Leaving the boat
most interesting thing about leaving our boat for extended periods,
whether it's for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, is noticing
its distinct smell when we return. I don't mean the odor of rampant
mold or that potato we forgot to throw out. I mean the boat's natural
essence. The essence you stop noticing after a few days. The first
time we ever went aboard DRIVER we noticed it--a kind of fragrant
woody smell, mixed with the normal dose of mildew. This woody smell
might seem unusual when you consider DRIVER is a steel boat, but
the hull is insulated with one inch styrofoam and the foam is covered
by quarter inch plywood. African plywood. I'm not sure what type
of wood it is, but it has a great, long-lasting smell like red cedar.
25 footer DIRECTION also had a particular odor. Unlike DRIVER, the
smell morphed over the years. At first DIRECTION smelled like fiberglass
and fresh enamel. After while it was replaced by the odor of moldy
Legos and dirty diapers. Home.
best part of about cruising is going to new places. Once there,
we like to get away from the boat and see something other than the
strip of land that disappears into the harbor. In many ways, a boat
represents absolute freedom because it can take you to any coastline
in the world. The price for that freedom is tallied, however, when
you leave the boat and travel away from it. Worrying about the boat
is part of owning one, I guess. If we are going to be gone for more
than a couple of days we like to find a mooring, or a dock. If we
plan to be gone for months, we try to wait until the boat needs
hauling for a bottom job. That way the boat is safe, and we can
put off having to work on it right away. We've never hired a caretaker,
but we have asked friends to keep an eye on things.
most critical thing to research before leaving your boat behind
in a foreign country is to make darn sure you will be "allowed"
back across the border. The problem with traveling out of a foreign
country arises on your return; the immigration guy at the airport
(or wherever) is going to wonder why you don't have a return ticket.
Never mind that your flight originated in his country. He or she
will want to know how you are departing again. Before leaving your
boat contact immigration, and try to obtain some sort of form that
proves you have a boat and that it will be your means of departure.
This will save a lot of hassles because airport officials are very
inflexible. We learned this lesson, and many others, the hard way.
It seems that we are always having issues with immigration officers.
Jaja and I left DIRECTION on a mooring in Australia, back in 1990,
and flew to Seattle courtesy of my parents. Our 6 month visa was
going to expire during our visit, but we glibly assumed we could
reapply for another one before our return flight. Uh, yeah. The
consulate general in San Francisco said that because we had already
been in Australia for six months we were not allowed to return until
another six months transpired. Apparently we'd used up our allotment
of time. Bummer. In the end we had to fax a copy of our boat papers
(ALWAYS BRING YOUR BOAT PAPERS WITH YOU!!!), with an explanation
of how we'd sailed to Australia, left the boat on a mooring, and
that we were sorry...etc. Our visit to the States lasted 3 weeks.
We got our passports back the night before we were due to go to
the airport. I recall being a little bit stressed out.
A year later, Jaja (who was 5 months pregnant with Holly) and 18
month old Chris flew to the States from New Zealand without me.
Jaja and Chris had new visas with months and months left on them
so that this time, returning would not be an issue. Uh, yeah. Jaja
contacted the New Zealand consulate with a trivial question and
inadvertently opened up a can of worms. When they learned she was
a woman traveling alone with a baby on what was essentially a one
way ticket to New Zealand they flipped out. They wanted to know
why she going, who was she staying with, and how she was getting
back to the States. I got a desperate call from Jaja. She needed
me to write a letter saying she was my wife, Chris was my child,
and that they lived with me on the boat. I wrote the letter. Next
I had to go to a notary to have photocopies of our marriage certificate,
boat papers, and my passport notarized to prove they were copies
of original documents. I express mailed the envelope to the New
Zealand consulate in New York.
When I got back to the boat after visiting a the notary, who was
actually a sleazy lawyer, I unloaded my backpack: Passport, marriage
certificate...no boat papers. Gone. Frantic, I got on my bike and
rode back to the lawyer. I knocked on his door and said that I had
forgotten my vessel documentation certificate in his office. His
desk was a friggin' mess. Papers everywhere. He lifted the corners
of a couple stacks and said he didn't have it. To this day I wonder
what ever happened to that certificate. Gone into thin air. Anyway,
it cost 30 bucks to express mail the stuff to Jaja and 75 bucks
to get a new documentation certificate.)
When I sailed DIRECTION solo across the Atlantic 1988, I made a
stop in the Azores then carried on to Falmouth, England. The British
customs official came to the boat, filled in a form, then scooted
off. A month later I put DIRECTION on the hard in Southampton then
went to the airport for a flight to the States. At Heathrow the
immigration agent thumbed through my passport. She accused me being
in England for two years! My jaw dropped. What? I explained that
I had arrived by boat only a month ago. She nodded patiently, smiled,
said she believed me (due to the exit stamp from the Azores), then
explained the situation.
from her point of view, it made sense. I had flown to England two
summers earlier to deliver a boat back to the States. (see A
Passage From Dante). I had received an entrance stamp in my
passport from airport immigration, but we had left by sea and I
did not get an exit stamp. This time, the customs officer who cleared
me in at Falmouth did not stamp my passport for entry. So, seen
from the perspective of the Heathrow officer it looked as if I had
arrived in 1986 and never left. The woman said I needed to take
personal responsibility for my own passport and make sure I got
all the correct entry and exit stamps. I wonder how that scenario
would play out today in our "modern" era of airport paranoia!
Customs officials are only interested in how many days or months
your boat is in their country. Immigration officials are only interesting
in how long YOU are in their country. Never ask a Customs official
about immigration rules, and vice versa. You'll get bad advice that
will lead to problems down the road.
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