Bimini Chain: Sharks! Turtles! Conchs!

IN THE WATERS AROUND BIMINI and the chain of small cays stretching southward, the sea bottom is mostly sand, punctuated by coral heads large and small and dive sites with names like “Bull Run,” “Krispy Kreme” and “Orange Cay.”

And “The Strip,” an amazing dive. A low wedge of coral in the midst of the sand, about 200 feet long and 25 feet wide, it overflows with fishes in the daytime. At night, the fishes are mostly gone and other reef denizens come out.

MORE OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING   I’ve been diving since 1993, and I encountered more sharks, turtles, stingrays, lobsters and spotted eels on this trip than on any other. And many species of fishes. I suspect that since the coral heads are essentially underwater oases in the middle of a sandy desert, life gets concentrated on them — making for excellent marine life sightings.

The Juliet at its home berth in Miami.

A UNIQUE LIVEABOARD  A three-masted schooner built in 1974, and a dive boat since 2003, it carries only 12 divers, sailing out of Miami, across the Gulf Stream to the Bimini chain, on the western edge of the Bahamas archepelago.

THE SAPONA   The Sapona was one of 19 freighters built out of concrete by Henry Ford during World War I, at a time when steel was in short supply. Eventually, it was sold to Al Capone, who used it as a casino and brothel in Miami, and for bootlegging during Prohibition.

You can swim inside it, getting a view of the Juliet through its ribs.

Eventually, it ran aground and during World War II the U.S. Navy towed it to its present location near Bimini for use as target practice. It’s in about 15 feet of water, a shallow dive. Above water it’s deteriorating badly. Below the waterline it’s basically an intact cement wall.





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