Fw: Charleston - 32:46.7N 79:57.3W

Wed 31 Aug 2011 03:31
After finding a spare berth in a marina I tie up at 0600 and quickly hop into my bunk to try and get some sleep.   Although still highly caffeinated I do mange to sleep but am woken at 0800 by one the marina staff asking if I have been to the office yet.  I told him that I had just arrived and would see to it shortly.  Feeling pretty energetic I hopped up got dressed and headed off.  Sorting out the marina paperwork was no problem but you also have to inform customs and immigration of your arrival.  The marina staff had their number and allowed me to use the office phone to call.
Just like they had said, the immigration officers arrived down to the boat a half-hour later.  They had a look into the cabin but favoured sitting in the cockpit.  We went through all the formalities; visas, clearing out documents, passport, ships registration etc.  They had a look around the boat and when satisfied wished me an enjoyable stay and we talked briefly about the hot spots in Charleston and where the marina was in relation to the city.  I had been pretty nervous about going through this process and have heard of people complaining about clearing into the US but these guys seemed to be able to perform their duties without intimidation or harassment and as with the staff of the marina left me feeling welcome.
There were other formalities to attend to.  Once entering the states you are required to apply for a cruising licence.  This for the most part is a good thing for once you have your licence number all you are required to do is ring it in every time you enter a new port.   Unfortunately customs issue this and they are located in a commercial dockyard on the other side of town.  The marina office were able to provide me with a number and a phone to call to make an appointment.  On my first try I got an answering machine asking me to leave a name and number, but I did not have a phone number so I couldn't do this.  Instead I tried again an hour later with the same result.  Deciding that it was best to organise this asap I got a taxi to the customs office.
Located outside of town and in a commercial dockyard there was security on the gate.  He rang into the customs office and put me on to them.  I explained that I had arrived this morning and was trying to contact them to arrange  an appointment, also that I didn’t have to number to leave on their answering machine as it was my first time in the country.  He told me that my appointment was at half-two and to come back then.  I then asked if they had a waiting room where I could spend the two hours as the taxi had left at this stage.  He’s response was that you can wait outside the gate, i.e. you can sit on the side of the road.  I walked around the area for two hours and when I returned again security rang in my arrival and they said that they would have to accompany me the 300 yards to the office.  He arrived to the gate in a van and wanted to know where my car was.  Again I told him that I had just arrived into the US by boat.  “Well I can’t take you in the van we’re not allowed have anybody but staff in them”  “It’s no problem I’ll walk behind you to the office”  I knew this sounded a bit ridiculous but strained to try and sound as sincere as possible.  I knew this guy was trying to be awkward with me but when dealing with officials you are at their mercy and I don’t ever mess around or give smart answers; unless of course you know that they are going to appreciate the amusing side of it.
We get to the office and and the first question was “do you have nineteen dollars, not twenty dollars, nineteen.”  He had already warned me on the phone not to arrive with twenty or I would be sent away.  At his stage I was ready to fall about laughing at the bureaucracy but I held a straight face and and let him enjoy his couple of minutes in the sun.  After some form filling and declaring, funnily enough and with his consent/advice, 1.5 Kg of muesli and 8l of water.  At this stage he was beginning to warm a bit and I was telling of my travels and asking him advice on how to return to town or the marina.  He said there were no busses and the only method was to call a taxi, but that he would do that since I had no phone.  With him still signing and stamping and photocopying the Sargent walked into the office, one of the less experienced staff stood to attention and saluted but nobody else.  The man that was dealing with me kept about his business and with everything completed turned to the Sargent and mentioned that he was going to give a taxi a call for me since I didn’t have a phone.  Standing three feet in front  of me sarge says “ we don’t call taxis, not our job, how did he get here”  “he walked”  “Well let him walk back again so.”  He then turned and ordered another member of staff to escort me to the gate. 
On our walk to the gate I talked to the other officer who sounded somewhat embarrassed of his superiors attitude.  We had a pleasant conversation about how he wanted to visit Ireland and I with skin thickened by similar Portuguese exploits found no quarrel with him, I had my piece of paper, it was valid for a year and only cost nineteen dollars.