamaha jet boat. We were later joined by three friends on a 30-foot Sea Hunt center console. For most of the weekend, the group on the big boat did their own thing during the day, but we did have dinners together, and even did some snorkeling together. They were also nice enough to stay with us for the crossing back to Miami, even though we surely slowed them down.
WCJ: Where did you stay on Bimini? How was the stay?
LH: We stayed at the highly-recommended Bimini Sands Resort, situated on west side of South Bimini. They have some amenities that make them especially suited for PWC travelers, the most important being their floating docks and protected harbor. Their marina is completely walled-off from the ocean, making sure the water is glass-calm day and night. The floating docks keep your watercraft from getting jerked around by the substantial tide. There might be cheaper places to stay, but they have fixed docks on unprotected water. We were able to walk right out of our ground-level condo, and onto the dock. It was really convenient!
WCJ: Best places to eat, how was the food?
LH: On South Bimini, your dining choices are somewhat limited. There’s a restaurant atop the ship’s store at the marina. Bimini Sands also owns a pair of restaurants on the south end of South Bimini, one a casual bar/grill, and the other an upscale sit-down restaurant. I believe they share a kitchen, so we kept it cheap at the bar, Mackey’s Sand Bar! I can’t recommend the cracked conch enough. It’s a conch that’s been butterflied, battered, and fried. It’s sweet, fresh, and comes with a tasty dipping sauce. Their conch fritters are maybe the best I’ve had anywhere.
From Bimini Sands, you can take their free shuttle bus to the ferry dock, and take the $2 ferry over to North Bimini. Once there, grab a cab (all of them seem to be $5 per person, no matter where you’re going). When you ask the cab driver to “Take me to the best conch salad in Bimini!”, he will probably take you to Stuarts’ Conch Stand. Don’t let this funky little waterside shanty fool you, they are serving up gold! You’re going to want two things: a bowl of conch salad, and a rum punch. This may be the best $11 you’ll spend while on the island. We loved it so much, we came back for take-out via the WaveRunners.
If you’re looking from something a little less “shacky”, head a bit further north to the Resorts World casino. They have some excellent looking dishes, ice cold A/C, and the best Wi-Fi we found on the islands!
WCJ: What sights did you see while jet skiing around the island?
LH: As I mentioned, Dan was the driving force of this trip, and as such, he had a list of sites that he wanted to see. I dutifully programmed these into the Garmin handheld units before we left so there would be no issues when we got there. While the land can be interesting, we were really there to see what was in the water. I would recommend a good waterproof camera or go-pro for this. And don’t forget a float or strap to keep your camera attached to you; not everyone is as skilled with a makeshift PWC anchor/claw machine as Dan was.
We visited the wreck of the SS Sapona, the WW1-era concrete ship that’s been off of the coast of Bimini since it ran aground in the ’20s. We snorkeled at Three Sisters Rock, which is a rock outcropping just off the coast near the Resorts World cruise port. Luckily, the water clarity seems to have returned since the port and dredging were completed. Not too far from Three Sisters is Bimini Road, the underwater remains of what many believe is the road to Atlantis. There wasn’t as much wildlife to see there, but it was interesting to see!
WCJ: Did you go to any other locations other than Bimini? If so, where, what did you do and how did it differ from the main Island?
LH: Probably our favorite spot was Honeymoon Harbor. This small beach at the north end of Gun Cay was a rough 5 mile ride from South Bimini, but totally worth it! We brought 5lbs of frozen squid that we purchased at the ship’s store, thawed, and chopped into bite-size pieces. When we showed up, there were maybe a couple stingrays in the area. As soon as we brought out the squid, it turned into a stingray feeding frenzy!
They are accustomed to being fed by humans, and are very eager to see what you’ve brought for them. They will eat out of your hands, climb up your back, and even try to eat your snorkel. At several points, I was unable to stand up because there wasn’t a spot under me where I could see sand between the rays. I just had to float with my mask and snorkel until they moved. Nobody got the sharp end of a singray barb, but there was at least one ankle nibble that left a mark through the afternoon. Overall, I think the experience at Honeymoon Harbor was a highlight of the trip.
WCJ: If you could summarize your experience to a paragraph, what would you say?
LH: Initially, I wasn’t particularly excited about the prospect of taking three watercraft intended for inland use 50 miles off the coast of Florida. For the same price, I could have taken a cruise ship with a lot less hassle! However, the second we arrived and saw that pristine turquoise water, it made the trip completely worthwhile! All of the anger and frustration about the beating we were taking from the sea immediately went away. We went on to have a wonderful weekend. Bimini truly is a unique place, and I think we’re better for having visited there. I can’t wait until we go back!
All imagery provided by Lucas Harris Photography