How to Sail From Miami to the Bahamas

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Miami is a common starting point when sailing to the Bahamas.
Miami is a common starting point when sailing to the Bahamas. (Image: plage de turkoises bahamas image by foxytoul from Fotolia.com)

Sailing from Miami, Florida, to the Bahamas typically offers glass calm waters especially during the summer. From intrepid explorers to casual vacationers, the Bahamian waters attract many people to experience sailing through a boat seemingly floating on a glass tabletop. The Bahamas also features varying destination options in most of its islands, offering a number of tropical beaches, remote anchorages, sites for spectacular sunsets and countless diving, snorkeling and fishing areas.

Finalize your intended destination in the Bahamas. Many Bahamian ports and tourist spots can be reached from Miami. For instance, Bahamas’ Bimini district is closest to Miami at only about 48 miles. A few miles farther from Bimini, you can go to Cat Cay and other Gulf Stream Islands. For the most happening tourist places, you may want to sail to Nassau with its duty free shops, golf courses, wildlife parks, museums, restaurants and countless diving spots and beach areas.

Measure your distance and itinerary for your target destination using Mapcrow.info or Travelmath.com. Ideally, you can travel about six to eight hours on a fast boat with an experienced crew to get to the Bahamas. A fast boat sailing through extremely favorable winds can in some cases take you to Bahamas in as little as three hours or even less.

Finalize your sailing schedule. In general, the southern Atlantic high-pressure system and the constant trade winds in the Bahamas provide an almost the same weather conditions for the entire year. Temperatures in the Bahamas are about 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the dry winter season from December to May and about five to eight degrees warmer during the summer rainy season. A steady cooling breeze generally moderates the hottest times of the day, and a temperate breeze persists every night.

Prepare your travel documents and read sailing and touring guides. Since you're traveling outside the United States, you need to take your passport regardless of the mode of transportation you use (except for closed-loop cruises). Birth certificates are not sufficient anymore for U.S. citizens to enter the Bahamas.

Boats longer than 30 feet must also secure an application for a U.S. Customs sticker. The online ordering system at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov provides convenient application process. You may also print the application form and fax it to the Customs. You must also check in with the Bahamian Customs and Immigration upon arrival. There is access to Customs and Immigration offices in every major island in the Bahamas except in the ports of entry in Green Turtle Cay, Chub Cay and Stella Maris. However, there are Customs Officers in these ports of entry and they are authorized to act for the Immigration office.

When going back to the United States, find the nearest Homeland Security office for check in. You can get updated information about locations near your place of travel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection website CBP.gov.

Prepare your boat and other key items you need to bring for the sail. Aside from basic necessities such as food and drinks, bring travel books, brochures and explorer charts to serve as handy guides during your trip.

Make sure you bring enough spare parts and sailing items including bilge pumps, lights and batteries, reliable safety equipment such as life jackets, aerial flares and fire extinguishers, and fully functional communication and navigation equipment such as a mobile phone and GPS unit.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bring extra batteries for all of your electronics. You may also want to bring extra parts of your electronic gadgets such as mobile phone and GPS unit, which may become handy in case of emergency.
  • Although not necessary, you may also want to bring a satellite telephone and a single side band radio or ham radio. These devices can provide better reception for your varying communication needs during your sail.

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