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Old 19-01-2021, 04:48   #1
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Towing in the bahamas

We're heading to the bahamas shortly, hopefully, and were wondering how folks handle towing needs there. In 18 years of sailing we've only needed those services twice but it was great to have that help when we did. Are there similar operations? Is there insurance or do you pay as you go?
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Old 19-01-2021, 05:11   #2
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

I never have heard of Bahamas tow insurance. I don't think there is towing services like you are familiar with in the US. I would be sure my regular boat insurance has tow coverage in it.
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Old 19-01-2021, 07:07   #3
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

BASRA - The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association
The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association, in cooperation with, both, the Bahamas Defense Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard, is mandated to save persons in distress on the sea. Solely manned and operated by volunteers, BASRA has saved many lives, and been involved in thousands of rescues. They provide SAR, but not routine/trivial towing services.

TELEPHONE: (242) 325-8864 H.Q. 9a.m.-5p.m.
Email: admin@basra.org
Emergencies only out of office hours
FAX: (242) 325-2737
VHF: ch 16
POSTAL: Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue Association
East Bay Street
P.O. Box SS - 6247
Nassau, Bahamas
Their main website seems to “down” right now: http://www.basra.org/
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Old 19-01-2021, 07:37   #4
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

In the Bahamas most rely on other cruisers or, where available, locals. I have heard of TowboatUS going into Bahamian waters (usually on the Bank) and I have also heard of US towboats running into problems with the authorities when trying to tow boats in Bahamian waters. Bahamian towing is available in the Nassau area and your boat insurance should cover it to a degree depending on the policy.
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Old 19-01-2021, 07:43   #5
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

That's why it's fun to buddy boat, or take a sailboat.

We towed another boat from halfway between Wardrick Wells and Eleuthera, into Rock Sound, that we were buddy boating with that had an engine problem.
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Old 19-01-2021, 10:02   #6
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

While BASRA is around they aren't the US Coast Guard WRT response time or coverage. We saw a boat on fire off of an island in the Exumas. The survivor was rescued from his dinghy by a super yacht tender with coordination from a boater on shore. AFAIK, BASRA never showed up. I'm not knocking BASRA as the Bahamas could not afford the level of response efforts and coverage, even VHF monitoring, that the USCG maintains. The great thing is that the boating community tries to fill gaps as best they can.

Just be prepared, set expectations, and monitor your VHF so you can help if another boater is in distress.

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Old 19-01-2021, 10:17   #7
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

Running aground in the Bahamas is not uncommon as the depth is less than 10 feet the majority of the time and due to the vastness of the open waters it is not accurately mapped on your charts. I ran aground twice in less than a week while sailing up the Exuma chain last month. The good news is that it is mostly soft sand which you can easily back off of, or you can wait for the high tide to drift off. Bad news however if you run hard aground on the high high tide. If you are in a mono hull you can probably keel off by attaching the main halyard to your dingy to lay your boat sideways and slip loose. If you are on a cat you'll have less luck with this method.
Long story short, be careful and don't go too fast in the shallows (of which there are many) and don't run aground during high tide. It's all part of the adventure and not to get stressed out over.
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Old 19-01-2021, 10:26   #8
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

After traveling to the Bahamas in the powerboat world for 40 years I have known of several boats that had to be towed back to the US. Wide range of reasons mostly for things that can't be readily fixed on site like sheared off lower units on I/O or outboard boats. Bent struts, etc. Not familiar with any Bahamian based towing other than catching a local fisherman that might tow you back to his home Cay.
Mostly other visiting boaters pick up the load and help out. But when a boat need to be fully towed back to Florida usually a call is made back to Florida based towing services or individuals who have a suitable boat and willing make a few bucks. (read no insurance)

I have heard of towing fees North of $30,000 for their two way trip and daily charges (and that is for the Abacos).

Often it is cheaper to call a mobile marine service back in the States and pay the mechanic(s) flight, room and board and get the boat fixed there. Still not a cheap thing as you can imagine. Especially if you don't know what parts to tell them to bring on the first flight.

I once had to have a turbo gasket flown in to Spanish Cay and the gasket was $105.00 and the "freight" was $1750.00 plus his lunch. At least I was able to salvage the rest of the trip loosing only the three days it took to coordinate a neighbor back home to pick up the part, the flight and the self repair.

A well stocked spare parts locker can really save the trip. BTW I had a gasket at home but forgot to put it onboard when the previous one was used.
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Old 19-01-2021, 10:43   #9
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

I am a firm believer in learning the art of "reading the water". Learning the various shades of green and knowing their depths along with knowing the difference between dark water that is over grass and that over coral "heads".

It helps to have a teacher but can be learned by oneself as well. I extremely recommend having a Garmin ( or similar) chartplotter right at the helm. There is more to knowing the depth than a single reading from right under the boat. Once the digital meter reads too shallow it is often too late. Being able to see rocks marked and a grouping of depth sounding all around and in front of you before you get there is invaluable. Even if you don't use it for navigation and rely on other sources to get from place to place, I feels this info is mandatory especially if you visit a lot of new places.

I have known of several boats "holed" on rocks that were shown on the digital charts. Remember paper charts are good for general navigation but are mostly never updated and the depth data is widely spaced. I learned on paper charts and still like their appearance so use both digital Raster charts on a PC and the vector charts on my chartplotter.
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Old 19-01-2021, 13:15   #10
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

The likelihood of running aground in the Bahamas goes down considerably the longer you are there. Much like riding a bike, reading the water takes time to learn or relearn. As for mechanical breakdown, hailing for help or contacting a boat yard is your best option. Once you are 35 to 50 miles off the US coast your on your own.
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Old 19-01-2021, 14:43   #11
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjscottinnc View Post
The likelihood of running aground in the Bahamas goes down considerably the longer you are there. ...

Very true but beware of complacency. After a couple of weeks into our first trip to the Bahamas on our sailboat with a 5' 7" draft, we were feeling much more comfortable anchoring and making our way through the skinnier waters. That day we pulled into Rudder Cut and with winds forecast to move more SE the next day we wanted to tuck in a little closer and we were also excited to do some snorkeling while it was warm, sunny and relatively calm. I watched the depths, considered what low tide would be, dropped in 6.5' and swam the hook and we were ready to go.

After returning from a quick snorkel and exploring the area in our dinghy and anxious to get ready for rum o'clock, I looked at our depth gauge and was surprised that it showed 5' 10". I dove the boat and sure enough the bottom of the keel was just hovering above the sand. After wondering how much further down we had to go, I realized that I had misread the tide times and instead of anchoring near low tide I had anchored near high tide. Doh! Move you say? Well the problem was that our anchor was "uphill" so pulling the anchor in would have pulled us aground. (As I write this two years on, I realize that I could have dropped our second anchor, let back a bit from there, retrieved the main anchor with the dinghy, and moved. I'm not sure where by brain was that day.)

Sure enough eventually we felt little bumps as the keel kissed the sand but we also knew that the tide didn't have too much more to drop. The wind was to be pretty calm for most of the night but was to veer and pick up by morning, so we suveyed our surroundings before dark and set the alarm for 1AM or so. With a nice moon and trying not to be too disruptive to our neighbors, we eased ahead, retrieved the anchor and reset it in deeper water.

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Old 19-01-2021, 15:25   #12
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

Great info, thanks for all your insights and candor. We sailed maine for years and it took a while to get a feel for all the local issues but it was wonderful once you got a sense of it all.
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Old 19-01-2021, 16:27   #13
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

Only informal towing by local fisherman or guide with a powerboat, just get on 16 and see who wants to help you out,,,,,,you can usually negotiate a very reasonable rate. Just go slow, and carefully read the water, wind and current. If you have mechanical problems, there are many local mechanics, but it may take them awhile to get to you and then get parts. Gotta learn to be your own wrench!
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Old 19-01-2021, 19:19   #14
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

https://m.facebook.com/1012066036875...4439/?sfnsn=mo
This is a link to a Facebook page of a company in the Bahamas you can check out
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Old 19-01-2021, 19:37   #15
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Re: Towing in the bahamas

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Originally Posted by drewcathell View Post
We're heading to the bahamas shortly, hopefully, and were wondering how folks handle towing needs there. In 18 years of sailing we've only needed those services twice but it was great to have that help when we did. Are there similar operations? Is there insurance or do you pay as you go?
Once you venture further afield you can no longer rely on the safety net of Tow-US or other rescue services.

In fact the best thing you can do is realize that you have only yourself to rely upon.

There is no Nanny State, no rescue services, nothing that insurance is going to solve for you, you need to become self reliant.

Dont look for outside help, instead start to think how you will deal with it on you own or with friends nearby.

You can do it.
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