Clearing in to the Bahamas
Anchored in Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana, watching a passing squall
The morning of Friday April 25th dawned bright and sunny with good conditions for our sail from West Caicos in the Turks and Caicos to the island of Mayaguana lying about 50 nm to the NW, our port of entry for the Bahamas.
We had cleared out of Turks and Caicos the afternoon before in Provo (see previous newsletter) so we sailed off the park mooring at West Caicos at 0650 (we like to practice manoeuvres under sail whenever possible) and were soon making 7 kts under mainsail and genoa. We had to sail a little high of our course to keep up our speed since we wanted to get into Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana, in the afternoon with enough time to get anchored, dinghy ashore to clear in, and get a Bahamas sim card for our open iPhone. We wanted to be sure that we had phone and internet communications set up before things shut down for the weekend.
It was a delightful day as we soared along the sapphire blue seas towards the Bahamas, one of our most favourite cruising grounds. We've filmed numerous episodes about destinations in the Bahamas for the Distant Shores TV series over the years. Several years ago we made this same passage and saw humpback whales leaping and fluking so we kept a good lookout in case we might be blessed with another whale sighting but it was not to be.
All that we could see on the horizon were the sails of SV Rufus and Soliel II, two German boats traveling together that we had met earlier in the week in South Caicos. That morning they had set sail from another anchorage, the one on the west end of Providenciales, and were also headed to Mayaguana.
Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana
At around 1130 Paul I shouted “Land Ho!” as Southeast Point, Mayaguana, rose up on the horizon and by 1430 we were winding our way past the reefs and coral heads into the anchorage at Abraham's Bay. It was half tide and rising. The water is a pallet of multiple shades of blue in this large bay which is protected by barrier reefs. It is quite shallow close to shore so you need to anchor a little way out from the government dock where you can tie up your dinghy with the local skiffs.
Clearing in to the Bahamas
From the dinghy dock and public beach you walk up the road for about 5 minutes and just before reaching the small settlement you come upon a cluster of small yellow buildings where you'll find Customs and Immigration, the Post Office and the BTC Bahamas phone office. Very convenient! While I cleared us in with Customs and Immigration, Paul went to the phone centre to get a Bahamas sim card and data plan for our open phone so we would have a local Bahamas phone number and internet while traveling through the islands.
Clearing in to the Bahamas is quite expensive at $300 US for boats 31 feet and over. It's $150 for boats 30 feet and under. Distant Shores II is 49 feet. (The Bahamian dollar is tied directly to the US dollar and both currencies are used.) However if you consider that the Bahama island chain is similar in size to the whole Caribbean island chain where you are clearing in and out of numerous countries and colonies and paying for numerous cruising permits, it is a little easier to understand.
The cruising permit for the Bahamas is valid for two entries during a 90-day period and the fee includes government taxes, a fishing permit and the departure taxes for 3 people. Each additional person is charged $20 departure tax. At the Mayaguana office THEY ONLY TAKE CASH and there is no bank or ATM on the island. In fact, there is no bank or ATM until you get to George Town, Great Exuma, a few days sail away so it is very important to arrive with enough cash to clear in and cover your costs for any groceries (very basic supplies available so stock up ahead) or bar/restaurants in the small settlements you'll want to stop at on the way north. Credit cards are rarely accepted in the small remote villages of the Far Out Islands of the Bahamas so carry sufficient cash for all your needs when in these islands.
For more information about boats entering/exiting the Bahamas see the government website .
Communications in the Bahamas - Phone and Internet
Our very first trip to the Bahamas was in 1989/90 and to make a telephone call you had to line up at the local Batelco office where they assigned you a booth and you made your call from there. How things have changed!
Now at the local BTC Bahamas office which is found in just about every settlement no matter how remote, you can purchase a local pay-as-you-go sim card for your open phone so that you have a local phone number (goodbye roaming rates) and top it up as you go along. In April 2014 this was $15 US.
You can also add a data plan so that your phone acts as a personal hot spot so that you have internet access whenever you are in range of a tower. These large towers are found on all settled islands and we find that the range for internet is about 12-14 miles. The phone then acts as a modem for connecting other devices you have onboard to the internet too such as laptops, tablets, etc. We purchased a plan for 2 GB for a month, regularly $30 but on sale for $15 as an April special. It’s very fast and reliable service. You can top-up online on www.btcbahamas.com which is very convenient.
If you’re not interested in such plans, just up the road at the main crossroads of the settlement is a bar called Big Reg’s where for the purchase of a drink you can connect to the very fast wi-fi there.
We meet up with Yule Charlton at Big Reg’s Bar on our return to Mayaguana
We have visited Mayaguana twice before on various voyages through the Bahamas over the years and filmed there for the Distant Shores sailing TV series for Distant Shores season 5 “Mayaguana” and Distant Shores season 6 “Voyage to Eleuthera”. As a result we know a few local people here now and it was good to reconnect.
We stayed two nights in Mayaguana and concluded this year's visit with a lovely potluck BBQ with our German sailing friends, Heidi and Klaus of “Soleil II” and with Marion and Harold aboard their beautiful Lagoon 410 “Rufus”.
The next day we sailed on to explore more Far Out Islands of the Bahamas which we'll tell you about in the next newsletter.
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