Just a little flavour of the Caribbean way of working: this is not a grizzle - I'm very pleased to have our extra crew member - but it is a reflection on how laborious some aspects of life are here.
Last Monday I was able to collect my Hydrovane self steering rudder - the replacement for the one that broke three days out of Cabo Verde. The ship carrying it from the UK arrived last Wednesday morning but it took five days (admittedly two days were the weekend) to unload the container which, to a marine scientist, is unbelievable, and get the paperwork sorted so that I could collect a docket from the shipping agent. Officialdom in the Caribbean loves paperwork and forms - wait until you hear about clearing into Tobago. The agent had not received the information by Friday but expected it on Monday and said they would phone me on Monday – that didn’t happen but I phoned them at 11am to hear that it was waiting for me - just the docket, that is. The agent charged me 40 EC$ for processing the docket. We then had to take the docket to the port. At the port we had to hand over our passports at security and pay 2EC$ for a security pass each. Inside, with the docket in our hand and passes clipped to our collars, we were directed to a vast shed where the contents of the container, possibly several containers, had been piled randomly and were told to locate our parcel. Why did I expect to go to a counter and exchange my docket for a parcel? However, finding our parcel was actually easier than it looked at first glance because we knew the approximate size and shape and the parcel had the distinctive Hydrovane logo on it. We then had to take the parcel to the customs benches in another part of the sweltering shed thronged by dozens of people searching for their parcels. Customs, made us open the packaging and required an invoice and I said it was a warranty replacement and should be free of duty as we were a ‘vessel in transit’ but we had no letter to back this up and no invoice – I had thought there might be some paperwork within the parcel, but no joy. To be fair, the customs officer was trying to help and asked to see the email trail with the supplier -which was smart - but this was on another computer on the boat which I use for the satellite phone. So, still trying to help he went off and Googled a value which seemed agreeably low to me and he wrote this on the docket. There was no way I was getting away with ‘vessel in transit’ as I would have had to take all the papers back to Immigration at Port Louis with the ships papers to be stamped, and we didn’t have an invoice anyway. I then had to take the docket to the admin office at the entrance to the shed and they gave me an invoice for the port dues - only 7EC$ or about £2.00. Brian stayed with the parcel in the shed while I walked across to the customs cashier office on the other side of the dock complex to pay the import duty -not too bad considering - and then to the dock office to pay the port dues. At that stage, duly receipted, I could carry the vane out past the shed security but we had jettisoned the packaging for easy of carrying and this caused a bit of a kerfuffle at the gate security because the packaging was the only thing that had my name on it but they eventually let me through on the strength of the receipted docket and then we were able to retrieve our passports at the gate and catch a mad minibus back to the dinghy dock. That had taken most of the day and a cold beer was required at the bar there.