February 27, 2006

Immigration Issues
Port Elizabeth (Bequia), St. Vincent and the Grenadines

I successfully cleared immigration today, but the Italians weren't so lucky.

When you're getting of a boat in the Caribbean islands (and aren't transferring to another), the country's immigration control wants to know how long you'll be there, where you think you'll be staying, and how you're getting out of the country—the same as if you arrived by plane.

As annoying it is, these island nations can get very sensitive about having an onward ticket back to your home country (an official in Trinidad said he wouldn't accept a flight to another island). When Luca and Laura couldn't produce their means of departure, they were denied clearance to leave the crew manifest and enter the country.

This morning's tasks were very simple:

  1. Go with Luca and secure the Italians a room at a guesthouse—immigration requirement
  2. Create and print out my (faux) airline itinerary—immigration requirement
  3. Clear immigration
  4. Help clean the Odessa before wishing them happy trails

Immigration closed at noon, and thanks to a late state, we were pushed hard for time. If we missed the Sunday window, we'd all havge to sail with Bill to St. Vincent and be removed from the manifest there.

It was my mistake that I didn't give Luca enough direction for the onward ticket; I was hurriedly focused on creating one myself. By 11:30 we were picking the other three up from the Odessa with the dinghy, moving quickly to get back to shore and into the queue in time.

The Italians had plenty of work and onward travel documents for Trinidad, but couldn't produce anything of substance to the official. Their options were to:

  1. Make flight arrangements and return after 3:00 when they reopened for another hour or two
  2. Relinquish their passports to the official while they secured onward travel (allowing Bill to remove them from the crew manifest)
  3. Stay onboard the Odessa and work things out in St. Vincent on Monday

The Odessa couldn't stick around until 3:00, so option one was out. The thought of giving away their passports, even for a few hours, was completely unacceptable to them, so option two was out. Ultimately, they had no acceptable choice but to stay on the boat and get a refund for the guesthouse.

In the meantime, I was trying to get processed with the same official. Wow, I've never seen anyone examine a document so intensely (for so long). He must have read my itinerary over for several minutes before deeming it acceptable. Now I'm officially off the boat, stamped though April 1.



March 2nd, 2006

You must disclose details of the fakery. Do you just purchase a refundable ticket?

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Craig | travelvice.com

March 2nd, 2006

Of course I will! I have it down as a travel tip that I'll be writing up shortly. :)

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