Bahamas Sailing Guide
Please Note: Although the Bahamas sailing programs makes up less than 10% of all Sea Base attendance, it remains an extremely popular program that garners rave reviews from prior participants. Please use the information here to plan for what will surely be an incredible experience, and while most of the previous information in this guide applies to the Florida programs, it still contains valuable information for your crew and you should not hesitate to call the Director of Program at Sea Base with additional questions. There is just no way to give an accurate description of what you will experience, but be assured an exotic adventure awaits you in the Bahamas.
The area your adventure takes place in is Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. The Abacos are a cluster of islands located due east of West Palm Beach, Florida, and are known as “The Family Islands.” There is a large number of opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, beachcombing and fishing. The smaller islands surrounding Great Abaco are called “cays” (pronounced “keys”) and are known as one of the premier sailing destinations of the world. Boaters often spend months here because of the beautiful turquoise waters around the Marsh Harbour area. The history of these islands is unique. The Spaniards were the first Europeans to explore the Abacos, but the Lucayan Indians were native to the area and disappeared soon after the arrival of the Europeans. In the 1500’s the British colonized the larger Bahamas Islands. During the 1700’s piracy prevailed in the area because it was well suited to that trade with its numerous coves, cays, and other small islands. The Abacos became inhabited during the 1700’s when settlers loyal to the British Crown arrived from the United States. Wrecking, a term used to describe the salvaging of ships that wrecked on the numerous reefs surrounding the Bahamas, became a major industry in the 1800’s. The area abounds with stories of pirates, colonists, and wreckers, which gives this area its natural flair for high adventure.
Crews fly into Marsh Harbour on small (12-30 passenger) airplanes by way of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. When you leave home you need to travel in your Boy Scout uniform. You are traveling to a foreign country and are representing the Boy Scouts so you need to look and act accordingly.
Boat assignments are made just prior to your arrival. These boats can be hot and cramped for space at times so remember to limit what you bring. There are not enough bunks for each Scout; therefore, most crews sleep on deck under the stars, so be sure to bring a small sleeping pad. You will spend your week sailing in the Sea of Abaco.
Day 1: After your crew clears customs at the Marsh Harbour airport, there will be cabs at the airport to assist you with the final leg of your journey. They will take you to the Conch Inn Marina. A Sea Base staff member will greet you at the marina and will pay for the cab. Once you arrive at the marina you will have an orientation talk with the Sea Base staff to discuss safety, local customs, and float plan. You will then load your gear onto the boat and have a swim review. You will sleep every night on your vessel.
Days 2-6: Set sail for high adventure! You will snorkel in pristine reefs such as Fowl Cay Preserve and the Northeast End of Great Guana Cay. You will troll with fishing lures for snapper, grouper, and barracuda. Fresh fish is a nice addition to the meals that your crew will cook in the ship’s galley. The captain will educate the crew in seamanship and leave the basic ship work to you. Teamwork within the crew will allow you to sail to different Bahamian cays and settlements such as Hope Town and Man- O-War Cay. Exploring these sites and learning new cultures will be one of the highlights of your adventure. The weather and the crew’s ability plays a large part in the flexibility of the schedule. This is not a pleasure cruise, but rather a working sailing journey that involves teamwork, education, and safety for scouts and leaders alike. In addition to sailing duties, all Scouts and leaders will clean the boat including the head (toilet) and galley (kitchen). You will also have the opportunity to stand anchor watches at night. Your vessel will return to the dock and you will spend your last evening in the marina.
Day 7: This is your departure day. Please make sure your vessel is clean before you leave and don’t forget to pack your belongings! Your crew will take a cab to the airport (Sea Base pays for the cab), and remember you are responsible for the $27.00 cash per person Departure Tax (often included in your airline fee, so ask your booking agent).
Extra Expenses (Money)
Although your fees cover all program expenses, you will want to bring some extra spending money. The Bahaman dollar equals 1 US dollar. The US dollar is readily accepted throughout the Bahamas and you won’t have to convert your money to Bahaman money; you usually receive Bahamian currency for change. You may want to spend money for sodas and coin - operated telephones. Cell phones do work occasionally but calls to the States are very expensive. Your itinerary may or may not include a side trip to some local attractions or souvenir shops, or even dining out one evening. Please consider all these factors when planning your budget. For example, a meal in Hope Town may be 60% higher in cost than in the Midwest.
Note: There is a $27.00 Bahamian Departure Tax (in cash.) Check with your airline; some include this in ticket price. Each crew needs a $100 check made out to Boy Scouts of America for boat damage deposit.
WHAT TO BRING
- 1 Set Field or Activity uniforms
- Several T-shirts
- Lightweight rain gear
- Sunglasses with strap (Polarized are best)
- 16 oz of SPF 50+ sunscreen lotion (no sprays)
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- Pants, long-sleeve shirt & light jacket (December & Spring only)
- Toiletry kit
- Wide brimmed hat
- 2 – 3 pair of Socks
- Large-mouth water bottle with carabiner, (If you like coffee, a mug in addition is good)
- One sheet (summer) or warm blanket or sleeping bag (spring)
- Sleeping pad - Backpacking style
- Swimsuit (modest style)
- 2 towels and a small pillow
- Insect repellant
- Prescription Medication
- Valid and current U.S. Passport
- Copy of Medical Insurance information
DO NOT BRING
- MP3/iPod/video game player
- Camera (waterproof if possible)
- Personal snorkel gear
- Extra money ($150—$200)
- Bonine® (for seasickness)
Make sure you can successfully pass the BSA swim test.
Make sure your name is on the crew roster your leader is going to send us.
Don’t forget to bring a photocopy of the front and back of your insurance card.
Save $20 cash for your departure tax. (Your airline ticket may include this.)
IMPORTANT!! CLEARING CUSTOMS IMPORTANT!!
Every participant MUST have a valid current United States passport. Without proper identification, you will not be allowed to enter the Bahamas and you will be sent home. Visit http://www.travel.state.gov/ for more information on obtaining a passport. AND all minors traveling without a parent must have a permission to travel form signed by their parents and notorized
PACKING YOUR GEAR
All your gear (except sleeping pad) must fit in a 24-30” duffel or gym bag (not provided by SeaBase). No suitcases or frame backpacks can be used. You will be living on a sailing vessel during the entire adventure. Space is limited so you must only bring what you need. **REMEMBER:** There is no storage available for your crew. All belongings will have to go with you on the vessel, which are tight quarters. Keep this in mind and travel light!
BEING PHYSICALLY FIT
Every participant in the Bahamas Sea Base High Adventure program needs to be physically fit for the strenuous demands that will be placed on their body. The Sea Base programs are PHYSICALLY CHALLENGING. Get in shape! Stay in shape! You will be in the water a great deal, so go swimming with your crew at your local pool often. Do some light exercises to increase your stamina. You will be frequently lifting your body in and out of the water to boats and docks. You have dedicated a lot of your personal time and resources to come to Sea Base. Get the most out of your experience by being ready - physically and mentally. All participants must be in good health evidenced by a BSA Health and Medical Record filled out and signed by you doctor within the past 12 months. A regular BSA medical is not acceptable, nor is another “sports” medical or anything other than a BSA Health and Medical Record. The unique tropical environment is very different from most Scouting and outdoor activities. All programs involve snorkeling and entering and exiting a vessel via ladders rated to only 295 pounds. People weighing 295 pounds or over are not allowed to participate in Sea Base High Adventure. Participants not meeting this requirement will be sent home at their own expense.
Parents: Do not send mail. Sea Base offers programs to hundreds of Scouts on the sea, on the land, and on the island. We will not deliver mail from home to Scouts unless it is mail of urgency, i.e. glasses, medicine, etc., left at home.
In case of an extreme emergency, contact can be made with the following numbers: (305) 664-5614 or (242) 475-3662. For additional information viist our website: www.seabase.org