The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Clearing Customs and Immigration, as a Cruiser


Over the years, Phyllis and I have cleared Customs and Immigration at the end of a voyage scores of times in at least 20 different countries. And almost all of those experiences have been pleasant and as stress free as dealing with authority in a country that is not our own ever is.

In some memorable cases, after the business was done, the officer(s) have even taken a moment to have a welcoming chat full of useful information and tips, or even just friendly human interaction, thereby turning a chore into a pleasure.

But on a few occasions, a very few, we have been unlucky and drawn an official who clearly enjoys wielding his or her—sadly for my gender, far more often him than her—power to intimidate and frighten. We have all met these types, and every law enforcement organization, no matter how well run and regulated, has them.

However, while we have certainly been irritated by this, we have never been truly frightened. Why not? Three reasons:

  1. We are always careful to make sure we have not contravened the laws, particularly those that relate to weapons and drugs, of the country we are entering.
  2. We are scrupulous about making sure we have the right entry papers, including visas if required.

The above two rules are just common sense and frankly I have little sympathy for cruisers who run afoul of Customs or Immigration as a result of breaking them.

Number three is less obvious, but perhaps the most important reason we have never felt truly scared when clearing in:

3. We have always limited our cruising to countries that have a strong rule of law. Countries where, even if nasty and arbitrary behaviour on the part of an official results in us being upset and inconvenienced, we know that eventually the law will protect us as long as we have not broken it.

But things are changing. Even in countries that were bastions of fairness and rule of law, elected leaders, and those with a good chance of becoming leaders in soon-to-come elections, are spewing hate. And some leaders are trampling the rule of law by issuing decrees without deference to the elected legislature.

And, worst of all, we are seeing a complete departure from the facts in the rantings of these leaders, including:

  • Blaming developing countries for the end of good manufacturing jobs when anyone who does a bit of basic research can clearly see that much (probably most) of this trend is caused by automation.
  • Blaming entire populations for the terrorist actions of a very few individuals, most of whom did not even come from the same countries.

I’m sickened by watching this. And as a person interested in history, particularly that of the 20th century, I am truly terrified by the similarities in this behaviour, by these new and aspiring leaders, to behaviour that preceded past horrors.

Sure, many of the countries that are experiencing this assault on rationality and the rule of law have strong democratic institutions that will, I think and hope, ultimately prevent the emergence of authoritarian regimes like those of the first part of the last century, and the ethnic genocides that they perpetrated.

But even so, Phyllis and I are still very worried. Why? All populations have a very small percentage of dangerous people. Even Norway, one of the most civilized societies in the world, a country we lived in for nearly three years and love, had a deranged and dangerous man lurking in the shadows…until he wasn’t lurking anymore. Closer to home, in recent years, we here in Canada have found out the hard way that our country harbours this kind of person too.

And when leaders who hold high offices spew lies and hate, these angry people are encouraged and enabled. And when entire countries and regions are blamed for crimes committed by a few deranged individuals, even the semi-rational in those countries can be radicalized.

We Cruisers Will Suffer

At this point many of you are thinking that I’m out of line to bring this up. After all, you come here to read about cruising, not terrifying trends in society.

And many of you are thinking that I’m completely off topic. But I’m not. In fact, although these trends should be of huge concern to all, they are particularly threatening to we who cruise the world, or aspire to do so, or even to the coastal cruiser.

You see, we cruisers stand out from the general population with our strange lifestyle and way of traveling, much like foreigners or internal ethnic populations do, so when bad people are enabled by the demagogues, we will be among the vulnerable:

Vulnerable to the bad-apple Immigration officer whose worst instincts are encouraged by arbitrary orders and rhetoric from on high. For in places where people with perfectly valid documents, including visas, are being turned away simply because of where they were born, we can never be sure that we won’t be similarly singled out for some arbitrary reason. Perhaps just because we have chosen to live a different lifestyle. Or because we look a bit tired and scruffy after a tough voyage.

Vulnerable when countries singled out for unfair restrictions on their people retaliate with their own arbitrary regulations bred of resentment—a spiral downward that will end badly for all.

And vulnerable as a tempting target for the radicalized I wrote about above.

What We Must Do

So what can we do? Simple:

  • Speak out, just as I’m doing.
  • Correct lies whenever we hear them.

We all have a responsibility, regardless of our political affiliation or nationality, to protect and promote the facts and the rule of law. And that goes double for people like me who have an audience, albeit it a tiny one in the greater scope of things.

That said, those of us who live in countries that have not yet succumbed to this trend need to speak out with humility and without judging or thinking that we are somehow better or more rational than the populations of countries already started down this bad road.

For I firmly believe that all peoples are capable of heinous behaviour when incited by lies and hate. Just two days ago I listened to some frightening rubbish being spewed by a candidate with a chance of winning the leadership of one of Canada’s major political parties. Bad stuff can happen anywhere…if we let it.

No Simple Answers

One more thing. For those interested, my opinions on the underlying issues that have spawned these dangerous trends are complex and nuanced. For example:

  1. Although I generally believe in free (or at least lightly regulated) trade, I do understand that it has not been a clear win for all and that we need to care for those who suffer from the fall-out of globalization and automation.
  2. While I believe that more fortunate countries should help refugees from war, I also have huge sympathy for countries, particularly in Europe, that are struggling with the challenges imposed by the influx of millions of refugees.
  3. While I believe that the biggest challenge facing much of the world, and the root of many other problems, is the obscene wealth disparity between the uber-rich and the rest, and that the only solution is innovative tax reform, I’m no socialist and, in fact, have a strong belief in capitalism.

My point is that, although you certainly don’t have to agree with me on the above three areas, blindly following one ideology (usually simplistic) at the exclusion of all others is a huge mistake that doesn’t solve problems, and further, is one of the reasons that civilized discussion seems so rare these days.


Talking of civilized discussion, obviously this is a contentious subject, but you will notice that in tackling it I have been careful not to break any of our comment guidelines. And most specifically, while I aggressively attacked bad behaviour, I did not attack individuals or countries.

So by all means stand up and be counted in the comments, but please, no mention of specific leaders, political parties, religions, or countries, and above all, no denigration of anyone else’s opinions. Disagreement is fine, denigration is not.

And before commenting, please read what I wrote carefully and don’t put words in my mouth that I never said and then argue against them.

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Tony Miller

Aloha John,
I joined your Blog for all the excellent knowledge that you and other member have acquired over the years of sailing.
Not to be lectured to about the political goings on in the world. Trade and Travel will not stop if Countries do not have open borders.
Having said that, when will publish your next article on navigating in the fog with Radar?
Tony Miller, SV Ikaika


Tony – With all due respect, how did you get to feel “lectured” from this blog entry? I reread it just in case I missed something and I don’t see it. The point is that the current trends in politics could potentially affect cruisers. That seems like a reasonable topic to be discussing on a web site dedicated to cruising.

The only mention of trade was prefaced by “For those interested, my opinions…” That doesn’t seem particularly political to me. Besides, the site has always welcomed opposing views in the comments. I think it’s an interesting topic as it relates to cruising different countries.

(PS….if John were really lecturing, it would be very clear that was what he was doing….and probably be replete with disclaimers ad nauseum 😉

Marc Dacey

To fail to consider both the politics and societal factors of a country to which one intends to sail one’s home (and, often, one’s dearest possession) seems to me unseamanlike, unwise and willfully naive.

This is why I do not find this post off-topic in the slightest, John. Unless cruisers intend to go non-stop, the quality of the stops will be largely determined by such issues as the rule of law, the rate of crime/social disruption, and the level of tolerated or institutional corruption.

We are planning our circ and hope to leave June, 2018. Firstly in the planning stages, we consult Cornell and the Admiralty pilots to determine favourable times for passage. Sadly, climate change (which is felt often more keenly in the tropics than in, say, Canada) is gradually making pilots less helpful as “unseasonality” picks up.

After that, we read and other resources that gauge the parameters you’ve listed. Too many “fails” means we won’t be going to a chosen port or country by boat because (mainly) of the perceived lawlessness of the country or related issues with crime. I choose not to be a victim, but rather than the “showdown” approach, we simply won’t stop at some places. Nor will our dollars.

Realistically, this conclusion increases the need for independence from the shore: energy, food and spares storage and meticulous maintenance gain in importance when one cannot take for granted the civility or safety of every port available. I doubt it will actually shorten our plans for a five-year circ, but it will likely increase the time we spend between longer passages; New Zealand looks good on a number of points in this regard, particularly as a place to haul out for service “mid-circ”. The shortwave radio and occasional internet access will be of great help in speccing out the next area or countries we visit. It’s not all glum news, mind: a sharp reduction in Red Sea piracy has restored the option of “South Africa around the Cape or the Med via the Suez” to our prospects. But we remain watchful. A lot could change by the time we are, say, reading pilots in Galle, Sri Lanka.

We also believe that it is very possible that deteriorating political, economic and climatic conditions will make world cruising in the near future perhaps too difficult for the person of only average affluence to contemplate. Fixing up a boat, selling up and sailing will persist in places like the Caribbean, but we suspect we might be in the last cohort to actually be able to do this at a parsimonious price and as a family. Which means what people like the Smeetons and the Hiscocks pioneered may be drawing to a close as a lifestyle, which I find sad, frankly.

Bill Attwood

Hi John
I agree with everything you’ve said above, but officious and bullying border officials aren’t new. Funny that most of the nicest officials seem to be in the less developed countries, and some of the worst in a country which believes it should export democracy to the rest of the world – although they may now be running a bit low on inventory of the product.
Yours aye


Hi John,
Just a word of support for your efforts to open a topic for discussion. Your post is anything but a political rant— just a reflection of the real world that cruisers encounter. Kind of like the sociological equivalent of fog.

For what it’s worth my worst border experience came while re-entering my birth country, the US some 40 years ago. And it wasn’t with Mexican Federalies , but rather with US customs. For want of a $32 error in reporting the customs duty due on the (totally legal) contents of the car, the car, my camera, and everything in it was seized and the customs agents gave us back our passports and money and pointed out across a rocky field and told us to walk toward San Diego. After a week of seeking legal redress in San Diego it became apparent that the cost of justice was not worth the aggravation.


Only one thing to say here: thank you, John.

Patrick Flockhart

Indeed! Well said and thank you John.

Jonas Vikström

Well spoken John, couldn’t agree more.
And thanks for speaking out.

Denis Dunne


Thank you for a great and appropriate article. It is particularly appropriate as the essence of the cruising life is to be a traveller and not a tourist. I read somewhere that cruising boats spend 80% of the time in port and 20% at sea. This demands that good cruising folk express an empathy with those that we meet along the way.

To me, cruising is one of the very few holistic lifestyles left to us and it goes far beyond the consideration of the latest heavy weather technique or the best battery management strategy. It is to engage with the rich humanity we meet on the way, and to reflect on that experience as we leave and scan the empty horizon. Hopefully, we are enriched and become better people from these experiences. This constantly deepening understanding of the world, and of ourselves, imposes on us a heavy duty to speak and act.

Your article is a timely reminder of that heavy duty and I look forward to reading more that speaks to the non-technical aspects of that great holistic experience of cruising.

Rob Gill

Nicely summarised Denis,

Colin Speedie

Hi Denis (& John)
so very well put. Cruising in the way we do demands that we embrace respect and humility towards our temporary host nations. As time goes by and we learn that most people are welcoming and good, wherever we go, the qualities we at first adopt to get by firm up into something more ingrained and enlightened. We can’t change the world – but it can change us, and in my experience, almost always for the better.
Kind regards

Melissa White

NIcely said.

Jamie Young

It will be difficult to stay totally on message as the current forces of change require us, all of us, to interact as basic human beings, despite the elephant in the room of population growth. As numbers ever grow and finite resources are part of the equation, financial and practical – we are so lucky to be able to cruise the world at our discretion. Cruisers essentially carry their home on their back and in the main have avoided up to now the invasions of privacy that flying now brings.
‘Advanced’ western states are now often becoming too awkward to visit when – with an ability to talk and with demonstrated respect – and maybe an Irish passport! – remote or developing countries are much more attractive to the independent cruiser.
And after visiting the Dusseldorf show where the desired size is now 60′ plus – costing multiple millions, is it no wonder the divide between rich and poor is so big. With some spending in excess of 100 million on their ‘yacht’ (really a mini state…) how can they think they are worth that! It may be the way but it is not sustainable.
As sailors, obviously of means to be able to afford time and costs, we are as much part of the global issues that now confront us. I would hazard also through dealing with all the inevitable issues of sailing: breakdowns of both equipment/crew – weather – keeping the finances going – etc, we could be uniquely qualified to see where this is all going and the responsibilities that go with that. I am personally now not going to go anyweher near some of those ‘advanced’ countries in preference to visiting more remote regions and acting with understanding and respect of and to those inhabitants.
Therefore a great topic of discussion and good to bring it up – it can’t all be about the best radar or latest chart software.

Steve Steinberg


Please stick with Attainable Adventuring, those of us living in or near the USA are being bombarded with anti-Trump sentiment daily (yes, you carefully crafted your words to avoid singling out the obvious). I thoroughly enjoy absorbing the knowledge that you and the AAC Contributors and Readers share….on sailing and cruising. Reading AAC has been one of the last bastions of Internet civility, please stay away from personal political opinions and innuendo (bashing the Rich, reinforcing fear, etc.). The last time AAC properly offended me was your post on “Captains”, another post that had nothing to do with Attainable Adventure and arguably broke your own comment guidelines. Thank you for the otherwise great content, and for considering my criticism. -Steve S.

Brian Engle

I echo Steve Steinberg’s sentiments. Let’s stick to adventure cruising. We can subscribe to any number of political venues to discuss the light years of philosophical differences between us. It’s hard for a discussion on anchor winch selection to turn political… but “navigating in the fog” could go either way. 🙂

Serge Paul

Hi John,
Very good and appropriate comments. I unfortunately agree that it get scarier to travel to other country. So much hate and false statement, I can only hope it will get better and very soon too.

Richard Hudson

Hi John,

I have to say that I’m disappointed with this post. From the title, I expected something like a discussion of the increasing trend by countries to require forward notification by internet before a yacht can visit. I’d mention some of those countries (including the one you were born in), and how that has–in two cases–dissuaded me from visiting them. But you asked not to mention any specific countries! Or a discussion about the increasing application of Visa Reciprocity rules in some (not mentioning country names at your request) countries.

Instead, you have written a political post.

Your concern that certain trends in one country which recently had an election, and other countries who are soon to have elections, are going to affect cruisers has some validity. But, in terms of effect on cruisers, and–much more so–effect on people, these recent actions have little comparison with the effect of the wars that have been waged (and are still being waged). For example, the destruction of the government of the African country (per your rules, I’m not mentioning the country name) which resulted in the establishment of piracy which has killed many people and made much of the Indian Ocean an area that cruisers avoid. Also, the wars started by a specific country against countries with a specific religious (not mentioning the religion at your request) majority in (incomplete list) 2003, 2011 and 2015 (escalated in 2016 & 2017). Acts of war come across as “spewing hate” and result in “radicalism”. And, if you’re familiar with the history, some of the above were done “without deference to the elected legislature”.

With your request not to mention any countries, many people won’t understand what I’m talking about. My point, is that if you did not protest those wars against countries with a specific religious majority, then your protest now seems weak. If you did protest those wars, and I just wasn’t able to find those posts on your site, I do apologize.

You have made a political post on a sailing blog. Comforting, to be sure, to all who agree with your political opinion. But you have restricted the comments so people who disagree with your political viewpoint have trouble discussing it. Frankly, I think of that as a recipe for an echo chamber. Though the value of the basic idea of discussing politics on a sailing site is dubious, at best.

Is there really nothing in cruising to talk about? It’s prime sailing season in the Southern Hemisphere. Several cruising boats must now be thinking about sailing north from Antarctica (which is not a country, so does not violate your comment rules)–looking at the weather, wondering and worrying if they can make it back across Drake Passage without getting beaten up badly. Many boat shows in the Northern Hemisphere are finished, perhaps there was some interesting stuff on display?

John, you have a site full of excellent articles and discussions on high-latitude cruising, sailing, maintenance, equipment and design. Politics is not a natural extension for this site.

Respectfully (but really wanting you to stay away from politics 🙂 ),


Richard – I mean this respectfully, but your comment comes across to me as far more political and opinionated than the original post. If your point is that the subject matter is inappropriate for a sailing blog, then why go on with the commentary? Just stop with you would rather see more technical sailing articles.

I’m not that interested in photography so I don’t usually read the photography entries. But I certainly think they are a part of cruising for many and I it doesn’t bother me to skip them. I’m sure everyone has their favorite and not-so favorite subjects to read about.

In the end, this isn’t a public service web site. It is a privately owned and operated enterprise which is financed by people who are interested in the content (whatever that may be) that John has, over the years, decided is most appropriate his audience. He will certainly pay attention to your suggestions as you are a paying customer.

I don’t usually chime in on political commentary, but I’ve decided to start speaking up when I see things seem to escalate for no reason. Not every comment about trade is meant to convey strong opinions of how a country is operating. And not every comment about wealth distribution is meant to provoke a political argument. Sometimes these are just reality questions we ask when we want to know how current events might affect our current lifestyles.

Just for the record though, I happen to agree with much of what you pointed out, just not the presentation. I would have named the countries though 🙂


Richard Hudson


You’re right.
I should have stopped at saying this post wasn’t what I wanted to see on a sailing site, rather than arguing the post (especially while obeying the comment restrictions).

I look forward to the next AAC article on sailing.


Brian Engle

Richard Hudson is spot on with his assessment of this article. Let’s check our politics at the door… or take the gloves off and really go at it!

PS: I’m another subscriber looking forward to the next fog navigation article.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I would want to comment on the appropriateness of putting such views on an AAC site: I see your comments as a form of “maintaining our cruising world” that is in line with the mission of AAC every bit as much as articles on maintaining one’s rig and spars.
That established, at least for me, I agree totally with the views expressed and the manner in which they were addressed.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Richard Hudson

Hi John and all,

I apologize for the harshness of the tone in my original comment. I reached this article by clicking on an email which arrived just after I had finished reading my third anti-Donald Trump article of the morning. I was greatly looking forward to a sailing topic as a diversion from reading the news :). As I read the article, I perceived it–rightly or wrongly–as yet another (if somewhat disguised) anti-Donald Trump article. I wasn’t in the mood for it and it struck a nerve.

I think I need to read less US news 🙂

In no way do I wish to imply that anyone should not be free to write or read whatever they wish.

If I hadn’t received an email about a new article on Clearing Customs & Immigration as a Cruiser, I would only have read this when I browsed the site, and probably would never have commented. Emails make me proactive–more than I should have been in this case. I will unsubscribe from notifications of new posts so I don’t make such a mistake again.

My apologies for any offense I have caused.

Best regards to all, and keep on sailing.


Hi Richard
I agree. The solution is to read less US & European & Russian & UK news! Preferably while in the midst of a long sea voyage to an interesting place!
Richard Elder

Chris Mehall

First of all, I do enjoy the website and think it is reasonable value… I don’t mind the post and actually do try to look at contrarian positions, actually reading both the NYT and WSJ daily. But I do think it is really important to point out that when people unsubscribe they are not in any way assaulting your free speech. They are just exercising their rights to associate and spend their income as they see appropriate. If they were assaulting your free speech they would shut down your website or try to in some other way terminate your ability to speak in some surreptitious manner. And as for not reading the post, that may not have been an option here. You titled the post in a fashion that kind of sucked your readers in, making it look like another column of good advice typical of most of your posts. Unfortunately, the right to free speech is just that. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences associated with that speech.

Chris Mehall

Hate to tell you this, but it was an attempt to coerce you to not speak out. And it was completely within their rights to do so, just like all the other threats to boycott all kinds of products from clothing lines to restaurants. I guess neither side can complain, although certainly some of the recent violent protests go beyond simple free speech and qualify as blatant vandalism. That the risk you take as a business that draws the ire of one side or another. It’s a shame it has to happen. It just seems like no one is wiling to have intelligent conversations anymore, although I do have to admit I think one side is more responsible than the other, just my opinion. That’s the reason so many businesses have traditionally given donations to both sides of the aisle, but it doesn’t seem like that’s even good enough anymore…

Bob Eaton

We live in interesting times and AAC binds us together in a love of cruising and the excellent, wide-ranging, and sometimes idiosyncratic postings of John and Phyllis and their team. A mark of our times is the tendency to pidgin-hole ideas and people. Civil discourse suffers and we lose our civility. Thank you, John, for reminding us that ideas that invite conversation and don’t shut down thought or people can be shared among friends.

Paddy Glenny

I’ve just read all the comments thus far posted and if I were the author of the original post I would feel disappointed and, honestly, hurt by some of the comments.
But please try to stay strong and confident that all you wrote is entirely approriate (imho) for your blog/site.
Why? Because, what I feel some commenters don’t appreciate is that every single thing we do, everyday, is political in some way or other. What brand of toothpaste you buy, do you use Ecovert ‘green’ dish soap, do you send your mother a Christmas card this year, etc etc- almost every action we make has a political element to it.
Living on board has enormous political ramifications as we are often either leaving one country and entering another or cruising in international waters and each of those stati brings you into having to adhere to a whole different set of laws.
As you rightly pointed out, our world is changing so fast it’s making our heads spin and the more we discuss it, as it pertains to our lifestyle, the better chance we have of sucessfully adapting to the new circumstances.
I also understand (and I’m going to use the big A word now) that Americans, particularly, probably feel as if they are right in the eye if the storm and I imagine many are indeed becoming fed up with being the nation under so much scrutiny, but they need to understand that as they have grown into such a powerful nation, when they sneeze the entire rest of the world catches a cold. The actions of the US government have a big effect on us all therefore we simply must be able to freely discuss what is going on.
Thank you for the post and know that (I’m confident) many of us GREATLY appreciate your panoramic work.


Sailing is a part time hobby to me. AAC has become an enjoyable and educative part of it. I would rather keep politics out of this site as some others have expressed. There are other venues for that for all of us. Politics make recreational actvities feel dirty. So I felt with this post. Why diminish the pervieved value of this great service?
Best regards,
Ps. Off-topic Thoughts and photos are great!

Tom Westberry

I’m torn between “And the people all said sit down, sit down you’re rocking the boat”, and “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In the states we’ve been deprogrammed to not understand the difference between a well reasoned argument and vacuous logical fallacies or fake news. It happened when news departments realized they can make a lot more money validating our peculiar ideologies than giving it to us straight. They ring the bell and we head for the trough.
It’s safe to say that many things in this world are more important than sailing, especially now, and I for one admire your choice to make an argument at the risk of losing a few subscribers. Real free speech that matters usually comes at a great cost, and is almost always worth it in my experience.

Melissa White

I am in complete agreement with this. On our website, I decided to post about the Women’s March, which I attended in Seattle. It is scary to post political opinion in today’s internet culture, even when you soft pedal it or keep it limited to factual information. By posting that I ‘came out’ as a liberal who wants to continue to see a progressive social agenda in my country. Maybe I lost readers, maybe I didn’t. At the end of the day, many of us are torn as you say in your opening statement. And I agree with John that if we have an audience, no matter how small, we need to speak out to the best of our abilities now. There is a lot at stake in our country. Well said and thanks.

Jamie Young

It would be dreadful if such a conversation as now appears turned into us/them or anything similar – a forum for discussion is just that and many differing points of view can and must be allowed to be expressed – the basics of democracy. (Though I appreciate it is a private venture…!) Nothing is just black or white, even from Roman times this was apparent: ‘Quot homines tot sententiae’ from 200 BC…..(I think I got the spelling right!)
There is no doubt that the cruising lifestyle is under threat from many countries – situations, not just politics. The smuggling of drugs across oceans under sail poses an equally challenging situation. And we are all cruisers whom this activity has the potential to affect…
Sailing internationally poses all sorts of challenges now and not just about which hardware we have on board or systems to use. While this forum has traditionally focused on this aspect, a short diversion to discuss current human challenges must be for the good – it may well govern what we can do into the future.


Hi John

I appreciate what you are trying to do here and you’ll have no argument from me on the substance of your post. That being said, please consider removing the name and the link to the wikipedia article of the Norwegian serial Killer. Don’t let that guy have the satisfaction of having a google alert on his name. It’s been proven that social/news media attention has an impact on these people.

Terje M.

Politics? Please keep your blog within the framework of sailing, cruising, navigation or at least something a sea dog can relates too. Border crossing, clearing customs, piracy and mooring fees are all welcome. Religion and politics? Please walk the plank.

Looking forward for navigation with radar in fog, stripped for political statements.

S/Y Maud,
Terje M

Marvin H

I’m often surprised how far one can go just adhering to your 1 & 2. I’ve imported a car and two boats from the XX into XX. (Just double checked, I’m not supposed to mention countries.) While not heroic in the least, I am surprised by the number of people who are all amazed, ‘how did you do that?!’ along with all the sites that propose to help you for a tidy fee. Just do the research, get your documents in line, show up at the boarder with the good attitude and answer the questions. Not really all that hard.
Just last night I stumbled on yet another youtuber’s adventure video were he tells the viewers he’s about leave a country he’s visiting to enter a third country without any idea what’s required, and with the camera on, heads to the boarder with a ‘Well, lets see how it goes?’. And then we wonder why some border guards lack patience. It really bugs me when this kind of bravado is sensationalized.
When I crossed back home with my newly purchased boat on a trailer, (the boat imports as easy as a bag of chips, the trailer is a vehicle and a real hassle) the best thing I had with me was a print out of the internet advert. I could smell a bunch of questions coming up as they wanted to value the boat/trailer as compared the the bill of sale and the agent asked if I had a copy of the ad. I’m betting he gets ‘no’ a lot of the time. He was a little surprised when I showed him a copy. After that, all they did was fill in blanks on the page, hand me the bill for the duty and wished me on my way. No agent ever opened or looked in either of the boats.
Due diligence on our part before we cross, knowing the requirements and show that you’ve made a serious attempt to meet them and admitting that we might be just sort of an exception in their routine can be a great place to start to making crossing easier.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Marvin H,
I would wish to emphasize your recent comment:
“Due diligence on our part before we cross, knowing the requirements and show that you’ve made a serious attempt to meet them and admitting that we might be just sort of an exception in their routine can be a great place to start to making crossing easier.”
Someday I may count the number of official encounters in 15+ years of wandering about, but they are in the many dozens, maybe hundreds. In that time we have ruffled feathers on a number of occasions (and been in violation of serious rules a couple of times-inadvertently) and I think what always saved the day was the fact that we always were trying to work in good faith with our understanding of the rules, that we had done due diligence in the forms and procedures and preparation, that we kept calm and reasonable, and, where possible, we had documentation of our good faith efforts.
It has been my take over the years that those cruisers who get a difficult time with officialdom are those that have been known to be slippery in other areas as well.
May all border crossings be smooth, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Ps. From my point of view, the best thing for border crossings has been the EU. A few years ago, we sailed a whole season, visited 11 countries and needed to contact immigration only on our return to the UK and in and out of Russia.

Stein Varjord

Hi John

I think your post shows good thinking. We need to look at some developments that are becoming serious threats to the safety of long distance cruising. Threats just as real and important as fog, storms, pirates or dragging anchors. How can the term “off topic” pop out of the hat in several comments?

Do some think that all topics here must be about nerdy sailors gadgets and neat little manouvres with a wooden dinghy? The name of this site is Attainable Atventure Cruising. Under the title, there is a long list of topic groups. Many of them are names from the world map. Places we are going. Places to go are pretty important if we want to do ADVENTURE Cruising.

That’s the point of this post, isn’t it, the worry that we’ll be arriving to new troubles? Isn’t it just stupid to deny discussing what we can do to understand, prepare and influence in a nice way? How can it be “off topic” to try to see how we can use our specific angle to make a slightly better world?

After quite a few years with the animal species that thinks it’s so different from the other animals, I’ve learned a few tricks they like. Maybe the favourite is “pretend it’s serious, so hard you’ll even believe it’s true yourself”. The best tool for this trick is using fancy labels like “Off topic”. Sticking that on, means that “the opponents” have to explain in detail why it’s not fair to use the label, like I did above, and still the doubt sticks. “Well, they had to defend, didn’t they, so the label was at least partly fair. It was actually slightly off topic!” Was it? I don’t think so. Let’s turn the trick gradually upside down:

What’s actually triggering the resistance to this post? Words like “disappointing”, the tone and more, point clearly to emotional reactions. The post doesn’t link to any person, so the post must be a threat towards the extended persona of the critics. The reason social contexts have a ban on politics and religion, is to avoid challenging such tender points and creating a sour tone. Politics and religion are certainly not off topic in a social setting. They’re just difficult topics and the setting has another core purpose.

They are just as difficult here. That’s why John has put some strict rules for HOW to discuss those topics. The rules are there to make it easier to discuss, when they are relevant. Actually we mostly use those same rules for all topics, but when we get emotionally triggered, it’s hard to avoid temptation. We need reminders and clarity to stay nice. We need to be nice to make the discussion interesting.

When this post triggered some readers emotions, they reached for the trick word “off topic” like a tennis referee shouts “Foul!” While the referee follows a clear rule book, the critics here are only pretending. Why try this trick? Why do their reasons need something extra, like a crutch, to be able to stand? Is there something missing in the foundation of their arguments? Yes. There is one common core flaw:

They all mainly say: “John shouldn’t write about this, because it hurts my feelings.” If a topic needs discussing, John can’t always listen when some shout “off topic”. Especially when as now, they should have said “ouch, that was a bit painful for me, so I’ll skip that for now and read something else.” Most of us are sensitive to a few topics. That’s totally fine, but we can’t expect the world to live by our sensitivities. Then everything would be deemed “off topic”, or sinful. The only off topic in this post are the comments about being off topic.

Marc Dacey

Some sailing is quite adventurous already. I hope it remains attainable by the likes of me and mine. The state of the world beyond our individual borders affects that more than, say, having the latest gadget.


The good news is that bill-S-233 is working it’s way through the Canadian Bureaucracy. This bill amends the customs act and exempts boaters who cross into Canadian waters from reporting to Canadian authorities as long as they do not drop anchor or arrive on shore. It seems that the Canadian authorities were confiscating offending vessels and ransoming them back to their rightful owners. This was happening in the Thousand Islands and tourism was significantly impacted. And you guessed correctly, it is the 1000 Islands tourism council that is sponsoring the bill.

The larger the government the less freedom we all have. I was very interested to hear that some of the less developed countries are the easiest to enter / leave and would like to hear first hand accounts of the good and the bad, costs etc.

Todd Stevens

Border crossing tensions come and go. It does seem likely that things are about to get worse. Maybe much worse. However, I have not heard of any increased difficulties for cruisers *yet*. In fact, some procedures have recently gone on-line and gotten easier. But that was before this latest nonsense started. As you said, let’s stick with observable facts.

And a related ponderable… I am one of those with a previously-owned boat who have discovered drug paraphernalia hidden away in dark crevices. I wonder if there is a way to get a “courtesy drug search” (non-destructive!) in advance, just in case?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Todd,
What a fortunate find! In this day and age where recreational drugs are legal here and not there, it is worth telling guests that they are to go through their purses, backpacks etc. etc. and find all traces or even not bring things that have held drugs. This goes especially if you are in intolerant countries who might in no way be amused. For new to you used boats, you might suggest that the local police do a training exercise on your vessel with dogs and document it with pics.
Which brings me to a word-of-warning story. We are frequently asked if we carry drugs and firearms to which we answer “no”. I have answered as if the “drugs” question is about illegal recreational drugs (who would answer “yes” to carrying illegal drugs), but I believed that they may be asking about prescription drugs (as well). I have chosen to answer the illegal drugs question. This question/answer took place when we entered Russia on our boat. The next day an acquaintance checked in on his boat and they asked the same questions and received the same answers. This time dogs were brought aboard and his medical kit was found with his serious offshore drug supply (like I have) and the officials felt lied to. (It was the pain killer with codeine that caught their attention, I believe.) It was sorted, but was quite anxious and ugly for a number of hours and needed the intervention of an agent.
I suggest always carrying copies of the scripts for your meds and a letter from your prescribing physician saying he/she has done so, that they are for emergencies when other medical people are unavailable, that you (the owner) have been trained in their use and will consult with appropriate people by radio/telephone/email when the drugs are indicated.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


Hi Dick,
While entering Colombia a couple of years ago customs seized a toenail clipper with a “blade” only a quarter of inch long. Trying to keep up with the US Homeland Security I guess. Having lived there 40 years ago when every campesino carried a machete at his hip, I could but laugh. The first rule of dealing with customs that they are always right!

Dick Stevenson

Hi Marc,
I am not sure what you mean by “cruiser arbitrage” nor why it might be better to do landfall in France rather than the UK. I would not worry about overwintering in the UK (for non-EU boats). I don’t think Brexit will change things much for non-EU boats. A friend at St. Katherine Docks, London, reports that SKD is making overwintering there easier than it has been in years (we spent 3 winters there and it was magical).
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi Richard,
Yes, I believe some of the rules were designed by Swiss Army Knife maker, Victorianox (sp) as so many of their pocket knives get confiscated. My beloved machete from the DR is well buried in Alchemy’s belly as UK/EU are really strict about knives (they especially do not like the safety feature where the blade gets locked open).
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


I would think a few English sailors are wondering how Brexit will affect their future plans.

Marc Dacey

Not just English sailors, but those non-EU boats contemplating overwintering in England and then proceeding into the EU. I can see a general seizing up via red tape what has only lately become easier. There may be a sort of “cruiser arbitrage” in which it’s easier to land in France after a trans-Atlantic, clear into the EU and then go to the UK. I don’t know yet, and I suspect no one else does.

Colin Speedie

Hi Doug, Marc
You may well ask – but here’s a thought. Consider that there are many of us who work in the yacht field, and for whom the ability to work anywhere is a fundamental necessity. One of my last jobs was to help a German couple shake down a French built boat on a cruise through Spain and Portugal. If the right to work across borders is curtailed, how will we cope with that?
And then consider the VAT implications for both new and second hand boats…
Best wishes

Marc Dacey

I’ve felt the same when travelling on my British passport, which I’ve done a few times. “The green line” is a welcoming one.

Marc Dacey

Dick, by “arbitrage”, I meant that I can see how, once Brexit happens, that there may evolve a noticeable difference in fees and hassle between the UK and any EU country bordering on the Atlantic that may make give selecting one arrival point an advantage. Where we land is a factor of time at sea, fatigue, and only tangentially the cost of clearing in, and we are also looking at the south of Ireland in this regard as it shaves off several days to clear in there and I have Irish kin.

As to whom, yet, such a prospective arbitrage might favour, I couldn’t say, nor can anyone, I think. But it is not likely to remain the status quo should Brexit happen: Either the UK will be cheaper and easier to clear into, or the EU will. Every day that doesn’t trigger the exit (plus two years, as I understand) means we are not likely to face this as an issue, but it’s a volatile world we live in and arguably is getting more so.

As for St. Katherine Docks, thanks for the tip. We are most likely to stay in the Southampton area to overwinter should we choose that for the purpose of taking RYA courses and having my wife work as a teacher for a term while I work aboard. But we are prepared to be flexible.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Marc,
Wintering over notes on the UK and places to check-in in the Republic of Ireland that are not “designated” may take us far afield from this stream. I believe you have my email address, so contact me if you wish for more info in either area. Dick

Marc Dacey

Yes, thank you, Dick. The typical set and drift of AAC comments has been noted before!

Russell L

Living in a country that is very divided over a recent election I understand were you are coming from. That is because the general tone of your post sounds similar to many others who have opined on our politics over the past eighteen months.

I am sympathetic to some of your opinions, worried about the direction we are headed and feel like some of this is overblown. With all of that I was disappointed as I read the article. It feels like more of the same that I have been hearing lately. If you don’t live here you might not understand how old this can get.

I also have trouble lumping the plight of cruisers in with ethnic minority’s. I don’t see it, most cruisers have resources and options. If a country doesn’t like you then go somewhere else.

Fully aware I have little experience in sailing the world but hope to. I am optimistic about the future, my experience has been that people over the world are welcoming. Thanks

Eivind Haugan

Maybe the main distruption to our sailing will be the possible trade barriers and tarrifs that some countries (I understand that it is not good to mention Brexit and the new US policy direction) might setup. It could be as simple that you need a part to your Lewmar or Harken winch or mainsail track sent to a country that are currently in a trade war with the country where your boat have problem, and you just can’t get it through to your current destination. Free or well regulated trade is a more important part to modern life, and long distance cruising is very much a part of that!

Marc Dacey

In reference to this, I discovered a reasonably priced source for boat parts in Idaho, an inland state of the USA. I get excellent service from them, but should NAFTA be dissolved, there would be little reason to shop cross-border for most of my refit-related purchases. The idea that certain items related to boat maintenance would be, due to a trade war, impossible to legally obtain would strongly affect my product choices. Suddenly, odd little firms in New Zealand look like better bets.

Marc Dacey

Sorry for mentioning a country, but really, I was trying to indicate that should free trade policies fall by the wayside, the resumption of heavy import duties and re-erected trade barriers in any jurisdiction, as may be the near-term trend, will affect cruisers. The ubiquity of internet access and internationally available credit card usage has meant that boats no longer need to carry (unless one fancies sailing to Svalbard, I suppose) a chandlery’s worth of spares and rebuilt items, as was the case when getting a gasket meant six weeks at a dock and half-a-dozen pleading phone calls. I would not wish that world to return, really, even though I have the tendency to overdo it on spares.

Eivind Haugan

This is exactly the kind of possible problems I was thinking about.
In addition one can foresee similar problems with getting crew to fly back and forth if even more countries start requiring visas and have other restrictions based on wherever they have traveled earlier.

Marc Dacey

I agree about crewing. I have done deliveries in two countries foreign to me and have delivered to a third. I have also taken sail training in two other countries. This is what happens when you are trying to sail out from a freshwater lake in the middle of a continent: you have to travel to salt water! The situation you describe has the potential for enormous mischief.

Richard Hudson

Hi John,

Thanks for clarifying your message, and for tolerating my rants :).

It seems that most commenters agree with you that politics is a suitable topic at AAC. That’s fair enough, I don’t want to stand in the way of that.

I would like to say that I think most people prefer ‘descriptions of facts’ to be presented separately from opinions about those facts.

May I suggest, that if an article will lead in to a political viewpoint, that the political viewpoint be a separate article, with a title indicating that it is a political viewpoint. So, if you want to share, for instance, an opinion that the Alt-Right movement will hurt cruisers, then the article would be titled something like Alt-Right Politics Harms Cruisers. With a title like that, readers know the article is a political viewpoint, can choose whether or not to read it, and aren’t surprised by the content.


Russell L

Because I am in the country John mentioned there have been many articles written about our current administration by people engaging in virtue signaling. Even when I agree with their position the tone of superior hectoring is so grating that it turns me off. If you don’t live here you might not understand what some people are feeling. I believe this post was made with the best of intentions but due to local conditions it hit some the wrong way. Thanks for all you do, this site is wonderful.


Russell – I think that is exactly right. The timing of this was unfortunate because the AAC community is an ideal one to discuss it. There are a lot of smart people with a lot of international experience on this site. But the current day to day tone of the conversation in our politics is so grating I have turned my news feed off. I fully understand people being on edge right now. That said, this too shall pass…probably 🙂


Russell L


Thanks much for your considered response; there is a reason people are discouraged from discussing politics or religion with a group of strangers. There is much room for misunderstanding and offense. Unfortunately if we do not talk then we can’t understand the feelings and motives of others.

My background on the election just past is that I voted for a third party candidate because I could not bring myself to vote for either of the top two choices (rather weak and limp of me if I do say so myself).

Where your article could be construed as condescending is in using words like: “lies, hate, frightening rubbish, irrational, departure from the facts and departure from rationality”. The message these words convey is that anyone who might have a sympathetic feeling for the president is either a dupe, a rube, a hater or all of the above.

When this is the message we get from most of our media today hopefully you can understand why some might be sensitive. Good people voted for our president for complex reasons. You might not agree with their final judgement but that does not make them rubes, dupes, and haters.

Enough of that, you have already said you were not singling out a specific country or leader. You were not trying to judge anyone and tried to provide context. The world is a lot bigger then any one country, certainly bigger then your Southern neighbor (despite what we might think). This article probably came across just right to the vast majority of your audience. I am trying to explain why some have taken it hard.