Monday 20 March 2017

Checking In and the rest of Day 1 in Cienfuegos

I was woken at 0830 by a shout from somewhere and thinking it might be the authorities I got up and looked around. It was however just a passing yacht on their way in.
Nevertheless, I thought I had better get up and try and make contact with the locals. I called the marina on channels 19 and 16 as suggested by the sailing guide but as far as I could work out got no response. There was traffic on 16 in Spanish but I don’t think it was in response to my own. Just as I was wondering whether I would have to pump up the dinghy and go ashore a small motor boat approached with ‘Dockmaster’ written on its hull. The occupant pulled alongside and explained in broken English, that was nevertheless far superior to my Spanish, that I should take the boat into the marina to go through the clearance procedures.
I therefore got fenders and warps out, stowed Angus out of harm’s way and went alongside one of the outer docks as directed. I almost chucked my remaining 1 dozen eggs before doing so because of warnings in the pilot but didn’t, reckoning that I was unlikely to be locked up for importing 12 eggs even if I was to be given a good ticking and have the eggs confiscated. Thankfully, I hadn’t anticipated the one subject about which I would have worried. More on that shortly.
First aboard was a Health official who asked various standard questions about my health and took my temperature. He did this with an instrument he shone at my forehead for a few seconds and pronounced it normal.
Next was a couple of the Frontier Police who took various particulars about me and the boat and filled out various forms that I signed. They also took my passport explaining that it would be returned later in the process.
Next was a more official looking person who at first greeting seemed a little formal but was soon as friendly as all the others. He was the Immigration Officer AND Harbour Master. More forms and more questions about me and the contents of the boat. I thought he must have responsibility for Customs too but turned out he was merely prepping for the arrival of the Customs Officer later. One of the forms had the questions I was anticipating about food stuffs including eggs which I declared and waited for their summary confiscation. However, he barley looked at the completed form. Another form concerned money and valuables. The money was easy, I had only about $60 US and could truthfully declare that I was under the limit required. The subject of valuables was trickier.  I queried this with him and he gave me the impression that their concern was more about very high value items not those that cost a few hundred pounds like my Yellowbrick and he encouraged me to answer in the negative across a range of other questions which I duly did.
Then I had to go and check in at the Marina Office. I was greeted by a woman who spoke excellent English and the chap in the Dockmaster launch. The woman explained that he was a trainee and she was the trainer. More forms where therefore completed with a great deal of animated conversation going on between them. I had to pay for a Visa, local taxes and 3% interest for using my Debit card. A total of US $130. I’ll also have to pay anchor fees on departure – can’t interpret the price list at present but the guide book describes it as nominal.
I think I was quite lucky to turn up when there was no one else there because while It would probably have been half that it were it not for the training. I was there a number of other people arrived and were asked to return later. The procedure took a about 45 minutes.
At the end of the process the Immigration guy came in with my passport and asked me to go with him. I think he had his Harbour Master hat on this time. It soon became clear that we were going back to the boat and that there were three or 4 others in tow. Two of them had dogs – spaniels. Ah I thought – they’ll be checking for drugs. Then I thought, hmm I think a certain person may have smoked a couple of spliffs on the boat in Jamaica. How long does the scent last I thought?
Anyway, I got on the boat followed by the Harbour Master. Then one of the chaps with a dog came aboard. They seemed to spend an age down below but it was probably only 5 minutes. Then the exercise was repeated by the second dog and handler. There was some conversation between the two and the Harbour Master and I was asked if I smoked Cannabis. Whether this was because the dogs had picked up some scent or just because I had come from Jamaica, I’m not sure! Anyway, I replied in the negative and to my great relief no hand cuffs appeared. Nor were my eggs or citrus fruits confiscated which the guide book warned might happen.
Then the Customs man came on board, a few questions were asked. He had the forms I had completed earlier. Another form was produced and stamped and I was asked to sign a form declaring that no forbidden items were found.
Finally, back to the Harbour Master who completed the 30-day Visa form and handed it over along with my passport and the Despatch document giving me the freedom to cruise the Cuban coast.
Welcome to Cuba, I was finally legal and free to come and go.
Next I had to get the boat back to anchor to make room for the next customer.
That I did and spent the rest of the day tidying up, airing lots of damp clothes, catching up on sleep and writing up the blog content. Tomorrow I’ll go ashore and into town and hopefully find an internet connection to allow me to communicate with home and post the two blog articles.

I have quite a few running repairs to make over the coming days but more on those later. It’s now nearly 0200 – the problem of sleeping during the day – and I really should get to bed if I’m going to get a full day ashore tomorrow.  

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