Rob & Frances Lythgoe
Fri 31 Jul 2015 23:57
We anchored in the bay and went ashore in the dinghy to clear customs and immigration, as Lunenburg is an official port of entry. On shore there are signs saying that if you have just arrived to call Customs and Immigration and a number is given. On making the call they tell you that Lunenburg is not a port of entry, they ask you to spell it and ask exactly where is Lunenburg? On acceptance that Lunenburg is an official port of entry they ask where in Lunenburg you are, i.e. which wharf. It goes badly from there.
We are advised to take our boat to the Fisheries Museum and call again. We walk to the fisheries museum and speak to a lady there who is most helpful. She lets us use her phone to call customs again. We go through the whole thing again and they say they will send someone to see us, they have an agent/officer in the vicinity. We sit at the museum entrance for an hour and a half and eventually two officers turn up, by which time it has started to rain, and they ask us to bring Alia Vita along side the museum wharf. They watch as we walk back to the other wharf a few minutes away where we have left the dinghy, motor back to Alia Vita, get all of our fenders and mooring lines out and secure them ready to come along side. We lift the dinghy up on to the davits and raise the anchor. We motor to the museum wharf, tie our lines and make the boat safe. We then invite them on board, which is surely why we needed to wait an hour and half for them to drive here from Halifax and then spend another half an hour in the rain getting Alia Vita along side. Wasn't it? Apparently not, they, in reply, invite the captain to step ashore whilst they complete the formalities on 'Terra Firma'. It gets worse.
Once they have completed everything, have handed me our passports back and started packing their bag up, I ask about the small issue of a stamp in our passport, maybe? Ah, well, we have forgotten to bring the stamp, but its OK, we know you're here and you're in the system, it isn't a problem. I have to protest that actually it is a problem. Canada is the 23rd country we have visited on this trip so far, with the USA being the 22nd. The USA, please don't get me going on that one, was the first country that doesn't check you or your boat out. In the US I asked how that worked, we have visas that allow us to stay a certain number of days, the visa that we sailed all the way to Trinidad to get, and if we didn't check out how would they know how many days we had been there? Simple says the US Border patrol officer, we use your check in at your next country as your exit from the USA. I didn't get in to the detail of the lost two days we spent between the US and Canada, but you can start to see the issue now can't you. So, we have left the USA without checking out, and the chap in Canada has driven an hour and a half to come and see us but has forgotten his stamp. I say, not a problem, we aren't actually counting the days on our US Visa, it isn't that critical, I'm sure they will use our clearance from Canada, at least they know we have been out of the country and returned. Its at this point that the Canada officer states that he has news for me, Oh really? Yep, Canada doesn't clear you out either, we have the same system as the US. Brilliant!
Alia Vita's captain ashore with the officials.
So, we need to go back to the states, from where we didn't check out, and need to check back in with no proof that we have been anywhere. The Canadian officer says we should ask the US official to call him and he'll say its OK. That's fine, but once we have traveled a couple of hundred miles by sea to find out that US Customs don't want to call Canada there's not much you can do about it then. One option might be not to check back in to the US as we haven't been out. The problem with that is that it would be illegal, and they are watching, and its stuff like that gets your boat impounded. Below is the Canadian border patrol plane that passed us four times at about 200m on our way in, before contacting us on VHF radio to find out all about us, and where we were going. Since all this happened, we have now spotted another customs officer who had come to clear in another yacht, but he had forgotten to bring a stamp as well. You couldn't make it up. Welcome to Canada.
Canadian border patrol 'buzzing' us.
I am pleased to say that after the 'welcome', it has been fantastic.
On our way here we sustained a bit of damage to our main sail, nothing serious, just a webbing strengthener that had given way due to UV damage. The repair was simple and the sail is now better than new, but getting the main sail down and to shore is a bit of a chore for just two of us. Before we arrive in Nova Scotia we used the VHF radio to call another yacht that was nearby hoping that they had some local knowledge, which they did, and they advised us to head for Lunenburg. Sandy at North Sails sorted us out and during our enforced stay here, we realised there other things we could get done as well. We addressed all manner of the small jobs that have always been way down 'The List' of things to do, not repairs as such, but improvements, tweaks, little things that make a big difference. Dorian at 'Blue RockTimber Framers' has a number of very capable tradesmen on hand and can do most things. In the off season they even build timber frame houses. He also introduced us to the Lunenburg Bay Yacht Club which has the best club house I've ever seen.
No reciprocal club arrangements, no commodore, but free use of the BBQ and the log burner. Access by boat only. Perfect!
One of the best things about Canada is that everything is cheaper than the USA. The dollar prices are lower and we get $2 CAN instead of $1.5 US for every pound. Happy days. This old fishing town here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is largely unchanged since its early days. The houses are timber framed and clad, brightly coloured, and individually designed, the scenery is stunning and everyone is very chatty and helpful. We even made use of the local amenities by visiting the dentist, well, we did live here for over a week after all!
Whilst we were in Lunenburg the guys at Blue Rock informed us that an American schooner named Columbia was visiting and this was a really big deal. They had worked on producing the rigging for the boat for three years. The boat, which is a replica of an old fishing schooner, was launched earlier in the year and was coming in, so we went out to see what all the fuss was about. You can judge for your self from the photos below, but she was simply stunning.
The smaller schooner belongs to Dorian and the smoke is attributable to the canon he has just fired in celebration. Really!