Then the war ended and the Bahamas again lapsed into a state of indigence. When Prohibition dried out the States in 1922, wealth returned. Nassau, Bimini and West End were all perfect ports for rum runners, and running rum — actually Scotch whisky, gin and wines — was a natural for men whose grandaddies had run the Union blockade. But then, with Repeal in 1933, the carnival stopped again.
This time the financial drought was brief. World War II came along within a decade and marked the beginning of the islands’ current prosperity. The Bahamas were strategically important, located as they are across the main shipping lanes between Panama, the Gulf of Mexico and Europe and guarding the eastern approaches to the United States. As it did for Florida, the war introduced the Bahamas to Americans and as leisure and wealth increased, more and more Americans flocked to the islands.
Since the 60s a new kind of smuggling, much deadlier than the Scotch and gin of the 30s, has appeared — the Bahamas are right on the path of seaborne drugs on their way from South America to the lucrative markets in Florida and up the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Bahamian authorities recognized that and adopted a zero-tolerance stance, a really tough attitude with harsh penalties for trafficking of any kind. Yet some activity continues — drug money can buy its way almost anywhere — but smugglers have found easier and less costly ways to get to market and most now avoid the islands.
Still, more recently, the contraband has been illegal immigrants headed for Florida. Some are from Haiti, Cuba, and other troubled Caribbean nations, while others have traveled all the way from the Orient. They, too, are treated sternly by the Bahamian government, but desperation, like drug money, it seems, can always find a way.
The bottom line is not to have anything whatsoever to do with anything that even smells of drugs or illegals, under penalties that your attorney can’t plea-bargain. And if you happen to see any suspicious activity— of any kind — you should report it to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force. Their number is 242-362-1818.
Happily, the important trafficking is in the other direction. An armada of private boats crosses the Gulf Stream every year to enjoy the peace and beauty of the Bahamas and the thousands of miles of consummate cruising waters and beckoning beaches absorb them with equanimity, and the hospitable Bahamians look forward to more. Once you go, you'll most probably return again and again. But first, let's look at...
SOME things you need to know:
CROSSING THE GULF STREAM: This is the challenge that often prevents people from ever sampling what The Bahamas have to offer. It's a pity, because, while we will never downplay the importance of proper crossing techniques, or slight the reality that it is an open ocean passage, we nonetheless have to suggest that crossing in good weather should be well within the capabilities of even moderately-experienced boaters and is nothing to fear. If you are in doubt as to the proper navigation techniques, read “Crossing the Stream” (page 21) for a brief introduction to the basics.
You may feel more comfortable — and even have more fun — if you join in a group cruise. The popular Bahamas Boating Flings have been scheduled for Summer of 2013. That schedule (subject to change) is on page 20, as is information on the Bahamas' new edition of their BOATING & FISHING GUIDE.
A lead boat and captain pilot the way for a caravan of pleasure boats across the Gulf Stream, leaving from Fort Lauderdale. Call (800) 32 SPORT or visit www.bahamas.com/boating for more information.
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