Customs Clearance B.S. , and the passage to New Zealand

by Drew on October 30, 2009

I gotta tell you, nothing beats the feeling of freedom you gain from checking out of a country via sailboat. It doesn’t matter if you have a clearance for a port you may not check into within the next month…or year…OR you have no actual plans on leaving the so-called “cleared port” within the next several days…or month. It doesn’t matter at all. You still feel like a wildman when you get that paper. In reality, I could pull up anchor and sail direct to Thailand if I wanted and nobody but Marge would question me. That is awesome. That is freedom.

Few people out here actually follow the rules. Yes, I said it. Finally. Someone actually said aloud what everyone knows. You can check out today and not leave for weeks and no one would really care or know. It happens with cruisers all over the world. Sometimes the rules are just plain stupid. There are those FEW odd circumstances or random security checks but they are super rare and I only know of a few boats that REALLY care. Most people don’t and who blames them. People who never broke a law in their life are bending the rules in this area. I checked out today (Friday here in Tonga) but I may not leave till Monday….or Friday. Who knows. I am done with the paperwork and I paid. In my eyes, it’s done. There are people anchored within a few yards of me who checked out 2 weeks ago in Vava’u and here they sit. Others checked out for NZ when they left Apia, Western Samoa back in September. They use radio channel 16 code names like “Sweet Caroline”, “Bambi”, “Barbie”, “Salt Peter”, “Heavy Breathing”, and “Adios Pantalones.” We came up with “Marge Barge” as our code name for Dosia. Sounds good to me though I see no reason to use it.

So we’re checked out. We could possibly leave tomorrow. We are prepared. The weather looks decent for a short 270 mile jump to Minerva reef. It’s another “pause moment” in the 1200 or so mile trip from Vava’u to NZ and it cuts the final leg of the trip down to about 700 miles. Previously, Margie and I decided we’d only stop there if the weather forecast for the remainder of the trip called for a stop. It looks like it may do just that. We are provisioned for a little over two weeks. We have fuel for 800 miles of motoring. No one can lie here. This is potentially the worst passage of an entire circumnavigation. In the last month on this passage, our friends have battled lost rudders, fuel shortages, autopilot failures, rig failures, and more. The Tasman Sea is notoriously nasty like Cape Hatteras near where I grew up. Sometimes I wonder if Hatteras realizes it world-wide fame as “trouble spot” but I don’t question the Tasman. It’s fickle. If it was appropiate, I’d use another “f” word to describe it but I think you get the point. When a low forms in the Tasman, you get out of the way. You don’t mess around in this area of the world. The tanks are full, the oil and filters are changed, the rig is tuned, and the heart is ready. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us pull out of here tomorrow afternoon. We’re part of the All Points to Opua Rally…and race or not, I’m thinking first place sounds nice. Let’s get this one over with. Dosia is ready and it’s time to put our game faces on.


Chris October 30, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Batten the hatches, the friendly natives in NZ await you (with their cooking pots). Good luck! 🙂

Dave October 31, 2009 at 10:53 am

If you can make it in time for the rally festivities, its a great time. By positioning yourself in Minerva you get to look at smaller weather windows. You will also be away from the cruisers over obsessed with the weather.

RT November 1, 2009 at 12:28 am

Drew – have been spending the last half hour catching up with your site. Sounds like things are going really well. Did you meet up with Paul Stone in Vavau? Don’t know if you remember him from the real old Olympus days – but he opened Dive Vavau a couple years back. Touch base when you get to NZ and have some time. Best of luck.

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