Wet Work

Outside magazine, April 1998


Wet Work

In Bimini, a day at the office can involve everything from grappling with sharks to running the reefs. Lucky the on-the-job dress code is casual.
By Sarah Friedman
Spring Fashion By Vicky McGarry


Bimini is only 50 miles from Florida, but there's something unsettlingly distant about the islands. Even that old Caribbean salt Ernest Hemingway had difficulty reaching Bimini's shores — he snagged a shark while trolling during his first trip over and, while attempting to dispatch it, ended up shooting himself in both legs. He returned to the mainland.

Fish tales have always been part of Bimini's local lore, but other stories also abound: narratives of a lost and sunken continent, whispers of a fountain of youth, testimony about sand mounds that magically formed in eerily perfect shapes — a sea horse, a house cat, a shark. Must be the water. It's some of the planet's clearest, virtually uncontaminable — since Bimini lies smack in the Gulf Stream, clean water bathes it each day.

So it's perhaps only logical that the wet stuff is the medium in which most of the place works, like at the Bimini Biological Field Station, on its southern edge, where students pluck baby lemon sharks from the protected shadows of the ubiquitous mangrove stands and drop them three miles offshore, the better to test their homing abilities. (Don't worry — the little beasts have a perfect return rate.) Or the tour operator on the northern banks who shepherds befinned humans into 30 feet of water, there to be gently mobbed by curious spotted dolphins, which can flock with a mammal-to-mammal ratio as high as 30-to-1. (That's aquatic-to-landlubbing.)

Sitting in the sea hasn't always gone well for Bimini, of course. In 1926 and 1935 hurricanes wiped a fair chunk of its infrastructure away, and seasonal storms can poke badly at island life. But buildings are rebuilt, swells recede, debris is swept away, and things go on — albeit slowly. Boys play cricket, grown-ups play golf (if high tide hasn't drowned the putting green), people earn their wages tending fishing boats at the marina or leading kayak tours to the bonefish flats — a life that lazes just a bit more for the 1,600 Biminians than for those two million harried souls angsting away in Miami, on the near horizon, where even in the evenings the lights of industry never seem to dim. On Bimini, industry and power are less of a given. Three evenings a week the electricity can blink off, dropping the islands completely from distant view. No one seems to mind all that much.


Photographer and shark lab technician Tim Calver wades out in floral board shorts by Patagonia.


Bimini Big Game Fishing Club and Marina's assistant dock master Robbie Smith hangs out in a waffle knit shirt from Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren, $63, and Q by Quiksilver floral trunks, $36.


Alexia Morgan takes a break from her research with sharks in a mesh tank top, $30, a cotton tank top, $18, and shorts, $46, all CK by Calvin Klein, and thongs by Gotcha, $25.


Shark researcher Bimini Undersea dive instructor Xenia Brobeil flippers up wearing a Nautica zip-neck top, $88, Patagonia neoprene shortie wetsuit, $95, and a Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, $50.


Kayak Bimini operator Trimmer Dettor wears a long-sleeved sweater by Polo Jeans, $68; blue floral trunks from Gotcha, $36; Nike ACG Aqua Socks, $35; Tavarua hat, $30; and sunglasses from Ray-Ban by Bausch & Lomb, $149. David Dettor's in Guess? floral board shorts, $33; Tommy Hilfiger thongs, $30; and a Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, $50. Todd Dettor (with Hempy) has a Gotcha floral camp shirt, $38; UltraNectar board shorts, $39; a hat by Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren; and a Tag Heuer watch, $2,300. Adam Lawrence kicks back in a blue Ray-T-ator T-shirt from Sierra Designs, $30; board shorts, $33, and dive watch, $95, from Guess?; and Nike watersport sandals, $60.


A baby lemon shark shows off his transmitter while Susi Clermont shows off her Scuba Vest two-piece bathing suit from Speedo, $72.

Dave Russell, Bahama Island Adventures dive instructor, lounges in a striped pique shirt, $135, nylon trunks, and hat, all from Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren; men's Galaxy Thongs by Speedo, $8; and watch by Citizen, about $500.


Jean Francois Boyer, shark researcher, stands tall in a terry cloth shirt by Tommy Jeans, $58, plaid board shorts, $42, and a terry cloth hat, $26, all by Tommy Hilfiger; Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, $50.


Shark researcher Melissa Mahoney wears a Supplex tank top by Nike, $28, shorts by CK Jeans by Calvin Klein, $46, Slider sunglasses by Smith Sport Optics, $95, and a watch by Guess?, $85.


Owner Bill Keefe decked out on the Bimini Undersea dock in a pullover top, $90, and board shorts, $42, by Tommy Hilfiger; sunglasses, $149, from Ray-Ban by Bausch & Lomb; and a Tag Heuer dive watch, $895


Kayak Bimini operator Trimmer Dettor wears a long-sleeved sweater by Polo Jeans, $68; blue floral trunks from Gotcha, $36; Nike ACG Aqua Socks, $35; Tavarua hat, $30; and sunglasses from Ray-Ban by Bausch & Lomb, $149. David Dettor's in Guess? floral board shorts, $33; Tommy Hilfiger thongs, $30; and a Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, $50. Todd Dettor (with Hempy) has a Gotcha floral camp shirt, $38; UltraNectar board shorts, $39; a hat by Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren; and a Tag Heuer watch, $2,300. Adam Lawrence kicks back in a blue Ray-T-ator T-shirt from Sierra Designs, $30; board shorts, $33, and dive watch, $95, from Guess?; and Nike watersport sandals, $60.

Where To Find It
Citizen, 800-321-0241; CK Jeans by Calvin Klein available at select Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores; Club Sportswear, 800-ITS-CLUB; Discus, 800-2-DISCUS; J.Crew, 800-932-0043; Guess?, 800-39-GUESS; Levi's, 800-USA-LEVI; Nautica apparel available at select Dayton Hudson stores; Nike, 800-344-NIKE; Patagonia, 800-638-6464; Polo Jeans, 888-765-6532; Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren apparel available at Polo Sport Stores nationwide; Q by Quiksilver, 800-576-4004; Ray Ban by Bausch & Lomb available at Sunglass Hut locations nationwide, or by calling 800-4RAY-BAN; Sensi, 800-537-5238; Sierra Designs, 800-635-0461; Smith Optics, 800-459-4903; Speedo, 800-5-SPEEDO; Tag Heuer, 800-321-4832; Tavarua hat available at B.C. Surf & Sport, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; 954-345-7528; Timex, 800-367-8463; Tommy Hilfiger, 888-GO-HILFIGER; Two Star Dog pants available at Hemp Factory, Boca Raton, Florida; 561-367-1636; UltraNectar, 510-547-2080; Woolrich, 717-169-7401

Special thanks to the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club for accommodations. Call 800-737-1007 for reservations and information.

Photographs by Norman Jean Roy

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine


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