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A modern mission for a Hemingway-era resort

Guy Harvey knows the water from many perspectives - as an artist, angler, diver, conservationist, biologist and entrepreneur - so it makes sense that his new Guy Harvey Outpost Resort & Marina on Bimini is as multifaceted as he is.

Guy Harvey is a passionate angler, diver and painter. His renovated resort opened last July.

A $3.5 million upgrade of the historic Bimini Big Game Club, which had been shuttered for two years under earlier owners, the Bimini Outpost is the first of what Harvey and his business partners envision as a network of small-scale, ecologically sustainable resorts catering to anglers, divers and eco-tourists.

"I'm a big diver," says Harvey, whose renderings of sea life - billfish, in particular - are world-famous. "My ideal for a day on the water is to do two or three dives and some fishing in between." But he says his Outposts have the broader mission of bringing families together with fun activities, offering entertaining and educational conservation programs and supporting marine research.

Fishing. Diving. Swimming. Beachcombing. Art. Photography. Science. "We have no golf, tennis, shopping or casinos," Harvey says. "If that's what you want, we ain't it."

What the Outpost is is a doorway to the sea. "You can immerse yourself in the environment's natural beauty," he says. "We have service people there who are truly passionate about sharing their experience of that beauty."

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation helps support Hans Gruber's pioneering shark research at the Biological Field Station on Bimini. The Outpost also is offering its guests excursions to Gruber's shark lab, where they can see sharks in the wild and learn about them while helping to support the lab financially.

Harvey also envisions the revival of a catch-and-release tournament fishing out of the Big Game Club, which, drawing on the example of the Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge Series in Florida, can attract anglers, promote conservation and help gather scientific data through measuring and tagging catches.

Founded as a formal dinner club in 1936 in Alice Town on North Bimini island (there also is a South Bimini), the Big Game Club became tournament central for anglers from around the world - sportsmen such as author Zane Grey, writer Ernest Hemingway, recluse Howard Hughes and retailer-turned-naturalist Michael Lerner - who came for Bimini's renowned blue marlin and tuna fishing. The club, under a string of owners, had fallen on hard times and closed in 2008.

Reopened last July, the Bimini Big Game Club has retained its 75-slip marina and 51-room retreat, as well as its name, although it is known now as a Guy Harvey Outpost Marina & Resort. Its makeover includes guest rooms, a new Bimini Big Game Bar & Grill, an Outfitter Shop and a Guy Harvey sportswear and gift shop.

The Bimini Big Game Club, now a Guy Harvey Outpost Resort & Marina, has attracted hard-core anglers - and celebrities - since the 1930s.

Marine artist, master fly fisherman and retired fishing guide Vaughn Cochran, of St. Augustine, Fla., has launched Black Fly Bimini from the Outfitter Shop. Black Fly organizes backcountry fishing trips, using local guides to hunt bonefish and permit. Scuba diving legend Neal Watson, who opened a dive operation in Bimini in 1975 and expanded through the Caribbean under the Neal Watson Undersea Adventures brand, has opened a dive center, Dive Bimini, at the Outpost.

Watson's crew began running a 60-foot, two-deck, glass-bottom boat called Bimini Blue out of the Outpost last fall for wreck-, reef- and coral wall-diving. "The visibility in Bimini is second to none," Watson says. Gulf Stream eddies sweeping in a mile from shore work on the waters there like a giant pool cleaner, he says.

Anglers fish in the Gulf Stream, where they stalk blue marlin, tuna, wahoo and mahi-mahi (dolphin), or on the flats, where they catch bonefish and permit.

Still to come: a Guy Harvey Theater - a multimedia presentation with interactive educational and recreational programming; a fitness center/spa; more conference space; a full-service fuel dock; and seminars and presentations by on-island researchers, Harvey himself and scientists from the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center.

Harvey's partners in Guy Harvey Outposts Ltd. include Outpost president Mark Ellert, a Fort Lauderdale developer specializing in hospitality, resort and restaurant properties; conservationist Bill Shedd, president of the fishing tackle company Aftco, whose family founded SeaWorld and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute; and Fort Lauderdale lawyer Charles Foreman, whose family helped found Nova Southeastern University and the Guy Harvey Research Institute.

Fifty miles from Miami, Bimini is one of the settings for Hemingway's posthumously published book "Islands in the Stream" about an artist, adventurer - and angler - who seeks out the islands as a retreat.

Harvey can see a couple more Outpost-type retreats in his future, maybe in the Abacos or Exumas, the Florida Keys, or even in the Florida panhandle. Outpost president Ellert says the locations have to be special - on the water with good fishing and diving and boating nearby. "Beautiful properties, great destinations that can't [or shouldn't] accommodate large hotel developments," he says.

He says Harvey - with diverse interests in all things marine - is the "crossover rock star" who makes an Outpost work as a business, as a vacation destination and as an avenue for conservation education and research.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue.