BLOGGERS MIKE AND REBECCA SWEENEY OFFER ADVICE TO CRUISERSMonday 30th January 2012
On the day that we hiked to the top of the Mt. Liamuiga, our driver Everton was playing the part of tour guide, telling us about the island of St. Kitts. He was explaining how the sugar industry has all but disappeared from his island with tourism now accounting for the majority of their income. I assume this is a similar situation to what is occurring in most Caribbean islands. Tourism = dollars! With that said, it’s time to stop the madness.
Tourism offices really need to have a “sit down” with the Customs and Immigration people and explain to them that they represent the all-important first impression that tourists have of their island. Good impressions = more tourists and more dollars spent. Bad impressions = the obvious, less and less. I bring this up because so often we are met with stone-faced government employees who seem to be trying extra hard to appear unpleasant. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me but it’s true.
Here is our Antigua experience (don’t worry — it’s not all bad). After reading our guidebook and determining that there is a Customs and Immigration office near the Jolly Harbor Marina, Rebecca and I anchored just outside the channel, near the other boats. As we always do, we took great care to make sure that we were secure in our chosen spot, including diving on the anchor and backing down on it to make sure that it was well set. As you might imagine, this takes a bit of time. With official documents in hand, we then left ZTC at anchor with her yellow Q flag (Quarantine flag) flying in the breeze as we went to check in. As often happens, we underestimated the size of the harbor and ended up touring all over the huge area, searching for the Customs office. We ultimately tied our tender to the first dinghy dock that we saw and then, after asking directions, ended up walking a considerable distance until we found the place. After entering the office, I presented the Customs officer with a big smile and informed her that we had just arrived and were there to check in. Her response? We were told to go back, get our boat and bring it in there and tie it up to their dock! Seriously? Yes, seriously!
Furious was probably a good way to describe my mood at the time, and it didn’t help that my blood sugar was low because I had yet to eat anything that day (as Rebecca will attest, this is never a good thing). I was convinced that the process of taking our dinghy back to our boat, raising anchor, rigging lines and fenders to go in there to check in and then reversing the procedure to re-anchor again, was going to take us about 2 hours start to finish (and I was right). Grrrr!
As it turns out, when we actually did arrive back at their dock, the three ladies that we had to fill out paper for were all very pleasant to us, including the first officer who made us move our boat. And we appreciate that. Thank you! At this point I am blaming the guidebook for not being strong enough in its wording to say that you MUST take your boat into the dock. Although it says to “head straight to customs dock,” that is pretty much what you’re supposed to do everywhere so we followed the exact same procedure that we have used in every other island that we’ve visited, but in this case, it wasn’t enough. So to be clear, if you do go to Antigua and wish to check in at Jolly Harbor, which is a nice place, you MUST take your boat in and tie it up to the Customs dock to do so (look for the large yellow flag flying in front of their office — that too is an important piece of info that would have saved us some time but was not mentioned in the guide book).
Anyway, we are checked in now and were issued a month-long cruising permit for the grand total of $30.00 EC, less than what we had to pay to stay 1 DAY in St. Barth’s. Can you believe that? I think we’re going to like this place. But tourist bureaus, please do as I suggest… have a heart-to-heart with your front-line troops. It really is important.
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