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Tuesday June 25th, 2002
Sailing to St. Lucia and Clearing into Customs

We had planned for a leisurely, downwind sail after listening to the day's weather forecast that morning. But, from the get-go, the sea seemed confused and turbulent. As we slipped further from the island we considered perhaps it was merely the current wrapping around the point, but the further away we got, it just seemed to get worse. About an hour out, we sighted two squalls on the horizon and Curt actually asked me to grab his harness from below so he could clip-on to the boat. It struck me just how much your perspective can change. If this'd happened when we first set out cruising, I surely would've freaked. But now, yes- I was anxious, but not totally distraught. Why? For one thing- I can actually sail at this point, and I understand more about the sea and what Force Five can do (as well as how strong she is). Morever, I trust Curt more now too… both his judgment and sailing skills. And in consideration of his good judgment, I asked him if we should turn back and make our passage on a day when it might be more comfortable? After some discussion, we decided to have a toast and keep going.

The squalls missed us, but the seas were still enough to keep us on our toes. Force Five rolled steeply from one side to the other, and bobbed to and fro as the swells slipped by underneath us. Perhaps if the current ran one consistent direction, it wouldn't have felt so bad, but the waves were coming from everywhere. A number of times, the swells dumped us so sharply off the back, we tipped on our side and the ocean came pouring into the cockpit. Now- this may sound crazy- but at some point, Curt and I just started having a ball! I suppose maybe once you're doing all you can, you can only laugh. We'd see some ridiculously huge wave about to break on us and we'd just let out an expletive as we got clobbered with salt water. One wave that washed in was so strong, it blew out the canvas splash cloths that line the cockpit! Somehow I felt I had to give Force Five a pat and apologize for this- we'd fix her all up when we got to Saint Lucia I said.

The entire passage, the conditions never let-up, and by the time we pulled into Rodney Bay a mere four hours later, we were both so exhausted, the normal mundane business of settling in at anchor was nearly overwhelming. We managed to get things squared away and had a bite to eat before heading into customs to clear-in.

Clearing in with customs can be simple and easy, or it can be a big old headache if the officer you're dealing with is having a bad day. On this particular afternoon in Rodney Bay, it was just your average check-in: a good thing considering how beat we were from our sail. We hoisted our yellow "Q" (for quarantine) flag, gathered our boat papers into a waterproof folder, and put on nice clothes to make ourselves respectable. Then began the wet dinghy ride to town followed by a sweaty trek on land in search of the customs and immigration office. We lucked out today- they are conveniently located right in the marina in plain sight. As we've come to expect, several desks are crammed into one small office. A television was blaring with the sounds of a cricket game while the uniformed officers stared over our heads to watch the score. We find the forms to be filled out, and pull out our carbon paper to make duplicates for the respective departments (you had better bring your own carbon, or the officers won't look too kindly on you). Captain Curt fills out the pages of paperwork (boat name, registration, weight, color, country of origin, list of crew members, etc.)… while I chat up the officers. I don't know how many customs officers have tried to explain cricket to me, but I STILL don't get it. Anyway, they shuffle our papers, shoot inquiries at Curt, collect some money, and in the end, place our forms on top of a monstrous heap of paper behind their desk before sending us to immigration. Here, it is more of the same, but we get the satisfaction of a "ka-THUMP" as they add a new stamp into our passport. Finally legit, we are now welcome to go back to the boat to hoist the host country's flag (proper courtesy) and have a well-deserved nap.

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