A Run In with US Immigration
I should have read the signs. I didn’t spot them.
Mistake number 1.
On arriving in the American islands of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands you are not allowed to dispose of any rubbish. It must be kept on board (even if it’s a plastic bottle or an empty tin can) and someone has to come out and collect it for a fee. This is for the protection of ???? species of plants and animals against disease. We paid a visit to the marina office so that we could check in and use their phone to call the number we had been given by the coastguard. I decided to throw away the rubbish on route.
The people at the other end of the line didn’t really understand why we were calling but in the end they told us that we were to bring the boat alongside to the fuel dock and await an immigration officer. We were not allowed to leave the boat. Shortly an officer arrived and she asked to come aboard and inspect the boat. She asked about our rubbish (luckily we still had some on board), but we also thought it best not to lie so I did admit that I had taken some off. She said this was illegal and normally resulted in a $500 fine, but she could see that it had been a genuine mistake so she wrote us a warning and waivered the fine.
We had been reading through (lampooning) “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Passages South: The Thorn less Path” by Bruce Van Sant to find helpful tips for sailing through the Caribbean against the trade winds. He promised us that if we followed his every word then our voyage would be one of calm wonderment. So far we must have been doing something wrong as it had been anything but. His premise was that it would blow for a few days and then calm down to a steady 15 knots when we could kick back in our bikinis and sip on a gin and tonic every night at 5pm whilst at anchor. This seemed like the exotic cruising trip that we all wanted, but had yet to materialise. Fifteen knots of wind? We could but only dream. And what is that title all about, no women allowed on boats?
At last the winds died down and we made a plan to set sail. The French yachts had left a few days previously as they were heading down to Cuba and the winds were favourable. Being in Clarence Town for a week, we had got to know some people including a French/Canadian couple on a yacht called Cape Crusader. We agreed to sail along with them as they were heading in the same direction with roughly the same plan.
The trip down to the island of Mayaguana, a desolate island at the Southern tip of the Bahamas, was made with good progress, however it was incredibly windy and the seas were quite big. It was not a comfortable trip. We had separated from Cape Crusader during the night but we spotted them near the island and radioed that we were going to rest for a few hours before heading overnight to the Turks and Caicos Islands. They anchored close by and we made some dinner before putting our heads down for a few hours. There was such a swell coming in that the boat pitched from side to side sending us into the wall of the boat or squashed up against the lee cloths. After a few futile hours we decided to get up and head off as none of us had got any sleep.