Wind, waves, and PAPERWORK: welcome to sailing life…

There’s one bit of boat life I’ve seldom discussed on this site, but it is a biggish part of the life; sooo much bureaucracy. To provide a picture closer to accurate, I’ll recount our current problems for once…

As those who’ve travelled by boat beyond their own borders will know already, check-in involves at least both an immigration authority and a customs authority, this second department dealing with the import/export of property. Customs supply some sort of permit so the yacht can stay unimported in the country (under laws aimed at all vehicles, thus at cars, usually). Here in Chile this lasts a year with one more year available after that routinely, and extra extensions allowed rarely. After this the boat’s confiscated unless it leaves the country (once it leaves it can come back immediately). Chile’s rules are pretty standard really.

Wishing boat life was like this all the time…

One of the lesser issues of the pandemic for authorities was sailors whose papers were about to expire, as sending them to sea with every reachable country closed for entry was obviously somewhat… ethically shady. In Williams the response of the local officials was rather an example, with the navy calling us to meetings which customs and others attended additionally, and being much more understanding than some other places were apparently, in that because of our predicament all our permits were frozen till further notice. But so as to be sure we still asked an extension in 2020, before the first permit’s Jan 2021 end date. Some who did the same received no extension or response, whilst our second permit was sent out normally.

One year later it seems that some borders are starting to open slightly, and in these last weeks it looks like entering Ushuaia nearby has become about possible, but still complicated and uncertain as well as expensive. We’ve started on more repairs while stuck here in the pandemic, so are limited by matters such as several of our windows’ absence, besides the situation’s continuing uncertainty. Our plan’s been to complete this maintenance and then sail in the area a little, this last in order to do trials of our homemade self-steering windvane. We’d leave Williams after this in a couple of months more. We’d applied for another import permit already, well in advance. We were told that in the circumstances we’d obtain one.

Despite the pleasantness of most of the customs representatives locally, communications with their Punta Arenas superiors seem in collapse, while there’s slight information in Williams where officers change biweekly. No vessel who emailed for an extension recently has had a reply, either to confirm or to refuse, leading to no end of difficulty. We went to the office on our last paper’s expiration day to see whether we were supposed to somehow depart suddenly, and were informed our next permit was on its way having been approved already. Unfortunately we would learn later that this wasn’t the case, so now we’re not free till all is resolved even if we could move. It can become comical as for another crew in this marina whose papers expired similarly, and who in fact wanted to leave but whom customs told not to leave. Immigration then tried to fine them for failure to leave.

I didn’t think in 2018 on first visiting Chile that we’d marry and buy our boat and become residents in the country, spending almost as long as I lived in my own country, and though our time here’s nearly come to its close anyway, that’s not the same as being rushed out before we’re ready. I’d rather think this will be sorted out without getting to that eventually. We’ve learnt this sort of stuff can’t be avoided in the sailing life, and costs some stress and time, but only rarely more. Storms are sometimes the least of the hassle…

But we’ll sail on soon, with luck a little later and a little more safely, but it’ll be soon either way. While stuck we’ve looked forward to continuing our sailing journey, but there’ll still be a sadness to leaving Chile. Hope it doesn’t happen so very suddenly.


4 thoughts on “Wind, waves, and PAPERWORK: welcome to sailing life…

  1. Joaquín Corssen

    Kinda of sad if the way you are gonna leave Chile is by being kicked out. I really hope and believe that will not be the case. I wish you all the best at this transtition!

    Fair winds always.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s