Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clearing Into Antigua

Thursday, March 13th.
We cleared into Jolly Harbor Antigua yesterday.  Tom learned how to do it and witnessed how NOT to do it.

Jolly Harbor Marina
First, the guidebook says to hail Jolly Harbor port authority on VHF 16.  No one answered.  Not uncommon for  port authorities and marinas to not answer on the first hail - they are busy.  However a friendly voice came back and said "Try hailing the Jolly Harbor Marina on 68 instead.  They won't check you in but will give you the info needed."  Kewl!  The marina answered and said to take our yacht into the customs dock and tie up there to clear in.  We thanked them and headed down the channel towards the inner harbor.  Turns out the Customs office either doesn't have a VHF or didn't have it on as Tom didn't see or hear one the whole time he was in there checking us in.  *A day later, Tom heard an inbound yacht trying to hail the same port authorities and returned the favor we had gotten by letting them know to hail the marina on 68.
View from the marina out towards the channel

FYI - for those from KC....Jolly Harbor is sort like a Lake Wetherby or Lake Lottawana in that it's lined with houses and condos with slips.  Or like Florida.  Very nice and very Kewl.  We found the customs finger pier sticking out and did a starboard tie.  Tom had dock lines ready on both sides but guessed we would have a starboard tie for some reason and placed the fenders on that side. There is room for a yacht on each side.
Condos line the channel in
Tom changed clothes so he would be appropriately dressed.  We found this really helps.  A clean, collared polo shirt and clean, nicer shorts and shoes....(as much as a cruiser can have clean clothes - ha)  Flip flops are ok.  Bare feet are a big no no.  He of course took our ships papers and passports.  I stayed onboard and started tidying up from the passage. 

Houses along the channel on the way in
Antigua is using the eSeaClear system for clearing vessels in and out.  This is a relatively new system (last few years) that is computerized and links the various countries of the Caribbean for customs and immigration of yachts and their crews.  Good idea in theory but it has had difficulties in getting established.  Here in Antigua they are giving it a real go and it is NOT optional!
Several fingers go off the main channel with still more condos
The nice customs man had Tom get started by creating a eSeaClear account with password and all our info. While Tom did this, a seasoned cruiser (non-American) came in to clear in.  When he discovered that eSeaClear was the method to clear in, he did quite a bit of grumbling to Mr Customs Official.  He had an account but couldn't remember his password and why did he have to do it this way and what can't he just do it the old way with paper and so on and so forth.  His complaining peaked in him saying something to the affect of "This is a terrible system."  Mr Customs had had enough at this point and blew his stack.  "Who are you to come in here and criticize our system!  There is nothing wrong with the system.  It's you that has the issue by not remembering your password!"  The guy left for his boat to retrieved his password.  In the mean time, Mr Customs vented to Tom.  He suggested to Tom that he simply write the password on the back of our ships documentation so we will have easy access to it in the future.  That seemed like a wise idea so Tom did just that.

Dad -check out this tender - wheels front and back for driving up onto the beach
Mr seasoned cruiser came back in with the password and proceeded to clear in.  When he was almost done, Mr Customs asked to see his ships papers.  Mr Seasoned cruiser started to argue "why?"  Mr Customs was very firm and asked again.  Mr Seasoned Cruiser produced the ships papers and Mr Customs flipped them over and sternly said "write your eSeaClear password right there!!!" 
If our friend Kevin had a sailboat- this might be his given the name.  Nice yard
Fee to clear in was $12.  There are other fees but we will pay those when we clear out.  
Additionally we learned that even though the guidebooks says you can clear out of Barbuda, apparently there are issues and therefore cruisers must return to Antigua to clear out before moving on to another island/country.
HUGE boats on lifts.  The biggest we've ever seen up on lifts
FYI - there is a spot and requirement for an MMSI and call sign number on the eSeaClear form.  If you are going to cruise outside US waters, you should have an Offical MMSI number from FCC and not the free MMSI number from BoatUS.  See here for more info.  

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