The weather window we had last weekend came and was gone by Monday afternoon. We made some use of our time here in Bimini and were able to accomplish a few things.
First thing up was a trip to BaTelCo in Alice Town in the dinghy. I tied up to a dock at the Bimini Big Game Club and Rosie and Holly stayed with the dinghy because I wasn't sure if they would run us off or not, plus Holly would have run off customers at the BTC office anyway.
Two nice women and a young intern staff the BaTelCo office in Alice Town. None of them know what they are doing. I asked the first woman if the sale was still on for the monthly data plan, the one where you can get 1 gig of data for $20 instead of $30. I was told that the sale ended last Friday. Of course it did. I said I wanted to buy a BaTelCo SIM card for our iPad anyway, and get the 1 gig of data for $30. "We are out of SIM cards", I was told. This part was true, but the other woman said the sale was still on, and I might get a SIM card at the local Mal-Mart. Yes, I said "Mal-Mart", it's a small block building just down the Kingshighway near Big Game. No signs outside, but "You can't miss it".
All this took an hour or so to find out, but I left the store and went back to see Rosie on the way because the Mal-Mart didn't open until another half hour. Rosie was holding up OK, so I went to Mal-Mart and bought a SIM card. The store is small and stocked with men's apparel in the way of dress shirts and shoes, and probably lots of other stuff if you ask.
Back to BaTelCo, where "Joshua" installed the SIM card in our iPad after activating it in one of their phones. This seems like a simple process but it took almost two hours. Right before I'm ready to leave I asked how to access the website so I could add more data service with the two extra cards I bought. Ellodie Roberts told me, "No problem, you are already in "the system". I was told to just use my name and everything would be alright. Sure.
Oh, and by the way....Joshua made a mistake and only added one day to our data plan instead of 30. They couldn't fix that in the store, a "technician" had to do it and I'd have to come back the next day. Then I was told that a technician had to be over in South Bimini the next day and he would come by to fix the problem. "What time would be good for you?", I was asked. I don't know why I bothered to say a time, and in fact I didn't. I said anytime was fine, so Ellodie said the technician would be by at 10 o'clock. I assumed she meant A.M., but in retrospect, I'm not sure anymore.
Monday afternoon wasn't a complete waste. It was calm, so we took the dinghy out and explored around both western coasts of North and South Bimini. I did some snorkeling too. You can see just how beautiful the water is here in the photo.
On Tuesday morning I didn't want to start any projects on the boat, in fact I wanted to wait up near the dockmasters office so I wouldn't miss the technician. 10 o'clock came and went, and so did 11 o'clock. At 11:30, Rosie and I had lunch in the restaurant and "Donnie", one of the staff here, said he'd call BaTelCo and see when someone would come. He got back with us and said someone would be here around "two-ish". He emphasized the "ish".
At 3 P.M. a BaTelCo truck went flying down the gravel road toward the southern end of the island. We figured he had his other business to do and would stop by on his way back to the ferry. An hour later he went flying back up the road. Minutes after that I was on the phone with Ellodie.
Eventually, one of the staff here who knows the technician, and more about BaTelCo than the BaTelCo workers, added the 30 days to our iPad. "Tim" said it was the most excitement he had all day when I thanked him. Then he just smiled when I asked him to show me how he did it. So the whole day was wasted waiting for the technician when Tim had been on site since 8 o'clock that morning. But it wasn't over yet.
I decided later that evening to see how to get on the BaTelCo website to add data later and found out that Ellodie had indeed put me "in the system", but she used a password to register the account. I think she should have told me what the password was, don't you?
On Wednesday morning I was waiting on the steps of the BaTelCo store in Alice Town when Ellodie and Joshua showed up. Ellodie didn't seem too pleased to see me. Over an hour later, it was decided that "the system was down", because Joshua couldn't access his account either. Ellodie said that I could leave, she would call me. Right before I left the store, I got a more pressing message on my phone.
AT&T informed me that I had generated over $250 worth of calls in the last week. At what I thought was 25 cents a minute, this would mean I had been on the phone for ten hours. Not hardly. When we got back to the boat I asked Rosie to get to the bottom of things.
Turns out that the 3.99 "International plan" that we had been depending on was only for calls from the U.S. to other countries. Rosie hadn't read the fine print. We had tallied up over $300 worth of calls. Long story short, AT&T agreed to drop those charges, but we had to sign up for another International calling plan that only gives us 100 minutes for $120. Don't call us, we'll call you.
What we'll do is buy an unlocked phone and put a BaTelCo SIM card in it and get a much cheaper rate here in the Bahamas. I'll be getting it somewhere other than Alice Town, however.
On Wednesday we went back to Mackies Sand Bar for happy hour at 3 P.M. Of course, we were told that happy hour didn't start until 5 P.M. Undaunted, I ordered a Bud Light for Rosie and a Kalik for me, because as I told the bartender; "Happy hour may not start for another two hours, but we're here now". She went and talked to the manager and we were then told that if we stayed past 5 P.M., they would ring up all our beers at the happy hour price of $1.50. That made us happy.
Some other boaters joined us at the bar, and we met some locals too. We ordered a huge pizza to go and it came out piping hot just as the bus showed up to take us back to the marina. Mackies is the best, and only, place worth going in South Bimini.
We were relaxing later in the cockpit of Swing Set when one of the security staff at the marina came by and talked to us for a while. He was working on his birthday, but was happy to have a job. He said he had a good wife, a good job he's had for eleven years, and although he didn't have a nice boat like ours, he had a nice bicycle. When I reminded him that he also lived in a nice place, he said with some gravity, "No one wants to live where they are at, man".
We also spent some time at the infinity pool. We gathered up a cooler, beach chair, transistor radio, dog bowl, dog, beach bag with towels, sunscreen and beer coozies. There were three women at the pool when we got there who had less junk with them and one of them had a baby not even a few months old. We surveyed all the stuff we had, most of it for Holly, and realized just how sick we are. The fact that Holly was placed on the beach chair with the towel protecting her little scalp from the sun didn't help our case.
Some workers actually showed this week up to finish some condos being built over by the infinity pool, so on Thursday we decided to spend time at the other pool by the entrance, even though the occasional passing cars and trucks kept a fine layer of dust on everything over there. It was better than listening to screw guns drilling into sheet metal all day.
Before we went up to the pool, one of the boaters here asked me to help him with a boat project. He just needed an extra set of hands and I was glad to help. He also dropped a part down inside his boat that he couldn't reach and I was able to use our "grabber" to retrieve it. A grabber is a good thing to have on a boat.
I ran into Tim, the guy here who fixed our iPad issue, and he showed me an app for our phone, or iPad, called Magic Jack. If you have Internet service, you can make free calls online. I installed it and it works great. I'll give it some more trial and maybe we can remove our expensive AT&T calling plan.
We spent the whole afternoon at the pool and met some nice folks, some who just come to Bimini because they like the Bimini Sands, and some who are just passing through, like us.
Our plan has changed because of the weather, but our plan is always dependent on the weather. Instead of heading east to the Berry Islands, we have decided to leave Saturday, or Sunday, for Grand Bahama Island to the north. I want the wind to die down and come from behind us when we head out. If we head to Port Lucaya, just east of Freeport, we can transit the Grand Lucayan Waterway into Dover Sound and then east through the Little Bahama Bank and then over to the Abacos Islands. We can then go south through the Abacos, eventually getting to Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands.
We're learning as we go. I'm writing this blog because the WiFi will work here at the dock late at night, in fact it's 4 A.M. now. So I'm not using our data transfer, saving it for looking at the weather while we are under way, a more important use of our Internet.
I think we have our phone calling issue solved, but we'll reduce our calling even further, even though we don't call too many people. Keeping in touch is why I write the blog.
Which brings me to this final thing: I had a friend of a friend send an email the other day saying how much he enjoyed reading the blog and wanted to do this very thing some day. Then he went on to ask what kind of boat we had and wanted me to tell him all about it. What does he think I've been doing for the last fourteen months?