Our Friendly Neighbours
28 March 2011
With apologies to our many friends and fellow cruisers from the US, I have to say that our entries back to the US have been anything but easy and cordial. It’s kind of like a moving target and you never quite know how you’ll be treated of what you’ll have to do to get back in.
But as a good law abiding Canadian, I immediately hoist the “Q” (quarantine) flag as soon as we anchor in West Palm Beach and activate my cell phone. I immediately call Immigration and report in. The officer is curt but professional and takes our relevant information and issues me a fifteen digit clearance number but informs me that we have to present ourselves in person to Immigration within 24 hours. I plea that this is almost impossible as we are on a boat at anchor and the usual office we go to just off the waterfront is closed for the weekend; we would have to take a cab to the airport, many miles away and leave the boat unattended in a busy and turbulent harbour. He tells me that this the way it I but I can call the folks at the airport and see if I can make some other arrangement.
I call them and get an agent who obviously is going to cut me absolutely no slack so I have to get very impudent and tell her that as far as I’m concerned this is no way to treat her neighbours to the north; particularly where we’ve unwittingly found ourselves in this situation by trying to comply with the arcane and mind-numbing regulations which appear to be more fluid than the sand bores of the Bahamas. She finally transfers me to her supervisor, who at first is equally intractable but eventually understands our predicament and finally agrees to send agents down to the closest marina to clear us in the next morning (Sunday). I push the envelope and ask if they’ll also do our buddy boat, Audacious. He’s a little put our but agrees. He warns not to publicize this (as I’m doing now) because he suggests that the cruising community is a close knit one and this particular treatment will get around. Anyway, we’re relived and head to bed happy to be back on continental soil but already missing the Bahamas.
This anchorage is a far cry from the fantastic places we’ve been over the past three and a half months. Contrast the secluded, uninhabited islands and Cay with multitudinous beaches, pristine inlands and gracious and simple but wily inhabitants to Lake Worth South where on one side we have huge mansions with mega yachts tied up along side and on the other, freighters, barges, dredges and the “Great Hum” of the incessant drone of machinery, factories, population and transportations. The cultural shock is profound.
We sleep in the next day and don’t even bother to listen to the weather forecast as we normally do each morning at 6:30 but as promised I get a call on my cell around 9:30 from a Customs and Border Patrol buy who on orders from his supervisor (the one I mentioned I spoke to yesterday) was arranging for us to rendezvous with him at the marina. We agreed to meet at 10:00. We assemble our ships’ papers and Roger and I head in to do the check in. At first we are greeted by an office who has a canine member in his SUV. He is professional and tells us that the officers will be here shortly and will likely want us to take them back to our boats for an inspection. We have nothing illegal of illicit and are running very low on all supplies so we should have nothing to worry about but the anticipation of officers tromping through our boats is threatening. I’m even more worried if they take the drug dog on board; we don’t any illicit drugs but I would worry about his safety if Chopin gets a hold of him. (particulary if he sniffs out Chopin's stash of Catnip).
Soon a large truck with four officers comes up and ask us where our other ship mates (wives)are a they’re supposed to also present themselves. I was told this was unnecessary ad one office confirmed that he had told me by phone not to bring them in. They seemed a bit put out by this but proceeded to take our passports back to their vehicle and after what seemed to be an eternity, returned with our passports and wished us a pleasant day. I was some relived that I did not have to transport four burly offices and a German shepherd back to Sea Sharp!