When we made our first trip to the Bahamas, it was a lot like Noah's ride on the ark. We took two of everything. Now, with a few seasons down island under our belts, I thought I might pass on a few lessons we have learned about provisioning.
First, remember it's the islands, not the far side of the moon. There are people who live there and as such, there are certain staples you will always be able to find.
For example, flour. Just about everyone in the world eats some form of bread. Our first trip south, we took a whopping 50 pounds of flour with us. As it turns out, not only is flour available in any settlement, but the flour in the Bahamas is from Europe and actually is a much better flour than typically found on the shelves of our U.S. grocery stores at 1/3 the price. Eggs, potatoes, sugar, yeast and rice are also generally always available on even the smallest inhabited islands at prices comparable to the U.S.
Of a little more important nature, at least to me, is the subject of alcohol. If you are a beer drinker, be fore warned - as of the spring of 2006, a case of the local brew (Kalik) was selling for $42 in the major shopping areas and for as much as $70 in the Out Islands. The moral if the story? If your coming here, bring your beer! Say it with me team.
This also holds true if you have a specific mixed drink your quite fond of. Me, I prefer a strong 7 and 7 at cocktail hour and so, I managed to pack 50 bottles of whiskey and 70, 2 liter bottles of 7 Up into one of our anchor lockers before leaving Florida. This may sound excessive, but a 1.75 liter bottle of Seagrams 7 that cost me $14.50 in bulk in the U.S sells for $28.50 in Georgetown!
Now, on the other hand, if you are a little more flexible in your drinking habits, rum is probably your drink of choice for the Bahamas. In most places, small communities included, rum sells for less than what ever you want to mix it with.
After extensive testing, we have found that Crystal Light Classic Orange mix works very well as a rum mixer. You can get it at Walmart, 6 - 2 liter mixers for $3. This past year we took 60 little mixes with us and then had the Buddy Fred bring us another 60 when he came to visit. I think we ended up bringing 10 or 15 home with us. Of course, not all of these ended up mixed with rum, some we did drink just as plain orange.
Anyway, local rum can be had for as little as $3 a fifth, or $5 a liter in most areas. There are lots of varieties and I am ashamed to say I tend towards what ever is cheap or what ever I see the locals drinking.
Another item I would make sure to stock up on in the U.S. is any type of personal hygiene products you may require. Everything from deodorant to tooth paste to toilet paper. Availability of these types of products is sometimes sketchy and always pricey. Amy, for example, wears contacts and last year she only brought two or three bottles of the lens cleaning solution. Well, two months into our cruise she ran out. We were able to get a replacement brand in Georgetown only on the days the mail boat arrived at a staggering cost of $16! I think we payed $2.50 in the states.
Another item of interest if you are into fishing, get your lures stateside! A $5 West Marine trolling lure sells for upwards of $20 in most places. Even better than bringing your lures, learn how to make them. I made all of my lures this past year and it ended up costing around $2.50 per lure. I stopped counting when I lost my 15th lure this year, but I would guess we went through somewhere near 30 lures by the time we got back to the states. That would get pretty damn expensive if I had to buy them all down there.
Ok, so please don't think I am putting down the economy or the store keepers of the Bahamas. High prices on American products are just a fact of life down there. There are no income taxes in the Bahamas. The government instead imposes an import tariff on all things brought into the country. I guess all I'm really trying to tell you is to use the limited amount of storage space you have on board to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Of course, your mileage may vary and I am closer than in I may appear in your rear view mirror.