Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red tape and loop holes...

...and why all the limits?

Now just read that over again only this time using the music to My Favorite Things, because that's the only way I could find these particular lyrics charming.

And I don't know if anyone out there realizes it but there really is no such animal as 'freedom' anymore. And I have to laugh now at the books I've read about people fleeing from the bad guys while using forged documents, fake passports etc... All I know is I'm finding it nearly impossible to travel while using the real deal!

Honest to God, all Hans and I want to do is sail our little boat over to the Bahamas this winter but you'd think we were trying to infiltrate deep into the bowels of a high security nation in an attempt to steal their special recipe for crystal clear water. But even if we did have evil doing on our minds, how far would we get with their secrets while sailing away on a boat that on its best day (and only with a hell of a lot of wind!) moves along at 10 knots?

After a less than auspicious start to our trip this fall via the Intracoastal Waterway, we were stunned to find that in addition to way too many draw bridges, and way too few anchorages, we actually had to navigate a lock.

You see; Hans is the educated one, the one with multiple degrees in things I can't even pronounce, the one who became a sailing instructor at 14, the one who while in college sailed up the Atlantic coast (on the outside!) in the boat of a friend's father, the one who way back in the day sailed to the Bahamas using dead reckoning, and finally, the one who lived on his boat while working in New York City. And because of this I just assumed he knew about the bridges, the locks, and that it would take a month and not two weeks to get to Florida!

So bearing this in mind I decided to take matters into my own hands and research this whole Bahamas thing. And yes Hans has been to the Bahamas but this was back when life was a bit simpler and I've discovered that Hans Jr. holds the same disdain for rules that Hans Sr. did. "Why should I stop?" stated Hans Sr. one day as they blew past a Coast Guard checkpoint. "I'm not a smuggler!" The Coast Guard wasn't impressed but I bet Hans' neighbors were, when as they were docking the boat at their Miami Beach home, a Coast Guard helicopter landed in their yard.

So far:

We have to have paperwork filled out by a vet that certifies Wilbur has all the proper inoculations, but we had to send a $10.00 money order to the Bahamas first. They, in turn, sent us the form that the vet needs to fill out. This form needs to be presented to the Bahamian authorities within 48 hours of arrival.

Upon arriving in the Bahamas we have to have a yellow quarantine flag waving (we'll use a starboard shroud). After clearing customs we must now fly the Bahamian courtesy flag. We should also proudly display the flag of our country. We chose the US (since Hans has lived here since high school) and fear if we add Canada we'll just confuse everyone.

I did a bit of googling about this and was puzzled that everyone else seemed to know about this 'quarantine flag' warning thing which left me feeling slightly wanting and wondering if in addition to a little black dress, the chic twenty first century lady also just happens to have a quarantine flag tucked into her purse.

I finally found a full set of flags (Yellow, Bahamas, and USA) on EBay for something like $24.00. And while we do have a very worn USA flag on our boat, it unfortunately sacrificed its flag pole for our leaking starboard cutlass bearing during one of the last legs of our journey this fall.

Boats up to 35 feet in length (us!) will need to pay (in cash) $150.00 for the right to sail around the Bahamas and this includes a fishing license (not too bad, really). Boats over 35 feet will pay $300.00.

Now for more fun stuff. Hans is a green card carrying Canadian citizen (and has been for over 30 years), who bought a boat while living in the USA.

United States citizens should have their boats registered with the US Coast Guard. Canadian Citizens are not permitted to do so.

Then what is a Canadian Citizen to do?

As a last resort, I made a foray into the Cruiser's Forum. And while I know the people in these forums really want to help I finally fled after a bunch of them ganged up on a poor soul who had questions similar to mine. This particular soul was threatened with having his boat taken from him, and RIGHTFULLY SO (in capital letters!), said the forum for not being a team player and trying to get one over on the government, and just why the hell wasn't he a US citizen anyway? I found it kind of interesting that those who had the most vehement opinions were neither from the US or Canada and therefor didn't know what they were talking about anyway.

Finally, after calling the Bahamian embassy who had no idea what we were talking about, but was kind enough to provide us with a telephone number that either went unanswered or rang busy, we called our boat broker who gave us the number of a woman who lives in the Bahamas and is reputed to be an expert on Bahamian customs.

We have been assured that as long as our boat is registered in the United States (it is) and we have a notarized bill of sale (we do) we are good to go!!!! Remember, we only want to go to the Bahamas and no where else at this time. And I'm going to let you all be witnesses to this; we have an official email from the Bahamian chick that confirms this.
We also have the decal necessary to come back into the United States. For $27.50 you get this numbered decal and supposedly you can call Customs, read them the number and be cleared. I only hope they don't have Hans' family name flagged as a trouble maker (like stores who post the names of people who write bad checks).

Here are some of my latest acquisitions.

Our C-Maps for Florida and the Bahamas are in the upper part of this picture, as is a snoozing Wilbur the Wonder Dog!!

Skipper Bob's publications (which I dearly wished we'd had at the beginning of our trip) are in the middle. These are chock full of information about the Intracoastal that would have made my life a lot easier had I known about them. But that's okay, I plan on giving them a good workout in years to come.
And by all means please notice that damned yellow quarantine flag at the bottom along with the US and Bahamian ones!!!!

During our last trip I was thrilled that the bins I bought at a Dollar Tree worked so well so I bought 8 more (on the right).

The blue and white bins in the back will fit nicely on our berth shelves, and the small white trash can will fit in the bottom of our refrigerator in the back beside the freezer.

Food will be removed from space sucking cardboard boxes and placed in those zip lock storage bags.

"What food?" Wilbur will just have to wait until we're back on the boat.

Now let's finish the song.

When the dog bites (and he absolutely does not!).

When the bee stings (substitute jelly fish here).

When I'm feeling sad (and wondering how the hell I let Hans talk me into this).

I simply remember my favorite things (or get out the bourbon).

And then I don't feel so bad (just wonderfully numb).


  1. Yes, things do change. Clearing in and out of foreign ports (and often between them) usually involve navigating the local bureaucracy. If it's any solace, cruising the U.S. as a foreign flagged alien, I've been told, can be equally as daunting. I've enjoyed following your blog and learning the ways of other countries along with you.

  2. With the whole Homeland Security fiasco I can't even imagine arriving in the USA as a foreigner. I just have to wonder how people who sail around the world know what the heck each and every country needs!

  3. Your posts are always so funny and entertaining. I never knew about these things, but it's so interesting to read with your humor.

  4. Two Pitties, I never knew about these things either (and they say you can't teach an old dog...). Anyway, life with Wilbur is still exciting (like yesterdays visit to the vet for hives!) and I'm just this side of worried about taking him into the Bahamas, but he's assured me his tender pitty skin needs heat and not the nasty cold temps we're now experiencing!

  5. You know there's swimming pigs in the Bahamas. You have to let Wilbur swim with them! =) I love your posts, as they are not only very entertaining but informative. Good stuff!

  6. Oh my hell! You are a brave and determined woman, Laura. I do believe by now I would have thrown up my hands and given up. But, I'm glad you haven't because then I wouldn't get to read any more of your wonderfully entertaining stories or visit "far away ports" through your blog! And Wilbur looks so sweet sleeping there under the blankie with his baby! Hope his hives get better soon!



  7. Cheryl, I've read about those pigs but I'm afraid Wilbur might think they're his family.

    Cyndi, at this stage I'm not sure how far away we'll get. Who knows how many laws and rules I haven't found out about yet. And Wilbur's hives finally cleared up but now he has some other wierd skin thing going on. But how he loves his baby, it's the only stuffy he hasn't destroyed.