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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Clearing into Bahamas Customs

There are several things involved with coming into a country by water.  Some of them involve some advance planning.  Passports are needed, of course, which we have had for years so no problem there.  But we needed a permit from the Bahamian Department of Agriculture to bring our Border Collie, Jax into the country.  This permit was requested 8 weeks in advance, having discovered that the Bahamian Dept says one should allow 6 to 8 weeks to receive the permit!  Something about slow mail in the Bahamas…..  
Jax gets his Certificate of Health at Divine Animal Hospital, Vero Beach, FL

Then, just before leaving the U.S., Jax was to be evaluated by a veterinarian and receive a Certificate of Health.  We actually took him to a vet earlier than the required timeframe because we were afraid we may not have enough time to do that the day before departure.   We learned from another cruiser several days after arriving, that the fine print apparently says that one is to bring the dog to see a Bahamian vet within 48 hours of arrival, too—something which we were blissfully unaware of and so did not do that. 
Our wireless, compact printer by Canon

We printed off 5 pages of forms from an online site which are required for a pleasure craft to declare when coming into the Bahamas.  (A brief aside on printers—we found it too inconvenient to NOT have a printer with us on the boat.  We bought a very small wireless printer that fits perfectly inside a plastic boot-sized shoebox for protection from moisture.   Our international boat insurance carrier (IMIS) was informed that we would be leaving the country.  Our Maryland boat registration was updated by mail which required several weeks to accomplish.  
Yellow quarantine flag is flown until cleared by Customs

Two simple but very important articles are needed onboard;  a small yellow quarantine flag to fly before we have been cleared through Customs, and a Bahamas courtesy flag to fly after we’ve been cleared.  Both were acquired in the U.S.  The quarantine flag sewn by a friend for us, and the Bahamas flag purchased at a used boat supply house in Annapolis called Bacon Sails. It is an awesome place to visit if you are in Annapolis and in need of ANYTHING for your boat.  They just may have it, either used OR new.   In fact, that’s where we got our new Mantus anchor.
Bacon Sails has nearly everything--sheets, chafe guard protection, etc

At least a year in advance Carl and I began talking with our physician and dentist (we share the same ones) about our plans to live on a boat.  They were invaluable in preparation and we will write more about health care preparation in  a later post. 
Cash in smaller denominations is helpful.  Andrew Jackson is just right.

Just before sailing out of U.S. waters, we notified our banks/credit card companies that we were leaving the country so as to not encounter difficulty with using our cards in a foreign country.  We actually did not do that before we flew to Hong Kong a few years ago, and our credit cards were shut down.  We also hoarded some cash and squirreled it away on the boat in a few locations.  We had learned that many places in the Bahamas would not take credit cards at all so would definitely need cash.

New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, in the Abacos Islands, Bahamas
With all of our paperwork prepared—including passports, dog permit, US Coast Guard vessel documentation and the Bahama Declaration paperwork along with $300 cash for the permit, we were ready to officially enter the country.  All we had to do was to bring the boat to a port or an anchorage near one of the Bahamas Customs offices.  There are several of them scattered across the Bahamas.  Then the Captain of the boat, Carl, and ONLY the Captain is allowed to set foot on land for the purpose of going to the Customs Office to get us cleared to stay in the Bahamas for a while. 
Jax' Certificate of Health

We chose Green Turtle Cay as our entry point to clear customs.  It is not a big island.  If you look for it on a map of the Bahamas that has little detail, you probably won’t find it.  Nevertheless, we heard many people talk of enjoying time in Green Turtle Cay while we were in Annapolis and were looking forward to getting back on land again there.  
New Plymouth was settled by British loyalists during American Revolution

Carl took the dinghy to the Bahamas Customs Office the day after arrival at Green Turtle Cay and a windy night on a mooring ball.*  A nice young woman authorized a permit for Carl and me to stay in the Bahamas for 90 days.  We could apply to extend the permit shortly before the 90 days expire.  Our boat was given authorization to remain in the Bahamas for one year.  Carl indicated that he intended to fish while in the Bahamas and was thus provided with a fishing permit, as well as a spear fishing permit.  The young woman never did ask to see Jax’ paperwork, in fact never asked if we had a dog with us, but  we’ve read that the process of clearing Customs can be quite different from one location to another.  
Customs & Immigration Office shares the same building as the Post Office

Whether the cruiser is given a permit to stay for 90 days or some lesser amount of time, is apparently, entirely up to the whim of the Customs Agent.  For that reason, Carl went wearing a clean shirt and shorts.  Always nice to make a  good first impression.   
Raising the Bahamas courtesy flag after clearing Customs

A boat may attach to a mooring  ball instead of anchoring.
*Mooring ball - a buoyant ball fastened by a chain to an immovable object on the floor of the waterway.  A boat can "catch" a mooring ball to remain safely at rest in the harbor.   Dropping an anchoring is free.  The mooring ball is not, but still  a very economical option.

1 comment:

bradhurt said...

The Bahamas courtesy flag looks an awful lot like the Danish flag! Enjoy the Bahamas!