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PLAN AHEAD: To help you plan your Bahamian cruise, this directory — with a tremendous assist from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism — lists marinas all over the islands. We've also included a list of boatyards, in case you need service or repairs while you're there. In this regard, please keep in mind that while Bahamians are, generally speaking, extremely knowledgeable about boats, boat operation and boat repairs, they mostly take a simpler and more basic approach to going to sea. Their boats often don't have all the systems we spoiled Statesiders take for granted and can't do without. Hence, service for these systems may not be universally available.

It's also a good idea to carry spares and replacements for critical items because, when special parts must be ordered, they usually don't come from a supplier down the block or even in the next city. Expedited delivery can mean “tomorrow,” not this afternoon. And that's in Nassau or  other major ports. In the out islands, “overnight” delivery can easily take four days or more. Regular delivery might mean next week — or later!

On the other hand, given the remoteness of many ports of call, and the inevitable delays in getting new parts, most Bahamian boatpeople have become superb at jury-rigging. If you ever need to “make do” in an emergency, you couldn't ask for better (or more willing) assistance.

IF YOU NEED TO ORDER PARTS FROM BACK HERE IN THE STATES ...

... be sure to send a copy of your cruising permit (not the original) to the supplier. If they enclose it with your shipment and label the package “yacht in transit, cruising permit enclosed,” that MAY (as in the past) change the amount of the duty. That cost can be anywhere between 10% and 45% of the item cost, based on the vessel part, and could include costs on shipping and insurance as well.

At our press time we've been advised that this is official and is in effect. If you have inquiries, please visit the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Government Official Website — http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/bahamasweb2/home.nsf and click on Customs or, you may telephone the Department of Customs. The phone numbers are (Nassau) 242-325-6550 or 242-325-6551 / (Freeport) 242-352-8500.

One of the constants of Bahamian Cruising is inconstancy. Any chart or cruising guide must be frequently updated with local information and used with a combination of skepticism and common sense, and any such information learned in that school of hard knocks should be shared with other cruising skippers.

We recommend that when planning your Bahamian Cruise, you buy a current copy of the annual Yachtsman’s Guide to the Bahamas. It’s the grandaddy of all Bahamas guides and many experienced cruisers won't head across the Stream without it. Look for it (and others) in marine book stores.

Incidentally, though we listed the basic National  Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA) charts you should have to approach and cruise the Bahamas coming from Florida, there are yet more charts you'll need if you go farther than the closest stops. We also suggest that, in many instances, the sketch charts in the publications noted above (as well as other chart booklets) may often be far more useful for Bahamas style eyeball navigation than government charts — though you still need them, of course — despite the sketch charts' customary notation of being “not intended for navigation.” 

Finally, and though other guides will also tell you this, it is important enough to bear repeating here (and often): Never rely solely on GPS coordinates, regardless of their source. Modern GPS is usually accurate to within a meter but with so many charts still based on old (occasionally, ancient) surveys, lat/long info can be wrong. Plus, many shallow sandbars are so constantly shifting they defy being accurately charted at any time. So eyeball navigation is not only common in the Bahamas, it is a must! You can use GPS to get close to a destination or waypoint, but in the final analysis, what you actually see should determine which way you go. For this reason — and others — we advise against cruising in the Bahamas at night. If you can't see the bottom clearly, you certainly can't navigate well.
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Cruising the Bahamas