Crossing the Gulf stream to the Bahamas

By Wilma Thornton

 A special thanks to Sue Graham, a long time Bahamas Cruiser and Judy Koetitz our Newsletter Coordinator for their assistance in creating this article.

Before making any Ocean crossing, make sure you have proper charts for navigation, a yellow quarantine flag, and the proper country flag to which you will be visiting. This article’s main purpose is to assist boaters in preparation for their crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

Are you getting ready to cross to the Bahamas?

(Suggestion: Create a folder for all for the following things).

1. Passports:  Make sure they are current and they will not expire before your return.  Keep a copy of the photo page in a separate location.

2. Boat Documentation, State Registration, and Dinghy Registration:   Make copies and place in folder.

3. US Customs Decal: For re-entry into the USA. Decals should be purchased for the year that you plan to return to the USA. So if you go over in November 2009 and return in January 2010 – make sure the decal is for 2010. Several GH owners place their original decals on their pilot house window. The US Customs Decal website address:  https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/

Call the customs office for questions                (317) 298-1245

4. You may want to join the Local Boater Option, which would allow you to phone in and clear customs upon returning to the states, saving the cost of a marina to park the boat while finding the nearest on-land facility to present yourselves. This service is part of the US Customs and Border Protection Offices.

Contact: CBP Public Affairs         (813) 348-1700         x2233 for details.

5. PETS:  Apply for a pet application by calling (242) 325-7502 or 7509.

Keep a copy of your Pet’s approved application from the Bahamas in your folder. The fee for bringing in pets this year was $10 per pet.  Allow 4-6 weeks to receive your approved form. Your Veterinarian will need to complete the simple health certificate sent to you by the Bahamas animal control.

6. Cash: According to your budget plans.  Keep in mind that many of the small stores only take cash.  When you are allowed to use your credit card, some of the stores attach a fee of $2-3 for convenience fees. Bahamas Boater Cruising Permit Fee is $300 cash which should be added to your folder, making the folder now ready for “the crossing”.

7. Fishing Permits: If you are interested in pole fishing, hunting lobsters, collecting conch, cast netting for bait, or spear fishing, you must say so when you clear customs and get it written on your cruising permit.)

8. GUNS: You are allowed to take them and they must be declared when you get your Bahamas Cruising Permit.  They must be kept in a locked box with an exact count of ammunition.

9. Provisioning: Food – there’s plenty of it in the Bahamas, it’s just more expensive. There are three food stores currently available in Marsh Harbour. They are Abaco Wholesale, Price Right, and Skaggs. Maxwell’s Grocery burned down last year, but is in the process of rebuilding. Maxwell’s most likely will be ready in winter 2009.  It’s a large grocery store.

Usually breads, dairy and fruits come in early in the week and the shelves are fairly well stocked otherwise. The prices here are estimated and could be higher or lower depending on which store you buy them. Some examples: Butter is $4.59 lb, Bread is $2.29 a loaf, Ice Cream is about $10 1/2 gallon, Beer – $40 a 24 pack, 24pack of A&W Rootbeer is $13-$17 depending on where you buy it.

Paper products are very expensive in the Bahamas, plus they are bulky for transporting from the store to the boat by walking or biking.  Stock and store as much as you can before making the crossing.  You can always walk to the store and take a taxi back to the boat with your purchases. Cleaning and waxing products for boats are very expensive.  Some boaters take advantage of the local laborers to have their boats washed and waxed, but the products are not included.

10. Medications: For an extended stay you will also need to order and receive all of your medications.

11. Fuel: The USA is less expensive so fill up the fuel tanks before leaving.  Don’t forget fuel for the Dinghy.

12. Telephone Service: Verizon Wireless has a plan where you can place your cell phones on hold for 3 months with a minimum charge of $15 per phone. Other phone companies may have similar offers – check them out. Skype is another option (computer to computer phone service) no charge so download from www.skype.com and there is also an option of a Skype land line (USA phone number from any state you want to pick) that your friends or family can call which comes into your Bahamas based computer. Setting up the USA based phone number is approximately $10.  After that the only charge is whatever it would normally cost your friends or family to call that number.  Calling from the Bahamas to the USA via Skype runs only 2 cents a minute.

13. Tourist Season/Guide Books: Winter is off season for Abaco and many marinas have special off season rates. The rates increase considerably in season.  The Cruising Guide to Abaco, Bahamas by Steve Dodge contains much more information.

14. General Information (Yacht Club & Resort): 

Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club (RMHYC)

Web Address:  www.rmhyc.com

As a member of the RMHYC, there are special rates available to you at Abaco Beach Resort’s Boat Harbour.  For the Winter Season 2008-2009, there were 68 boats taking advantage of the RMHYC special rates in Boat Harbour.  Two GHTA officers are also officers of the RMHYC and will happily help answer any questions you may have regarding RMHYC.  Contact:

  • Sue Graham, GHTA Secretary & RMHYC Social Director

Email: trawler37@aol.com

  • Wilma Thornton, GHTA VP and Membership Director & RMHYC Secretary

Email: wilma.thornton@gmail.com

Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour, Marsh Harbour, Bahamas 

(ABR & BH)

Web Address: www.abacobeachresort.com

The resort is located on the North edge of Marsh Harbour.  It has a large swimming pool with a swim up bar, the hotel has an additional swimming pool, condominiums and guest cottages, a private beach, tennis courts, volley ball court, the activities hut has loaner kayaks, snorkel gear and games also available.  Boat Harbour has 7 docks including two fuel docks.  The RMHYC uses the 5,000 sq. ft. Marquis Tent for its monthly parties. Abaco Beach Resort also provides free (with a deposit) use of beach towels. These towels can be used as bath towels and can be exchanged as often as you like saving on laundry.  In addition, the Resort has a nice restaurant and bar open 7 days a week 3 meals a day.

Marsh Harbour is easily accessible by walking, biking, scooter, taxi or rental car.

NOTE:  Boat Harbour has extremely clean restrooms with full shower facilities nearby and many boaters use them regularly to cut down on toilet paper needs, water usage fees and the need to take the boat out for discharging waste.