Curacao to Panama (part 1), check out

All crew is aboard, the last groceries are stowed away, time to make the last run to town to visit customs and immigration.

We join the morning traffic jam down Caracasbaai weg, off to customs first. The lady at the Marina office didn’t quite know where the new location for the customs office was, but she was sure it was somewhere behind the movie theatre.

Parking in Punda is sort of a hassle, so we put the car in the first spot we could find, near the old market. At first we searched around the movie theatre, but there was no sign of a customs office, so we hiked back to the old location on the ‘handelskade’, which is now under refurbishment. The contractor working there also had no idea where the new office should be, so I called Robert, the harbormaster at Seru Boca. He pointed me in the right direction, and after another short hike we were at the Customs desk to get the long awaited exit clearance. As Ah Ma is a local boat, so this was just a quick form and stamp.

Next stop, immigration, on the other side of town (Otrabanda). I’ve been to the Marine office over there before to register the boat, so I knew the drill to get through the gate. First get a slip from a grumpy security guard lady, and then drive onto the Marsec secured dock side. All went smoothly, until…

‘Sir where is your ‘boot controle kaart’? The man in uniform asked. As it turns out this document is provided by the Marine department after a boat is registered and checked for seaworthiness. But to provide this document, an inspector has to come and see if the boat is ‘approved’ according to Curacao regulations. The immigration officer directed me back to the registration office on the other side of the parking lot to get the document, and so the rat-race across Curacao started for the day.

I remembered the woman from the immigration office from registering the boat last year, I also remember that our broker at that time was being very rude and denigrating towards her, he told me she was a horrible person to deal with, so I though we’re going to be stranded in bureaucracy for the foreseeable future.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The lady, Mrs. Gabriela, was friendly, understanding and made every effort to get things arranged within record speed. And a lot of things needed to be arranged. The boat needed an inspection, so an official needed to visit the boat, check all safety gear and seaworthiness. Mrs Gabriela managed to arrange this THE SAME DAY, so that we would be able to pick up our documents the next morning at 9am. I mean, in which country would you get this kind of response from a government official, absolutely fantastic!

But, before the inspection could take place there was a little matter of radio registration and licenses. My fresh from the press Dutch radio license was no good for the Curacao registration, but I could easily, but expensively, convert the Dutch license to a Curacao license. One little thing though, the radio equipment needed to be ‘checked’ by an official from the ‘bureau telecommunicatie’. There we go again I thought, more bureaucratic paperwork holding us back, it took forever to get the Dutch numbers, so I was expecting another nightmare. In the mean time my crew was getting tired and hungry from waiting around.

With no expectations we raced to the other side of town to meet with the bureau telecommunications, and I was in for another surprise. Not only were these the friendliest people ever, they did everything in their power to transfer my Dutch license and arrange the onboard equipment check THAT SAME DAY. Mrs Gabriela from the Marine office even called ahead of my arrival to explain what was necessary so we wouldn’t waste time.

Another quick dash back to the Marine office to pay for the scheduled inspection. Now with two checks scheduled, one for safety, and one for radio equipment, we raced back to the marina. A quick last stop at Budget Marine chandlery to buy some emergency flares, as the safety officer for sure would like to see those. The safety check couldn’t be done at Seru Boca marina, so we had to motor out to the ‘Vissershaven’ on the other side of Spanish waters to pick up the inspector at the fuel dock.

There was a lot of wind on the Spanish Waters that day so manoeuvring our 55ft light weight yacht in the narrow and shallow waters required some engine skills.

CuraƧao Rat Race

Whilst our skipper for hire slowly made figure eights in the Spanish Waters trying not to run over surfboards, the inspector saw what he needed to see and gave the boat a clean bill of health. After we dropped the good man off at the fuel dock, we made our way back to the marina, where the radio inspector was already waiting for us. He too did a quick inspection and registered and approved all equipment. Another quick dash to the ‘Bureau telecommunicatie’ to pick up a fresh callsign and MMSI for Curacao registration, something that took months to obtain in Holland. We shall program this new information into our systems at the next opportunity.

We were all knackered after a day of kriss crossing across Curacao getting the paperwork in order, so we stranded at Arie’s for a bottle of Rose (and a box to bring aboard)

The next morning we first had to make one quick stop at the harbour master and immigration, before, at noon sharp, we threw the lines loose and point towards the exit of the Spanish Waters, heading up north, towards the entrance of the Panama Canal.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *