Check in in Antigua in Times of COVID
I read on noonsite that it is definitely recommended to call the Antigua Port Authority as soon as you reach the waters of Antigua. I tried this several times, but no one ever replied.
The official clearing port for sailing yachts in Antigua is currently English Harbor. When you arrive, you first anchor in the bay with the yellow quarantine flag. Then you call Nelsons's Dockyard by radio. Even if you don't plan to go to the marina, the dockyard is your first point of contact, as the team coordinates the health checks on board the yachts. Important for sailors to know: In Nelson's Dockyard, all radio traffic runs on channel 68, not the usual 16. Fortunately, everything is very comfortable for us. The Ketch Roxy is anchored in the bay as the reception committee for the Salty Dawgs. All newcomers are greeted warmly and given precise instructions on what to do. I am very grateful for that. After the stresses of the past week, I feel😅.
Step 1: radio contact
Around 4.10 p.m. I radio the Dockyard, initially there is no answer. Of course, the skipper immediately thinks that this is due to an operator error on my part. The fact is that the offices have already closed. At some point someone will answer and tell us that nothing will happen today. In the course of the next morning the health officer should come to us on board. The Dockyard wants to contact us tomorrow. For me that's totally OK. After the long passage I just want to relax, take a good shower and then finally sleep in my bed for the first time in 8 days. The skipper, on the other hand, feels slowed down, but he has to go through that now.
The next morning my husband is sitting on hot coals. If it were up to him, I would call the marina every half an hour and ask where the health officer is 😂. He has to get used to the Caribbean pace again.
While we wait, the SY Gerty comes in. Jill is behind the wheel. I call over to her: “Nice that you are here. Wasn't that a terrible passage? ”Later, over the rum punch, she tells me that this remark cheered her up a lot. Jill also found this crossing extremely challenging (see link to her blog below).
Step 2: Health
check The health officer comes to us on board around noon. He is very friendly. However, he is surprised that he gives us the forms and the skipper just walks away. I explain to him that we have a strict division of responsibilities and that the skipper does not deal with paperwork. That is OK for him, especially since I have already filled out most of the forms and can submit them to him directly.
First of all, everyone on board has to fill out a health declaration.
In addition, everyone must keep a record of their body temperature for the last 14 days. The Salty Dawgs used a form from the Virginia Health Department, which was also approved by our Health Officer
An important prerequisite is of course the negative COVID test. In the US it was very easy. You can order the test on the Internet, take it at home and send it back. After a few days you will get the result in the web portal. If you are coming from other Caribbean countries, this is certainly more difficult.
The health officer is satisfied with the escape crew. Since he knows that all Salty Dawgs had already practiced strict social distancing in Hampton before they left, we don't have to do any further quarantine. Now we can drive the dinghy into the port to clear in. I ask him again if I can do that, even if I'm not the skipper. He thinks it's OK. Finally we take a souvenir photo.
Step 2: clearing in
We drive to Nelson's Dockyard with the dinghy. The offices are located there in the historic buildings. I'm curious. Even last year , without COVID, checking in and out in Antigua was extremely cumbersome. Let's see how it goes this time.
In Antigua and Barbuda they work with the eSeaClearSystem, a website where you can enter your information about entry or exit in advance. Theoretically, the customs officer only has to call them up. I have already registered our entry in the system, the crew data is stored. The date I entered is today, the day we clear in. This was a mistake. Since we arrived yesterday, yesterday's date is correct. You'd think that the officer could just change that on the computer. Unfortunately that does not work. I have to log in again myself, change the date and then get in line again. And I made another mistake. Clearing in may only be done by the skipper. Also my advice that I just asked the Health Officer whether I can take over the clearing is of no use. I have to go back and get the skipper. Well he'll be happy. She also explains to me that I absolutely need a printed crew list. That does not reveal itself to me, because the crew data is stored in the system. What sense does it make to fill out an online application if you need everything in paper form after all? I also don't remember having a printed crew list last year, but that doesn't help me either. if you need everything in paper form afterwards?
So back on board and make all the changes. Then the skipper can try his luck. When he's gone for almost an hour, I worry. How do you think his mood will be when he comes back? He had another problem and this time I really made a mistake: my old passport number from last year was still stored in the system. It was immediately noticed that this did not match the passport presented. That was stupid. But now everything is OK. Despite the long wait, the skipper is in good spirits. He's already looking forward to the mooring beer in the harbor.
What is also important: In Antigua you need a form from the last port where you declared. This is a problem for boats coming directly from America, as the USA does not create a declaration form by default. Here, too, the Salty Dawgs have taken precautions. A volunteer employee of the Salty Dawgs has taken over the function of yacht agent for the foreign boats and has obtained the forms from customs for all boats. For the American Salty Dawg boats, a list was sent in advance and an exemption was obtained.
Step 3: We're in.
Now the skipper presses the tube. He wants to go to the marina. Although we usually like to lie at anchor, this time we want to go into the harbor to get escape after the passage back into shape. Anchors and stern lines are moored in Nelson's Dockyard. I've never done this maneuver. The skipper explains it to me in detail. In fact, everything works fine. We dock next to the SY Fatjax, which arrived the day before us, in Nelson's Dockyard.
At the dock I meet Michael the skipper of the SY Gerty. They were lucky, since the health officer was there before, he checked the Gerty at the same time so that they didn't have to wait. But he was also sent back once by the customs authorities.
We'll reward ourselves once with a drink and a delicious snack in the Antigua Yacht Club. In the next few days we will relax extensively and make poor escape again.
If you consider that many Caribbean countries still do not allow yachts to enter the country, everything went well in Antigua. I have to touch my own nose: Of course, it is essential to fill out all forms and papers correctly and to adhere to the rules, even if it doesn't always seem logical to me. And once inside, a Caribbean paradise awaits you in Antigua with turquoise water, fine sandy beaches, great hiking trails, an interesting history and, especially in Nelson's Dockyard, a multitude of good restaurants of different cuisines and categories. We're looking forward to that now 😊🍹.
When we drop anchor after the turbulent passage in English Harbor, we have arrived at our destination, but have not yet officially entered Antigua. A lot of formalities still have to be dealt with first. I finally have an active part in this trip.