We’ve been on North Bimini at Blue Water Marina for the last eight nights after a good crossing from Anglefish Creek north of Key West.
The first thing I noticed is the colour and clarity of the water! It is a beautiful aquamarine and so clear. It’s like the boat is floating on air and it’s hard to tell what the water depth is because it’s so clear. It seems that it must be much shallow than it really is and we will have to judge depth by water colour along with our chart plotter.
The second thing I noticed were the Bull Sharks! They were up to eight feet long and quite large around the torso. They come in for offal the sports fishermen throw into the water at the fish cleaning stations. All you have to do is turn on the water to clean the blood off and they come in. This also means they are in and around our marina and under our boat!
Behind us is Bimini Big Game Club. They clean fish there too and we saw eight Bull Sharks at once. They come up like Jaws with their serrated teeth showing in large mouths and one will grab the fish skeletons pushing the other sharks out of the way.
If you like you can go underwater with them, and in case they make a mistake and think you are a prey item, you can go in a cage underwater.
Needless to say this gave me pause. Why are so many people moored close to sharks?
But it’s like our bears which we are used to and know how to avoid. The locals don’t pay too much attention to them, and they don’t come in much except for the fish cleaning. I’m glad I don’t have small children with me as as there aren’t guard rails on the docks and the sharks are right below us when they come in to feed.
The town is scenic but has seen better days although there is a lot of new building at the other end of North Bimini. During Prohibition, the town economy boomed and the saying “The real McCoy” came from a bootlegger named McCoy who was popular because he didn’t water his booze. Now it means something that’s authentic. Interesting to know where some of these sayings come from….
We’ve enjoyed having our bikes here and ride regularly through the narrow roads avoiding the cars and golf carts to Nate’s Bakery where I bought coconut bread and coconut rolls. The bread makes great french toast with real maple syrup, and the coconut rolls had coconut roasted with brown sugar and ginger and cinnamon rolled like a cinnamon bun. These were dessert for a potluck.
We like the Bahamian beer called Kalik and went to a conch salad shack to enjoy fresh conch. We watched it being made and it had garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers and a few limes squeezed over each bowl. The conch is so rich I could only eat half a bowl and luckily Roger was there to finish it off.
I have to say I feel a lot better about sharks after going to the Shark Research Centre on South Bimini and learning more about them.
Zack, the educator there, explained that about 20 staff, international researchers and students, accountants, and interns work there. A number of paying volunteers help support the centre monthly along with research grants and donations. Originally the centre was attached to the University of Miami but now is a separate non-profit organization started by a shark research pioneer in the 1990s.
We walked out to the holding pens on the sand flats where two year old Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks were being studied. These sharks can rest on the bottom and still pass oxygen rich water over their gills unlike other species that must remain moving to breath, so Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks make good study models.
Zack told us they recently found out these sharks hang around in the protective mangroves and shallow water of the Biminis until they are around five, spend years out to the ocean and return at around age 12 to their natal areas for birthing. Sharks produce eggs but the young are born hatched out as young sharks.
As primitive cartilaginous fish, they have no bones and that makes them very flexible. If you hold one too far back near the dorsal fin they can bend around and bite!
Zack said some species are curious and will approach humans such as Hammerheads although others will avoid us.
When he swims with Hammerheads he keeps his eye on them and if they are too interested he gets back in the boat.
Hammerheads eat black Stingrays and we’ve seen a lot around here in the clear waters as well as numerous Spotted Eagle Rays which have a more pronounced head and the spots, of course.
Since we have so many Bull Sharks at our marina, the staff of the Shark Research Station was over to catch one while we were here.
Twenty wetsuit clad people in two boats chummed with fish heads from our docks to lure Bull Sharks in and within a few minutes they hooked a female eight-foot shark. They then got a rope on her tail and one on each pectoral fin and brought her beside the boat. Then they released one pectoral fin and flipped her over. All of this was accomplished with a lot of thrashing and splashing and excitement.
Apparently it is known that when you turn a shark over they go into a sleep mode, which is handy if you are doing field surgery.
The researchers inserted a radio in four minutes and released her!
Their goal is to have 20 sharks of each of the local species radio tagged for a research project that is coming up soon. They have already got 50 stations out around the islands which will pick up individuals’ radio frequencies as the shark swims nearby and in this way they will be able to map the areas used by each species.
They already know that immature sharks like Nurse Sharks and Lemon Sharks move into the mangroves as the tide comes up to rest and hide from predators and go out to feed as the tide goes out.
Lemon Sharks eat small fish and need enough depth to chase after fish; they can’t ambush them in the mangroves owing to their tail configuration and fin size.
Nurse Sharks are the toughest skinned sharks and their skin feels like granite. When they swim with Hammerheads they are observed pushing the Hammerheads out of the way.
Nurse Shark fins are set further back on the body and their eyes and gills are protected so they are able to wedge themselves into reefs to suck up crabs. Apparently under time lapsed photography (1000 frames per second) the crab is obliterated by the time it is sucked out owing to the pressure exerted by their bodies when gas is released from their abdomens to cause a strong suction.
This must be like the black hole for crabs!
We read about all the sharks and what to do about avoiding them:
- Spear fishermen must only catch fish on spears which releases fish blood on the outgoing tide so as to not lure sharks into areas we are moored.
- We are not to swim at dawn or dusk in case a shark makes a mistake and takes an experimental chew.
- We are to remove sparkly jewelry which may be interesting to barracuda.
- We are not to pull the tails of sharks resting under reefs.
If you have read all this, we are off to Nassau in an hour.
TA TA for now!!