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June 2014 Cruising Tips

Posted by on May 30, 2014

The Documents you need with you when you leave your boat in a foreign country

A young cruising sailor contacted me via Facebook. “I know you and Larry live near Auckland, I am stuck here for a few days and would like to buy you a drink.” We were headed into the city for a few days, so we accepted the invitation and had a delightful time. “A” had purchased an older boat for about $2,000 then spent the next few years living on board and outfitting it. With less than $30,000 invested he and his partner are now two years into a cruise financed by working along the way. A was returning from helping deliver a boat from California to Tahiti. ( I won’t use the real name as I have not been able to contact him for permission, though I am sure he will be glad I am sharing this with you) A’s boat and partner were waiting for him in American Samoa. His delivery fee included airfares back to Pago Pago. No flight goes directly from Tahiti to Pago Pago. In fact no flight goes directly from Auckland to Pago Pago. So the ticket, purchased by the boat’s owner, was from Tahiti to New Zealand then on to Western Samoa where “A” was to catch a ferry ride to American Samoa. Unfortunately, when A went to board his flight in Auckland, he was refused a boarding pass. Reason, he had no return ticket from Samoa to anywhere else, no way to prove he would not end up stuck in Samoa. This is not an unusual situation. Very few countries will allow you entry without an onward or return airfare ticket, though some will let you fly in if you can prove you have sufficient funds to cover your stay for the length of your visa – a sum that can be arbitrarily set. “I have my boat waiting for me just 75 miles away in Pago Pago. I can’t buy a ferry ticket from Apia to Pago Pago on line, have to do it when I get there,” A argued. But he could not produce any proof. Larry and I had been forewarned of this potential problem when we first began delivering boats. To avoid being stuck at an airport just out of reach of our boat we created documentation which came in handy several times, not just when we were returning from delivery jobs, but even when we set off on road trips.

The first document we carried was a certified copy of our ships papers, in our case the documentation form. Your ships registration papers, or a state license or simply the sales papers you signed when you bought the boat should prove you own a boat. The papers must include the hull or documentation number. The second, and possibly more important paper is proof you have left your boat in the foreign port. The only way to get this is to go to the local customs office, present them a letter stating your boat is legally entered and waiting for your return. Ask them to sign and stamp this paper. Some customs offices have their own forms to service this purpose, or they may use the clearance forms you filled out on entry.

How many times did we need these papers?  We definitely could not have gotten back to our boat in Brazil, nor five years later to Chile on a one way airline ticket without them. Nor could we have gotten on board the ferry in southern England, bound for Spain without proof we had some place to live other than in the tent we carried on the back of our motorcycle. The documents were called upon in Zimbabwe and on re-entry into South Africa when we returned from a safari to Botswana. I can think of half a dozen other times when presenting these documents along with our passports seemed to impress customs officials and make entry fast and pleasant.

“A”, felt pretty disappointed when he had to use a sizeable portion of his delivery earnings to purchase a round trip ticket from New Zealand to Samoa and back. He also asked me to pass on one other hard learned lesson – check with each airline you will use to confirm how much luggage you can carry. He, like most cruisers, bought some spares for his boat based on the luggage allowance for the first airline he was using. When he arrived in New Zealand he learned the limits were much lower for the flight to Samoa.


An Instant Guide for Sharpening Plane Blades

Larry demonstrated this tip he learned from his high school shop teacher for some friends when we were visiting Maine a few years back. Our friends there helped us make it into a short video which is posted at You can view it by clicking here:

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