Editor’s note: This trip was made before Hurricane Isaias blew through the Bahamas. Check online resources for updates on damage as well as entry requirements before planning a run to the islands. Visit Bahamas.com, Bahamas.com/storm and @VisitTheBahamas.
In mid-July, I joined a crew of eight with Roswell Marine for Sport Fishing and Boating magazines to spend a week in the Bahamas aboard an Invincible 37 Cat, exploring several of the Out Islands. As nuts as it sounds to write that amid the craziness of COVID-19, restricted travel and everything else, it’s true. And thanks to some good weather and a seaworthy boat, none of us returned to Florida any worse for wear (despite some serious reservations about coming back at all).
Beginning in July, most of the Bahamas opened back up for travel, albeit under tight restrictions. Incoming visitors need to obtain a Traveler Health Visa by submitting a negative COVID-19 test within 10 days of arrival. This can be a challenge, especially for travelers coming from Florida, where COVID tests are in high demand and results can take several days to a week.
Our route in the Bahamas ran from Treasure Cay/Green Turtle Cay to Abacos Harbour Island/Romora Bay Resort & Marina to Eleuthera/Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina to Bimini’s World Bimini Resort & Marina.
Throughout our six days, we packed in a lot and covered a lot of ground – more than 600 miles for the entire crew — while the boat’s roundtrip from Merritt Island, Florida, through the Bahamas and back, was close to 1,000. Thanks to its catamaran design, along with its 1,600 ponies (quad Mercury 400 Verados), the Invincible earned the nickname “The Beast.”
For most of the journey, the seas were sporty, at best, which wasn’t ideal for center console comfort cruising, but that never prevented us from getting where we needed to go — thanks to The Beast. We enjoyed everything the Bahamas has to offer: fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming in unbelievably clear water, relaxing, exploring and eating incredible food. The only disappointment might have been the lack of results in the fishing department.
Truth be told, we had better results spearfishing, but everybody had a blast regardless. Despite all the travel precautions and the extra measures we needed to observe, it felt great to be there. The hardest part of the trip might just have been getting there.
My advice on navigating the COVID restrictions: Consult with your primary-care doctor and call around to various clinics in order to plan ahead. Don’t assume you can just walk into a place, take a test, and have results in the timeframe needed.
We also found some online solutions, like everlywell.com. This route worked for two in our crew who had trouble scheduling tests at clinics near their homes. As far as submitting the application for the Traveler Health Visa, don’t be afraid to submit it more than once, or to call the hotline number provided (be aware of potential international charges should you call from a cell phone. We learned that the hard way.).
While it might seem crazy to take a 37-foot center console over 1,000 miles in a week’s time, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, a trip like this shows that with planning and some flexibility, an awesome experience is possible.
If you’re traveling to Eleuthera by boat, I highly recommend the Romora Bay Resort & Marina and Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina. Located on the acclaimed Harbour Island, on Eleuthera’s northeastern edge, Romora Bay offers a large marina, gorgeous grounds, comfortable lodging, and two incredible restaurants on site.
Down on Powell Point, Cape Eleuthera sits in epic isolation on a peninsula in the southwest corner of the island. It’s much more remote than Romora Bay, but that’s part of the appeal. Epic scuba diving, offshore fishing, snorkeling, spearfishing and more lie within two miles of the marina. Thanks to its location at the tip of the peninsula, the Cape Eleuthera sunsets need to be seen to be believed. Words don’t do them justice.
Be aware that travel restrictions and protocols are changing and adapting as the virus impacts the islands, so be prepared to adjust your itinerary, even at the last minute. As of Monday, Aug. 3, Grand Bahama and Nassau are still closed to travel, while other islands remain open. Stay in touch with your destination resort/marina — they will be up to date on pertinent information regarding travel and incoming visitors as well.