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Old 01-07-2014, 10:14   #1
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Consider avoiding St Kitts...

We chartered out of St Martin last week. A LOT of sailing. In 8 days, we went from St Kitts, to Antigua, to St Barths, then back to St Martin. We were new to the customs procedures in the area. We even had a professional skipper with us, but he had never traveled down to the areas we traveled, as most people just stick to the Anguilla, St Martin, St Barths area. I had left my cruisers guide at home, because I figured the professional skipper would know all. Originally, my brother was going, and was the skipper, but bailed on the entire trip at the last minute, causing me to find a replacement (I don't sail).

So, our itinerary was to go to St Kitts on the first day, just as a stop over en route to Antigua. We arrived too late for customs, so we anchored, and waited for the morning to clear-in. I've never seen such a rude bunch of people in Basseterre. The port authority office was not helpful. We went in, paid our money, and then they said we had to go to immigration at the cruise dock. Well, guess what, the cruise dock isn't open this time of the year. So we headed back to the port, and were then told we would have to go to the airport. Mind you, we didn't even want to visit St Kitts. We were just staying there the night. So, we load up in a taxi and head to the airport. Eventually we find the immigrations office, and were greeted by the rudest civil servant I've ever encountered. Officer 517. Literally snatching the passports out of our hands. And guess what? She couldn't find a passport stamp. Where she really screwed up, and we didn't realize this until we were in Antigua, is that she had KEPT our clear-out sheet. All we had in our procession was the receipt of payment and charges. This is something our skipper should have noticed, but did not.

So, we finally get out of the airport, with no stamps, essentially having wasted an hour, and get on the boat to motor for 10 hours to Antigua. We come in really late, and decide to use Deep Water Harbour since it was so well marked. We found out when we attempted to clear in the next morning that we did not have a clear-out sheet. The simply would not allow us in, and said we would have to go back to St Kitts. We decided that wasn't an option. We went south to Jolly Habour, were they are much more accustomed to small yacht issues. Had the same problem this time, but I ended up begging (the skipper just shut up this time and let me do the talking, partially because he was French and his English wasn't 100%, and partially because he realized he was so angry at the situation, he would make it worse). Thankfully, the begging worked, and they allowed us to clear into Antigua without having the clear-out sheet from St Kitts.

It amazes me that there is not a system that all the islands can use to verify these things, and make the actual sheet of paper not of 100% importance.

I know you aren't supposed to do this, but having experienced what I did, if I were to do this all over again, I would check out of St Martin with the destination port of Antigua. I would stop over in a harbor in St Kitts for the night, ignore checking into customs (essentially pretending I never went there), and then sail onto Antigua the next morning. When I check into Antigua, I'd just tell them I had been sailing non-stop. I know its illegal, but St Kitts was so bad, I think I'd take the risk.

So, in short, if you go to St Kitts, especially checking into Basseterre, expect some aggravation, and make darned sure you have a proper clear-out sheet before you leave. If you have to go to the airport, expect more difficultly.
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Old 01-07-2014, 15:58   #2
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

That's a terrible experience indeed. The ex-British islands in general, and Antigua & Barbuda in particular, are known for being sticklers for correct procedure. I've cleared in at both St. Kitts and Nevis in the past and always had much better experiences than you did. I always cleared in at the cruise ship dock in Basseterre on St. Kitts, I wasn't aware that private vessel could clear in anywhere else. In Nevis, where I often used my "right of innocent passage" to stay a night, clearing in was also easy.
After overnighting in deepwater where did you go to clear in and were refused? Was it English Harbor?

The exit clearance (sometimes called "zarpe") is perhaps the single most important piece of paper for officials, and there's 0% chance of an automated system existing to make it superfluous in the near future. It really is incumbent upon the skipper to ensure that this, and the ship's registration, is in order - and shame on the immigration officer at the airport for keeping it (btw, did you take a cab up to the airport?).

St. Kitts has always been friendly to me, although the anchorage at Basseterre is the most rolly I've experienced in the whole Caribbean. It is worth visiting and touring at least once, from a ride around the island to Brimstone Fort; and White Bay is a great place to "chill". Although your experience was a bad one, you should reconsider re-visiting the island --- but I'd skip both islands if I were just enroute to Antigua.
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Old 01-07-2014, 18:14   #3
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

If you ever screw up paperwork head directly to a French island. you can clear in there without Zarpe (clearence from last port) usually.

Antigua are the rudest Customs and Immigration officers in the WHOLE WORLD but often have a fight with the BVIs vying for that award. I didn't know St Kits was that bad... but do know they have stupid internal rules about going to Nevis from St K.

At least you will always remember this charter!
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Old 01-07-2014, 18:42   #4
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

Sounds like my attempt at clearing in at Cozumel. Complete incompetence, officials sending you all over town. Eventually gave up and decided to be an illegal alien in Mexico, a switch in roles.
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Old 02-07-2014, 10:46   #5
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

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After overnighting in deepwater where did you go to clear in and were refused? Was it English Harbor?
We attempted to clear in in Antigua at the Deepwater customs office. We were allowed in, after much begging and turning on what southern charm I could space, in Jolly Harbor. I got the feeling, after clearing OUT at English harbor that I would have had the same problem at English that I would have at Deepwater. The Jolly office seems much more informal. That can be good. That can be bad. In our situation, it worked out.


For St Kitts, the cruise ship dock offices were closed. We cleared in and out of the office (yellow building), inside of the Basseterre Marina (to the north of the cruise ship dock). We had to take a taxi to the immigration office at the airport.

I think now that I've experienced the charm of clearing in and out of the islands, there are some 'adjustments' that could be made that would make the trip a lot less likely to end with problems. But making those 'adjustments' also carry some risks. But from what I can tell, no one really wants to work at any of these islands, and will do the bare minimum they have to do in order to get paid. In other words, you can count on their laziness and plan accordingly.

I did, prior to coming to Antigua, read on this board about their strictness. I made sure everyone, including the captain, knew that absolutely no one was leaving the boat until we were cleared in. That was reinforced, when coming into deepwater at 9PM, we were met by the Antigua Coast Guard informing us that we could park there for the night, but not to go ashore.
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Old 02-07-2014, 10:56   #6
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
If you ever screw up paperwork head directly to a French island. you can clear in there without Zarpe (clearence from last port) usually.

Antigua are the rudest Customs and Immigration officers in the WHOLE WORLD but often have a fight with the BVIs vying for that award. I didn't know St Kits was that bad... but do know they have stupid internal rules about going to Nevis from St K.

At least you will always remember this charter!
Interesting I found Antigua officials to be quiet friendly. I guess it is who you run into and what their day is like.

I frequently deal with US CBP officials. Most are proficient and official, but courteous, some are, shall we say, something that resembles the south end of a bull heading north.
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Old 02-07-2014, 11:00   #7
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

I dont really hold a grudge with the Antigua officials. It wasn't their fault I didn't have the right paperwork.

But what happens in the event, that say, you are unable to make it to your destination port? For example, we had an emergency of mechanical issue that required us to come to a different island other than the destination on the clear out? How is that handled?
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Old 02-07-2014, 11:27   #8
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pirate Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

Never had a problem with that.. folk are generally quite understanding if times kinda tie up..
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Old 02-07-2014, 11:42   #9
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

Carzin

Our experience with ending up in a different port or even country than is on the paperwork is that no one we have run into seems to care. We have changed plans on several occasions or didn't have a solid plan to begin with and have changed ports, we have not even been asked about the change. Some countries will let you check in and out at the same time, even if staying a couple of weeks. St Kitts is one of those countries. Plans can definitely change over a couple of weeks and I have asked the customs official about this saying I am not sure of my next destination, they have always said to just pick your most likely spot.

I second MarkJ on heading for a French Island if you think your paperwork is messed up.
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Old 02-07-2014, 14:17   #10
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

[QUOTE=CarZin;1575779]

So, in short, if you go to St Kitts, especially checking into Basseterre, expect some aggravation, and make darned sure you have a proper clear-out sheet before you leave. If you have to go to the airport, expect more difficultly.[/


The most beautiful customs agent in the whole Caribbean works at the office at the marina in Basseterre! She is great at her job and very pleasant to deal with!!

My only issue with Kitts is the guy who begged a KFC drum stick from me there. He would not take a wing of a thigh. Only a crispy drum stick. I'll fight a lad for a drumstick now!!!


The Lady Euphoria
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Old 02-07-2014, 16:32   #11
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

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Originally Posted by CarZin View Post
...But what happens in the event, that say, you are unable to make it to your destination port...
For pleasure vessels the destination port isn't as binding as a plan for a commercial vessel. When clearing in, the primary thing is to have an outgoing clearance - where you stated you wanted to go isn't binding.
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Old 02-07-2014, 16:38   #12
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

When it comes to clearing in and out... you never know what you'll get. Sometimes It just depends on the person you run into. For that reason, I just avoided stopping anywhere I was not interested in staying.
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Old 02-07-2014, 20:36   #13
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

Hi all
I am a bit surprised at your comment about the BVI. We have come in to West End (Soper's Hole) Tortola twice and both times the agents were efficient and somewhere between pleasant and neutral in demeanor, but definitely not rude or problematic in any way.
Les
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Old 03-07-2014, 04:50   #14
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Les.
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Old 03-07-2014, 05:11   #15
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Re: Consider avoiding St Kitts...

And this is precisely why we visit old world countries on our boat and turd world countries on a cruise ship. We leave the turd world B.S. for others to worry about, so we can just enjoy the vacation. The old world countries have had the time to sort this stuff out.
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