Child’s Play: Watch a Four-Year Old Master A Lagoon Power Catamaran

Isabella-flybridge

My niece Isabella Lee is no ordinary girl. At the age of four she was already helping her dad, Darren, and her mom, Kimberly, sail a number of catamarans in and around South Florida.

Now days she is living the life of Riley in Dubai entering song and dance competitions, auditioning for the play Annie, modeling and visiting her grandparents in South Africa. She has even been surfing in Honolulu. She is a true “international” and loves the limelight!

She also likes to send me huge powerpoint presentations over Instant Messenger which almost crash my laptop, like this one called “Music is like a Jellyfish“.


CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE ABOUT ISABELLA AND THE LAGOON POWER 43


Take Me To The Bahamas…

But in 2006, her life centered on Fort Lauderdale Beach, school and sailing trips. As luck would have it Kimberly was able to secure a bareboat Lagoon Power 43 catamaran charter from The Catamaran Company for the long Easter weekend.

The goal was to motor over to Bimini from Fort Lauderdale and explore some of the beaches, cays and snorkeling on this small island. Everyone awoke at 5.30 a.m and made it to the docks by 7.30 a.m. Darren, a crack skipper, gently pivoted the bow against the remaining bow line before casting off.

We were soon motoring out of Port Everglades after passing a number of small fishing boats under 17th Street bridge. We also sailed past monster cruise lines with people packed on-board like sardines. We pitied them. That is not the way to explore the Caribbean! At roughly 8 a.m. we were heading into open water and Darren plotted a course of 134-degrees as the Gulf Stream, travelling at 2.5 knots, gently caught us and pushed us ahead.

Our True Bearing was 121-degrees Magnetic North with a wind speed of about 5 knots. Darren referenced the “Bahamas Crossing Guide” to map out a course to Bimini. Half-way between Fort Lauderdale and Bimini the ocean floor depth had increased from 42 feet to 2500 feet. Every now and then Isabella would lean over the forward starboard bow to watch the water whipping past the hulls at speeds above close to 12 knots.

The water was cobalt blue with light beams furiously dancing off the surface. Isabella would shout out in delight as flying fish jumped out the water and made eye contact for a brief instant before darting back into the water.

In the distance, a pair of Loon birds would dip and dive in northerly headings as they finished up their breakfast feeding frenzy. Sailing makes you furiously hungry. Everybody gulped down two sandwiches, 3 cups of coffee and juice before either nodding off, tanning or reading a book. Only Darren remained constantly at the helm station with the Crossing Guide sprawled out next to him.

A red shape on the chart indicated our position on the map while two concentric circles overlapping each other highlighted the tantalizing destination of the first Bimini Waypoint.

I see Bimini…

A few hours later Darren shouted: “ I can see Bimini”. I climbed up the steps to the flybridge and sure enough, after much squinting, you could make out a tiny dot on the horizon. We were about 12 miles away and the closer we got, the more islands made their appearance in the distance. They looked like a clumps of tiny forests stranded in a vast ocean.

Darren guided the power catamaran towards the island by using the the starboard and port markers ahead of us. The color of the water started changing from deep cobalt blue to a translucent turquoise, with patches of bright green. About a mile in, the ocean floor rose from 300 feet to 80 feet. Once through the markers, the depth was 15 feet. Within 30 minutes were in site of Alice Cay Marina. We passed under the marina sign which Isabella read out loud: “Welcome to Bimini”.

Atlantis and the fountain of youth

The island of Bimini is located 48 miles east of South Florida, where the Gulf Stream meets the Great Bahama Bank. Some believe Spain’s Ponce de Leon discovered the small island in his quest for the Fountain of Youth in the early 1500s. There is even some evidence, although contested, that it’s also the famed location of the lost continent of Atlantis.

Hemingway’s “Islands In The Stream”

It was thus inevitable that it would magnetically attract one of America’s greatest writers, Ernest Hemingway, as he sailed into Bimini on his boat Pilar in the 1930s. He returned many times lured back by the laid-back atmosphere, people, monster game fishing and of course, Rum.




He fell so in love with this tiny island that it formed the inspiration for his book “Islands In The Stream” which detail the adventure and emotion of a young boy fighting to catch his first (and giant) swordfish off the island of Bimini. It is believed that many of the locations and characters in the book are based on people and places on the island.

Fire burns down the Compleat Angler

This was our second trip to Bimini. We had previously visited the island in 2003 on New Years Eve when Darren flew us into the tiny airstrip onboard a Cessna airplane. Although he feel ill to a stomach virus (Too much Rum?) we had an incredible time celebrating New Year’s eve on this island. The island party was made more memorable by our frequent stops to the legendary pub and hotel, The Compleat Angler. I still consider this one of the greatest pubs I have ever been fortunate enough to drink a beer or smash a Rum in. It just felt like you were back in the 1930s.It’s location, ambiance and history were second to none. It was made famous by Hemingway, who considered it one of his favorite drinking holes. In fact, the hotel even dedicated a permanent room to Hemingway. We spent many an hour soaking up the local Bahamian brew, Kalik and an equal amount of Rum.Sadly, it was now longer there on our second visit, having mysteriously burnt down one evening earlier in 2006. All that remained were the hotel sign hanging over gray rubble sadly scattered next to Bimini Road.

Set your clocks to Island Time…

“Welcome to Bimini,” shouted the happy custom official as he helped us moor the power cat. After 20 minutes looking for some missing paperwork we cleared customs at a nondescript custom building. This took nearly an hour with some confusion over mooring costs. In those days, the cost of mooring a catamaran was roughly 75 cents per foot per day. Roughly $20 per day for a 43 foot multihull.This whole custom clearing process proceeded very slowly and involved a few walks back and fourth between the boat and the customs house before things were sorted out. Time slowed down as the heat pounded your body. The sun is fierce in the Bahamas, it eats through factor-30 sun block within minutes, painting a second red skin on the brownest of bodies. At one point we walked past a local Bahamian who lay sprawled out in a comatose state in a hammock. He stopped us and asked us if we wanted to buy some Conch. I almost feel asleep as he murmured in a monotone beat about how had a boat coming back later that afternoon loaded with Conch. The hammock swayed gently back and fourth in the midday sun, creaking at times, and I felt myself being sucked into a slow, lazy world.

Of course, later that evening this half-dead local would suddenly revive and party into the early hours of the morning with his mates, listening to local anthems and disco beats.

No wonder he was so tired. This music would go on all night! By the time we had everything organized sunset was 30 minutes away. We got back on the boat and motored a quarter mile north west to watch our first Bahamian sunset of the trip. The din of the Volvo engines mixed with the anchor chain unfurling itself into the ocean.

Every now and then the engine vibrated at a slightly higher pitch as the chain coiled itself on the sandy bottom. A soft breeze blew through a portal in the salon; the evening water was not yet smooth, but getting there. What followed were a string of lazy summer days, lobster dinners, afternoon naps and evening walks along blindingly white-sanded beaches.

A lifetime of memories…

The trip was filmed with a low grade Sony camera so the film quality is not the best, but you will get a taste of what it was like to sail/motor between Fort Lauderdale and Bahamas.

The magic sauce is a flash-based navigation menu which allows you to jump from scene-to-scene. For instance, click the link called “Lifetime Of Memories’ at the bottom of the left-hand side navigation bar.

While the scene looks idyllic and captures a wonderful moment in family life, it does not actually reveal the screaming match going on between Isabella and my sister, Kimberly. Isabella, was having a hard time keeping up with her parents while swimming from Gun Boat Key beach back to the boat. Kimberly kept shouting at her to stop being a baby.

At some point, I need to retrieve the uncut version and publish it on this here blog.

The terrible march of progress…

The trip was special for a few other reasons since things would change dramatically after we left. The loss of the Compleat Angler has already been mentioned, but even worse, was the future resort development that would take place under the corporate umbrella of the Hilton Hotel Group.

We don’t need another golf course…

It was the last time any of us would see the pristine beaches of Bimini free of waterfront development. Within a year or two luxury condominiums would overshadow these beautiful beaches. Casinos, spas and golf courses were built and bundled under the name ‘Bimini Resorts’.

This phase one development commercialized the island into an elite tourist trap. It is of course, a beautiful resort. It’s comfortable, well planned and ideally situated. But, to see this tiny island filled with concrete is sad. It’s not clear how many Mangroves were cut down in the name of progress, but that loss is permanent.

The steps that Isabella climbed…

If you click the link called ‘Welcome To Bimini’ in the movie above, Isabella walks up the concrete steps with a deep blue ocean and white beach framed behind her. The top of these steps were lined with palms trees that had toppled overand the green canopy of Mangroves.

A few residential homes took up the remaining real estate. I do not want to overdo my description of this sleepy hollow, but it was it was really quite something. A moment in time.

This scene has been replaced by the following. It comes off the Bimini Resort website:

The resort was designed with Bahamian-style architecture in the typical pastel colors found throughout the Caribbean. All accommodations feature cool granite and tile throughout, rattan, shell and coral accents and a full kitchen. The resort has a friendly neighborhood ambiance and caters to all types of guests, especially families with children.

Thus, one now has a sanitized caricature of the original island built exclusively for pay-as-you-go tourism. Such is the march of progress.

From what I gather Phase II development thankfully never went ahead. There was an incredible backlash form the local community and from other protest groups abroad.

It culminated in an emergency association, savebimini.org, put together to gain support for termination of Phase II development. This group, while vocal up to 2008, appears to have grown silent since then. Their earlier efforts appear to have resulted in the North Island of Bimini being declared a natural sanctuary.


SaveBimini.Org

The Save Bimini Association is made up of a collection of individuals, businesses & organizations dedicated to a sustainable future for the islands of Bimini. Started as a small local group of Biminites, Save Bimini has grown into an international coalition.

The Save Bimini Association is not against development interests on Bimini, but rather we seek to ensure that all developments here respect the history, culture & ecology of this precious island chain. We recognize that people from around the world come to Bimini for what it is, not for what developers wish it would be.

Bimini’s clear waters, abundant marine life, pristine landscape & friendly locals are what have made these islands an inspiration for so many throughout the years. It is exactly these things that are now being threatened.

Through petitions, rallies, protests, and countless meetings we have tried to make our voice heard in regards to the development projects that threaten this island. We are now asking for you to join us in our effort.


The last news item posted on this site was sometime in 2008. Since then, there appears to be no activity. I contacted them by email for an update but no reply was forthcoming.


Saving what’s left…

Bimini Bay Resorts appear to have gone to great lengths to associate themselves with additional efforts to protect the original Bimini, including a habitat and creation program to maintain the remaining mangrove population:

Lagoonal areas of Bimini are fringed with mangroves, salt tolerant trees that thrive in sheltered inter-tidal tropical areas. Mangroves are recognized as one of the most productive and valuable of the earth’s habitat types. They provide a refuge and nursery ground for some 140 species that find food and shelter in these areas. Conch, bonefish, lobster and reef fish thrive in the tangled mangrove tree roots in North Sound lagoon. In order to preserve this natural wonder and to protect the food source that makes this a fishing paradise, Bimini Bay Resort is engaging in a habitat creation and restoration program that will maintain the surrounding mangrove wetlands. Together with marine biologists and governmental organizations, we at Bimini Bay Resort are committed to the preservation of the natural wonders of Bimini for generations to come. For further information, please visit www.BiminiBayFacts.com to learn how Bimini Bay Resort and Marina is engaged in the preservation of the island of Bimini.

However, upon clicking the link above the visitor is presented with a “suspended account” which is odd considering how much negative publicity has already been generated for the group. Does this mean their preservation program has been suspended too?

Buy or charter a power catamaran….

Some of you reading this may for the first time be thinking of taking a catamaran charter or even a buying a catamaran. I can understand why. It is a metaphor for freedom and island hopping.

If you are interested in purchase or a charter, I will shamelessly plug The Catamaran Company as vehicle for this pursuit. Full Disclosure: I work for this company which is the world leader in catamaran sales and charter. No kidding!

Currently The Catamaran Company has several Lagoon Power 43s for sale ranging from the high-200k to 400k mark. Some may even have a few price cuts in play as the seller is motivated to sell.

Take a look at these 2hull-ed beauties:

Kyla Day, 2004 Lagoon power 43: $459,000,
Samantha, 2004 Lagoon Power 43, $349,000, Tortola
Infinity: 2001 Lagoon Power 43, $249,000, Belize
Think of me Too: 2005 Lagoon Power 43, Naples
Seabaris: 2005 Lagoon Power 43, $399,000, Miami

For more information, visit The Catamaran Company for sale section:

Or if your more interested in going chartering on a power catamaran you can speak to my sister Kimberly who runs charter sales for the company. You can contact her on charter@catamarans.com or review the available power charters before going further:

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