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I just realized I don't get the sentence that says "you can start up to 3 simultaneous bounties". I have picked one answer that gave me the best insight to my question and then agreed with aCVn to award bounties to other answers that I found overall useful in that they address slightly different aspects of the problem.

Now I have one bounty and no way to do a three-way split (or even a two-way, for that matter). Funny enough, I can't even start a second bounty on the same question.

Did I miss some important step, or is that how the system works?

Also, I imagine it is bad manners (or, in the least, unheard of) to ask the recipient of my bounty to start their own bounty to be awarded to another answer.

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You can have three bounties at any one time. But a question can only have one bounty at any one time. Once the bounty ends you'll be able to add another. (Note that the minimum values will increase each time a question has a new bounty added to it.)

From How does the bounty system work?:

You can offer as many bounties on a question as you want. However, only one bounty can be active on a question at a time. Moreover, any user may have at most 3 concurrent bounties.

Note that if you offer several bounties on the same question, you will have to double the amount each time (or more). That is, if your first bounty was worth 50 reputation, your second bounty on the same question will have to be for at least 100, your third for at least 200 and so on. If you've already offered a bounty for more than 250, you can still offer more bounties for 500 (the maximum amount) as long as you like (or as long as you have the rep). This doubling applies only to bounties by the same user on the same question.

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