On this epic voyage of discovery the Motorhead Traveler sets out from Florida to the Bahamas through the treacherous waters of the Bermuda Triangle. From watercraft, waves, weird phenomena and wishing wells to powerboats, parties and paradise islands this episode has it all. Read on to discover the Motorhead Traveler’s winning formula to finding friends unlimited...
Magical Mystery Tour
You are standing in a burning house and have the opportunity to salvage only one of two books before making your escape. Do you select your bank book or your address book? In this material age, as we strive to further our financial situation, it is easy to forget that people, experiences and adventure should be the measure of our personal wealth. My favourite motto has to be, “Take every opportunity to widen the circle of your friends.” Whilst you needn’t take that as literally as Caligula, you’ll understand the sentiment! With this in mind the Motorhead Adventurer headed off to Florida for a magical marine adventure.
Judging by their reluctance to drag themselves from behind their thick blankets, both the sun and the Motorhead Traveller have shared a hard day’s night. However, come daybreak, we’re down at the dockside, and our spirits resolutely refuse to be dampened by the threat of rain.
The Bimini Road Rally may at first appear to be something of a misnomer for a waterborne expedition from Florida to the idyllic Bahamian island of Bimini. However, as the Motorhead Traveller crew was soon to discover, not everything is as it appears inside the Bermuda Triangle. Organised by Watertop Unlimited, the Bimini Road Rally combines both personal watercraft enthusiasts and owners of Formula boats. The event is designed to encourage owners, their friends and families to stretch the boundaries of their usual boating experiences and discover how their craft can be used for new adventures and challenges – echoing the ethos of our own Motorhead Traveller.
Whilst travelling on watercraft across 54 miles of open-ocean is a challenging undertaking within the capabilities of most physically active individuals, it should never be attempted alone. After all, travelling in company is not just prudent, it’s also more socially rewarding.
Waking up with the Neighbours
As we cast off and burbled along sedately through the ‘no wake’ zone, each rider quietly contemplated the ride ahead - but few could have anticipated what Atlantic had in store for us. Meteorological forecasts may have predicted two foot seas, but nature had decided to deal us something considerably larger.
In the words of Ron Barbour of Tarpon Springs, FL., “After coming through the nice calm water of the inlet, being met by those big waves was something of a shock. If we’d been out alone and not part of a bigger group we’d have never went out.” His partner Robin concurred, “I thought to myself at first few waves, I’m going to turn around and go back. I’m not going to do this. But then I dropped in behind on of the Formula boats and sat in its wake, which made life easier. I remember thinking this is going to be a long 50 miles, but I’m going to do it.”
Within minutes of leaving the shore the group were challenging their own physical and psychological limits. Individuals assisted others and a ‘team spirit’ quickly evolved in the face of adversity. As Florida faded into the distance and the riders were faced with en empty horizon, the Bimini Road Rally became a true ‘Blue Water’ passage. Out there is the awe inspiring vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, with no land in sight, less experienced riders occasionally dropped behind the pack due to the heavy seas.
With the possibility of being lost from view in the troughs of eight to ten foot swells, Watertop Unlimited’s professional safety team of Tim McKercher and Cody Hawkins were kept busy shepherding their flock. As one dropped back to offer words of encouragement and monitor the rider’s condition, the other would ride hard to call back a leading boat back. The Formula drivers obliged each time and soon those finding it hard going would be enjoying a less demanding ride inside the larger vessel’s wake.
Robert Schneider, a Formula boat owner and fully trained paramedic, was full of admiration for the watercraft riders. “Any passage on the Atlantic is a feat and as for doing it on a watercraft? Well that it has to be respected! The Formula boats were able to help by providing calmer waters in their wake, and my boat carried a whole load of safety equipment should it have been be required, we forged a great relationship out there.”
After several hours of exhausting riding, with no mechanical, physical or mystical mishaps, the sun kissed coastline of Bimini eventually hove into view. Running low on fuel, but high on adrenaline, the party cruised the last few miles of aquamarine water with an exultant feeling of achievement and satisfaction. Robin Barbour was particularly jubilant after her early reservations; three words summed up her experience, “I did it!”
Nick Vogler of Dabbe, FL was literally swept of his feet when he arrived in Bimini. “After hours in the saddle I couldn’t wait to dismount, but when I tried my legs buckled. It took a few minutes to get the feeling and strength back into them.”
Touchdown in Paradise
Mooring up in the well appointed Bimini Sands Resort marina, the group received a timely reminder of their achievement. Having left the USA and actually ridden to different country, a trip to the local customs and immigration office was required. Still in their dripping wetsuits and with passports in hand they duly headed off for processing and visa stamps.
Once back at the all inclusive Bimini Sands beach resort the riders and families began to appreciate the fruits of their labours. The resort not only offers full marina facilities, swimming pools, restaurants and a stunning beachfront location, but a variety of accommodation is also available. From double rooms to three bedroom condos, Bimini Sands is a great place to base yourself no matter what size your party.
Being quiet, safe and offering pristine beaches, Bimini is an ideal destination for families and groups looking to escape every-day living. A small town is located on the north island, accessible by ferry, and the majority of visitors rent golf-carts to explore its environs. With a bank, the customs office, a few bars, cafes and shops, Bimini offers a dreamy alternative to insomniac cities and soulless suburbia.
Whilst legend has it that the Bimini islands acted as a stepping stone to the fabled city of Atlantis, many of the area’s current 1,600 inhabitants are direct descendents of the slaves families who found haven there in the 1920’s. Rum runners from Nassau briefly provided the islands with a valuable economic injection before modern day tourism stepped in as a more lucrative and sustainable source of income.
The waters surrounding the island are equally special. Vic Spellberg, the Director of Sponsorship at Formula Boats, summed their extra-ordinary beauty and appeal, “We use Bimini as a photo shoot location for our brochures. The water they have here is unsurpassed even by other Bahamian islands. It is so clear and possesses such a vivid aquamarine colour we don’t even have to retouch the photographs.”
Whilst the tropical paradise of palm fronded white sand beaches and gin-clear water offer enough appeal for most, Bimini also sports two unique attractions that are a must for visitors. For a step back in time, visit Ernest Hemmingway’s old house, he lived on Bimini from 1935-1937. Sipping on a cool local beer we perused walls filled with photographs, letters and memorabilia belonging to the hell raising literary genius. Apparently he’d stand on deck emptying magazines from his ‘Tommy Gun’ at sharks threatening to maul the prized marlin he was reeling in!
If you never want to become ‘The Old Man of the Sea’ then ditch the beer and head to ‘The Fountain of Youth’. In the 15th century Jaun Ponce de Leon, the Governor of Puerto Rico, heard tell of a magical spring that bestowed the blessing of eternal youth to all those who drank from it. Not one to turn down such an opportunity he set of to find the well in 1513. Whilst he sailed right passed Bimini and failed to find eternal salvation, he did discover Florida – a fair trade in anyone’s book.
One of the obvious benefits of arriving at Bimini by boat or watercraft, is that you have your toy on hand to explore the local coastline. Using their vast experience of the surrounding area, Watertop Unlimited organised a poker run for the party. Initially designed as unofficial race events for thunderboats and motorcyclists, the poker run format is now a popular method for individuals to come together as groups to experience navigating a new area. Groups cruise to five different locations at which each participant is dealt a random playing card. The highest poker hands pick up the prizes on offer at the end of the trip. With no favours for front runners, poker runs replaces competitiveness with fun.
Appropriately our first stop was at the rusting hulk of the Seppona, a gambling ship that run aground off Bimini in the 1920s. A mecca for fish and divers, the clear waters the Seppona sits in made it a perfect stop for a spot of snorkelling. After a brief dip, refreshment and drawing our card though we mounted up and headed for our second stop – the Bimni Road.
Lying some distance from the shore of Bimini’s north island is a phenomenon that has to this day defied explanation. Right there on the seabed, lying in fifteen foot or more of water, is a stretch of perfectly square stones. Not just an odd one or two, but thousands of square blocks, discarded on the sea bed like a ruined pathway. With no logical explanation for their existence, rumours abound. The most popular locally is that the ‘Bimini Road’ (hence the waterborne event’s unusual title), was once a highway to the lost city of Atlantis. Sitting as we were, deep inside the Bermuda Triangle, we were somewhat reticent to argue!
The poker run continued and we collected further cards at secluded coves and local landmarks, finishing up eventually back at the Bimini Sands Resort. With a coat of freshly applied after-sun cream and glowing with the energy that only comes after a day of physical exertion, the party regrouped for the evening banquet and prize giving. Tall stories and contact details were swapped as the cocktails flowed and the sense of ‘bonhomie’ engendered within this small group of individuals, who were strangers only a few days before, was a pleasure to witness.
Through the fog of merriment one thought occasionally speared through like a fork of lightening: “We still have that 54 mile return journey to complete yet!” This journalist has the pleasure of reporting however that Poseidon smiled on us the next day. The Atlantic slept and the sun shone, no mechanical gremlins reared their ugly heads and each of us made it back to Miami, out of the Bermuda Triangle, with nothing more than fond memories and more friends than we left with.
If you are interested in finding out more about Bimini, Watertop Unlimited or Formula Boats then check out our useful links page below. To watch the Motorhead Traveller’s Bimini adventure in glorious technicolour, click on the link below and download this episode.
Effective January 23rd, 2007 the United States Government began enforcing its new law requiring US Citizen's to be in possession of a valid US passport in order to depart from, or return to, the United States by way of aircraft. This policy includes the Bahamas. For other countries check your relevant government agency passport/visa website.
Public Holidays/Local Events
It is worth noting that most shops, businesses and banks are closed on Public Holidays in the Bahamas. Check out the following link for a list of local holidays, events and celebrations: http://www.bahamas.com/bahamas/about/general.aspx?sectionid=200797&level=3
Bimini Road Rally
In order to participate in the Bimini Road Rally there are several requirements you must meet:
Must possess valid passport
Must utilize a 2002 or newer model year PWC
PWC must have 14 gallon fuel tank or greater
PWC must be registered and display registration numbers
PWC must be equipped with all USCG required gear
Adventurer must be in sound physical condition
Must be capable and determined to cross the open ocean
Must submit a deposit of $500 per person to WaterTop Unlimited to secure spot by appointed date
Demands to do what very few people have done on a PWC