Saturday, March 31, 2012

Late Night Visits from Agents of the Government

01 04 2012
The Final Days of Almerimar, Spain

Mooring in Spain is a challenge.  On entering a marina here you must stop at the marina office before anything may occur.  Failure to stop at the marina office instigates Spanish alarm systems accompanied by yelling, waving of arms and gesticulation.  People get upset.

Marina offices you see are all immigration offices you see.  To enter the marina without clearing in is tantamount to driving through the border post at the Canada US border.  

In Spain you must clear in and out of every marina.  Failure to do so is a serious offence.  Marina offices are presented with Passports for all crew (which are copied and faxed to big brother central), Certificate of Registry for you boat and Proof of Insurance in Spanish.  To be permitted to leave you must prove to the satisfaction of the marina office that you have settled all your accounts in full.  The office may ask for proof of payment of bills with local tradespeople and service providers. 

Every dealing you have with the marina is documented.  The marina keeps a file on every boat and boater; the file an ongoing record of notations, observations, records of payment and such.  One night just after 10:30 pm we were visited by distraught marina staff demanding we get out of bed and submit to a search of all our documents.  Earlier that day we had paid for another month of dreadful internet service and the appropriate comments and receipt were entered in our file: copy of receipt, notation that we tended to our obligations in a timely manner, that sort of thing.  

The marinero could not find the comment sheet for our file in which he had recorded his observations. The mood of the marinero conveyed the seriousness of the situtation.  For 8 hours the man had been looking for this critical document.  His vacation began the next day and he had worked six hours of free overtime to find the missing record.

Hopes of the marinero that we had picked up his documents with our receipt were dashed when we searched through our copies (we keep everything since arriving in Portugal) and he was distraught.  It seemed that our lives might get very complicated.

My memory produced a description of another man who had done business with the office right after me.  Not knowing the man  or the business I described him to the marinero who was immediately relieved.  

An hour later the man returned.  All was well again.  The man who followed us in the marina office had himself picked up our documents with his own receipt.  The poor marinero, wrung out from the exertions of the search and fear of consequences, was quiet and very subdued as he apologized needlessly but repeatedly for his interruption of our sleep.  

It was a bizarre reminder that we were in a foreign country and that we truly did not have a grasp of the workings of official matters.  Despite our every effort there remains a serious lack in our understanding of Spain.

Nothing new in that.


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