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Old 28-10-2009, 09:22   #1
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Have You Been Boarded ? Searched ?

What can one expect? I am well aware that each country has its own laws, which apply when in their waters... Have you ever been boarded/searched in international waters? -- I wonder, what are your experiences (be they good or bad) ??? also, where were you when this happened? Has your vessel been searched every time you clear in?

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Old 28-10-2009, 09:44   #2
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I was boarded 5 times in 4 months in Canada but only when I was on a dock or boat fits the profile for a boat running drugs up from the Caribbean...big with a Caribbean registration.

I was 'interviewed' by VHF by the USCG off Dominican Republic one dark night... the Coastie was running without lights but as I am not US registered and was in international waters he had no jurisdiction.

Searched for 2 hours in Cuba, 8 different officials, but they were only trying to up the ante on the 'bribes'. They seem to like flashlight batteries and were very polite and actually organized a dock and a mechanic for us

Otherwise 40,000 sea miles and 25 countries and not a bother.


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Old 28-10-2009, 09:51   #3
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Yes , 13 times, 6 times by the US coast guard, the last time the coast guard stop me in the way from bahamas to dominican republic about 30 miles from luperon, in the night , with wind and waves, another nasty one last year about 17 miles from Oporto Portugal , looking for boat papers , and because im delivery a catamaran from france and the owner dont have the final boat papers whe made the stop in Oporto to talk with customs.
Coast Guard people very friendly, but some times this people select the wrong time for a boarding, and the Spanish and Portuguese are very unpleasant for me.
Another nasty boarding in Cadiz Spain when I captained Angantyr a 61 ft steel cutter, after coming from azores the spanish coast guard stop me in the way to Gibraltar and scort me to Cadiz, and in Cadiz i find almost a battalion of Guardia Civil waiting for me, i be in jail for 1 night because the owner carry on board a lot of guns and the Guardia Civil just dont believe me that all the guns is for personal defense.
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Old 28-10-2009, 09:56   #4
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I was boarded off the west coast of Mexico by the USCG. They came along side in a big RIB, two boarded, both had green faces and patches due to sea sickness. They looked around and asked some questions. Looked inside the engine room/under the cockpit with a flashlight. Didnt stay long, told me if I returned to the US I would have to have a holding tank or a lock on the head door. Canada often comes inside the boat when checking in. My boat was boarded when checking in the DR. Once by about 5 guys. They were polite and asked if we had "coke" on board. I said yes but they were not cold. They looked surprised and confused, then I realized they meant drugs! (language barrier) I think two of the 5 were part of Drug Enforcement. We all laughed and I gave them a warm coke.. Once when I was in Martinique, the French Patrols came racing around in a big black RIB and were kicking people out of the harbor/country(?).... no one ever figured out why.... they didnt stop at our boat.... we had just arrived the day before. Most countries do not come on the boat in the Carribean. In Trini they definitely want you at the customs dock with a Q flag though...
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Old 28-10-2009, 10:22   #5
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Like anything else in life. Not all people are going to treat you the same doing the exact same job. Some will be polite, and respectful of your vessel while others are tiny tyrants with tinier minds.........i2f
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Old 28-10-2009, 17:05   #6
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Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
Like anything else in life. Not all people are going to treat you the same doing the exact same job. Some will be polite, and respectful of your vessel while others are tiny tyrants with tinier minds.........i2f
So too some cruisers treat officials with great respect as they do a difficult job. Nicolle always has a home cooked biscuit (cookie) for them and we have a big smile and don't treat them like an invasion.

Some cruisers, on the other hand have read some crappy book that says they are a captain of a sovereign blob of fibreglass and all Coast Guards etc are thugs and should be clearly told so.

Needless to say we seem to get by pretty well where some particular people have trouble in every port they go to!
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Old 28-10-2009, 17:29   #7
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Boarded by the USCG, yes. Searched by them, no. It was not a painful experience. Your attitude from the very beginning makes a huge difference in how you are treated. They have the option of making things painful. As with all human interactions, you are going to be treated better if you are likable.

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Old 28-10-2009, 17:53   #8
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Your attitude from the very beginning makes a huge difference in how you are treated.
They carry automatic weapons. They don't have to be nice but they generally are far more than just polite. It's the local wannabe DEA agents that can and do make a bad time of it. You still don't have a choice. Being nice is all there is left in the bag o'tricks. Given they are not out to rob you, giving them what they require (a bit of your time) is not that much to ask.

The universe can shrink to the cockpit of your boat. What you think about the whole context at the moment isn't very important from a personal view. Your ideals and political inclinations are moot. Setting aside everything tends to help you get to the chase scene where they ride off looking for someone else.

"Sorry, can't possibly be me. Here, have a cookie!" Sounds like a plan to me. If the cookies were fresh it might pay dividends the next day or two. Officials remember nice people more than bad people. It's part of the training. It's the way the real world is. Most people don't deal with only nice people all day. Something about someone else always being right.
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Old 28-10-2009, 18:17   #9
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We were boarded in the BVI last year just as we anchored, with our yellow Q flag flying, near the customs office. They came aboard and looked around for drugs, opening up doors, draws and luggage to see if they could get a score but after a few minutes of finding nothing they left. They were not overly rude but were not friendly either.

We also got followed by a French patrol boat while sailing past Martinique last year but after they tailed us for awhile and talked with us on the VHF they decided to leave us alone.
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Old 28-10-2009, 18:46   #10
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We've been boarded by the USCG 4 or 5 times, once by Canada Customs guys dressed up as fishermen, and twice by the Mexican Coast Guard. It always pays to be nice.
They're just doing their job.

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Old 28-10-2009, 18:46   #11
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Boarded once by the USCG near Pensacola, FL 5 guys in a large orange RIB. They called on the VHF and asked if any weapons on board told them yes, they said to slow to idle speed, one held a huge fender as two boarded, unloaded the handguns and hid the ammunition. Checked the boat Documentation, PFDs and had a look around not a full blown search by any means, they gave me a copy of the report and said if we were boarded again within a year to show it and there should be no problem. As they left they told me where the ammunition was (under the bed pillow). Young guys very nice yet professional.
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Old 28-10-2009, 19:33   #12
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Given your log-in name, I would have guessed that you have had much experience with boardings. Semper paratus is of course, always prepared, and the code of Coasties. I did a lot of boardings when I was in, we tried to be as nice as possible and really did appreciate it when the boardees were nice. I remember one time in the Carribbean when a couple offered us margaritias when we boarded them. Nothing could have been more sweet on a long deployment, though we couldnt partake. Just be nice and they will make it fast and easy, unless the boarding officer is a jerk, which some are.
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Old 28-10-2009, 20:34   #13
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We had only one boarding while underway: off Santa Martha in Colombia. Despite out bad Spanish and the officers bad English, it was a pleasant experience. They started with asking permission to come aboard, which is something we hear is getting rare.
They asked us our route and sent a go-fast rib every day to find us and wave to check if all is okay. We were very impressed.

At anchor we have been boarded many times and it was never really unpleasant but once it was 4 am in Curacao which was a bit of an odd time for us ;-)

While docked we have been boarded in PR and in Panama (the only two places we ever docked...) They almost put us in jail in PR because we had decided not to wait for a new US visa in the DR for 7 months (!!!). But $400.- bought is a single-entry 6-month visa waiver ($200 per person and US cruisers complain about a $300 charge for the complete boat+crew in the Bahama's!!). The visa would "only" have cost us $250 total but 7 months waiting was unacceptable. The officers were nice enough btw.

Later along the south coast of PR we were harassed by the PR version of the USCG at night but the guides had warned us about that happening often there. They didn't board but deliberately steered within 20-30 feet with their spotlight on. No running lights, no VHF contact. We had to tack for a reef (always sailing upwind) while they were under our bow but they made it out of that tight spot without damage and left soon after. This was in 2003.

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Old 28-10-2009, 21:17   #14
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Got boarded by the Indian Navy in the Andaman Islands (Indian Ocean) once. Quite funny actually. They had a tick sheet of things they were obviously supposed to check. The conversation went something along the lines of:

(bear in mind there was 3 of us and 2 cats on an old beat up Roberts 36ft steely)

How many cannon? - er..none
How many stowaways? er.. none
How many died at sea? none
Show me your engine room ...'s under that step
What is your cargo? don't have any
You don't have any cargo? no...
Do you have any livestock? no..
You have cats....yes, we have cats
They are not livestock?... I'm not sure, I don't think so
Then you will need a monkey permit.....a what? What for?
The cats. If your cats aren't livestock they require a monkey permit
OK, the cats are livestock then...

And so it went on; 3 of us and 3 of them squashed around a tiny table in the cabin until they had gone through their list. We signed it, they signed it and then with all serious said; "You will need a copy, do you have a photocopier"
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Old 29-10-2009, 01:25   #15
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I have not been boarded yet. I was cheated out of my turn when the boat they were looking for was spotted. The guy had about 20 illegals on a barboat chartered 40 footer.

I talked to him later. He got off easy because it was his first offense. jeeze

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