The next morning with rain still dripping off the dodger we raised anchor and prepared to head over to the British Virgin Islands, our final foreign country for this season. It seemed the shower had knocked the teeth out of the wind, at least for a little while, and we motored in perfect calm over to West End, also known as Sopers Hole. West End is a port of entry for the BVI, and foreigners are required to clear in at the first available port, so West End it was for Ocean Angel.
We entered through the gap between Little Thatch Island and Frenchman’s Cay paying close attention to the current as it can run up to four knots in this cut. The current swept us into West End, and our only concern was how rapidly we rushed past moored and anchored vessels. Once around the corner though, the current eased and we calmly entered the mooring area to either anchor or pickup a mooring. Day use of the moorings is free, and you only pay for overnight use. Harbors like West End are absolutely packed with moorings; there is very little room to anchor, but since we were only stopping long enough to clear into the country, use of a mooring was free.
Ferries dock at the Customs Building carrying passengers to and from points all through the islands, and the government facility is bustling all day long. If you see a ferry approaching the dock, you might as well plan to wait.
Clearing into most countries is relatively painless, as long as you go with the flow, and you have to realize that the flow differs from one place to the next, even within the same country. This particular post was actually fun. The various staff all seemed to enjoy their jobs, and they got a kick out of poking fun at foreigners like me. Since we would be leaving the boat in country for 6 months, we had to file temporary importation papers, and my process required a lot more paperwork than most. After I paid my multiple fees and had copies of all paperwork in hand, I placed a form that I had to return to immigration on the counter while I put away all my documents. When I turned back to pick up the form, it was gone. I looked at the officer in front of me and he laughed; another officer was walking away, and he turned and chuckled, my form in his hand. “You’re all set. Have a good day.” he said, and walked away laughing. Such is the easy way of life here.
I’ll pass on another bit of cruising advice at this point. If you’re leaving your boat in the BVI for more than a month, not only do you pay the normal Customs and Immigrations fees, but you also must pay a Temporary Importation Duty on your boat. I shuddered when they told me, not knowing what the cost would be. I’d only brought about $100 cash in with me. Fortunately, they take credit cards here for these fees, and I was able to get out of jail with my Capital One Card! Just a little over $200.00, so life was good. Another BTW tidbit for you – Capital One is one of very few credit card companies that does not charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases made overseas. Those fees can really add up when cruising, so we carry our Capital One card that also gives us double air miles for every dollar spent. We have to watch that cruising kitty.