25 December 2010
We had not checked into Customs yet even though we had entered Bahamas two days ago. But we had not been ashore an we were flying the "quarantine flag" so we were ok. The issue of the extent of the visitors visa provided to cruisers has been a significant debate on cruisers forums this year. Previously, cruisers were able to routinely get visas of 180 days, more than sufficient to cover the winter three to four months most stay in the Bahamas. But apparently this year a number of cruisers have reported that they were only given 30 day visas, which requires them to reapply or leave the Bahamas. Others have reported 60 or 90 day visas and there has been no consistency as to where you check in.
I find this not only disturbing and potentially inconvenient but, particularly given the continuing difficult economic climate here as in the US and elsewhere, inconceivable that they would make it difficult for cruising tourists to visit and spend money here.
We had it in mind to clear in Nassau which would mean not putting ashore until then but I heard that there is a possibility of getting the manager of the small "Berry Island Club" here at Fraziers' Hog to drive us to the airport on neighbouring Chub Cay where there is a small Customs and Immigration Office. So, we make arrangements and Roger and I engage the manager to drive us in his atv to the airport. We are armed with the many many forms which have to be filled out an the numerous ships documents which have to be proffered. After much stamping of documents, filling forms in duplicate and answering questions, we eventually are granted 180 day visas. Now the only problem left is clearing Chopin.
It's much more onerous getting him in than it is us, our boat and our supplies but he is finally listed along with our dinghy and outboard as ancillary items to our boat. Chopin would be thoroughly disgusted if he knew that from a bureaucratic perspective he enjoys the same stature as a Yamaha 8 hp outboard!
Anyway, we're relieved and return to our boats armed with many additional documents. We take down our quarantine flags (a yellow flag, signifying the marine code, letter "q") and can now roam around freely in this wonderful, if bureaucratically constipated country