Clearing into Curacao
28 February 2008 | Williamstad
We dinghied over to the Fisherman's marina this morning to look for transport into town. We ended up taking a bus from the circle a short walk away. The locals here are amazing, much as in Bonaire, they speak Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish and often English. With a little help from the locals we ended up in Punda, the south bank of Williamstad.
Our first order of business today was to clear into Curacao. While we always try to respect the laws of the countries we visit I must admit that we have found very few countries that care if you, or even give you the ability to, comply with the strict nature of the clearance procedures set forth. In fact the customs and immigration requirements often conflict. Only the captain can come ashore but the entire crew must be present types of things.
I know cruisers who press the officials for proper procedures, paperwork and promptness, these generally get hammered. There are also those who never clear in, these almost never have problems. We have found that making clearance the first thing you do ashore and bringing the entire crew along seems to be a practical approach acceptable to all parties. If they ask you to come back after lunch, go have lunch. If they are closed, enjoy your day and come back tomorrow. The bigger the boat the more detail oriented you need to be and if you are commercial (i.e. 120 foot motor yacht on charter) you should follow things to the letter. Most places just want to get the little pleasure boats out of their hair as quickly as possible. Exceptions would be the USA, back water bureaucracies, and island groups that make a living off of the small yachts.
The folks in Curacao were very nice but you do have to run around a bit to hit all of the stops. First is customs, a large corner building right on the waterfront with CUSTOMS written in huge letters across the top of the building. Stinky in there for some reason, but folks were great and services was fast. Next is Immigration, located on the other shore inside the inner harbor cruise ship docking area, back under the Queen Juliana Bridge (the really high one). You cross the innovative opening/floating Queen Emma poontoon bridge to get to the other side of town.
You have to get a pass to go down into the cruise ship port but service is good. After immigration you head across to the upstairs Port Captain's office. Like Bonaire everything is free. The hassle in Curacao is that yachts are really only welcome in Spanish Water. If you want to anchor out and about you have to clear your itinerary with the Port Captain. You also need to take care about timing your clearance out because immigration keeps shorter hours than the other two offices.
Hideko and Em shopped and looked around the town while I handled the paperwork. Once complete we had a nice meal in the impressive traditional surroundings of the Governor across from the cruise ship forum entrance. We had a fun day exploring town and took a cab back to the Fisherman's marina at the end of the day.