Sunday, August 10, 2008

Adventures in International Travel

Yes, we are back in Martinique after a harrowing and bizarre day of air travel. We flew from Chicago to San Juan on Friday. That flight went well but Mismo screamed for the first 2 hours of a 4 hour flight. There was no consoling here so we just shoved her in her little bag under the seat in front of us. MEOW. Finally she gave up and slept the rest of the way. We went back to the ‘pet friendly’ Sheraton hotel in Old San Juan. Neat location and a pretty view.

On Saturday it was back to the airport for the 2 hour flight to Martinique. We get our turn in the check in line and the lady asks when we are returning. I say that we are not and that our confusing trips all began in Martinique and now we are returning. She says but you have to have a return ticket. “To where?” I respond. “We live on our boat and we are returning to it and then sailing away”. She says, NO. She cannot let me proceed without a return ticket to somewhere and that if she did she her self would be subject to huge fines and we would find ourselves in a big mess when we reached Martinique.

I said, “Let me get this straight. We can’t fly into Martinique without a ticket that shows that we are going to fly out again even if we have no intension of flying out again?”
“Right!”, she says. “Otherwise people would just be flying where ever they wanted and you’d have - “FREEDOM”? I interject.

So, I said there’s no way I’m buying a ticket that I’m not going to use and I’ll need to speak to your superior. She tried to keep talking to me but I just turned away and ignored her. She tried to call immigration in Martinique but it being August and all they weren’t answering the phone. She talked with her superior on the phone and then told me that they had come up with a solution.

We simply buy two full fare tickets from Martinique to San Juan and then, since they are full fare, just ask for our money back after you get there. Are you nuts? Why don’t we all just SAY I did that and skip all this and move along. No. Well time was not on our side (yeah we were the annoying people taking up a whole counter person for 20 minutes) so we agreed. We purchased two full fare ticktes as described (>$1000) and got on the plane.

We no sooner got on the plane (actually a large human oven) when the pilot got on and told us that we would be staying put for about an hour! Mismo is crying it is so hot. I am whimpering. Finally we take off and have a pleasant if cramped flight to Martinique.

Martinique Immigration: Sure enough the nice man there asked us when and how we were returning out of Martinique. We showed him our return tickets (we’ll never use them) and he was happy. While waiting for our bags it began to really bug me. I wanted to know what happens if I sail out of Martinique and never use the tickets that he asked to see. I went back and tried to ask him that but his english was so weak that I could not make myself understood. He managed to tell me to ask at customs. Since that was our next stop I was ok with that.

Now comes another sphincter squeezing moment. We had researched and researched all the conflicting rules about pets and countries and air travel. As a result Sue had Mismo get a series of shots, an electronic chip in her neck, AND her own passport before leaving Martinique. Now to see if that all works. We approach the customs desk and follow the people in front of us through a door into. . . . The airport! No Customs . . IT’S August! So we spent many hundreds of dollars on Mismo making her travel ready and no one ever asked for any of it. EVER! In fact we paid $100 to American Airlines each way for the right to take Mismo on board with us. But if you didn’t pay and just took her on as carry-on as we did there is no one to ask if you paid. Mismo doesn’t get a boarding pass. So much for the honor system! More like the chump system. Some chumps will cough up $100 for their pet so that’s all to the good for the airlines.

I searched for the American Eagle desk at the airport to cash in my tickets but they don’t have an office in Martinique. They just fly in and out about 100 times a day but no office. Someday I will find an American Eagle desk though and get our 1k back! How stupid.

Original plan was to launch Enee upon our arrival. Since a Saturday launch costs and extra 70 EU (~$105) we called the guy and told him to wait until Monday if that was ok and it was. Predictions are for no exciting weather for quite awhile so we’ll get away still Monday as planned or possibly Tuesday. Looks like we’ll knock off 100 miles on the first sail and head south (and little WEST!) to Bequia at the northern end of the Grenadines and thereby skip St Lucia (too close to us) and St. Vincent (too many outlaws - nobody goes there any more). So, we’ll leave around 1000 looking to arrive the following morning sometime. Should be a nice beam reach all the way. Yea! That will leave about 60 miles to Grenada. From there, another 80 or so to Trinidad if we go there. Still undecided about that.

Good to be back on the boat even if she ain’t floating yet. My batteries are all nearly dead and I am hoping the wind generator will put enough charge in before Monday so that I can start the engine. In the mean time no lamps, no fans, no Nuttin!. . . And LIKE it!

HAPPY AUGUST BIRTHDAYS TO: RJ and Will on the 2nd as well as the weddingpaloosa of Chris and Suzy and Brian T birthday on the 10th.


Brian said...

Pipe down Snappy. I'm still working on getting you some kind of posting with the State Department. Ambassador, consul, something. You're going to ruin all my good work.

Brian said...

Ambassador Snappy -

Don't get rid of your return ticket. I think something might be opening up. I'm this close to getting you the vice-consulate in a place called Georgia. THe last guy resigned. Its on the Black Sea so you can get a lot of sailing in. I just need some references. Let me know


Anonymous said...

WOW! Never heard of so much silliness. First time I have ever heard of people who own boats that have to buy tickets for a return flight that isn't going to happen! I am researching to find out of my sailing friends have had this problem. Smooth sailing! The gang in PR