Saturday, March 24, 2012

Passage to Montserrat

On, Sunday (March 18th), at 7:30 am we raised our sails while on mooring and started the trip of about 36 miles towards southeast, hoping that the wind would be from east/north east. No, providence was against us, as soon as we turned around Nevis and set the route, the wind was almost on the nose, so we motor sailed until the small island of Redonda, halfway on the way. Just before reaching Redonda, we saw the sail boat that had been following us for some time, had changed course and started to point towards the south-west corner of Montserrat. Al thought that she was probably not going to stop the night, and continue towards Guadeloupe. We were pointing towards Little Bay, located at the north- west corner, and the sails were more of an hindrance than help, so dropped them as soon as we passed Redonda. The other boat glided passed us with the help of the wind, while we kept on beating against it. Al was a bit worried about our speed, and turned Ruyam II back to see if there was a current as well. Lo and behold, our speed doubled on the other direction! Nothing to be done, we kept on beating and got close to the island, when we saw that the other boat had reached the lee of the island at least an hour ahead of us, with the advantage of the wind and missing the current, and motored back to Little Bay half an hour earlier. We could see her going into the bay, but continuing to the next one called Rendezvous Bay, not finding a suitable place to anchor. The sailing guide mentions that, although the holding in Rendezvous Bay was much better, one first had to get permission from the officials to anchor there. Since we saw the other boat heading to Rendezvous, Al followed, without even looking at Little Bay.

At about 2:30 pm, we anchored between the two boats in good sand, almost hugging the shore. The waters are quite deep around there, but so clean and bright; I could not resist the temptation of jumping in for a short time. But we had work to do; go find an official to clear in and out at the same time, since we were to continue the next morning. We were both beat, but felt compelled to do the right thing. However the other boats had yellow flags on and staying put, as well as the ones that came after us, three, four of them.

The day before, while clearing out of Nevis, Al had asked the officer lady to write Guadeloupe as our next port, thinking that we could skip clearing into Montserrat for one night. Of course she did not listen, and marked Little Bay as our next destination. The chickens that we are, we thought something might happen in Guadeloupe if we did not have the proper documentation, so hurried to the Customs office. The sailing guide mentions overtime charges for after hours and week-ends, so we were prepared. On the shore the small buildings (huts) were deserted, except the young harbour security guard manning the port entry, which was enclosed by a wire fence. We asked him what to do, and he made some calls to bring the officer to work. In the meantime he made Al fill a form and pay 35.00 EC dollars as port fees, and politely asked if we were OK with the overtime charge, which turned out to be 110.00 dollars EC. I wonder if we could say no.

After about ten minutes, a tall lean islander slowly appeared, and greeted us. He was in his late forties, very nice and friendly, but so slow, that I had to go out to have a breath of air, in order to be able to keep on smiling. However, he was very helpful in giving tips; such as the existence of a central information system for most of the English speaking Caribbean customs offices, which eliminated the filling of forms more than once. He said he wished to cut the paper-work he had to do, and first checked the system. Ruyam II was there of course, thanks to the office in St Kitts, which was the first port we went using the computerized system (BVI does not seem to be a part of it), however some of the information was not correct. Our names and nationalities were entered wrong. Al pointed those out to the officer, and he changed them.

The story about the mistake on our nationalities was quite interesting. In St Kitts, the young female officer gave us a lesson about nationality: a person belonged to the country where he or she was born; it could never be changed by relocating. We agreed that one’s sentiments always remained with the country of birth, but our documentation showed us as Canadians. She was adamant, and would not change the information on the form showing us as Turkish citizens, and said “once a Kittian, always a Kittian”. When we told the story to the officer in Montserrat, he laughed, and remarked that he would expect something like that from an Antiguan, but not a Kittian. Anyway, he made the necessary changes, and let us go, after almost an hour. It was 5:00 pm, and a taxi driver came by to take us to the airport, which was open until 6:00 pm, the best place to find free WiFi, and the Immigration officer, to whom we had to present our papers to be stamped. The driver took us there, and Al sent his messages to family and friends, while we sat at the corner cafĂ©.

The driver came to pick us up, and mentioned that the next day was a holiday on account of St Patrick’s Day (or long week-end), celebrations to continue with a parade etc. He offered to give us a tour of the island the next day, three thirds of which had been wiped out by a series of eruptions from the volcano since 1995; as well as take us to the celebrations. I wanted to see the island anyway, so we decided to stay one more night.

No comments:

Post a Comment