Check in proceedures
So when checking into a foreign port what is the general procedure? Now before some one says well it differed from place to place...... I know that but it can'r be all that different from place to place. There much be common steps to all of them
So what are they? Is you boat boarded and inspected every time etc, do you have to declare things
Is it possible to enjoy a country and never check in at all etc...
I've never done it so..
From limited experience as a guest on board in the Caribbean and Mexico:
Only the skipper goes ashore to clear customs. He/she must have ships' papers and passenger documentation in order. The cost of clearance and the logistics of doing so definitely differs from country to country. - maybe even from day to day and officer to officer in some cases.
The vessel should be under a yellow "Q" flag (and courtesy flag) until cleared in, after which the Q can be dropped. A vessel flying a Q flag in harbour may be boarded by local authorities if they are interested and well enough equipped to be patrolling. For that matter I suppose any visiting vessel may be boarded at any time depending, again, where you are. After doing the entire chain from St Maarten to Grenada we've never noticed any interest on the water from officials ( unless they were 'boat boys' undercover! ;)), though in Mexico the navy is far more obvious and active than in the smaller Caribbean nations who have little in the way of such assets.
However - visiting a foreign country/port without following proper clearing in procedures is to risk your entire situation unnecessarily. Your boat could well be seized and you'll at least be subject to a great deal more hassle and formalities and red tape (and cost) if you're caught than by following the rules. If no one sets foot ashore, it may be possible to anchor and move on without checking in... but again you should have the courtesy and Q flag flying.
It is equally important to properly 'clear out' and some countries won't let you in without proof that the last place you visited is aware that you've left. Occasionally this has required all passengers to attend the customs office in person and present your own documentation.
Flying in to join sailors is always interesting.. a standard question at the airport will be 'where are you staying?' and of course the majority will name some hotel or resort.. now you have to spell the boats name, indicate where it is, how long you'll be in country, etc etc..which can be interesting because we're not always aware of our hosts' plans....
My wife does the checking in...we only 'yellow flag' it if we just stop for fuel or a night's anchorage. Anything more is an abuse of the country you are visiting.
Her rules are:
She is always polite and professional
'If asked "where is the Captain" she replies, "I am" and shows her USCG Master's license.
Her forms are correct and legible.
She always has the correct change in US and local.
She treats them with respect and after 3 yrs and 25 countries not a single port authority has done anything but treat her as a fellow professional.
Her technique for boarding is to put on her Grandma hat on the theory that young CG guys would never harass someone that looks like Grandma!! and could wup their ass with one hand.
We've cleared in several places in the Caribbean, but mostly in the Virgin Islands. There are definitely different practices between the BVI and USVI. In the BVI the captain goes in alone with ships papers and forms filled out and signed by everyone aboard (including kids) along with passports.
Checking into the USVI, everyone must appear in person.
Something to keep in mind: The importation of fruits and vegetables is an issue, certainly in the USVI. Don't try to bring a Florida orange that you purchased in the BVI, back into the US!
Can I make a quarentine flag or just buy one some place.
Regarding "Is it possible to enjoy a country and never check in at all etc..."
Customs and Immigration in the USVI will not be happy if they know you came ashore without checking in first. That includes a fuel/water stop at the marina across from the customs dock before checking in at Cruz Bay, St. John.
As a general rule, these are the different offices that you may be required to check into:
In quite some countries the very first step. You may not be allowed to 'move around' until cleared by quarantine.
Normally with a complete crew list and all passports.
For declaration of taxable goods, arms etc if any.
Boat declaration with boat documents and in some cases even valid insurance documentation!!
Check entry procedure BEFORE entering as some countries demand a pre-waning like Australia. Just showing up on the doorstep there may send you straight to jail!!!!!!!
Another thing to check out before entering is that you enter in a 'port of entry'.
If sailing in the Andaman Sea, and traveling from Thailand/Malaysia, you have to go almost all the way to India, it is only one 'port of Entry'!!
In general the Caribbean islands are quite 'relaxed' except for the US territories!!
The Pacific likewise except for the 'Tuamoto' with Marquesas and Tahiti. Be prepared to post a 'bond' equal to a one way ticked to home country for ALL crew!! You get it back when leaving, but in useless old Franc!!
In Europe , you may come and go most places withing the Schengen area, just by checking into one country, but note that UK is not a Schengen member.
A non-EU boat may only stay for a limited time, or you risk to be taxed heavily!!
Unfortunately the 'freedom of the seas' is not quite what it used to be.
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