The Long (Wrong?) Way to Clear in to the Bahamas
We finally pushed off from Florida on January 29 with plans to cross the Gulf Stream and continue across the bank to New Providence. Our plan was to pull in to Nassau so that we could clear in to the Bahamas and then continue on to the Exumas.
As we approached New Providence, we decided to take advantage of the good weather and continue on to the Exumas. A quick look at the Bahamas Customs and Immigration web site led us to believe that we could check in at the airport at Staniel Cay. It turns out, we should have read the fine print! While they can clear you in at Staniel Cay, it is only possible to do this by special arrangement and there is a different fee structure involved. Ugh!
Plan C was hatched as we were approaching the anchorage at Big Majors. We decided we should continue on and clear customs in Georgetown (another 9 hours run time along the coast). We made a quick route change and passed through Big Rock Cut at Staniel Cay at 5:00 pm and entered the Atlantic Ocean for the last leg our entry in to the Bahamas.
We FINALLY dropped our anchor at Sand Dollar Cove across from the Georgetown at 1:30 AM with our yellow Q-Flag flying. Early the next morning, we dropped our dinghy in the water, motored over to the town dock in Georgetown, and walked up the road to the Customs office. 15 minutes later, we were officially checked in to the Bahamas!
Most people crossing over from Florida will clear in at Bimini or West End. Some intrepid cruisers will run to Chub Cay or Great Harbour in the Berry Islands to clear in. Very few will continue on to Nassau to officially check in. NO ONE runs 40+ hours straight through to Georgetown to clear customs! And neither would we, if we had planned better!
We’ve been to the Bahamas many times and pretty much know the drill related to getting across and cleared in. We prefer to stop at Bimini or West End, or, if we’re worried about weather, we’ll go all the way to Great Harbour in the Berry Islands. Several of our friends had followed our norma path and gotten stuck for as much as 3 weeks, waiting on a break in the weather. We were anxious to get in to the Exumas and the weather was good, so we kept moving.
Though we’d never tried to clear customs in the Exumas, we KNEW that there was a customs office at Black Point and while that used to be true, I didn’t realize that office had been closed for several years. Lesson learned! Check and double check before entering a foreign country – even if you’ve been there multiple times and think you understand the process. We arrived safe, but tired, and ready to enjoy the beautiful Bahamas.