failure when we reached Nassau
. After working with Marine Diesel
, the local Nassau Yanmar
shop, and discussing options with insurance
re...garding the claim, it was decided that we needed to bring Three Sheets
back to the states so that all parties could participate in determining cause of failure. Based on their requirements for towing, Seaworthy
contracted Towboat US Fort Lauderdale
to bring us home. As was standard practice upon arrival, the tow vessel contacted Port Authority for permission to enter the harbor to collect us and bring us home that Sunday morning. They were granted permission and were on route
to our marina to clear customs
, when the proverbial "**** hit the fan."
Three Sheets was prepped and ready to go when we received a call on the VHF
from our towboat captain
indicating someone had filed some type of complaint and customs
had called them back to the dock
to the Department of Immigration. We barely took in the bad news when we heard a loud knock on our boat, jarring us back to reality. We went outside to find a Bahamian man, wearing what appeared to be a government
shirt from Bahamas
Air and Sea Rescue
Association (BASRA) and a women escorted by marina security
. He identified himself as Captain
Ian Gilbert of ABC Yacht Services.
Gilbert said our towboat was breaking the law and that we needed to give him a deposit immediately to tow our vessel. We explained it wasn't our call and that it was up to our insurance
company to secure the tow vessel based on their requirements. Somewhat forcefully, clearly trying to intimidate us, he said we should just pay him and submit the claim to insurance for payment. Of course we didn't agree.
Gilbert then contacted our insurance directly, without our permission and before we could notify them of the recent issue. He somehow managed to get an agent on the phone
and we overheard him tell her that the only way Three Sheets was leaving Nassau was under his tow. He quoted $125/mile which would work out to nearly $15,000 just to get us to Bimini
(international waters). Clear and simple extortion. We became frightened of him asked them to leave immediately and security
escorted them out. Much later we found out that BASRA is not a government
program, but rather a volunteer association that has no authority. But he clearly knew his credentials would get him past security and intimidate us.
We called our tow captain who said it was a "work permit" policy issue and recommended we meet him at Immigration with a local boater that would help us out of the harbor. We thought if we could at least hire a local for a portion, it would make the Department of Immigration happy.
We found a local boater from our marina to bring us to the Immigration dock
and speak on our behalf with Captain Neely from the Department of Immigration. Captain Neely said that if insurance wouldn't hire ABC (the extortionist), they probably wouldn't approve our local guys, so he would not allow us to leave without approval from the Director of Immigration. Of course since it was Sunday, it had to wait until Monday, essentially making us hostages in their country. Seaworthy
approved our towboat to stay another day. Personally (and admittedly naively), I was glad to meet with the Director because I wanted to report the extortion.
Monday morning we arrived at the office of the Director, Mr. William Platt. As soon as we walked into the room and saw his scowl, I knew it was already decided. But we tried anyway. First, he would barely acknowledge our tow captain and began questioning Mike on the issue. Mike, of course respectfully, answered his questions on the events
as they happened. Platt then began asking questions such as, "How much is your vessel worth?" and "How much was your contracted tow?" When he asked about hiring local, Mike explained that no local towers met specifications required by our insurance company.
I then tentatively broached the subject of ABC Yachts and how they scared us at our dock. This immediately angered the Director, but at me, not at ABC. He began yelling at me, asking how they were intimidating and basically implying I was lying. It was also clear he did not want to be addressed directly by a woman as he dismissed my concerns and began discussing again with Mike. Mike explained the ABC fees
were exorbitant, to which Platt responded, "Why do you care if insurance is paying?" He then took our contact information and said he would get back to Mike with a decision. While we waited for a cab in the parking lot, Ian Gilbert of ABC arrived at the building and we knew Platt's decision would not be in our favor. Our fears were confirmed when the tow captain called us and said he'd been given 24 hours to leave the country. Of course Director Platt did not have the courtesy to respond directly to Mike as promised.
So there we were, guilty of nothing, stuck in Nassau feeling like hostages in a third-world country. That is not the Bahamas
we had dreamt about during our ten years of planning. We could have simply returned home and fixed our boat and gone back to the Bahamas to travel some more. Instead, their Immigration Department made it crystal clear that we are not welcome by their disgusting treatment of us. Almost a week later, we had to "escape" the Bahamas by securing a local tow from our marina out of the harbor, only after they confirmed with their attorneys that they could help. We then raised the sails
and sailed Three Sheets for 30 hours straight until we reached international waters. Only then could we get secure a tow into Fort Lauderdale
. Mike and I are incredibly lucky that the winds held for safe passage
For anyone traveling to the Bahamas, I'd recommend staying away from Nassau at the very least. If you plan on working or hiring in the Bahamas, I'd watch the issue of work permits very closely at www.tribune242.com
. There's mention of denial of permits for any non-bahamian charter
vessels, including fishing
boats. This could get very ugly in a short space of time.