Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clearing Your Canadian Boat into Europe Via the Azores

2011 07 24

When you leave Canada by boat you are always concerned about the rules for clearing that boat and yourself into another country.   Getting into Europe via the Azores is straightforward.

I say "via the Azores" for I believe the process might be different in different EU countries

What does it Cost?

Like Canada it costs nothing to clear into Europe by boat.  We may be the only two  jurisdictions left where that is the case.  The cost in the USA is slight ($20) but slated to rise dramatically as that government tries desperately to make someone pay for their dreadful and useless Homeland Security program.

What Documents are Required?

You will need the following:

  • Certificate of Registry for your Boat - This has been the first requested document in every country we enter.  Even before passports immigration and customs officials want to see your ORIGINAL Certificate of Registry.  If you have cheaped out and failed to registered your boat with the federal government just stay home. 
  • Passport for every person on board
  • Proof of Insurance - At least Third Party Liability Coverage.  Now I can tell you that in neither Flores nor Horta have been asked for proof of insurance but you must clear into and out of every port in Portugal and we expect fully that when we get to the continent we will be nailed on this.
  • Contract with the Marina - It is almost funny.  In Horta you first sit in the marina office and are issued a contract.  Then you walk across the hall to immigration, literally no more than 6 feet away, and the immigration official makes a photocopy of the contract you were just handed and places it in your file.

Figuring some of you might question my statement that proof of insurance is required I quote from the Noonsite summary of the Insurance Rules:

The first tenet is the requirement for vessels to carry insurance. While the overwhelming majority of leisure sailors insure their boats now, and charter boats are already covered by law, there are a significant proportion of long range cruising sailors who don't carry insurance because of the expense. In the future they will be denied entry to any European port.

What is the Process

In Flores here is what you do:

Before you enter Azorean waters fly your Portuguese courtesy flag and below it your yellow quarantine flag.  This is different from other countries where usually you do not fly the courtesy flag until you have been cleared.  Fly the courtesy flag above the q flag.
Enter the marina at Lajes.  It does not matter what time of day or night.
Find a slip, any slip, and tie up
Go about your business.  There is no marina office, no custsoms office, no immigration office.

At some point during your stay one or more of the marina staff (we never saw one), immigration official, customs official or maritime police will visit your boat and take your particulars.  They will want to see your Certificate of Registry and your Passports.

It is very laid back in Flores.

In Horta, whether you have cleared into another port or not you do this:

Enter the port and tie up on the wall in front of the marina office.
Take your papers to the marina office and arrange moorage
Take your marina contract, passports, certificate of registry across the hall to immigration
When you are done with immigration you go to the next office down the hallway to customs and present your Certificate of Registry, passports and marina contract.

Effect of Clearing In

When you have cleared into a port you are cleared for travel throughout Europe without further restriction.  The UK, which has never played well with others, does not join in and you must clear separately into that island nation.

Clearing into Flores is not clearing into the EU.  No one stamps your passport in Flores but you have freedom of movement in a friendly inviting beautiful locale.

How Long Can I Stay?

You can only stay in the Schengen Zone countries for a maximum of 90 days in any six month period.  This is irregardless of exits and entries and IS NOT 90 DAYS IN EACH COUNTRY.  IT IS 90 DAYS FOR THE ENTIRE SCHENGEN ZONE.

Local immigration officials in Horta have suggested to us that the rule may be interpreted as 90 days in each country but we cannot find independent confirmation of this.

The high handed actions of our tyrannical prime minister the dark lord Stephen Harper in imposing visa restrictions on some Schengen Zone countries, like the Czech Republic, has not endeared Canada to Schengen Zone officials.  Other countries like New Zealand have agreements in place assuring them 90 days in each country.  Canada's visionary leadership, in the control of a bloody economists, cannot be bothered.  In Canada we float a ship of fools, at least on the bridge.

So it becomes a bit of a game if you want to cruise Europe for an extended time. 

This fact may decide whether we bother to stay and cruise or just go home.  The whole thing is rubbish.

Why Would I Clear Into Flores At All?

Approaching the Azores from North America Flores is both the northernmost and the westernmost island in the Azorean chain.  After Flores it is 120 nautical miles to the next island, Horta.

If you do not stop at Flores on the way by you will not return to it after you clear into Horta.  This would be a major mistake.

Flores is an early chance for a rest and recuperation.  Food fuel and restoration of the soul are all available here.

The marina is FREE.  It has no services yet but you can tie up to a secure floating dock among friendly boaters.

Do not listen to anyone who will tell you (and there are many many such people) that you cannot clear into Flores.  You can.  You should.  Tell them Bob said they were stupid and uninformed.

Rest up and head off to Horta when you are ready.

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