No Fuel

Brian Bonniwell and Claudine
Thu 18 Jun 2009 23:47
37:16.5N 9:52.91E
Bizerte, Tunisia
Dropped anchor at 0745 local after a night sail (or motor, as no wind) from Ile de Galite. Our foray ashore resulted in us being demanded to moor 'stern too' to the marina pontoon for customs clearance.  Two uniformed officials came on board and checked passports and ships documents.  They also asked a lot of questions about what we had on board including numbers of computers, cameras, and amount of cash etc.  One in particular was really officious and instead of the offered 'thank you' bottle, requested cash. This was the beginning of many requests for 'presents' during the course of the day! It became apparent that these officials were also 'controlling' the supply of fuel.  They quoted us what it would cost us which at 0.58 Euro/litre was not much less than the eurozone price. They also wanted payment in cash - Dinar, the local currency.  It was clear that they were getting backhanders.  During the course of the day I broke through the 'cordon' only to find a beaten up truck with a tank on the back, and a delivery hose leading under a security fence to the 'fuel jetty'. I managed to barter with the driver and got a slightly better price, but the whole setup gave me concern re the quality of the fuel.  It is a well known fact that sludge in fuel can cause major problems with the engine - and this could be a real hazard whilst at sea.  We decided to abandon any plans for Tunisian fuel, and to take on fuel in Malta where prices are supposed to be reasonable.
We did a quick shop in the town - an amazing fruit, veg, meat, and fish market set in a maize of streets and market buildings.  So much to choose from. We came back to the boat with 40,000 Dinars worth!
 Checking out brought another wave of officials including a health official - we hid John!  Some of these were also seeking their 'present'.  Worst still - one can, and by then we did, say no to presents, was the marina wanted paying for a whole 24 hours for the pontoon berth onto which we had been directed by customs - more backhanders I suppose.  I challenged this telling them I did not want to be on their pontoon, and they should collect any dues from customs.  This led to the port Captain being summonsed.  He arrived complete with 48 hour beard growth and sporting a cowboy hat!  He was very menacing and discretion became the better part of valour  We reluctantly paid the 23 Euro being demanded.  Had we taken on water (which we had!!) it would have been 53 Euro, so we felt slightly satisfied. (Steve -delay transmitting this satellite email until outside Tunisian waters in case of intercept!)
We departed the pontoon at 1830 local and I vowed never ever to return to Tunisia.  We are now on a 2 day passage to Malta (still no wind), but may stop halfway on  the Italian Island of Pantelleria.
Regards to all
Brian Steve John and Malc
SY Wishanger II