We are a Canadian vessel with some limited experience travelling through the US. I came through when bringing the boat home from Martinique
in 2002, and when travelling down to Trini in 2004. I am now travelling up the coast back home.
I got a Cruiser's Permit
in Puerto Rico
from a very nice lady officer, who explained that nothing had changed - We were to check into each jurisdiction and let them know we had entered their territory, and we may be subject to search when re-entering the US after the Bahamas
We made it from Bahamas
to Port Canaveral on Friday of the Memorial Day Weekend. We had paid $75 to have our phone
enabled, and started calling all the numbers from an hour out. We finally found one that worked, and a recording told me I was caller #9 and need only wait. Most of our time was used up when the friendly officer gave us some new numbers to try to fulfil our responsibilities. None worked. We went the extra 3/4 hour of travel from the land entrance of the port to the yacht marinas
at the west end, and went to a fuel dock
at New Port Marina. They said they had no fuel
, and that they wanted us to leave. We begged to use their phone
and to get a good number for customs
. The new number, on their phone gave us a recording that told us to walk to the office and declare in person. We hung up and asked the personnel at the marina where the office was. They said it was 25 minutes walk away, and the the guy is seldom there, and would not be there for sure in 40 minutes when the office closes, and would not be back until after the long weekend. However, they said that we could not stay, as it was the weekend of a big fishing
tournament and they needed the space. They further said that we would be fined if we anchored anywhere in the port, and that all marinas
would be full.
The darkening, thunderstorm-filled sky gave us two options - go back to sea, two hours to deep water
in a storm, or go through the bridges to the ICW
and relative safety
. We went through, and illegally sailed the ICW
for a day and slept for two nights before going back to sea, all as illegal aliens. My first responsibility is to my boat and crew, right? Compliance was literally impossible without me simply going back to sea.
We came back to shore in Georgia
, and spent two nights in the ICW before tying up at the Savannah waterfront. Great place by the way. We called some numbers and found a customs
office. The guy didn't believe he could find us, a sailing catamaran
, on the waterfront. If you've been there, you would realize this guy probably couldn't find a bathroom in his own home. He did, however, call Immigration, and they said they would give it a try. Officer Jackson came down and took our information on a pad of paper, as he forgot the proper forms, and said that is all that is required. We asked him for some numbers for the customs offices in the other states, and he said that wasn't necessary. We didn't argue but doubted his knowledge, as he also didn't know what an Intracoastal Waterway was. Nice guy, however.
We went back to sea later and headed to Morehead City
, NC. We spent one night in the ICW behind Cape Fear (Jeeze, they moved that channel, by the way), at Wrightsville. We cued up for the bridge openning the next morning, and were called by the bridge operator who asked what our intentions were. When we said we were, with his permission, going through, he said that Homeland Security
requirements were that we provided him with our boat name and port of registry prior to being allowed through. We apologized, and provided him with the details. I tried to provide the same information at other bridges and they asked what it was all about. When I explained our previous "growling out", they said they had never heard of such a rule
At Morehead City
, we tried to call the 1-800 number we found on our older, 2004 permit
. It didn't work because Customs had purchased the cheaper 800 service
that doesn't work from foreign telephones (You can't make this stuff up). Ours used a Canadian service
provider so we couldn't use it. I guess foreign vessels who are required to call in before going ashore must go ashore to phone. We went ashore to find a public phone. Public phones don't really work anymore, so us foreigners have a rough time. We had some laughs at the state of the public phone booths in the area before asking a restaurant for the use of their phone. Not without some pleading, we got the phone, and called the number. They said that certainly we were supposed to call in. They said that if anybody asks, that we successfully spoke to Officer Bedbetter, and she said we were fine. The officer then hung up, as we realized she didn't have our names, the name of our boat, or the Cruising Permit number. Curious. We felt like we bothered her and her other officers with the call, and they just wanted rid of us.
We've decided not to try too hard to make everybody happy, because nobody seems to know what they are doing. It would be impossible to protect the coasts of Canada
and the US anyway, as the old rum-runner days and newer drug-running days proves, but at least everybody should be following the same procedures?!? It would also be nice if the procedures actually worked.
Us illegal foreigners will be going back to sea from Virginia probably on Thursday. Right now, we are waiting out the first storm of the season.