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Old 04-05-2018, 11:24   #1
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Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Looks like I will be flying or taking the ferry from Miami/Fort Lauderdale to Bimini, Bahamas and then sailing back.

I'm a US Citizen and the trip should be 30 days or less.

I can possibly be put on the paperwork before I get there as "crew" the boat will already be in the Bahamas.. not sure if that's possible and definitely don't want to rely on that..

What concerns should I be aware of?

What can I do to make sure it goes as smooth as possible?
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Old 04-05-2018, 11:41   #2
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

You'll need a copy of the vessel's cruising permit in order to clear customs unless you have a round-trip ticket.
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Old 04-05-2018, 11:55   #3
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Will the US or Bahamas, or both ask for this?

Do I need to be on the actual permit, or just a valid vessel permit?

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You'll need a copy of the vessel's cruising permit in order to clear customs unless you have a round-trip ticket.
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Old 07-05-2018, 17:13   #4
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

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Originally Posted by windycityxx View Post
Will the US or Bahamas, or both ask for this?



Do I need to be on the actual permit, or just a valid vessel permit?


The US airlines will ask.
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Old 07-05-2018, 18:01   #5
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

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Originally Posted by windycityxx View Post
Will the US or Bahamas, or both ask for this?

Do I need to be on the actual permit, or just a valid vessel permit?
The Bahamas cruising permit has no crew roster on it. Just the boat owner's name.
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Old 07-05-2018, 18:53   #6
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Any recommendations on what I should do?

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Originally Posted by Safari38LH View Post
The US airlines will ask.
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Old 07-05-2018, 18:54   #7
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Any suggestions on what paperwork I will need to not have any issues?
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Originally Posted by billknny View Post
The Bahamas cruising permit has no crew roster on it. Just the boat owner's name.
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Old 07-05-2018, 19:38   #8
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

I don't believe anyone can predict what Bahamian Customs will do.

It has been our experience that it depends on what day of the week it is, what colour t-shirt I am wearing, whether it is raining or sunny and possibly what that particular officer had for breakfast.

Good luck.
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Old 07-05-2018, 20:38   #9
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

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Any suggestions on what paperwork I will need to not have any issues?
I have already tried to get comments from people who have experience on bringing crew into the Bahamas. Either people do not know, or will not talk...

Here is what I wrote to my crew coming into the islands and leaving with us back to the USA. It is the best I know and (apparently) better than anyone knows here...

Quote:
The Bahamas entry without a return ticket… I have been learning it is really hard here to get official answers to questions about procedures that are even a tiny bit out of normal. Even with "normal stuff" different offices, and different officers, have different ideas about what the right answer is. The good news is the local authorities are pretty laid back and easy going. They really do understand that the tourists pay their salaries.

There are two people who will be looking at your paperwork. The first one is when you board your flight into the Bahamas. The airline will want to make sure that you have paperwork that will be acceptable to the Bahamian authorities. If the Bahamas won’t let you in, the airline is on the hook for getting you back out, so they tend to be careful about it.

When we came back to our boat after staying in Florida for a week, we used the ferry from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport. The woman checking documents at the ferry terminal knew right away what she was looking at when we presented our cruising permit, and regaled us with stories of people who did not know they needed their cruising permit to get back in country, and she made them buy a return ticket ($100--nonrefundable). An agent at the airport might, or might not, be as clued in as to what that document was and what it meant.

The next step, is the Bahamian Immigration officer. I have not been able to find an official answer on what’s needed, but an an semi-official source says the cruising permit “should work.” Admittedly, not the most helpful answer in the world!

The one way to be 100% sure that there will be no hassles, is to buy a refundable airline ticket back to the states from any airport in the Bahamas. To do this you have to go directly to the airline website, or by phone. Expedia, and similar sites will not sell refundable tickets.

I didn’t do an exhaustive search, but it looks like Jet Blue sells fully refundable tickets from Nassau to Fort Lauderdale. Expensive, but fully refundable, so not too big a deal. You can get your refund the day after you arrive If you go this way be sure you get a ticket with a return date after June 1, but less than 60 days after you arrive so your length of stay falls within the “normal” rules.

Here is an in-between approach: go with the cruising permit, and expect it to work. But have everything cued up to buy a refundable ticket if anybody INSISTS you need one. If you have done a bit of advance work, you’d be able to buy one on your phone in 5 minutes. Problem solved
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Old 08-05-2018, 07:27   #10
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Thanks for the fantastic write up.

I should have a "copy" of the cruising permit.
Pics of the boat, hopefully me in a few of them.
Will tell them the boat is waiting for me at XYZ marina for when I get off the flight.

That being said, I'll look into the getting a return one way ticket ( refundable ).


Quote:
Originally Posted by billknny View Post
I have already tried to get comments from people who have experience on bringing crew into the Bahamas. Either people do not know, or will not talk...

Here is what I wrote to my crew coming into the islands and leaving with us back to the USA. It is the best I know and (apparently) better than anyone knows here...
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Old 08-05-2018, 10:58   #11
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

I have done this several times.

A letter from the owner that you are joining his/her vessel and will depart “on or about—-“ is the bare minimum. The letter should include vessel name, hailing port, and where you will join. A copy of the cruising permit is nice too.
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Old 08-05-2018, 11:30   #12
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Just did this last week. Flew Southwest into Nassau. Airline didn't care about papers. Presented passport, immigration document (that you fill out on the plane) and copy of boat's cruising permit to Bahamian customs.
Passport stamped with no questions.
It was a breeze.
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Old 08-05-2018, 11:58   #13
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Have someone onboard take a photo of cruising permit, email or text to you. You can print it and carry with you to airport and show to Bahamian Customs/Immigration..

Tell them you are meeting boat where and returning to US via vessel.

Photos will help if They are skeptical, but I've done this several times meeting Charters and deliveries....

Good luck,
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Old 31-05-2018, 09:46   #14
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Have done this several times as captain from Bahamas.

The US government has no issue with any citizen departing the US (we do not check out to leave----yay freedom!)

The Bahamian government (who have been unfailingly friendly and polite even in the face of really stupid provocation by some clueless boat owners) only want to know if you are leaving. A picture of the cruising permit will easily suffice.

The "problem" is the airlines and this is a problem not unique to the Bahamas; it applies to literally all international commercial flights.

If an airline lets you on and the immigration officials in whatever country you arrive in deny you entry, the airline becomes responsible for getting you back to wherever you left. If you have a one way ticket, they lose a paid seat. Therefore, it is the AIRLINE that has the concerns. You need to prove to them that you are not going to become a burden.

You can buy a full fare fully refundable one way ticket and cash it in when you get home. I have personally done this. But the airline agents are wise to this so it can be hard to pull off at the airport. Have had one friend denied a ticket at FLL because she stated her intentions to the agent. Buy it in advance.

Silver and the little Bahama airlines have seen one ways for crews a million times and they will accommodate you based on a photo of a cruising permit and an email. You can deal with all of this in advance with an agent in FLL on the phone. The big US carriers--like always--will depend on the agent you are dealing with. Some know, some don't. Obviously FLL sees more boat people than Kansas City, but you will still face teh luck of the draw.

Once you land in Bimini the Bahamian officials (in my experience) will be courteous, helpful and efficient. They are great! Very different than the scowling bad attitude officials at MIA who 'welcome' us back home!

If you really want to stab yourself in the eye with your thumb, look into the return policy to the US, but this is mainly an issue for your captain. If that is not done under the local boater option you still have the option of turning up at a US custom facility 24 hours later. (Opa Locka will be the least painful)

Go. Have fun. Bimini is great and the blue of the deep water will not easily be forgotten!
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Old 31-05-2018, 09:58   #15
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Re: Flying/ferrying to the Bahamas and sailing back? Customs concerns?

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatpoker View Post
I don't believe anyone can predict what Bahamian Customs will do.

It has been our experience that it depends on what day of the week it is, what colour t-shirt I am wearing, whether it is raining or sunny and possibly what that particular officer had for breakfast.

Good luck.
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