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Old 22-08-2009, 09:14   #1
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Fuel Stop Only - No Customs?

Is it possible to make a fuel stop at a marina in the Bahamas or Dominican Republic without clearing customs first? That is, if you don't intend to set foot on land, but just pull up to dock and refuel, pay, and leave?

Just curious.
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Old 22-08-2009, 09:26   #2
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Well, perhaps not quite legal, called 'yellow flagging it'.

"I just had to fill up on my way to immigrations y'r honor." or

"I was just exercising my right of free passage, won't do it again y'r honor"

Fine as long as you don't get caught.

Phil
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Old 22-08-2009, 09:35   #3
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I know that in Nassau, if you enter the harbor you are required to clear in and pay the fees!!!!!!!!!
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Old 22-08-2009, 09:56   #4
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You're using facilities belonging to that country.
A boat tried that in Mexico and was fined $4000 US.
A boat stopped in Prickly Bay, Granada on a Saturday and didn't check in until Monday, and was fined.
When I fueled up in Trinadad last spring I had to show my custom papers at the fuel dock.
In the DR I had a Navy boat along side within 10 minutes after anchoring.
In Mathewtown, The Great Ingua Island, Bahamas a customs offical was waiting at the dock when I dinghyed ashore.
I think a "Yellow flag stop" means a safety stop in the evening and underway early in the morning.
Don't take chances, just because these are third world countries doesn't mean these people are stupid.
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Old 22-08-2009, 10:05   #5
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Hmmm..... so is an arrival-anchor overnight-leave without going ashore legal in most countries? I was under the impression it was and have done it several times in the carribean... (not fueling!)
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Old 22-08-2009, 10:13   #6
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Recently they fined several boats in St Vincent for anchoring overnight on their way to Bequia...we do it all the time but one day we will get caught; we certainly are not going to do it in a non-US/UK friendly country...
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Old 22-08-2009, 10:19   #7
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Yep, St V was one on the list..........
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Old 23-08-2009, 10:28   #8
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Q-flagging used to be normal prior to 9-11. Simply put, the "custom" was to allow boats to anchor for refuge from storm or other safety purposes and stay "quarantined" until their departure as soon as possible thereafter. Quarantined means nobody allowed on shore except the Captain for official purposes only. This was codified in the International Maritime treaties and signatories to the treaty allowed it. However 9-11 changed everything as the USA wrote so many exceptions in the name of "National Security" that the "Safe Harbors" provisions were effectively gutted. Other countries soon followed the USA lead in this area primarily as they realized it would mean more revenue coming in for check-in/out.
- - I take umbrage of anybody using the words "Right of . . . " That can get you into serious trouble with local officials. There is no such animal. Rights are set by the laws of the individual countries of the world. USA "rights" do not apply outside the USA. Some islands - for instance, the Bahamas has a specific law that allows "innocent passage" through their waters without checking in/out so long as you do not touch land. Whether others countries have such laws requires some research.
- - I have Q-flagged through many of the Caribbean islands but normally because it is late at night, I am tired and need some sleep, and will be up and gone at daybreak. Given that most little island country officials only work 8 to 5 then go home, it is a reasonable chance nobody will see you. Staying anchored after sunrise and during daytime is highly risky. Other than the Bahamas, very few of the Caribbean countries on the route north/south have exit/entry charges that are so excessive that I would want to risk the fine and other problems.
- - Many years ago we stopped at Rosseau just for the afternoon and night and then primarily just to get a couple of gerrycans of diesel for one of the boats. Cost to check in/out was US$20 and 15 minutes of time. And then we could walk around and check out the place for a longer stay next trip without worrying or looking over our shoulders.
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Old 23-08-2009, 10:50   #9
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Thanks Osirissail

".........Some islands - for instance, the Bahamas has a specific law that allows "innocent passage" through their waters without checking in/out so long as you do not touch land......"

This is what inspired my post, I was just wondering, if for example, I hailed a dockmaster at a Bahamian marina and coordinated to pull up to dock and have him hand me the fuel hose, pump 100gals of diesel, and hand him cash, all while never stepping off boat.......(not that you could ever coordinate such a NASCAR/Forumla-1 type pitstop style effort in the islands anyway)

Mark
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Old 23-08-2009, 10:56   #10
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I know that in Nassau, if you enter the harbor you are required to clear in and pay the fees!!!!!!!!!
ALso we tried that in Great Harbor, and was immediately told we had to clear in it might work in some of the out islands, but if you fly a Q flag they know you have not cleared, so it would be a low profile stop and hope the marina thinks you are just another cruiser. But if you got caught they would probably seize the vessel.
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Old 23-08-2009, 14:37   #11
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I will second JusDreaming on that. In the Bahamas, especially Nassau some other big power boat harbors, they are really touchy about getting their $300 (in my size boat). You are too high profile there. Maybe in Georgetown or one of the smaller Bahamas Islands you could "sneak" through without being asked for paperwork. I would say it is all up to your "karma" - some people double and triple park in no-parking zones without any problem, I park in a legal space and get a ticket because the meter breaks while I am out shopping.
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Old 23-08-2009, 16:54   #12
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Ok, I see now that the intent of my posting is being misinterpreted because I used the phrase "is it possible" instead of what I was looking for, which is "is it legal/permissible/acceptable by the authorities..". What had me wondering was the "if you set even a single foot on land" verbiage, and I can conceive of a fuel stop where that doesn't have to happen.

From the nature of the reply's I'm thinking the answer to that is "no".

I have had occasion to operate very close to (and perhaps sometimes tiptoe over) the yellow lines, but my first rule of thumb for success in those endeavors is to always know where the yellow lines are!

Best,
Mark
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Old 24-08-2009, 07:45   #13
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It's not just "putting a foot on land" that's an issue. Having any physical contact with anyone or anything on land, or even with another boat is also illegal prior to clearing in.

It doesn't seem like a big deal to some cruisers, and it's possible to avoid getting caught if you're not to blatant about it. But the local authorities generally take it very seriously, and the penalties can be severe. At worst, heavy fines, jail time, your boat confiscated and sold at auction.

I've occasionally dropped anchor at dusk, spent the night, then departed at dawn without clearing in when making a solo passage through the islands, but that's as far as I'm willing to push the envelope.

BTW, I've been told that you hoist the Q flag only if you are planning to clear in. You're requesting "Practique". I never fly the Q flag when just spending the night on the hook and moving on.
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Old 24-08-2009, 08:10   #14
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The Bahamas allow you to pass through without paying the $300 fee. I stopped in Nassau for fuel once coming home from the Caribbean. I went in the East entrance, bought fuel with cash, and the went back out the channel and on my way. Boats coming in from the "Cruise ship side" were all asked for there clearance numbers, not us.
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Old 24-08-2009, 08:20   #15
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We keep our boat in Captain Oliver's Marina on the French/Dutch Border of St. Maarten. The Docks are on the Dutch side; the Hotel and restraunts are on the French side. People passage form side to side is not a problem but boat passage technically requires checking in and out - a real pain as the customs is at the lagoon bridge on the Dutch side and in the marina in Marigo on the French side. We like to go for day trips to Anse de Columbere (sp?) on st. Barth's but if we check out, check in, check out, checkin - the day is over before we can do anything. Why can't it be like the E.U. Puerto Rico and the USVI have a frequent boater program that eliminates the need to check in everytime you return from non-US islands.
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