Before we get into this post, we want to preface it by saying that firearms, while important, is a touchy subject, especially in the sailing community. There are a lot of people who are very against it but we believe that everybody has to make their own choice.
As with anything, you need to research yourself before deciding if you want to have them on board or not. If you do decide to carry a firearm on the boat, our opinion is that you need to make sure you don't go overboard with how many you have. If you want to have four rifles and three pistols, that's probably overboard. The reason you don’t want too many is because any countries you are traveling to would probably look at you with suspicion.
If you decide to keep it at a minimum and research the laws before you go into the port, it's doable. It’s pretty easy to look up what the laws are in each country. For instance, The Bahamas, where we are now, allows certain calibers of weapons. They also limit the amount of rounds. The limit here is 250 rounds total onboard. So if you have two weapons, you can't have 250 each. It's 250 total onboard. (Currently)
So you know, every single country we've checked into while we had firearms on board, we've declared the firearms. We have no reason not to declare them and we don't want to break the law. It's simply not worth the extra stress. That being said, there are people that don’t declare their weapons all the time. Then, if they get questions they just throw it overboard. We have no desire to have that added pressure. We'll declare and will only go where we're allowed to have them.
When you declare your weapons, some places will let you keep everything if it is secured properly, and others have you give it to them and they put it in their safe (or in some instances, a plastic bin, or the back of a guy’s car, haha!). The only time we even got a question was in the BVIs. The gentleman asked what we had the firearms for and I responded that it was because we travel offshore a lot. His response was “Oh yeah, I wouldn't go out without them either.”.
Don’t get me wrong --there are times when it is a pain in the butt. You have to really make sure it's what you want to do, because it will limit you in some spots you can go. Last cruising season, we didn't go to any French islands because we couldn't figure out if they allowed firearms or not, and we weren't going to go in and ask because we always have them on board.
Especially since we go offshore a lot, we feel more secure in the middle of night and boats are approaching. When nobody else is around it’s nice to have a firearm on board because most likely the people approaching will have a firearm on board. It’s also nice that we both feel safer with the firearms, and while it does take a bit more research, it’s really not that bad for peace of mind. As you leave one country, you Google the next laws before you decide on your passage. If we can't bring them, we just skip that Island and we continue on. it really hasn't been a problem.
The process of declaring has been pretty simple: When you check in, you write down all the information, the VIN numbers, the rounds, serial numbers and they sign off on it. Sometimes they simply ask to see how you have them secured while other islands need to take them and hold them while you're there.
The most annoying place we went in regards to firearms was the BVIs. Transportation was an issue and we had to go along with them to go to the police station to store it. It was a whole day process, but it was doable. This time around knowing that the French islands are harder to deal with, Brittany is going to be more proactive and call them and see what their policies are.
I've been pretty curious to know if these islands are used to people bringing weapons in, so while in St. Lucia, I asked if it was common for people to have firearms. They guy helping me out said, yeah all the time. So it’s definitely common but for some reason, there seems to be an uproar about it (which is likely why people don’t talk about it). We think it’s important to talk about it, because we want to help people that are deciding if they want to carry firearms or not. We didn’t really have anyone to ask these questions to, so we love making it easier for our patrons.
We’ve been very open about our stance on it, but that being said-- you don’t have to agree with us. Everyone has their own opinions on it and that’s totally fine!