Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thrown Out of Marina Sidi Bou Said

2012 06 16
Written in the Gulf of Tunis enroute to Cap Bon 
(from Sidi Bou Said from which we were evicted)

Le Tren Papa, Le Tren
Our Train to Tunis - Cost $1 each, first class
Our stay at Sidi Bou Said marina did not go as expected.  After our slick handling of the baksheesh process we figured we were set for a nice stay.  We were undone by two facts that plague corrupt bureaucracies: 

  1. when your success with officials depends on what you pay them you are only safe until a guy with a bigger wallet comes along;
  2. corrupt bureaucracies are filled with patronage appointments which means you get a lot of deadwood and useless bodies plugging up the process of government

Thh Budget Committee Prepares
to Enter the Market
Our second morning at the marina we took a nice walk about the town of Sidi Bou Said. 
The doors in Sidi Bou Said are Very Nice

After a pleasant two hours of bazaar shopping and scenery viewing we happened upon the train station serving Sidi Bou Said.  Let's catch a train to Tunis we decided in a very spur of the moment mood.  

First class fare on the TGM, an electric tram was TD2.400 for the two of us which is about €1.5 or $2.  It was Friday, muslim day of rest, so shops would not be open and the city would be less crowded.  

Leaving the train station in downtown Tunis you are presented with a miniature Champs Elysee complete with faux Eiffel Tower and an enormous treed boulevard filled with shops and cafes. Tunisia is very french and this part of the city,  designed and built by French engineers and architects, is very Paris.

In the Distance You can Just See the Faux Eiffel Tower
Signifying the Beginning of the  Boulevard
As part of our lovely walk around the pedestrian malls of central Tunis we discovered the police station had been cordoned off with barricades and armed guards.  No tension was discernable and the police were talking and laughing amongst themselves and with passersby.   It did not make an impression until later.

 Our return train to the marina was crowded and hot.  Although uncomfortable everyone seemed to be in a buoyant mood and we were engaged in lively conversation.  Everyone in Tunisia seems to have visited Montreal or have family who has.  Discussion centred on our very high opinion of Tunisia.  One family asked us back to their home for dinner.

Imagine that.  On the strength of a twenty minute meeting on a train a family asked us into their homes.  This impressed us very much with the people of Tunisia.

This last request had to be withdrawn regretfully when the family remembered a curfew had been ordered by the police.  A demonstration in Tunis earlier that day had gotten out of hand and the police had ordered the curfew.  The cordon around the main downtown police station was intended to deter any suicide bombers from a more serious attack.  

All of this was explained to us in simple unemotional terms: it was just usual goings on.  Everyone agreed that the police were doing a good job and that relations were good.  

Dinner it was agreed would not be possible with the curfew. Still it was a warm and inviting offer by very generous people. In return we invited them to the marina to go sailing the next day. They too declined.

Tired after a long day we returned to the boat and headed to bed early.  

Next morning we were woken by a marinero pounding on our deck.  He informed us we must go.  A bit disconcerted we discussed whether we should object but decided we had had enough of Sidi Bou Said and were happy to leave anyway.

Then the marinaro informed his office that the "bateau Americain" was leaving.

Before leaving I had to see the Port Captain to settle our bill, get proof of payment and a return of our ship's papers and then go to customs to pick up our travel papers.  There I learned we were being thrown out because a small flotilla of Italian yachts was inbound for a prebooked celebration and they had no room. The marine staff thought we were an American boat and decided we should be first to go.  

There is no question in my mind that we were being asked to leave because the morons at the marina thought we were American.  Americans are undeniablyl personna non grata in this country.

Then the Port Captain tried to fake computer troubles so he did not have to issue a receipt to me for the marina fees.  Pretty much sick of the crappy treatment I planted myself in his chair and told him I would wait.  And for the next hour I did, wait that is, while the port captain stared blankly at his computer screen and did nothing.  

Finally two marineros entered the office in a very agitated state. From what I could determine there was a problem with “bateaux Italienne” or italian boats and he needed to do something about it right away.

The Port Captain looked at me as I shifted my not inconsiderable bulk deeper into my fairly comfortable chair.  I pointed to the receipt book and suggested he could give me a hand written receipt if his computer was broken.  With an enormous sigh the man pushed the enter key and my receipt was printed.

You understand of course that if the port captain had not issued the receipt there was no need for him to account for the marina fees I had paid.  I deem it unlikely the funds I paid would have made it to the marina coffers had I not got my receipt.  I needed the receipt to prove to Hammamet that I had not run out of Sidi Bou Said without paying.  

As we sailed out of the marina we saw three Italian flagged sailing yachts anchored outside the entrance. No sooner was our nose out the entrance than one of the boats weighed anchor and made to enter.  Over the next hour we passed another half dozen Italian yachts all headed to Sidi Bou Said.  There was no room for those boats.

The Port Captain was a fool.  He booked a big flotilla into his marina and then forgot about it until the day they arrived.  His greed with the marina fees was a measure of the man.

The morons who appointed the port captain missed the first rule of patronage: If you have to give a job to your idiot lazy brother in law make sure that the job he gets is as simple as he is.

Hammamet is a far superior marina at which to enter Tunisia.

No comments:

Post a Comment