We had arrived the evening before, and still needed to clear into Peru, so at 0900 on Friday the 28th we left Sequitur in the anchorage in Paita and took the dinghy through the moored fishing fleet to the pier to find out how and where to begin the formalities..
There were many hundreds of small wooden boats, some open and some with tiny cabins. Most appeared to have half-a-dozen or more crew aboard, and on most of the boats, they appeared to actually be living aboard, with very little or no shelter and no facilities. The water in the harbour was full of flotsam and jetsam. We passed dozens of plastic bags, which seemed to be waiting to clog the raw water intakes of passing boats. We watched as people threw their garbage into the water, and at one point saw a pair of cheeks hung over the side. Who needs a bucket?
We arrived at the pier and secured our dinghy the float on its east side, and then we walked along the long pier to its head, where we saw the Oficiana de Tourisme. We went in and asked where we could find the Capitania de Puerto and whether they knew the check-in procedure. A couple of phone calls were made and we were asked to come back at 1300 for an appointment with someone who could help us.
We hadn't yet had breakfast; we had brought our computers ashore with us with the intention of finding an internet cafe. We asked for the location of some, but no one in the office was familiar with the concept of internet cafes, but we were told that there were many internet shops in the centre of town, off to our left. We asked where we could find a restaurant for breakfast, and were directed to the west side of town, to our right.
We headed off, stopping at an ATM outside a bank. There was a line-up of eight or ten people for the two machines, so we joined it. We were quickly 'promoted' up the line and soon found ourselves 'next'. The PIN view guards were broken off to afford a better view; it appears that most of the people in the line-up were criminals-in-waiting, watching for an opportunity. We withdrew some Peruvian Soles, which have an exchange rate of about 2.7 to the Canadian dollar, and then we continued on our way in search of a place to have breakfast.
After zigging and zagging and criss-crossing the western side of town without seeing any sign of any restaurants, we eventually back-tracked to the centre of town, where we began seeing internet shops and restaurants, The restaurants were all very basic, and most had no customers. Using our rule of local patronage, we entered one that had a few people in it, but it soon became apparent the people were the local women discussing and comparing their shopping finds with the staff, and none of the staff took any interest in us.
We went back to a place we had seen earlier that had two of its dozen or so tables occupied. From the menu we ordered the most expensive breakfast: grilled fish, two pieces of bread, juice and coffee. The juice that arrived was unidentifiable, and Edi couldn't get beyond the first sip of hers and I couldn't finish mine. The coffee was a cup of tepid water and a small cruet of mate syrup, there was a basket with four bread rolls placed on the table and we were served plates with a tiny piece of grilled fish, no more than 8 x 5 x 1 centimetres in size, accompanied by a thin slice of tomato on a few scrawny greens. This was the deluxe breakfast for 5 Soles, about $1.85.Canadian. The meal easily surpassed the previous worst we had ever had, and it was apparently their finest offering. The restaurant fully deserves our four-thumbs-down award. We would have gladly have paid much more for a proper breakfast, but we could find none available in Paita.
We went off to select an internet booth. The first few we tried could not comprehend the concept of our having our own computers, and they were unable to accommodate our wish to plug-in to their connection. Nowhere could we find any shop with wifi, and eventually we settled on balancing my computer on a keyboard drawer and having the proprietor root around behind the station's computer to dig out the ethernet cable for me to plug into my laptop. By the time Edi and I had done our emails, and I had downloaded the 180-hour wind and sea state charts, it was time to head back to our 1300 appointment.
Back in the Tourist Office we were met by a small delegation, and with them we walked over to City Hall and were escorted past the guards and up the stairs to meet with the assistant to the Mayor, Ricardo Griva. He spoke rather good English, and from him we learned that the delegation accompanying us was composed of Tourist Office employees who were trying to learn what to do with visiting boaters. It seemed as if we were the first sailboat to visit the city in a very long time.
Once Roberto was appraised of our need to clear into Peru with Migracion, Aduana, Capitan de Puerto and whoever else wanted a piece of the bureaucratic action, he took us across the city's central square to the Capitania. There he arranged a meeting with the Capitan de Puerto, who told us we needed to go to the Autoridad Portuaria Nacional. Roberto escorted us up through another square and along the narrow streets for ten or twelve blocks to the APN, and introduced us to the Jefe de Oficina, Luis Antonio Bodero Coelho.
Luis spoke no English, but had a passable command of French, so we communicated in French. He told us we needed an agent to do our clearing-in process, and he called one for us. He also told us that Customs wanted us to leave town as soon as we were cleared in, because we had not informed then in advance of our arrival. I told him we had attempted without any response to contact the Tramar and Guardia Costera daily at 0800 and 2000 since our crossing into the 200-mile zone of Peru. Luis intervened on our behalf on the telephone with the Customs bureaucrat, and there was much heated, agitated and loud interchange. Finally, at the end of a long shouting match and after calling the fellow an "idioto", he hung-up in disgust.
We had told Luis that the purpose of our visit to Paita was to refuel, and we asked him for his recommendation of a fuelling facility. He called Roberto Guzman Amayo, the manager of the fuel barge, Chata Tamy, and within twenty minutes Roberto arrived. He spoke excellent English and told us his diesel cost 10.80 Soles per US gallon, which converts to about $1.05 Canadian per litre. We discovered his barge was moored only a couple of cables away from Sequitur in the anchorage, and we arranged to refuel the next afternoon. They took only cash, so we would need to raid the bank machines with our collection of cards to get sufficient to pay.
Liliana Huancayo, the driving force behind the clearance agency, Port Logistics arrived and was introduced to us. She outlined to us the process we must follow to be cleared-in, and went over the details of its cost, which was US$983. This was for port fees, Customs fees, Immigration fees, sanitation fees, her fees and fees to whomever else had managed to find a way to extort money from visiting boaters. The fees had to be paid in US dollars, cash only. We had seen earlier in the day that the bank machines dispense your choice of Soles or US dollars, but with the low daily limits of the machines, we needed to do a counter transaction.
Liliana flagged a motocab, a small motorcycle with a rickshaw carriage as its rear end, and we squeezed in to be bounced, joggled and shimmied through the crowded streets to the local branch of Scotia Bank. Inside, we finally convinced a teller to get a supervisor to get an accountant to process a US$1,000 withdrawal. We squeezed into another motocab and were jostled up the hill to Liliana's office, which is the front room of her house.
She sat at her computer, juggled two cell phones, a land line and a walkie-talkie as she filled and printed forms. An hour or so into this process, an Immigration officer arrived and from his canvas bag brought out blank forms, rubber stamps and ink pads. He stamped forms he had filled-out by hand, including visas, plus forms Liliana gave him, and who knows what all. Then he left.
Next came the official from the Ministerio de Salud, and he and Liliana had a long discussion, after which he began filling-out multi-copy forms from two pads in his binder. When he had completed the forms, but before he signed and stamped them , Liliana asked me for the $983 and from it paid the sanitation officer for his "visit" to our boat and for his agricultural, pest, vermin and health inspection of it. He pocketed, signed, stamped and left.
Liliana then generated and printed another bunch of forms, and we piled into a motocab and hurtled down the hill, back to the APN office. By this time it was nearly 1730, and we sat waiting as a uniformed official hunted-and-pecked his way through an online form, inputting data from our Ship Registry certificate, our Radio Station License, our passports and from the forms that Liliana had given him. When he had finally completed the online form, he hit "clear" instead of "print". It was 1830, and the receptionist and file clerk were waiting to leave as the official began once more completing the online form. He told the ladies they could shut-down the office and go home. Just short of 1900, when he had again completed the form, he tried to print it only to realize that the office internet had been shut-down. He didn't know how to turn it back on. We were asked to come back the next day.
Liliana's husband, Santiago escorted us back down to the waterfront and out the pier, where we were introduced to a boatman, and were told he would taxi us out to Sequitur and bring us back in in the morning. We told him we had a dinghy secured to the float at the end of the pier, and to illustrate our limited Spanish, we walked over to the edge to look down on the dinghy and point it out to him. The dinghy wasn't there.
We did a thorough search, in case someone had moved it out of the way, but found no trace of it. We asked some of the boaters and standers-by if they had seen it and Santiago asked around, all with no positive results. As we headed back in the pier and walked along to the Capitania to report the theft, Santiago called Liliana by cell phone, and she met us at the guarded gates. We were given access, trading our driver's licenses for passes, and shortly were received by a young Coast Guard lieutenant with very good English. I had him note the theft of the dinghy and its motor, and he agreed to my suggestion that I return in the morning with a detailed written report.
We walked back to the pier with Liliana and Santiago and as we went, reorganized the next day. We were taxied back out to Sequitur, arriving shortly after 2100 drained of energy and with our moods tainted by the events of the day. Added to that, we were thirsty and hungry, having had nothing to eat or drink except for the pitiful little breakfast so many hours before. We were disappointed by the lack of facilities for visitors, saddened by atmosphere of crime in the town and although there were some bright lights, overall we were disgusted by the official incompetence and corruption.
Back onboard, I prepared tarragon chicken with basmati rice and butter-sweated carrots, onions and poblanos and we made our way through a bottle of Bolger Petit Syrah and snifters of Torres brandy, trying to replenish our bodies and drain our disappointments. I then sat down at the computer and started to write a report on the theft of the dinghy and motor.
On Saturday morning I finished writing the report, complete with inserted photos of the dinghy and its motor. I printed three copies and we went up to the cockpit to have breakfast and to wait for our boat to the pier. Daylight showed us that Sequitur had been stripped of various deck accessories. These were most likely taken while we were ashore on Friday. Among the things missing were the life ring, the automatic lifebuoy light, the boat hooks and the universal deck tool handle. Fortunately, the liferaft, the stern line reel, the sail sheets and the second and third anchors were still in place.
Thirty-five minutes after it was due, the workboat arrived, and after the skipper picked-up a giant squid from a fishing boat, he deposited us at the foot of a ladder at the end of the pier, and we walked to the head, where we were to meet Liliana. While Edi waited there, I headed to the Capitania to tender the report, and was told they would compose an official letter to attach to it, which would take half an hour. I could wait or come back, so I headed back over to the pier to join Edi in waiting for Liliana's 1000 rendezvous with us. Shortly after 1100, with still no Liliana, we went back over to the Capitania to pick-up my copy of the 'official' signed and stamped letter and attached report.
We then walked over to the APN office to see whether the form from the previous afternoon and evening had finally been printed. The uniformed minion phoned Liliana for us, and shortly Santiago arrived and with him we jostled up the hill in a motocab to Liliana's office, where she was in the throes of creating even more paperwork on our behalf. As we waited, Liliana's son, Felix came out to the office from the back of the house, and was introduced to us.
Felix is 23 years old and is part-way through an engineering degree in computer science at the University in Piura, 50 or so kilometres inland from Paita. At the same time, he is teaching IT programs. His English is limited, but we were able to carry-on a very pleasant discussion with him while Liliana worked at the computer. He is a highly enthusiastic and spirited young man, with a gentle soul; it was refreshing to meet him.
The previous day we had told Liliana that we needed to buy fresh produce, and she said she would take us to the local market. So, after she had finished her latest paperwork, Edi and I piled into a motocab with her and we were off on another race through the streets. We bounced up a street lined with non-stop rows of ramshackle market stalls for what seemed half-a-kilometre, and then we turned into a narrow lane lined with slightly less flimsy stalls and corrugated tin roofs. We passed a couple of obvious entrances, and stopped at a third.
Liliana told us to sling our backpacks around to the front and hold them tightly as she led us into the market. She took us past many fruit stalls without stopping or even slowing, and then presented us at the front of a very nice selection. With the assistance of her translation, the stall owner dug-out firm, slightly green produce from under the tables and we had soon built a substantial pile of avocadoes, mangos, kiwis, mandarins, miniature bananas and a nice big papaya, The total came to 11 Soles, about $4.
Liliana then led us through the passages to another 'building' that appeared to be mostly vegetable stalls. We bypassed dozens of nice looking ones before she brought us to a halt in front of her favourite. Again she engaged the owner to assist us in picking-out a nice selection, including carrots, tomatoes, green and red peppers, peas in the pod and a couple of varieties of small new potatoes. He threw in a couple of small red peppers, and when I asked him if they were caliente, he nodded, but indicated not excessively so.
We loaded ourselves and our produce into a motocab and trundled back down the hill, and across and up to Liliana's office, where we picked-up some documents and bounced our way back down to the APN office. Liliana took the now finally printed form from the previous afternoon and evening's episode and sat at an office computer apparently to generate and print yet another document from it. This was duly signed and stamped.
With this we motocabbed back up the hill to the office and sat chatting with Felix while Liliana punched away at the computer, causing it to generate even more paper. Then with Felix and me in one and Liliana and Edi in another motocab, we chicaned our way back down the hill to the centre of town, and stopped in front of a bank so Edi and I could use our cards once again to extract sufficient additional Soles to pay for the diesel fuel. Again, there was a line-up in front of the two machines, and again we were quickly promoted by the robbers-in-waiting up the line to near its head.
With our stash of Soles secured, we hopped back into the waiting cabs and went to the head of the pier. Liliana and Felix accompanied us as we walked out the pier, and for the workboat ride out to Sequitur, so we invited them aboard for a visit. While the workboat waited, we shared coffee and a small platter of cheeses and sliced salami.
When I asked Liliana if we were now free to leave, she said no, there was still more paper; we still needed our zarpe. It would be brought out to us only after we had finished fuelling. It seems the belligerent Customs official wanted to ensure that we did in fact need fuel. Apparently, he was still miffed by our arriving in Paita unannounced, even although we had called to both Tramar and to the Guardia Costera twice daily, as required since we entered the 200-mile zone. It seems it was our fault that they had replied to none of our VHF and SSB radio calls.
Liliana and Felix took the workboat back in to the pier and Edi and I prepared Sequitur for sea. At 1522 we weighed anchor and motored the two cables or so over to the fuel barge Tamy to refuel. The anchor came up fouled with several pieces of line, a piece of net, a length of rubber hose and clumps of seaweed. I left the anchor a-cockbill as we slowly stemmed the 18 knot wind and ebbing tide and approached Tamy while timing her swing on her mooring. Tamy is only 7 or 8 metres in length, and since our diesel fills are both on the starboard side aft, we secured with half our length beyond the fuel barge, and with our mooring lines straining in the wind we twisted Tamy on her mooring. This seemed of no concern to the barge operator.
We took on 184.6 US gallons (698 litres) of diesel for 1994 Soles and then at 1610 slipped our lines and went back over to the anchorage to await the arrival of our zarpe. While we were letting go the anchor, as we put the transmission astern the engine quit. I attempted to restart it, but it would not cooperate. The wind was strong enough to give us sufficient sternway, so using the wind we came to 25 metres on the Rocna in 8.4 metres of water.
Once I was satisfied of the security of our anchorage, I began to troubleshoot the engine problem. There was no electricity to the keyed start switch. I tried the batteries. The multi-meter showed that both the engine and the generator start batteries were well-charged, and that their selection and combining switches worked. There was current to the starter. I was in the throes of digging into the wiring behind the start switch when a workboat arrived with Liliana and a couple of uniformed men with the zarpe.
I told Liliana we couldn't start the engine, and we unable to leave until we could resolve the problem. I continued to troubleshoot for nearly an hour without much progress. I needed assistance and told Liliana I needed an electrician. By this time it was nearly 1900, and she phoned to organize one for the next morning, Sunday. Then she, the two uniforms and the unsigned zarpe left in the workboat.
At 0820 on Sunday morning Liliana arrived in a workboat with an electrician and his assistant, and I quickly introduced the situation to them. They began a systematic run through the cables and wiring harnesses, and by 1140 had tracked-down a loose connection behind the main distribution panel, restored it and I was able to restarted the engine. We then tested the systems a couple of times to ensure all was well.
I then went ashore in the workboat with the Liliana and the electricians so that I could do yet another run on the bank card to pay for the work. Liliana led us to a bank machine, where there was the usual milling group of criminals-in-waiting, and I withdrew some more US dollars. At Liliana's direction, I paid the electrician's agent/manager US140 for the more than three hours of work plus travel time on a Sunday morning. The electrician was a very skilled and diligent worker, and by North American standards, I considered his fee to be a bargain, the only bargain we had seen here.
We were met at the bank machine by Liliana's son Felix, and the three of us climbed into a motocab and bounced up the streets to a bakery. On Saturday I had mentioned to Felix that it was Edi's birthday; he had ordered a cake, and we were there to pick it up. While Liliana went off to generate more paper, Felix and I with cake box in hand motocabbed back down to the waterfront, clambered down the ladder to the workboat and headed back out to Sequitur.
Edi and Felix and I spent a delightful hour and more chatting, sharing much more than just the coffee and cake. Felix is such a lively spirit, but we fear that with his openness and enthusiasm, and his rather apparent innocence, he will quickly be taken advantage of. We suggested he needs to travel outside of Peru, that he needs to gain a different perspective of the world. A few months in London, for instance, to polish his English would do wonders for his education. His eyes lit-up at these suggestions; possibly a seed has been planted.
At 1310 Liliana arrived with two uniformed men, and after a brief signing session, we were issued our zarpe. We were now free to leave Paita and continue on to Callao. Free that is, once I had paid the workboat owner for his water taxi service. He asked for US$240, and I inquired at how he had come to such a figure. A long discussion ensued and I eventually gave him $98. We bade farewell to Liliana and Felix, and turned to preparing Sequitur for the 500-mile passage to Callao.
We had arrived in Paita enchanted by the aliveness, the vibrancy and the colour of the fishing fleet. Enchanted by the hustle and bustle of the community of hundreds of boats rafted together in lines of a dozen, two dozen or more, row upon row, each boat with its crew of six or eight cleaning themselves and their boat from the trip just ended, or preparing for the one to shortly come. We left seeing dens of thieves and offices of organized extortionists hiding behind their bureaucratic positions.
The city of Paita has a population of 55,000 or 60,000, but as far as we could see, we were the only 'visitors' in town; we were certainly the only visiting sailboat. The lack of visitors is most likely because there are no facilities for outsiders, and that there are no facilities is likely an extension of the city's uninviting atmosphere. We felt preyed-upon, we felt used, we felt that we were seen only as owners of money to extort and of goods and equipment to steal. The history of Paita shows that in the 17th and 18th centuries it was a favourite haven for pirates, and to us they have not yet left.