Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Customs Check In at Providenciales... It's a Breeze

I'm probably gonna jinx myself by telling this story.  Check in at Providenciales, Turks and Caicos was EASY.  We have found that checking in with customs in any country is made easier by going to a local marina.  There you will find someone with local knowledge who knows the officials and can help with a more efficient entrance into the country.  

We woke up Wednesday morning, December 4, and contacted Bob Pratt, owner of Southside Marina. Southside Marina was highly recommended to us by fellow cruisers Alex and Carol Lopez aboard s/v Nepenthe who had docked here a year ago on their return from the BVI on their way to the Bahamas. Our plan was to come to the dock, check in with customs, take on fuel, and dock for a few days so that we could rent a car and explore the island.

Southside Marina has a shallow approach.  Genesis has a 6ft. draft (depth) so we had to come to the marina at high tide to avoid running aground.  High tide was 12:30 p.m. so we waited to weigh anchor at Sapodilla Bay until 11:30 a.m.

The view as we approached the entrance to the marina was beautiful.  Although the water was indeed shallow, the channel was well marked. To get in the marina, head toward the orange house on the hill, get near the shore, then take a left. Head straight in to the fuel dock and you're there!

One thing about customs check in... If you are in a marina, you cannot get off your boat until you and your boat have been checked in.  You fly a yellow quarantine flag to show you have not yet checked in to the country.  

Sounds kinda ominous, doesn't it?  You're in quarantine... sounds like you have some sort of disease!  

You can't take on fuel or do anything until you get the proper documentation completed. Well, I am all about proper documentation.  Now, if anyone knows me, they know that I am organized and that I LOVE how-to manuals... after all, that was one of the things that I was known for in my previous work life.  Make it simple; keep things organized.  I have our own little manual to keep everything together for customs and immigration.

All the documentation needed is kept in a nice notebook.  I don't have to scramble around looking for everything when we reach a new country.

What's in the notebook... everything you wanted to know about checking in to the country but were afraid to ask... I've even got a reminder to make sure you have your OWN papers.  In Mexico, we were checking in at a harbor master's office and a guy checking at the same time as us was given OUR customs and immigration papers by the official and the guy walked out the door. We realized the error when I started reviewing our papers and realized they weren't ours! Oops! LA had to run down the street and chase the guy down.  

The officials want to look at your passport....

Your boat documentation papers....

In Mexico, we even had our International Certificate of Vaccinations, which actually saved us a trip to the local physician's office.... but no other country has asked us for one. So, even though we ARE in quarantine, nobody actually cares how healthy we are!

LuLu, the Contraband Kitty
Now, one thing I haven't mentioned is "What about LuLu"?? In the Bahamas, I applied a Pet Import Permit.  Only cost $10, but I had to mail the documentation to the Bahamas a month in advance and wait in the Keys until I received the permit.  When we checked in, nobody even asked me for it... I was so glad I had it that I TRIED to foist it on the official, who had no interest in it whatsoever.  I am a member of a neat facebook group called "Women Who Sail".  Before we departed the Bahamas, I posed a question to the group "What do you do about your cat when you check in to foreign countries?". The consensus of the group was to "don't ask, don't tell". Sounds like a good plan to me, especially since LuLu never gets off the boat. At least, she's not supposed to get off the boat. She has been known to leap onto the dock now and then. So, for our customs visit, LuLu was locked in the head to keep out of sight.

When we arrived at the fuel dock, Bob called the Turks and Caicos customs officials and immigration officials and they arrived at our boat about one hour after we docked at the fuel dock. Amazing! Only one hour! One thing about customs and immigration officials.... they are on island time! Sometimes you are told to "come back in later" or "come back in next day"... and this is after you have hiked or hitched a ride to get there. 

First, Claude, the immigration official boarded our boat. We entertained him in the cockpit... all part of the plan to keep "Contraband Kitty" below and out of sight.  Claude was a young guy... very friendly.  We talked about places to eat, local music, and got into a discussion about wine.  We filled out tourist immigration cards and he gave us a small white tourist card and stamped our passports.  We didn't have to give him any money. (Again, amazing!).  We did, however, offer Claude a beer or two (which he gratefully drank) and gave him some reggae CD's and a bottle of wine.  We are now cleared to stay in the Turks and Caicos for 30 days until January 4, 2014!

Next up... the customs official.  He is the "man" for getting our boat checked in. This, my friends, is a bit more serious business. Officer Samuel arrived with a young man in tow who handled the receipts and money.  We offered them beers. Officer Samuels took the beer but did not open it.  The young man refused the beer and chose orange juice. We sat out in the cockpit and had pleasant conversation in the cockpit before getting down to business.  Officer Samuel asked us what it took to stay married 34 years (friends... be good friends) and how were we able to be on a boat together 24/7 (patience, patience, and more patience).  Then, the business of paperwork began.

We completed a "Pleasure Craft- Report of Arrival and Temporary Importation Arrival" document.  It asks general questions about the boat and the crew which are found on our boat documentation papers and our passports. Here is the document and our receipt.

Note the word "temporary" in the title. If you are a vessel just passing through, you are allowed a "temporary" import permit that allows the vessel to stay 7 days.  Isn't it interesting that you, as a person, can stay for 30 days, but your boat can only stay 7 days without applying for a longer permit. The temporary permit costs $50 if you arrive on a weekday and $65 if you arrive on a weekend.  A 3 month import permit costs $300.  Our plans were to visit the island for about a week and move on so we did the $50 option. However, if you are delayed leaving the island due to weather or mechanical difficulties, it is up to the discretion of the customs official to grant you an extension at no additional fee.

So now you see what I mean by saying that I am going to jinx myself by saying how easy our check in was.  In Turks and Caicos, you have to check "out" as well.  We have to contact customs (which is also conveniently done by Bob the marina owner) and clear out.  So, it's either going to be another $50 fee to check out... or Officer Samuels is going to lay it on us for staying so long and assess us $300. Just cannot wait to find out how this works out... Stay tuned.

Anyhoo, we finally got checked in and we moved to our slip at Southside Marina.  

Southside is a neat marina... very quaint and just how I pictured a small marina located in a tropical paradise.

Love the palm trees next to the slip! Check out our little rental car!

Southside Marina office.  The building on top of the hill is "Bob's Bar" a neat little bar where the locals and cruisers congregate during the evenings.  On Wednesday night, Bob hosts a pot luck get-together. Great place to met people and meet new friends.


Mary Connaughton said...


Love reading your story. Great pics too!

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve said...

I missed all the good places so now I visit them through you. When I left Ct. 18 years ago the plan one year off then return so sailed direct to BVI. 11 days out of Ct. My Shannon 38 has been to Venezuela 12 times a few years Eastern Caribbean but now I kind of call beautiful Culebra P.R. home. look me up if you make it this way
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