Trip Ideas - 13 min read

How to Sail to the Bahamas (When is the Best Time To Do It?)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated November 4, 2022

Disclosure: Town & Tourist may receive a commission for purchases made through links in this article, at no additional cost to you.

Sailing to the Bahamas is a coveted goal of sailors whether they are beginners or seasoned veterans. The views, culture, comfort, and ease of the journey make the trip well worthwhile. Even still, many sailors struggle with how to sail to the Bahamas and the best time to do it.

The best time to sail to the Bahamas is between December and April because the waters are calm and it isn’t crowded. Avoiding sailing to the Bahamas during September and October when there is a high risk of hurricanes and tropical storms. The Bimini route only takes 2 ½-3 hours to sail to the Bahamas from Miami.

You can also take the Grand Bahama route to the Bahamas from Miami which only takes 4 hours. Southern Florida is the best point of departure when you sail to the Bahamas. Follow along as we explore how to sail to the Bahamas and the best time to do it.

How to Sail to The Bahamas

Sailing to the Bahamas is possible whether you depart Florida, Louisiana, or Texas. The trip is less difficult than it may sound because there are several easy routes. Whether it be the Grand Bahama route or the Bimini route, you can easily sail to the Bahamas from the United States.

With that said, there are several factors to consider between routing, supplies, and entry and requirements. Let’s explore how to sail to the Bahamas.

Routing

Routing is everything when you sail to the Bahamas. Most sailors recommend that you sail to the Bahamas from as far south as possible in Florida. This trip can only take a few hours if you depart from Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

Other areas in Florida, such as Pensacola offer difficult routing that can take up to 4 days or longer. The two most popular ways to sail to the Bahamas are the Bimini route and the Grand Bahama route. You can expect it to take 3 hours to sail the Bimini route from south Florida and 4 hours with the Grand Bahama route.

Other popular routes include sailing from New Orleans to the Port of Nassau in the Bahamas. This journey takes roughly 6 ½ hours and is slightly more difficult than sailing from southern Florida.

Supplies

A dry bag is among the most essential supplies that you need to bring when you sail to the Bahamas. Heavy waves, choppy waters, rain, and even tropical storms can easily soak your personal belongings. Place your essential items such as your phone, tablet, computer, and medications in your dry bag.

You should also bring a dry pouch for electronics and camping towels that can dry quickly. Reusable water bottles are also essential if you have a nice water source on your boat. Bring non-perishable foods as well that you can easily eat without much preparation to save time and resources.

Try to pack up to 2-3 meals per person per day of your trip, even if you only have to sail for 2-4 hours to get to the Bahamas. You may wind up in heavy boat traffic or a long line waiting at customs, so it never hurts to have extra food.

Requirements

You must have a cruising permit to sail to the Bahamas. Luckily, you can easily obtain a cruising permit either in person or online, but you’ll still need to present it in person if you do. Otherwise, you can simply obtain a cruising permit from customs officials when you arrive in the Bahamas.

Only the captain can leave the boat to speak with customs agents upon arrival. The other passengers must remain on the boat until the customs officials can clear the captain and inspect the boat. From there, each passenger must fill out an arrival card to be allowed to stay.

You also need to fly a yellow flag from your ship when you sail to the Bahamas. It doesn’t need to fly for your entire journey, but you need to raise it when you get close to the Bahamas. This will signal Bahamanian customs officials that you are entering the Bahamas from a foreign country.

Leaving

You must return your immigration card to the customs officials in the Bahamas. From there, you can depart to return to the United States. You must notify U.S. customs officials when you arrive back from the Bahamas.

Customs officials will greet you at whichever port you land at. You will have to repeat the process of the captain greeting the officials, and they may search your vessel. Once you are cleared, you can proceed to the port or marina where you typically dock at.

How Long to Sail From Florida to Bahamas?

It only takes 3 hours to sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the Bahamas. Fort Lauderdale is one of the most popular departure points when sailing to the Bahamas from Florida. The journey is only 74 nautical miles which is the equivalent of 85 miles.

Ideally, you should sail to the Bahamas with a boat that can reach speeds of 25-knots per hour. Otherwise, your journey from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas can take up to 6 hours or longer. Other factors such as your boat’s weight, size, capacity, and how much cargo you haul all affect the travel time.

Places such as Pensacola, Florida are much further from the Bahamas and your trip could take up to 4 days. There are 1,022 nautical miles between Pensacola and Nassau in the Bahamas, so it can be a long journey. However, it may only take 2 days to sail from Pensacola to the Bahamas if you sail at 20-knots per hour.

How Long to Sail From Miami to Bahamas?

It only takes 2 ½ hours to sail from Miami to the Bahamas if you have a high-powered boat. This makes Miami among the best points of departure if you plan to sail to the Bahamas because you can go there in back in a single day. You can reach Bimini in just 50 nautical miles, and from there you can sail another 80 miles south to Chub Cay.

From there, you can either stay in Chub Cay and enjoy the views, or you can venture out further into the Bahamas. One of the most popular destinations in the Bahamas is Nassau which is another 40 miles away. You will get the chance to sail across the Tongue of The Ocean which is a gorgeous deep-water basin.

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, and it is located 40 miles south of Chub Cay. You can easily visit each of these notable locations in the Bahamas in just one day if you leave from Miami.

How Long Does it Take to Sail From Texas to The Bahamas?

It takes up to a week or longer to sail from Texas to the Bahamas. Galveston, Texas is a popular point of departure when sailing to the Bahamas. Private sailors don’t commonly sail from Texas to the Bahamas, but it is possible.

Cruises commonly depart Galveston to sail to the Bahamas from Texas, however. The two easiest routes to sail from Texas to the Bahamas are the Freeport and Nassau ports. Freeport is located on Grand Bahama Island which is in the northern region of the Bahamas.

Nassau is a much busier port because commercial and private vessels land there every day. However, it’s quicker to sail to Freeport from Texas than Nassau.

Best Time of Year to Boat From Florida to Bahamas

The best time to sail to the Bahamas is between December and April. You will experience calm waters, minimal traffic, and an easy route, especially if you depart from southern Florida. There is minimal risk for tropical storms and this period falls outside of hurricane season.

The Bahamas can get somewhat chilly between December and January, but it’s an affordable time to visit. However, temperatures especially warm up during March and April. December and January are great times to sail to the Bahamas if you don’t mind temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees.

You won’t have to worry about waiting in long lines at customs or sharing the sea with countless boats. The summer offers perfect weather in the Bahamas, but the tradeoff is that you’ll have to sail at a slower pace because of all of the other boats.

Worst Time to Cruise to Bahamas

The worst time to cruise to the Bahamas is during September and October. It is difficult to sail to the Bahamas during September and October because of the weather conditions. Dangerous hazards such as strong winds, choppy waters, and tropical storms are enough to deter seasoned sailors.

The Caribbean Sea is at high risk for hurricanes during this time, so it’s not worth making the journey. You risk capsizing and sinking because the strong waves can cause your deck to fill with water. It may be tempting to sail at this time because there are fewer boats on the water, but it’s not worth it.

It can also be tricky to sail to the Bahamas during the peak of summer in July and August. You will have to share the sea with countless sailboats and cruise ships which can make your trip take longer. With that said, you will also experience great weather and sea conditions during this time, so it can be worthwhile.

Is The Bahamas Good For Sailing?

The Bahamas is great for sailing as long as you don’t go during hurricane season. There are 10 ports to sail to in the Bahamas, so you can easily land there from several destinations. Two of the ports are primarily relegated to trade and shipping containers, however.

Otherwise, the Port of Nassau is the most accommodating port for sailors traveling from the United States. It also happens to be the capital city of the Bahamas, so it’s the most sought-after port for international sailors. Destinations such as Green Turtle Cay, Great Guana Cay, and Elbow Cay are among the most popular destinations in the Bahamas for sailors.

The main appeal of sailing to the Bahamas is that you have a straight shot if you depart from southern Florida. It can be a trickier journey if you depart from the panhandle, such as Pensacola, however. Luckily, it’s free to anchor your boat in most parts of the Bahamas.

How Deep is The Water Between Florida and The Bahamas?

The water between Florida and the Bahamas gets as deep as 13,000 feet at certain points. Granted, the water only gets this deep once you sail over the lowest depths of the sea floor. Generally, you will sail over water that is 30 feet deep or more at most points of your trip to the Bahamas.

Depth is more important when sailing to the Bahamas than you may think. That is because sea depth has a direct effect on the current which can speed you up or slow you down. Shallow water is accompanied by a weak current whereas deep water has a strong current.

Boats struggle to reach optimal hull speed when sailing against a strong current. This means that you may have to slow down at certain points of your trip when sailing to the Bahamas from Florida. Your boat’s motor may have to work harder halfway between Florida and the Bahamas, but the current will lighten up when you get closer.

How Big of a Boat Do You Need to Cross The Bahamas?

You need a boat that is at least 30 feet long to cross the Bahamas. It is possible to sail to the Bahamas with a smaller boat, but it may take longer and be more challenging. This is an open sea journey which means that there won’t be any visual markers and you will have to deal with consistent waves.

Larger boats have more powerful motors which means that you can maximize your speed. It is helpful to have a motor that can let you sail at 15-20 knots per hour or more when you sail to the Bahamas. A big boat also means that you can carry more cargo and passengers.

This is essential no matter where you depart because you want to make sure that you have enough supplies. It can take anywhere from 3 hours to 4 days or longer to sail to the Bahamas, so you want to make sure you have more than enough resources. You can get by with a 24-foot-long boat, but a boat that measures 30 feet or longer is ideal.

How Long Can You Stay in The Bahamas on a Boat?

You can stay in the Bahamas on a boat for up to 30 days. After that, you will need to provide a passport, valid ID, and a travel visa to local authorities to continue your stay in the Bahamas. If you stay for 90 days, you will need to get an official visa from the Bahamas.

It is doable, but you will need to stock up your ship with plenty of supplies. Ideally, you should bring at least 2 meals per person per day or more if you plan to stay in the Bahamas for up to 30 days. You must bring proof of citizenship when you sail to the Bahamas no matter how long you stay.

Customs and immigration officials will board your boat once you arrive in the Bahamas. They may conduct a routine search or they may simply request proof of your identity.

Do I Need a Passport to Sail to The Bahamas?

You need a passport to sail to the Bahamas no matter where you leave from. Cruise ship passengers may not need to present a passport when sailing to the Bahamas. However, you will always need to present a passport if you fly to the Bahamas.

Your passport will not be considered valid if it is going to expire within 30 days of your trip. They also require that there are at least 2 blank pages left in your passport when you sail to the Bahamas. Make sure to declare your onboard currency if you are carrying more than $10,000 in cash.

So, What’s The Best Way to Sail to the Bahamas?

The best way to sail to the Bahamas is to depart from south Florida. You can get to the Bahamas from Florida via the Bimini route in 3 hours, and the Grand Bahama route only takes 4 hours. It takes 6 ½ hours to travel from New Orleans to the Bahamas if you sail to the Port of Nassau.

You can reach the Bahamas in 2 ½ hours if you sail to the Bahamas from Miami. It can take 4 days or longer to sail from Pensacola, Florida to the Bahamas. Ideally, you should only sail to the Bahamas if you have a boat that measures 30 feet or larger so that you can reach high speeds and withstand the waves.

Travel smarter

Join the thousands of travel enthusiasts who are part of our T&T community.