Bureaucracy and Monkey Business

Down here in paradise (Caribbean is supposedly that according to some people) paperwork is important. In a way that is good because it keeps the unemployment down a bit. One employee with a computer and a scanner could, with the help of some good software and some creativity, do the work of five here in paper-turning land. Checking in and out of countries down here is a bit similar the tests you took in school; write stuff in the right places and if you’ve written something wrong you’ll be corrected and sent home to learn what you did wrong until next time. Only the skipper or the ships agent can do this, which is bad for me because my writing is not the best. Too much time at my computer and not enough practise with pen have caused my handwriting to go a bit sloppy. That’s not a good thing when you’re supposed to write a four page novel about why you’re entering the country in four copies.

My biggest problem is that there is not enough space for what they want me to scratch down on the paper, like the passport-number, try fitting that in a box that is not big enough for my initials. On the other hand, the space for the number of crewmembers is about a whole page wide. The pro charter-skippers have crew-lists printed out from Excel and just put them in the pile of paper but with a crew of three including me, it seems a bit too much paper use (they’re cutting down a whole forest right now without me helping them). When you’ve written the whole works of Shakespeare in twelve copies and got everything right, it’s stamping time! The local bureaucrat brings out his/hers favourite stamp set and goes to work, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, next paper, thump, thump, thump, thump. With all that done, they smile and send you to the next office for a repetition. Trinidad was amazing in that way. Usually, customs is the big one and immigration is just a breeze where you present your passport and get it stamped after they compare notes with the customs copies you have and the stamps you have in your passport. At tops, that is usually a five minute thing and then you’re good to go but in Trinidad you start in immigration and if you’re lucky half an hour later you can go next door to customs.
I saw a woman be sent back to her boat, inconveniently located at the other side of the harbour, three times before they were happy with her paperwork (and clothing: the dress-code was a twenty points long list containing things like: no tight clothes, no baggy clothes, no slippers, no sleeveless clothes, no hooded clothes, no camouflage, and so on for quite a bit…). Instead of looking through her pile of paper and tell her all that was needed the first time, they sent her away as soon as they found the first error in her paperwork and told her to fix that, and when she got back they leafed further into the paper pile only to find something else they didn’t like.

Well, after spending time in that nice office in Chaguaramas we set off out north! Up towards the grenadines again, before customs we had about 30 hours of preferable winds to cross about 100 nautical miles before the wind turned back to northeast and we’d get pushed west towards Colombia. An hour out from the coast, waves pounding us and wind not being where we wanted it, we did about 3 knots towards our destination (motor sailing that is) and had 99 miles to go. Doing the math one soon realize that it would be a bit too slow for what we were doing. That said, we hadn’t even reached the part of the crossing where you have 2.5 knots of side current. I’m ok accepting defeat so we headed back towards land and anchored up in a small bay called Scotland Bay, basically a jungle with a bay in it. The anchor bit fine and the sun started to set as we made dinner and called it a day.

Now we just chill waiting for the winds to be in our favour and look at monkeys jumping around in the foliage while we listen to a myriad of birdcalls and insects chirping away.
Life’s good sometimes, but this piece of jungle might be cut down for the paperwork needed to be done if we go back into port…