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Namani at Sea
The travels of Nana, Markus and Nick aboard Namani
Eastern Caribbean Wrap-up
Nana & Markus
02-May-2008, Puerto del Rey, Puerto Rico

As the end of our stay in Puerto Rico approaches, it's time to wrap up our Eastern Caribbean circuit... we had a wonderful four months of cruising up and down the islands and were lucky enough to also to share this with friends. On the sail from Anguilla to Culebra we brainstormed our personal little "best of" list for the Eastern Caribbean which can be found here. We also added a new album to the photo gallery, covering the stretch from Antigua to Puerto Rico. It is sad to leave these lovely, friendly islands behind and face the long haul north now, but as a friend advised, we are trying to avoid "protracted Sunday night blues". After all, we still have 3 months of our sabbaticals left and more islands and ports to explore ahead.

During our first week here in Puerto del Rey on the east coast of Puerto Rico, Nana's mother visited and we got to see some of the island by rental car, including a ferry trip to Vieques (Markus also paid a visit to the Bahamas to get a visa for the US, see previous post). The second week here has been mostly taken up by getting the boat ready for the trip to Maine, working down the to-do list that we had postponed until we were in a marina again (rigging repairs, re-aligning the engine, ...). Luckily, our friends from Arearea caught up with us again this week, so got to enjoy some time with them as well. It is wonderful to see Nicky reunited with Dante as we are still very lonely for Sea Bright (they are currently in Panama, awaiting a slot to transit the canal).

Our friend Bill who will join us for part of the way north will arrive here on Saturday May 3rd and - weather permitting - we plan to set sail on Sunday. Rather than going via Bermuda to Maine we now plan to go roughly northwest from here, along the Turks & Caicos and Bahamas to make landfall in Beaufort, North Carolina. From there it will be a couple of shorter hops (200-400nm) up the East Coast to get us to Portland, Maine, hopefully by the first week of June. While May is generally considered a good month for a passage to Bermuda, the second leg from Bermuda to Maine would likely have been a game of luck, especially since it also involves crossing the Gulf Stream at its widest point. We looked at some historical data (hourly observations from weather buoys) for May 2005 and 2006 and in those years it would have been a real challenge to find a suitable weather window for a Bermuda-Maine passage on our little family cruiser (we've posted the data here if you're interested). While the alternative route along the Bahamas and up the US East Coast is considerably longer than the Bermuda-Maine option, it does provide a number of ports along the way that we can pull into if we need to wait out some bad weather.

We'll keep you posted along the way - stay tuned...

03 - Caribbean Cruising
02-May-2008, Puerto del Rey, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Bahamas

Last week, I finally got my B1/B2 visa to re-enter the US legally, after quite an odyssey...

On our frequent visits to the US over the past years I had always entered the country on a visa waiver (i.e. without a visa). Before we left Germany, we checked the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security websites to make sure that the Visa Waiver Program also covers entry by sea, which, according to those agencies' websites, it does. Little did we know...

It was only on our way north from Antigua that we found some small print in an old pilot book that said yes - you can enter on a visa waiver by air and by sea but not if you're coming on a private sailboat (it turns out that the carrier needs to be certified, which the major air and cruise lines are) - in which case you need a visa to be obtained from a US embassy/consulate outside the US. So we started exploring our options while we were in St. Kitts, calling US Embassies and trying to figure out where to get the visa. Interestingly, the first thing you hear when you call an US Embassy with a question about visas these days is "This is a 15 Dollar phone call - can I have your credit card details please" (the prices vary by country: Germans pay 15 Euro, Aussies only AUS$ 11 - about half the price - probably a surcharge for chocolate producing countries...). After considerably frustration about phones not being answered and inconsistent information from different sources, it seemed that the only way to get the visa before entering Puerto Rico was for me to fly back to Germany and go the US Embassy in Berlin (the closest US Embassy in Barbados had a 30 day waiting period for visas at that point).

We had already resigned ourselves to a trip back to the fatherland from St. Maarten (airport with direct flights to Europe), when Nana's mother saved the day. She was able to get through to the 1-800 number for Customs and Border Protection in the US. She found out that there is a special waiver I-193 that can be granted by the customs officer on entry into US territory. At US$ 545 it's not exactly cheap but still better than the airfare to Germany... So we called ahead to customs in Puerto Rico to verify that this information was indeed correct. The CBP folks in Puerto Rico were the first ones in this process who were really helpful and confirmed that yes - you can apply for this waiver. Approval is up to a CBP supervisor but under normal circumstances it would be granted.

Relieved that we didn't have to deal with going back to Germany we now went ahead and arrived in Puerto Rico on April 18 where we were visited by two friendly CBP officers aboard Namani. We explained the situation (which they apparently encounter frequently with boats from Europe) and it was decided that we should come to their office at the local airport the next day to sort this out. At the airport we then spent about four hours with another very friendly and helpful CBP officer who was trying to find some way within this arcane set of rules to get me legally entered into the country without paying 500 bucks. After much debating it turned out that officially I was a still a permanent resident in the US - based on a Green Card that was stolen in 2004 when we had been back in Germany for three years. We had reported the card stolen to the US State Department back then but I never officially resigned my resident status (I didn't know that there was another special form I-407 for this...). Hence in the CPB systems I still showed up as a permanent resident - free to enter the US at any time and by any means... So I was entered as a permanent resident and then immediately resigned my resident status. Now I was allowed to stay in US territory as long as I wanted but as soon as I left I would need a visa to re-enter.

So in the end I got an appointment for a visa interview at the US Embassy in the Bahamas (only a 2-day wait period) and made a 4-day trip there (with an overnight flight lay-over in Florida plus waiting for the visa to be issued) to finally get my B1/B2 visa that will now allow multiple entries into US territory. At least the visa is valid for 10 years now ...

03 - Caribbean Cruising
New video footage
27-Apr-2008, Puerto del Rey, Puerto Rico

Some more short video clips taken over the past few weeks...

The first and most recent one of our sail from Anguilla to Culebra with a voice over from Markus

Next the daily ritual of listening to Chris Parker's weather forecast at 7 am over breakfast (this one taken while at anchor off St. Kitts)...

And lastly, Markus helming and munching away between Barbuda and St. Kitts...

03 - Caribbean Cruising

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