Boating in the Bahamas
If you are looking for superior caviar, your would undoubtedly schedule your travels Russian coast along the Black Sea to sample that country’s tasty national delicacy , whereas a desire to visit the treasures of antiquity might demand that you book passage to the cobblestoned streets of Rome or Athens. Every destination point on the globe has something that strongly recommends itself to world travelers, and when it comes to the best sailing grounds on the planet, nothing compares with the incomparable waters of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. With the closest Bahaman island just a scant 50 miles from the United States coastline, the islands are a popular destination point for mariners looking for excellent boating conditions.
Outfitting the Boat
Cruising the waters of the Bahamas requires a solidly built and maintained sailing craft or powerboat. When selecting your vessel for the trip to the islands, you should captain a boat no smaller than 25-feet. Additionally, piloting a boat with a draft less than five feet, you will find it easy to slip into just about any anchorage in the islands. Engine and system parts can be difficult to procure in the islands, so be sure to carry on board a good selection of spare parts including hoses, belts, filters, fuses, lube oil, and spare starters and alternators. Slipping away from the marina for a secluded anchorage is one of the best features of sailing in the Bahamas. If you want to take advantage of these anchorages, you will want to carry two stout anchors onboard. Since most island anchorages are in shallow water and contain a good layer of holding sand to keep you secured to the ocean floor, you will only need anchor rodes of 150-feet. Delta, Danforth, and Bruce are all popular anchors for use in the Bahamas.
Navigating the Gulf Stream
The great engine that fueled the Age of Sail, the Gulf Stream, was responsible for moving the treasure ships of the Spanish Main on a circuitous route that eventually ended up in the great ports of Europe. The Gulf Stream flows at a steady rate of three knots or more on a generally south to north trajectory. Under ideal conditions, your passage to the islands will be an idyllic trip that will be just the beginning of an outstanding holiday, but under the wrong conditions, your trip will be a veritable nightmare. That is because when the wind blows from a northerly point of the compass, it kicks up the Gulf Stream into an angry tempest that generates ugly, square waves that can easily swamp smaller craft. Be sure to check which way the wind is blowing before you cast your lines for your holiday boating in the Bahamas.
Navigating Immigration and Clearing Customs
Under Bahamian law, mariners must clear customs and immigration upon entering the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Once arriving in Bahamian waters, you will want to hoist the yellow quarantine flag until Bahamian custom officials have cleared the vessel. Once cleared, you will replace the yellow quarantine flag with the Bahamas courtesy flag. The most popular clearance ports in the islands include West End, Bimini, Green Turtle Cay, and Chub Cay. Until cleared, no one but the boat’s skipper is allowed to go ashore, and then only for business related to the clearance process. All American citizens, including children, must present a valid United States passport for entry into the islands. In addition, the Bahamian government mandates that all boats pay an entry fee into the islands. Beginning in 2006, the government charged $150 for vessels up to 35-feet long, while boats larger than that are assessed an entrance fee of $300.
Bahamas Boating and Fishing Guides from the Bahamas Minister of Tourism below.