This morning, we moved the boat to the harbor of Marsh Harbor. Dave took off by dinghy to walk to the Customs and Immigration office. We were there last year to extend our Immigration permit after the original 3 months. So we knew where it was located. It’s a new big government building inland at least a mile from shore. And our guide info says only the captain should go ashore to clear customs.
During Dave’s 30 minute walk, he passed his favorite bake shop and the hardware store. But you can’t stop to do anything until you have cleared customs. Dave went to the same office we were at last year and told them that we just arrived and would like to check in.
Officer: What marina are you at?
Dave: We’re anchored.
O: You have to go to a marina and we’ll come there.
D: That’s not going to happen. We are anchored and don’t want to pay for a slip.
O: Just a minute. O comes back: Where is your boat anchored?
D: Right out from ferry dock.
O: Just a minute. O came back: How many crew members are there?
D: My wife and I.
O: Is she with you?
D; No, we understood that only the captain could come to shore
O: Just a minute.
Officer comes back Dave: Do you want to see passports and take our money?
O: Yes but you need to go to custom’s first.
D: I thought this was customs and immigration.
O: No, this is only immigration. you need to go to custom’s first. She started giving him driving directions back towards the shore.
D: I’m walking. Is it located on the water?
O: It’s too far too walk!
Dave politely told here: I just walked here and I’m walking back.
O: After you clear custom’s, bring your wife back here for immigration.
D: What if custom’s takes too long, and we can’t get back here before you close? Can we come back tomorrow?
O: Just a minute. O comes back: Go to custom’s, take care of that. They’ll call us, and we’ll come down there because we have to see your boat. Here’s some paperwork, have it filled out before they call us.
Dave left there feeling like he was the first person to ever check into immigration in Marsh Harbor. Especially since the Officer had to keep asking what to do next.
Dave then walked to custom’s, which is down at the water’s edge. We thought that was an old custom’s location and everything had moved to the government building. It made sense that custom’s would be by the water. Dave came to where he thought the Custom’s office was and found a building called Marsh Harbor Administration. He asked someone where the Custom’s office was, and he said to go through the door on the back of the building. OK, so it was that building. A Customs sign would have helped. Dave walked in and found 3 holes cut into a big mirrored window/one way window. He rang a bell and someone came up to hole to speak to him. He had a hard time hearing them and understanding their accent. So he put his ear up to the hole. He felt like he was staring at the wall like he was a blind person not knowing which way to look.
He told them he would like to check in and the questioning started all over again.
O: What marina are you at?
D: We’re anchored in the harbor.
O: Well you’ll have to bring the boat here. How many people are on board?
D: Just my wife and I. If I have to bring the boat here, will the dock be able to handle a 5 ft draft.
He heard one lady giggle and say “he has a 5 ft draft”.
By now Dave was trying to look through the hole and see all the people. So an officer came out, said it would work fine, There were tires out there on the dock, and we should be fine.
Dave walked back to the dinghy dock to come back to the boat.
When Dave arrived, he let me know nothing had been accomplished. He explained that there were two offices but saved the details until later. We got the boat ready to move and I filled out our paperwork. We tied up to the dock, which is designed for cargo ships. Dave had to climb about 5 feet above our deck to get on the dock.
Inside he had to fill out the customs forms. They ask about your “stores”-groceries and clothing, dinghy, our 2 outboard motors and serial numbers, etc. The customs officer didn’t know anything about the fishing endorsement to use a Hawaiian sling, for spear fishing. But someone spoke up to explain it to her. They explained that you just write it on the fishing permit. That was something we found out in our guide book. And we had it last year.
When the immigration officer came to the customs office, she took all the paperwork for me and Dave. Dave asked “would you like to meet my lovely wife?” He knew she would have do crawl done to the boat and back up. She asked where I was. And when she found out I was on the boat she said, no she didn’t need to see me. But at the office, she said she did and that she had to see the boat. She said the 3 month vs 6 month permit was up to the officer. And she doesn’t like giving more than 3 months. We’ll have to go to another immigration office with in 4 days of the end of the 90 day permit to renew it for another 3 months. That will be April 24 and we hope to be in Georgetown in the Exumas. What a hassle.
Dave came back to the boat, we went back to our anchorage and broke out the liquor. Dave then told me all the funny details of the day. We celebrated with a couple cocktails in the cockpit. We are now officially on Bahamian time.