We intentionally took a reverse-order story telling approach for our Bimini Trip for two reasons:
- There was so much awesomeness during the trip that we didn’t want to loop in the prep aspect and miss important details on the fun or serious side…
- This piece might scare the daylights out of you, so, it’s important that you already know how this story ends.
We Got This
The general reaction we received when talking to others about the trip was disbelief and a million questions like… ‘”Do you have enough gas? What are you going to do if it’s rough? How, there’s no gps/vhf on there?”
Or we heard, “That’s a long trip on such a little craft, is it safe to cross on one of those?” It was almost as if they assumed we put little to no thought into it.
We took it in stride, because we knew the extensive planning we put it, and I guess it’s not everyday that a jet ski does the crossing… (though it’s more common than you would think).
As a mariner, this trip is a way to test your skills, seamanship, navigation, and mental capabilities, with a little hint of a reward if things go as planned. When the unexpected happens, is when people can lose their lives, and people have in fact died making this crossing on vessel’s of all sizes.
If something did happen, the size of our group would quickly overwhelm the Coast Guard and rescue teams. So, while there is strength in the numbers, there are also potential disadvantages.
We did our best to identify, and mitigate potential risks, while accepting the unforeseen. In other words, we tried to think of everything that could go wrong, and bring about a solution, all while keeping a light load of essentials – because, well jet ski’s don’t have a ton of storage.
Here’s a list of “risks,” and how we planned to mitigate them.
- Vessel Problems – Service and double check mechanical, electrical, and structural equipment. Bring food and water for 48 hours, and have the ability to catch rain water for extended stranded periods. We also performed several shakedown rides (long range & rough seas riding).
- Communication – Carry 6Kw floating Marine VHF handheld radio.
- Navigation – Use Navionics Navigation system via cell phone, and have handheld compass accessible.
- Man Overboard – Have multiple day-time and night-time distress signals on our bodies, including flares, water activated strobe lights, whistles, distress flags, dye markers, etc. for air craft and water vessels to locate us.
- Fuel – Bring extra fuel… -_-…. Which we know is our biggest area for improvement next time.
- Weather Problems – Monitor weather patterns well over a month in advance, and check radar and marine forecast on multiple platforms the week leading up, until minutes prior to our departure. Avoid dangerous weather systems without drastically changing course.
- Securing Gear – Purchase waterproofed essentials, and over $100 worth of stainless steel hardware to firmly secure cooler rack to the jet ski.
- Skin Irritation – Use wet suit/rash guard clothing, gloves, face shields and googles for riding to prevent chafing and withstanding UV rays.
Risks I accepted included not having an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Location Beacons (PLB) on board. I opted out of the EPIRB because of the false signals they can send out being on a jet ski. It would also be susceptible to large amounts of water, especially when wearing it or the event of the ski tipping over.
I also opted out of PLB’s, because they can take hours to send a signal. Being with a group, I felt it was unnecessary since we would have multiple distress signals to call for a more immediate response should something go wrong.
Another risk I accepted was not carrying spare parts onboard for the ski. I knew that working on the craft in the ocean would be extremely difficult if something went wrong, and you would go insane trying to think of all the possible spare parts you would want on board.
So we brought tow line, and if it was unable to tow for some reason, we would have to “choose life” and abandon the ski to ride with another vessel on the trip with us.
What You Don’t Want To Hear
In fact, a group from the Jet Boat Forums, made the crossing a few days before us, and ran into bad weather along the way. There were vessels with extensive damage needing to be towed back to Miami, and even a disabled jet ski that sank, prompting the owner to be rescued by a boat within the group.
My convo with Raul days before, as we read the Jet Boat Forum…
There were injuries reported as well as a family who put their children on a different boat for the crossing. They got separated in a storm causing the parent’s boat to return to Miami, while the boat with their kids on board made it to the Bahamas. 🤦♂️
There was another boat that was disabled for 5-hours and drifted for 15-miles before being rescued. These aren’t some crazy tales from sea, this actually happened a few days before we were scheduled to leave, and it was almost enough for Tiff to say, “Nope, not going!”
Logistics and Legalities
In addition to the risk mitigation, we filed a float plan with U.S. Customs and Border Protection so they knew who was crossing where, on what, and when. We also filed for a SVRS Card (boaters card), which is the equivalent of a trusted traveler program, but for boaters.
It allowed us to phone-in our arrival back to the states, as opposed to going to customs. Raul and his wife, however, had to report to customs as a random security check that they do… just like getting randomly selected to go into the air puffer at the airport.
The cost of the ferry from Miami to Bimini is under $100 a person, and takes less than 2-hours. The cost of a round trip via plane is about $150 per person and takes just minutes.
I’ve said that to say that the purpose of this trip was to experience the journey to the Bahamas, and not just the location itself.
The costs associated with the fuel, safety gear, customs, and so on are well over $1,000, but we spared no expense, because when posed with the question of whether our life was worth the cost of a certain item, the answer was YES.
There wasn’t an aspect that we didn’t plan for, but it was hard to imagine this as a mini-vacation instead of prepping for battle. So let’s add in the fact that I was planning on popping the big question into the mix…
I was confident that the surprise factor would be there, because as I mentioned, planning for this trip was so overwhelming that her mind was plenty occupied. I knew she couldn’t fathom the possibility of me squeezing in something of that magnitude into this already epic adventure.
Well, she should know by now that I am an over-the-top kind of guy, so that is EXACTLY what I wanted to do.
I was unable get a moment alone with her mom or dad during our last visit home, so I opted to call them days before the crossing instead, which was also her dad’s birthday.
Holding the phone in my hand with her dad’s number programmed and waiting for me to hit dial was honestly the scariest most nerve-wrecking part of the trip. Not because of fear of him saying no, but because of the symbolic tradition behind it.
Once on the phone, the convo was smooth as can be, just like the support we have received from him over the years. Once the calls were done, I could literally hear the steel drums in the distance, and it was finally starting to feel like a vacation!
My plans for the proposal had just a few requirements. Most importantly, it needed to be “us.”
What does that mean?
Here’s a breakdown: The situation needed to be epically unique, but the proposal itself needed to be extremely simple, with no over-the-top skits or theatrics. We needed to be salt-stained, soaked, sun-kissed, drained, etc., because this is “Wiff” in our purist form.
So here are my options:
Option A: After snorkeling, climb to the top of the SS Sapona (shipwreck), and ask her to take the plunge with me, then jump off of the ship.
– This option didn’t happen because the site was crowded, the seas were stirring up, it was difficult to get up top, and she really wasn’t feeling going to the top.
Option B: Locate the other shipwreck, Gallant Lady, on North Bimini beach, for a scenic yet simple proposal at an iconic spot on the island.
– This didn’t happen because once I located the ship, I was so underwhelmed at it that I crossed this off the list as an option.
Option C: Spring the proposal on her after a walk along the beach, which is how our relationship started.
– This didn’t happen because my attempts to get her to the beach felt forced, and I thought it was kinda lame, so I didn’t push it too hard.
Option D: Propose in the middle of the ocean.
This was the winner, because I had exhausted all options, and I didn’t want to have to answer to disappointed parents if I didn’t find the opportunity.
Also, the possibility of me making her swim may have influenced her answer. (JOKING) But this worked perfectly, and it honestly felt the most appropriate.
It was an amazing way to end our trip, and being on the open water, our minds were temporarily absent from the busyness of the world around us. It was just us out there, but all of us, and not a stressed, distracted “us” weighed down by life’s challenges.
So, looking back, I’m much happier with this outcome as opposed to proposing on the foundation of a shipwreck (LITERALLY and FIGURATIVELY).
Overall, it was an amazing trip. So great that I want to do it again next month, but Tiff doesn’t mind waiting until next year. I guess “saving for a wedding,” is a valid concern, but I still have hope, so we’ll see.