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Old 28-11-2021, 14:01   #1
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Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

I am planning a sailboat delivery from the southern Caribbean to Fort Lauderdale Florida in March. Covid testing requirements will complicate check-in/out and cause delays, and the requirements might change suddenly (including possible lock-downs), so the goal would be to minimize stops or go straight through, if possible.

Assuming the boat won't anchor nor crew go ashore: How close can one pass to Caribbean islands without requirement to check in? Will the Bahama authorities allow a boat to pass through its waters (or sail on the Great Bahama Bank at the edges of Bahamian waters) without stopping to check-in?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 29-11-2021, 04:23   #2
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

There was a rumor, perhaps true, that charterers wandering from USVI into BVI waters were accosted by the gendarmerie. And that was just cutting a corner, as it were.

Your best option is to contact the officials directly as you plan your passage.
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Old 29-11-2021, 12:07   #3
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

IMHO the fewer interactions that you have with governmental functions between your departure and your entrance to the US is one of the major considerations.


If you are leaving from the southern part of the Caribbean like Grenada, I would suggest a long broad reach to the pass between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic then down wind and down current by Haiti and Cuba and follow the current up to Miami etc.


This will be a nice trip of a couple of weeks with no governmental interactions and only the USA clearing. Stay twenty or thirty miles offshore (maybe more for Cuba) and you should have a comfortable trip.
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Old 29-11-2021, 12:22   #4
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

In theory, just passing thru the waters of a foreign country falls under "innocent passage" which is established for most countries under international treaties. However, in reality it can vary quite a lot between countries. So...it depends.
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Old 29-11-2021, 16:27   #5
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

While Belizesailor is correct, try telling that to the 2 boats that got hauled in, confiscated, arrested, and fined (heavily, in my book) for sailing in (BUT not touching the BVI) a few months ago. By all means......avoid the BVI and it's waters!!!
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Old 29-11-2021, 16:28   #6
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

When we were in the Bahamas (pre-covid), on-the-water enforcement was pleasantly lax. The only law enforcement boats we saw were in Nassau and one just off the West End, keeping an eye on all the fishing boats that take day trips over from FL. When we headed north from Puerto Rico, weather was good when we hit the Bahamas, so we just kept sailing along, re-assessing every 6 hrs or so if we wanted to look for an anchorage or keep going. I think we were in Bahamian waters for over 48 before we decided to anchor, and there was nowhere to check in there, so we spent the night and in the morning motored (no wind) the last 4 or 5 hours to Rock Sound where we finally checked in.

Long story short, unless things have changed, you likely can pass through Bahamian waters without much to worry about.
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Old 29-11-2021, 16:48   #7
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

In April my wife and I sailed from the Eastern end of Puerto Rico to Key West. A rather pleasant downwind sail for 6.5 days. We were within sight of the DR and Cuba. At one point, we got within 3 miles of Cuba (I expected to be stopped). The channel between Cuba and the Bahamas is a freighter channel. Stay somewhere in the middle and you won't have any problems.
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Old 29-11-2021, 16:55   #8
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

For most countries international waters are 12 miles from shore.

There are countries that claim, or control further, and or are disputing waters where adjacent countries boundaries overlap like several Caribbean islands.

You would think staying 12 miles or more out would leave one with few problems.

The BVI incidents occurred less than 12 miles.
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Old 30-11-2021, 09:43   #9
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

The right of innocent passage can be suspended by any state at any time. This was the case early in the Covid pandemic. You will be wise to establish in advance whether itís permissible to transit Bahamian waters without checking in.

If you depart from the USVI and arrive at a US mainland port without entering any country in between, it is a domestic voyage and you do not need to check into the USA.
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Old 30-11-2021, 17:40   #10
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

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The right of innocent passage can be suspended by any state at any time. This was the case early in the Covid pandemic. You will be wise to establish in advance whether itís permissible to transit Bahamian waters without checking in.

If you depart from the USVI and arrive at a US mainland port without entering any country in between, it is a domestic voyage and you do not need to check into the USA.
I know that's true for air flights, but wouldn't you have to insure you don't enter any claimed waters, like around Cuba, or Bahamas?

That would take a pretty winding path to stay at least 12 miles out from all the intervening islands.
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Old 01-12-2021, 05:16   #11
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

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I know that's true for air flights, but wouldn't you have to insure you don't enter any claimed waters, like around Cuba, or Bahamas?

That would take a pretty winding path to stay at least 12 miles out from all the intervening islands.
Last year we sailed north of the Bahamas then cut through the Northeast Providence Channel to land in Fort Lauderdale. We never anchored. The sail from the USVI's is a little over 1,000 miles and generally downwind in settled spring weather. Figure 5~6 days for the trip.

Regarding the BVI's last year, they stopped and impounded 4 boats and fined them up to $20,000 for sailing in their waters. (I don't understand how bringing someone to shore minimizes COVID-19 exposure?). The distance between St John and some of the BVI islands is only 1/4 mile so it's easy to stray into BVI waters. I'm not aware of the BVI's making a notice to mariners that the right of innocent passage had been cancelled but maybe it was somewhere?

The BVI's seem unwelcoming to cruising boats so we generally avoid them. There are lots of beautiful island in the Caribbean to visit that welcome the cruisers.
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Old 01-12-2021, 05:36   #12
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

In June of 2020 we made the passage from Dominica to Beaufort, NC non-stop without incident. We passed between Celubra and the USVI.
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Old 01-12-2021, 06:29   #13
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

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In June of 2020 we made the passage from Dominica to Beaufort, NC non-stop without incident. We passed between Celubra and the USVI.
Are you in the Caribbean now? We're currently in Barbuda but heading to St Martin next. This year we sailed down from the East Coast to Bermuda then to Antigua. The passages we're easy, 4 days to Bermuda, 5 days too Antigua. Sure beat last year's direct trip that had us sailing upwind for 5 days with a triple reef and staysail in 35~55 knots.
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Old 01-12-2021, 14:39   #14
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

No, I am stuck in PA. Got some medical stuff unexpectedly came up. Looks like Feb/March before I am free. Still hoping.
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Old 01-12-2021, 16:44   #15
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Re: Bypassing islands from the Carribean to US

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No, I am stuck in PA. Got some medical stuff unexpectedly came up. Looks like Feb/March before I am free. Still hoping.
Very sorry to hear that. Wishing you a quick recovery and a salvaged sailing season in the Caribbean.
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