This article assumes that the departure point would be anywhere in South Florida, more specifically Miami as it is the most due west point from the closest Bahamian port, Bimini. Ideally Miami would be the best place to top off fuel and supplies as prices for anything in the Bahamas is significantly higher.
From the end of the channel that runs just south of Key Biscayne(Miami area) the distance to the entrance of the channel in Bimini is exactly 50 miles. This leg of the journey has you crossing the fabled Gulf Stream that can bring huge waves and swells due to its strong current and deep water. However, with all of today’s modern technology we no longer need to fear weather conditions. I personally use a combination of Windfinder, BuoyData and Radarscope. For my current personal vessel (SeaVee 340 Center Console) anything blowing in any direction under 13mph is considered a great time. At the other end of the comfort spectrum, if the wind speeds hit over 25mph you are in for a sporty ride in anything less than a cruise ship. Please keep in mind that these numbers are for a vessel designed to run off-shore and the vast majority of boats are not, even if a salesman tells you it is. As for when you see anything below 3mph, drop whatever you are doing and enjoy a lake like ride in the clearest dark blue water on the planet. At 1mph we grab all the Jetskis we can get our hands on and cross even if only for lunch.
A few interesting and seldom mentioned points on “the crossing”. There is a clear and distinct line in the ocean when entering the Gulf Stream and three distinct changes in wave height and formation throughout its crossing. To the newbie it feels like conditions are improving or degrading, when in fact you are simply entering a different section.
Once at the channel entrance you have two choices for checking into the country.
- Pull into Bimini Sands marina, the front office can provide all necessary paperwork. You can download the customs clearance form below, but you will also need the immigration forms only available on island. The Captain must fill out the documents and proceed to the airport with the vessel’s registration and all the passengers’ passports. You can take a taxi or rent a golf cart from Doyle for the 3 mile ride. You’re all done, go and explore!
- Pull into Bimini Big Game marina, the dock master can provide all necessary paperwork. On this side the Captain needs to visit the Customs office located near exit of Big Game hotel. This is about 150 feet west of the dock. Once completed you need to make a 300 foot trek north on the main road to the Police station/Immigrations office and check all your passengers in.
Vessel under 35 feet is $150 (includes 3 free passengers). $20 for each additional passenger.
Vessel over 35 feet is $300 (includes 3 free passengers). $20 for each additional passenger.
*buy one get one free. Your next check in is free if within 3 months.