We are now at anchor in Sandy Hook Bay waiting for the tide to rise and the current to slack enough for us to get in the marina without hassle. My plan is to spend this time productively and phone in our Custom’s clearance.
We spent about an hour on the phone trying to clear in through Customs. What a crazy run-around! If you think the Department of Homeland Security is keeping you secure… well, I certainly would not count on it!
When we checked in to the USA in Puerto Rico, things went smoothly, and exactly as we expected. We made a phone call, got a clearance number, and were told to report to the local Customs House within 24 hours with our paperwork. While we were there, the officer gave us a brochure for the “Small Vessel Reporting System”, a program where you are interviewed and pre-approved so you can check in with just a phone call. That sounded great, so we signed up for the program, got approved while we were in Culebra, and now is our first chance to use it.
We filed a float plan electronically before we left the Virgin Islands, as required, and we call the number given to us when we arrive here in the USA.
Ooops. That number is only for arrivals in Florida. He gives us the number for Customs in Newark, NJ.
Ooops wrong number. He transfers me to another line—which does not answer.
I try another tack, and call a number listed on the website.
Ooops wrong number, but call this one, they say. I ask if they can direct me to a list of the right phone numbers. No, the only list they have is a paper copy, and if they lose it they are in trouble. Really?
OK, so I call… He says, we have to call Immigration first. I try to explain that isn’t right, but no…
Ooops! Immigration says: No… call that last guy back we don’t need to talk to you.
A call back and the guy obviously has no idea what to do. I can’t decide if this is funny, sad, or worthy of a primal scream. He takes my name and the boat name, and says, that’s it. I am sure this is wrong. I need a clearance number. No, he says, you just say you talked to Officer Edgerly and everything will be fine. I KNOW this is wrong.
I try another number from the website.
Ooops! Wrong again, they give me a new number.
I call this one, and I am talking to Edgerly again. Oh, great.
I try to explain I have information HE needs, and he NEEDS to give me a clearance number. He fumbles and fuddles, and agrees to take my information and call back when he figures out what to do. (No, we do not ever get a phone call back. Surprised?)
Now it is Karen’s turn. She calls the office in Florida–again–and starts all over at the top. When they try to send her to the Newark number she explains that we have been through all this before, and can he pretty please help us? A pretty female voice wins the day and he agrees to violate “procedure” and clear us in through the Florida office. He takes our float plan number, and other details and we finally have our clearance number!
Our tax dollars at work… or not.
I am mystified about how I, with a minimum of research, can know more about the Customs Clearance procedures than most Customs Officers apparently do. The frustrating thing about this whole process is only somebody who WANTED to comply with the law would jump through the hoops we did. If we had a boat full of counterband we would have ignored the whole process and who would have known? Stupid.