Back On Board
Alongside Yate Club de Higuerillas
I got back on board this afternoon with the new sail. My trip to Buenos Aires and back was not without its moments. I arrived in Buenos Aires having spent the night in the transit lounge in Montevideo, cleared customs and walked through the door expecting next to go through immigrations (but looking back realise this is in fact the wrong order) but instead found myself outside in the airport hallway, Buenos Aires just outside. This wasn’t right, I thought, and went in search of some immigration type people. I found a tourist desk with a lady who spoke English and she said, “Oh don’t worry, they do it electronically these days and you don’t need the stamp.” But I wasn’t satisfied with this and obtained directions to the immigration office. There the man on duty looked over my passport and tickets and confirmed the lady’s answer at the tourist information desk. I asked for his name but he wouldn’t give it to me and just said tell them when you leave that the supervisor said it was OK. I wan’t particularly happy with this answer but thought there was little more I could do for now on this front and went off in search of my news sail.
Finding North Sails was a little difficult. I caught a train which lurched and clattered over its uneven rails, some cars had seats but most were for standing only. I found the street I needed but after walking up and down the it several times without finding the loft of one of the largest sail makers on the planet I decided I had best look elsewhere, after all I thought it very unlikely a sail maker would successfully camouflage a large sail loft in the outskirts of Buenos Aires even if for some very strange reason they might want to. I found a yard which sold power boats and sought directions there. The young man made a phone call and drew on my map where they were supposed to be. It turns out the street jogged about 100 yards to the right thus throwing me off the trail, but I eventually found them..
Back at the airport with the sail, I was hoping I could check the sail in for baggage which would then leave me free to go for a bit of a wander. This was not possible however so I settled myself down for a very long evening in the lounge with my new sail. In the evening I went to get something to eat and was about to ask whether they took Visa, and in the process as I went to show them my card I discovered that it wasn’t in my wallet. There was nowhere else it could be but I checked through all the pockets in my backpack just in case but it was not there. I backtracked my journeys through the airport over the previous few hours, asked around and eventually reported it to the police office. They had nothing handed in so I made the phone call back to my credit union to cancel the card. Bother!
Fortunately I had a little bit of cash with me, mostly in Chilean pesos, and I thought provided I wasn’t hit with any unexpected charges I would comfortably make it back to the Sylph. I had done all I could for the moment and decided to try not to worry about it. When it got very late and everyone had gone home I drew three chairs together, made a pillow out of some books I had with me and managed to get few hours sleep, with visions of Tom Hanks in “The Terminal” going through my mind.
The next morning I checked the sail in as baggage, had to pay a fee, but no problems at this stage. The check-in lady looked over my passport and was obviously puzzled why there was no stamp. I explained and she suggested I go back to the immigration office just to make sure. This I did, the new duty officer was clearly not so relaxed about the whole matter as yesterday’s supervisor. But after some discussion and showing him all my boarding passes and explaining to him I had pretty much done as much as I could, of course not saying that it wasn’t my job to fix some extraordinary hole in Argentina’s immigration procedures. I did suggest however he have a chat with yesterday’s supervisor.
From there I had uneventful flights back to Santiago, the layover in Montevideo only being a few hours this time. When I got off in Santiago airport as I made my way through immigration I realised as an Australian I had to pay a $US 61 visa fee. Oh oh! I had not planned for this. Despite the long and heart wrenching story I told the immigration officer of my predicament she coldly advised me if you don’t pay you don’t get in. I told her I was quite happy to pay the fee and if she could somehow let me back to my boat in Valparaiso where I had a spare credit card, then I could access some cash and would pay what I owe. Of course this was not an option and we were at an impasse. One of the complications in this story is that they would only accept US dollars. This has happened to me before and I find it very strange that a government body won’t accept its own currency for payment of a fee. In the end the issue was referred around the various immigration officers and there ended up being about seven officers and me standing around in a group wondering what to do. I couldn’t work out why they couldn’t just fudge it but this was clearly impossible and in the end they had a bit of a whip round to top up the cash I had to pay the fee. I was deeply touched by this and also a highly embarrassed for I had hidden away in one of my pockets a few pesos so I would be sure I had enough cash to get back to Vina Del Mar and the boat. Crafty Odysseus would have been proud of me but I am afraid my modern conscience is not, but at this late stage there was no way I was going to confess that I had a few thousand pesos hidden away in my top pocket. Fortunately the donation to my cause was relatively small, I did offer to pay them back with the change they had given me but they wouldn’t hear of it. We all shook hands in the most convivial spirits and I left feeling not very proud.
Back at the boat late the evening, I greeted Bob Cat who simply woke up, meowed as if I had never been away and went to his food bowl and looked at me accusingly. His bowl was full, he had plenty of water, the wind was light and there was some daylight left. I was tired but of course had to see the new sail. I soon had the old one down and the new one up. It looks good.
All is well.
The skipper is back. I wonder where he has been wandering. Not that I particularly care, but I scored some tuna tonight, undoubtedly the result of the skipper’s guilty conscience. I should think so too. Maybe a warm body to snuggle up to tonight … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz