In May 2011, my crew and I sailed my Hunter 376 Nada Mas! out of Ponce, Puerto Rico bound for St. Petersburg, Florida as part of my relocation trip to start a new job in Tampa.
As with every long voyage you start with a plan, but you must be flexible and allow changes due to bad weather and other unforeseen issues.
After two rough and rainy nights crossing the Mona Passage from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic we took a break at the Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata, where we fixed a broken main halyard, refueled, rested and enjoyed the local hospitality as well as ice cold Presidente beer and fine Dominican rum.
Our plans were to continue the next day and sail the 150 plus nautical miles to Turtle Cove Marina in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, where we could clear customs, relax and enjoy some beautiful beaches.
Luckily for us, due to good weather, we changed our plans and it was a true blessing! The weather was so good that we decided to skip the Turks & Caicos and continue straight to The Bahamas.
Our challenge then was to figuring out which of The Bahamas ports of entry was the most convenient along our route to the Florida Keys. After looking at our options we decided to go to Cockburn Town, San Salvador Island.
We chose San Salvador Island because we read that it was where Christopher Columbus landed on his first expedition to the New World. It is said that his first landfall was Long Bay on October 12 1492. Originally known as Guanahani, Columbus named the island San Salvador after Christ the Savior. There is a beautiful stone cross on the spot he supposedly landed and this is the most photographed site on the island.
San Salvador Island is located off the beaten path about 360 miles southeast of Miami, and it is a must stop for cruising sailors. With its hills, deserted beaches, saltwater lagoons, amazing reefs and little more than 1,000 permanent residents, you will have plenty of space to explore, swim and relax without feeling crowded.
The island is around 12-miles long and five-miles wide with only four hotels, including a Club Med, and one marina. The Riding Rock Resort and Marina is where we tied up for a few hours while we cleared customs and explored the island. The airport is walking distance from the marina or you can catch a ride from a friendly local to clear Customs and Immigration.
When cruising to the Bahamas remember that all boats entering The Bahamas are required to pay an entry fee that varies by boat length and number of people in the crew. Boats up to 35ft long are charged a $150(USD) entry fee. The fee doubles to $300 for boats over 35ft. The fees cover the Cruising Permit, Fishing Permit and the Departure Tax for up to three people. Each additional person above three will be charged a $20 departure tax. This fee is good for a second re-entry within a 90-day period. If you plan to stay longer than 12 months, special arrangements must be made in advance.
When in San Salvador make sure to stop and eat at the Paradis Restaurant, located at the Plaza Mall, where you can sample the local cuisine, including but not limited to: cracked conch, fresh fish, peas and rice, coleslaw, and baked macaroni and cheese with an ice cold Kalik beer served by their very friendly staff.
Another must see in San Salvador Island is the Dixon Hill Lighthouse, one of the last kerosene lighthouses still in operation. Built in 1887, it is located on the northeast side of the island, and has a 19-mile range.
If your cruising adventures take you through the Bahamas then I strongly recommend a visit to San Salvador. Our time there was short and we wish we could have stayed for a few days and enjoyed its slow pace a little longer.
After buying ice, water and diesel our next stop on the way to Florida was the island of Eleuthera … but that’s another story.