|Cruz Bay, St. John|
We were completing our clearance paperwork in St. John, a few hours after the storm I described in the last post.
"Are we really back?" I asked. "Do we have to clear in again when we get back to the States?"
"Only if you stop in a foreign country," he said. "You're home now."
"Thanks!" We both said.
I had no idea how good that would feel. I traveled a lot internationally before we ran away to sea, but that wasn't the same. It's been over ten years since Play Actor has been in U.S. waters, and she's our home. We've flown back to the States to visit several times during that period, but every time we knew that we were just visiting. When we were in the States, we felt the pull of home. For us, that was wherever we left Play Actor.
This time, we really felt like the U.S. was our home again. We decided we would not visit another foreign country before we got back to the U.S. mainland. We spent a couple of days in St. John, taking walks in the vicinity of Cruz Bay. We couldn't see much change from our last visit ten years ago. We felt the urge to move on.
|Play Actor is the little, dark boat behind the cruise ship.|
|Business in Culebra gives new meaning to the phrase 'laid back.'|
|Our beach in Vieques|
|Sunset in Boqueron|
The Turks and Caicos - an unplanned stop and an encounter with the authorities
We waited a few days for a favorable weather forecast and left Puerto Real, setting a course that would take us north of Hispañola and south of the Turks and Caicos into the southern Bahamas. We didn't plan to stop until we reached Florida, but we could sail through the Bahamas, anchoring for a night if we got tired.
|Clear water in West Caicos. That's our anchor chain on the bottom, 25 feet under the surface.|
"Good afternoon," I said, giving them a wave.
"Good afternoon, captain," the senior of the three officers aboard said. “Our radar station saw you enter our waters yesterday and stop. What are you doing, and what are your intentions?"
"We're becalmed, waiting for wind."
"What was your last port of call?"
"St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands," I said.
“You have an outbound clearance from St. John?” he asked.
“No. It’s not required for a U.S. flagged vessel leaving U.S. waters bound for a U.S. port."
"Where are you bound?"
"Florida, via the Old Bahama Channel." We had decided to skip the Bahamas, as the weather up there was nasty. The Old Bahama Channel runs between the north coast of Cuba and the south edge of the Bahama Bank. It committed us to sail 700 miles non-stop, but it appeared to be well south of the disturbed weather. We just needed wind.
"You are in our waters, and you have not cleared in," one of the other officers said.
"Correct. We’re flying the quarantine flag; we have no intention of going ashore. Do you want us to move on out of your waters?"
"We'd rather you clear in and visit our country," he replied, smiling.
"Do we have to clear in to wait for wind?" I asked.
"How long do you think you'll be?" the senior man asked.
"The forecast is for the trades to start blowing again on Tuesday night," I said. It was Sunday afternoon.
“Let me see your passports and the ship’s document, please."
I passed him a plastic bag with the papers. He perused them and made some notes on his clipboard.
Returning our papers, the senior man said, "You're okay, captain. Just stick to your mission."
"So we don't need to leave or clear in?"
"Just stick to your mission. If you wish to go ashore, come into Providenciales and clear in. Otherwise, you're okay."
"But you would be safer in Provo," the younger man said. "There's a nice marina there."
"Call us on channel 16 if you have any trouble," the senior man said, waving as they roared away toward Providenciales.
Late Monday afternoon, they came back to visit and verify that our plans had not changed. By mid-morning on Tuesday, we had a ten-knot easterly wind. We raised the anchor and made sail, wondering if we were being observed by the radar station as we left the Turks and Caicos.
Next week's post: Want wind? Careful what you wish for.