Yesterday we saw Ty off to catch his plane to the great old USA via St. Thomas and the USVI. Since we can only get a 30 day visa here at a time and Ty took all his stuff with him, which amounted to 9 bags of surfboards, kites and crap we decided to take the ferry with him. Both to help him carry all his stuff and possibly extend our stay with out having to go through notorious Road Town Immigration.
It was a tough decision for Ty in deciding to take the 7am or 10am ferry in order to make it for his 4pm flight. But as we were going with him and its only a 45 minute ferry ride from the west end of Tortola to St. Thomas and with some advice from our Tortola friends he went with the 10am option.
We departed a little late and everything was going smoothly as we were gliding by the lush shoreline of St. John on the rickety old, super noisy ferry boat. I don’t think my dad would have made it with his ears and all, as I had to plug mine in an effort to save my hearing. There is no outside on this boat mind you, we were all crammed into a hot, steamy, packed cabin. Then with a few loud bangs, chugs, clanks and a huge cloud of diesel smoke we were dead in the water.
Ty, who has wanted to be home for the last 3 months was distraught none the less and was cursing the boat and telling everyone how he knew he should have taken the 7am ferry. I think he was convinced he was never getting home. But we have to give the Smith Ferry service props, they announced we were now headed for St. John and with a few bangs of a wrench and talk in what they call English that we still quite can’t understand, they got one engine started again and we were slowly on our way to Cruz Bay in St. John to clear customs.
Ty was definitely distraught at this point, but on the bright side he was able to knock one more island off the checklist before he left. So, after clearing customs, helping Ty get all his 9 bags through customs, back onto the crippled ferry in the sweltering heat and watching the locals bang some more on the engine. We were again loaded onto the rubbish ferry as they would say down here and off at a much slower pace for St. Thomas.
Instead of heading for Charlotte Amalie, we got dropped off at Red Hook on the East end of St. Thomas and had to take cabs across the island to “Down Town” which were paid for by the ferry company. This was to be our last sight of Ty we would see. He and his luggage took their own cab directly to the airport and with 3 hours to spare I think he made it OK. So with a couple of hugs and best farewell wishes we were abruptly torn apart from the man we had just spend the last six months on the boat with.
On the cab tour of the island our thoughts drifted to all of the fun times we had shared together and wondered what adventures would become of us and Ty in the future and truly marveled at what the three of us had accomplished so far (open ocean sailing is a lot different than club racing, especially during winter in the North Atlantic).
St. Thomas is like Tortola on crack rock, speed and Ritalin. Much more eclectic, much faster paced and way better organized. We were able to hit the K-Mart for some of the items we just couldn’t find in the BVI and then as Ben spied the Mickey D’s his favorite fast food restaurant (there is no fast food or chain stores in the BVI), I relented and we had our first taste of American crap food in many moons. It did taste OK, but still made me feel like crap afterwards and I was instantly ready to head back to the BVI and its much slower paced and non-corporate lifestyle. But, that wouldn’t happen before walking down the waterfront, popping in all the chain stores and tourist shops. Gawking at the number of ultra mega yachts it the bay (I think 5 of them had helicopters on them) and cursing the multitude of cruse ships there dripping off their minions to scour all the stores for the shit they could just have easily bought back home.
So, with a couple of Pina Coladas (my favorite drink) and a toast to just the two of us, we once again boarded a ferry (better one this time, even had AC and a movie playing) and headed back to the west end of Tortola. The trip was uneventful, but the immigration officers wouldn’t accept the fact that we had only be out of the BVI for 6 hours or so and would not extend our expiring visas as they said they would do the day before and told us we better go into the main office in Rhode Town tomorrow or risk being arrested when we tried to leave the country.
We woke up early today 6am and hitched a ride to “Town” to get to the immigration office an hour before it opened as everyone tells us it is a nightmare and will at least take half a day. They were right. We got there a 7:30am and the line was all ready 8 deep in-front of us, but instead of the office opening at 8am it opened at 9am and closed a 3pm, quite a solid work day for a bureaucrat.
When the doors opened at 9:15 the rush was on to grab a number inside and as the line or queue had swelled to over 40 no one seemed to follow the order of the pre-door line-up. I was swatting hands out of the way as every one was reaching and shoving to grab a ticket with a number and ladies with babies, old people with crutches and even the injured and crippled were ruthlessly shoved out of the way. Ben and I quickly called out the butters and started telling people how rude they were and successfully got some of the butters to swap tickets with the less fortunate and trodden upon. So once that was all sorted, our number was called in about a half hour and then we had to fill out some more paperwork. We did that, then waited to give the paperwork and our passports back to them and were informed our names would be called when ready. Our names must have gone to the bottom of the pile as hour after hour ticked by and people who showed up way after us were quickly out of there. Around noon we got called in and the immigration officer was quite nice and after explaining our circumstance, said we could stay for an additional 30 days if we had the $20 they needed. So with some money exchanged and a couple more stamps in our passports we were good to go and happly on the rhode again by 12:30. We told our friends it took us 5 hours and they all said that wasn’t bad, so next time your in line at the DMV or bank in America, just be thankful your not in line at BVI Immigration sweating your ass off in some hot cramped room with masses of your other new best friends.
We now are once again able to enjoy the good life in the BVI and don’t have to worry about leaving the country any time soon, but are still planning on trying to make it to St. Marten soon and as always we will be keeping you posted as to all the fun and frustrating times we are having on this once in a lifetime adventure. So, have fun, keep it real and enjoy what ever bureaucracy you have to deal with. Cheers – Kyber