My dive trip to Bimini began on the morning of the fifth, when Steve and Tim picked me up for the trip to BWI. After a layover in Charlotte, we continued on to Ft. Lauderdale and met the second half of our contingent: Rick, who was in charge of the expedition, Tom, a scuba-experienced tester, and Todd, an ex-Navy diver who has extensive scuba experience. Also along with us was Craig, an avid diver and part owner of our company.
  Our fifty-year-old plane   We boarded a vintage Grumman Albatross for the flight out to Bimini, and took off from the runway in a cloud of kerosene fumes. Sitting directly behind the landing gear, I could feel the wheels retract and bump into their bays when we got off the runway. Outt the window Ft. Lauderdale receded in the distance and we gained altitude for Bimini.
  Bimini from the air   On approach, the first thing we could see was smooth, clear, turqouise water stretching up to the island, which sat low on the horizon in a semi-circle. we made a turn and came in over the lagoon, landing smoothly in the water of the harbor. Waddling on to the landing ramp, we disembarked into warm, sunny air and were herded into a low pink building where our passports were regarded quietly by a plump woman in Customs uniform. After a cursory inspection by another Customs official, we waited until our bags were packed aboard a bumper-sticker covered van, and then rode down the narrow street to the Bimini Big Game Hotel.
  landing in Bimini harbor   The hotel was on the southeast side of the island, in the center of the main harbor area. Our rooms were standard hotel size, with the minor differences being the cement floors and outside hallways opening onto a view of the street below.

After changing out of standard Baltimore cold-weather gear into shorts, we met out at the empty barside pool with our dive guide Melanie, an outgoing blonde woman, and her partner Audley, a smiling, dark-skinned Bahamian man. They gave a us a briefing of the week's possibilities and we reviewed our options, settling on three pre-planned sites.

  meeting by the pool   We decided on the hotel restaurant for dinner, which looks out onto the pool area outside, and regarded our menu: Conch, conch, and conch, with some beef and lobster thrown in for variety. (Throughout our stay, the choice of side dish was always baked potato, french fries, or peas & rice.) We said good-night after making some basic dive plans for the morning, turned on the news to see more footage of the war in Iraq, and went to sleep tired but excited.

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