For all our dirt dweller family and friends back home thought we’d take a moment to point out differences between air travel and sea. They can be similar in many ways such as flying into or returning from a foreign country you can’t just fly into Medina Tennessee direct, but must first land at an International Airport. Same with mariners. We have to make landfall at a designated Port of Entry. But the process can be dramatically different.
Clearing In and Clearing Out . At the airport they search your carry on and deny you liquids, lighters, and other prohibited goods. On our vessel which is our Home depending on the country they’re even tougher. New Zealand for example requires that you fax or email them the required forms with passport information, vessel information, on and on information, seventy-two hours in advance. So simple from the middle of the Pacific ! Then once arriving into their international Port of Entry we are required to fly our Q flag ( quarantine ) and tie up to the Q dock which has no access to shore. It’s lock gated with barbed wire. And we are required to remain on our boat without going to shore until all the officials show up and Clear us Inward. They’re tough. Most food items other than canned goods are ceremoniously confiscated for destruction, along with undocumented wood items, anything more than 50 cigarettes, a bottle or two of alcohol, ect ect. They can also require you at your own expense to be lifted out and water blasted if they don’t feel your bottom is clean enough. They have free range to upend your entire vessel in search of contraband and often do so. If you entered as a well supplied cruising home, you won’t be when they leave. The up side to them is that there are no fees. But every country varies and so we usually go online before hand and search for the required Formalities on www.noonsite.com to find out the Port of Entry , requirements, and expense.
THE VISA DANCE
We emailed Vanuatu in advance and were able to make our first landfall there at Anatom. Basically we cleared in with the village policeman. Blue checkerboard stripe around the building. How simple . But once to Port Villa we had to do what we cruisers calll the visa dance. You anchor out with the Q flag flying, go ashore and traipse all over town to find the Harbour master, customs, immigrations, and health. And pay. And sometimes pay some more, as bribes are not uncommon. Depending on the country, such as Maldives, these fees reach the thousands for a ninety day visa. Whew !
Indonesia needs to be done from one of their offshore embassies Before you arrive there if you desire more than a thirty day visa and this took us a week of cab rides and waiting, when we did it thru their embassy in Papua New Guinea.
And our most recent misadventures was clearing out of Malaysia. Our visa was expiring and we had a plethora of issues crop up at the last moment for repairs. Parts aren’t on the shelf, to late for online shopping and at the last last last minute we hired a car zoomed down to Kuah to clear the Harbour Master, drove up to the airport for Immigrations, only to find they had gone for the day ? Had to race the rental car back down the next morning and wait on them to arrive then flog it back to Telaga Harbour to do the final clearing with Customs, and haul up the anchor before being prosecuted for being Overstayers! We literally lashed down all the loose ends and tools for the ongoing repair and vamoosed. Arriving in Sabang, Indonesia two and a half days later I was still trying to get power to our depth sounders. Needless to say leaving under duress left us with unfinished tasks and commitments.
Upon arrival we tied up at the Harbour Masters buoy, dinghy ashore to announce our arrival whereupon we were asked to remain aboard until the officials arrived . Then we carried them in our dingy out to our home and in their search they were interested in confiscating any medications past their due dates. Are their any other kind ?. After form filing and stamps they garnered our passport and I returned them to shore. Then we began the dance and on foot and by tuk tuk we visited each of the four offices. But. It’s Muslim country. ( Finding a cold beer or some bacon is not unlike panning for gold ) So from 1:00pm until 5:00pm we had to wait during their prayer, lunch siesta to finally arrive at immigrations after 5:00 and didn’t leave there until nearly 7:00pm. Job Done. Until we clear out and re visit all four offices again in order to Clear Out.
So when next you’re in an airport standing in line impatiently tapping your foot complaining that it’s been twenty minutes, , , well , , think Days ! And Cash of Course.