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Ajax

Romulans stray into Neutral Zone- Federation pissed off

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https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/british-virgin-islands-detained-americans-b1764777.html

First let me say that the BVI's have every right to aggressively protect their sovereignty.  I'm still a bit surprised at how zealous they were in apprehending this group. If you take the article at face value, these people had no intention of landing in the BVI's and were already sailing out of the territorial waters when they were apprehended.

The skipper attempted to pay the $20k fine but the government will only take cash. That seems harsh and unnecessary to me.

What do our world cruisers on the forum have to say about this?  Overkill or well deserved?

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15 minutes ago, Ajax said:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/british-virgin-islands-detained-americans-b1764777.html

First let me say that the BVI's have every right to aggressively protect their sovereignty.  I'm still a bit surprised at how zealous they were in apprehending this group. If you take the article at face value, these people had no intention of landing in the BVI's and were already sailing out of the territorial waters when they were apprehended.

The skipper attempted to pay the $20k fine but the government will only take cash. That seems harsh and unnecessary to me.

What do our world cruisers on the forum have to say about this?  Overkill or well deserved?

Apparently not all love is the same (in ALL CAPS!)

BVILOVE.    
 

As someone once sang, love hurts. (Yeah, yeah)  Or, what’s the other one?  Sting, I think - if you love someone, set them free (free, free, set then free)

True quote from the article:

All four persons are safe and are being cared for with BVILOVE”

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Oh just to clarify-  When I said the fine was harsh, I meant restricting the payment method to cash, not the amount.

I'm really not passing judgement on either party. I want to hear what experienced cruisers have to say. Are there even enough facts to offer an informed opinion?

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9 minutes ago, European Bloke said:

Well it's much easier to divy the cash out amongst the lads.

Yes, that is one consideration. Another is that CC charges might be contested after these criminals are freed. Have a relative wire the money. Takes only a few hours.

Kinda harsh penalty...if their story is true that it was just a slight and innocent infraction. Good reminder to cruisers to take international borders seriously. 

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Will this affect people donating to the next hurricane recovery, or persons picking a future vacation locale?  I certainly hope so!

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Something may be fishy here: supposedly,  the boat left St. Thomas to go to St. John, but mistakenly entered BVI waters.  Given how close St. Thomas is to St. John, and how out of the way you need to go to hit the closest BVI (Tortola), I'm finding it somewhat hard to believe that this was an innocent mistake.  The plausibility of their story really depends on where they were apprehended and where they were supposedly trying to get to on St. John.  If they were going from St. Thomas to Cruz Bay or really anywhere  west of Malo Bay on the north shore, or anywhere on the south shore of St. John, then I'm not buying it.  There's just no path between those destinations that takes them near BVI territory.  Unless they are they world's worst navigators.

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7 minutes ago, Max Rockatansky said:

I’m going with ‘What is the way to set a deterrent example?’ 

I could understand that if Americans are routinely straying into their waters, attempting to enter illegally or otherwise flouting BVI covid restrictions.  I don't know if that's happening. Maybe it is.

Making an example out of people if no real problem exists might put the BVI's on a cruiser "blacklist" for being arbitrary and capricious.  Of course, if the big cruise ship industry recovers I doubt they'll care.

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“Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un touriste pour encourager les autres.”

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1 hour ago, Max Rockatansky said:

I’m going with ‘What is the way to set a deterrent example?’ 

I'm going with revenue extraction and a cash payday for the customs official to buy a new car.

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55 minutes ago, Ajax said:

I could understand that if Americans are routinely straying into their waters, attempting to enter illegally or otherwise flouting BVI covid restrictions.  I don't know if that's happening. Maybe it is.

Making an example out of people if no real problem exists might put the BVI's on a cruiser "blacklist" for being arbitrary and capricious.  Of course, if the big cruise ship industry recovers I doubt they'll care.

I'd honestly be surprised if they weren't, given that they 'flout restrictions' in their own country.

And 'cruisers' don't spend nearly as much as they think they do, compared to typical fly-in or even cruise ship tourists. I've made that point before, and nobody wants to hear it, but it's true

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13 minutes ago, Max Rockatansky said:

And 'cruisers' don't spend nearly as much as they think they do, compared to typical fly-in or even cruise ship tourists. I've made that point before, and nobody wants to hear it, but it's true

That's a new thought for me. I'd never given it any consideration. Cruisers less likely to shop the tourist traps? Limit themselves to restaurants and bars?  Curious what the source of your data is. Personal observation or does governmental agency break this down?  Seems plausible, but never given it much thought.

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It's a personal observation, but think about it:

A typical cruiser spends nothing on anchorage. The only big spend will be if said cruiser provisions heavily, and fuels up. Maybe goes to a local restaurant or two, maybe hangs out in a local bar. But time after time, in conversation a/w/a over the inet, cruisers are always looking for happy hours with free or cheap food, cheap stuff to fix boat, cheap cheap cheap... In the Bahamas, time after time I overheard on the VHF pax looking to buy boat parts from e/other instead of going to local shops which are actually generally well stocked. Prices arent all THAT high, esp compared to the Fl Keys

A typical vacationer, call it family of four? They are in hotel rooms for a week or two. Eating out for four at least two meals a day, if not three/day. Tours. Souvenirs. Kid wants whatever gewgaw. Mama wants some jewelry and clothes. Cruise ship? They feed those people straight to the 'straw markets' to buy junk; send them to local restaurants; etc, you get the picture.

I'd bet that family spends in two weeks what a cruiser will spend in a month.... and the vacationers rinse and repeat, while that cruiser is cadging for weeks/months in one place.

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@Max Rockatansky You're not crazy.

When/if I ever get to cruise like that, I will anchor out so that I have money to enjoy the nice restaurants, tours and other activities that most cruisers won't spend on.  Can't buy many souvenirs due to space limitations though.

My wife is not going to tolerate living on tortillas and rice for months on end where there are good restaurants ashore.

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I'm out there cruising myself, but I am now back in the states working bc I spent more than I could have to support the locals, and it was worth every cent. I get that pax are on fixed incomes, and I'm not flush neither. When I hear some of these 'cruising advocates' go on about how cruisers are SO important to the economy, well that's just not true.

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The Romulans were the ones with the Empire, so I think you have the title backwards a bit?

 

Other than that: it's what you get, I think, if you don't pay attention where you are. Could have been worse.

Boarder patrol did their job, they have no clue beforehand regarding your intentions or if you try a second attempt once they are out of sight.

US agencies would have done the same, pretty sure of that.

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Excuse me officer, I thought we were in a neutral zone.

 

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1 hour ago, Matagi said:

The Romulans were the ones with the Empire, so I think you have the title backwards a bit?

 

Other than that: it's what you get, I think, if you don't pay attention where you are. Could have been worse.

Boarder patrol did their job, they have no clue beforehand regarding your intentions or if you try a second attempt once they are out of sight.

US agencies would have done the same, pretty sure of that.

Hey, both Romulans and Federation ships have played the "oops, navigational error" over the life of the franchise. Don't get picky with me! ;)

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After a couple of weeks cruising with friends in the BVI we came to the considered conclusion that they are overrated.

Food was lousy.

Natives were largely surly despite us all being friendly and tipping well.

Weather and water were incredible but the wind mostly blew at night.

Anchorages were polluted with noisy party boats.

We won't be back.

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The part about how he says can’t be fined for not reporting to customs within 12 hours because he had already been escorted there (albeit involuntarily)...good luck w that.

Under the clear wording of the June press release(which he retrospectively deemed unclear) he would qualify as a vessel ‘outside of the navigational limits’ of the exclusion zone but inside BVI territory  which didn’t pre report.

I wonder how much time and money he’s going to spend to figure this out.

https://bvi.gov.vg/media-centre/boaters-advised-not-sail-exclusion-zone

Edit: I also get the feeling this guy dug in his heels with his interpretation of ‘friendly passage’...maybe had he admitted he was in the wrong right there on the spot, asked to be educated as to the ‘new normal’ things might have ended differently. Trying to prove a point w customs officers is generally a dim idea.

And hey, the food is great in the BVIs and the locals are friendly! Sailing is not bad either!!

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40 minutes ago, Ajax said:

Wow, I hadn't seen this. Seems to be the same people but the FP article provides much more information.

That is a lot more information, but I think it makes them look worse in some ways.  If you are going from St. Thomas to Francis Bay on St. John, I don't see how you get to within a mile of White Bay on Jost.  Unless of course you intend to go to the BVIs.  I hesitate to offer legal advice on the internet, but I think fufkin's got it right.  The old "But your honor, I didn't know it was illegal.  And anyway, the cops arrested me for the wrong thing" defense is rarely successful.  For good reason.

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2 hours ago, fufkin said:

“Excuse me officer, I thought we were in a neutral zone.”

 

That just earned you another month in the BVILOVE slammer! (What strikes me about this marketingspeak for the BVI brand is that the officials actually quoted it in the article Ajax originally posted.  We impounded their boat, fined them an exorbitant amount of money, Jane detained them - but it’s all good - we’re showing them “BVILOVE”.

The BVILOVE brand and campaign is planned to bolster the BVI’s image locally, regionally and abroad by focusing on what makes the BVI a special destination and business jurisdiction.”

94AED7BA-BF16-44F1-BEA9-0D7DF9210BD1.jpeg

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2 minutes ago, Hukilau said:

That is a lot more information, but I think it makes them look worse in some ways.  If you are going from St. Thomas to Francis Bay on St. John, I don't see how you get to within a mile of White Bay on Jost.  Unless of course you intend to go to the BVIs.  I hesitate to offer legal advice on the internet, but I think fufkin's got it right.  The old "But your honor, I didn't know it was illegal.  And anyway, the cops arrested me for the wrong thing" defense is rarely successful.  For good reason.

My thought was that they were headed to weather (NE being upwind in the VIs) and planned to make Francis Bay with only one tack, which would require going a fair way north. 

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The received wisdom on other forums is that:

  1. The BVI already had a problem with arbitrary and capricious customs enforcement, although this is more capricious than usual
  2. While most observers have concluded that this particular episode was an innocent mistake, the pool has been peed in by other boats trying to smuggle people and goods
  3. BVI are following a public health strategy of keeping Covid-19 off the island, which has for the most part been successful

Having to stay on one side of an imaginary boundary is a new navigational problem for cruisers.  If this sort of heavyhanded enforcement becomes commonplace there will have to be a change in mindset and a change in chartplotter software.  Not a good thing for the future of cruising.  This sort of thing came to aviation in the 1980s and 1990s with the creation and expansion of TCAs and contributed to the decline of general aviation.

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5 hours ago, Hukilau said:

Something may be fishy here: supposedly,  the boat left St. Thomas to go to St. John, but mistakenly entered BVI waters.  Given how close St. Thomas is to St. John, and how out of the way you need to go to hit the closest BVI (Tortola), I'm finding it somewhat hard to believe that this was an innocent mistake.  The plausibility of their story really depends on where they were apprehended and where they were supposedly trying to get to on St. John.  If they were going from St. Thomas to Cruz Bay or really anywhere  west of Malo Bay on the north shore, or anywhere on the south shore of St. John, then I'm not buying it.  There's just no path between those destinations that takes them near BVI territory.  Unless they are they world's worst navigators.

I disagree. Now, I haven't been there in years, but used to keep a boat in Nanny Cay until my wife got her first skin cancer. 

If you're sailing along the north shore of St. John, you are, by default, close to the border

usvi-1.png.19cea3b1ba8c5dcad37dbbfd7498b8ba.png

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33 minutes ago, Cruisin Loser said:

I disagree. Now, I haven't been there in years, but used to keep a boat in Nanny Cay until my wife got her first skin cancer. 

If you're sailing along the north shore of St. John, you are, by default, close to the border

usvi-1.png.19cea3b1ba8c5dcad37dbbfd7498b8ba.png

If you read the FP article - written by the skipper who is now being shown "BVILOVE" while he awaits his court appearance  -  he states that he was headed north from Saint Thomas (he doesn't say what port) to Francis Bay on St. John.  He says he was stopped by police about a mile south of White Bay on Jost Van Dyke. Even given an allowance for having to beat, (Do we know what the wind was doing that day? ) that seems a bit wide of target. 

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32 minutes ago, Cruisin Loser said:

I disagree. Now, I haven't been there in years, but used to keep a boat in Nanny Cay until my wife got her first skin cancer. 

If you're sailing along the north shore of St. John, you are, by default, close to the border

usvi-1.png.19cea3b1ba8c5dcad37dbbfd7498b8ba.png

Yes, but this boat was going to Francis Bay, which you can get to quite easily from St. Thomas without going near the boundary.  Had he been heading east of Francis, I would agree with you that at that point it becomes more difficult to stay within the lines, although with GPS, it's actually not that hard.

However, all of this is academic:  he wasn't stopped anywhere near St. John, but about a mile south of White Bay at Jost Van Dyke.

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A mile south of White bay is about 1-1.5 mile from the USVI/BVI "border". Maybe 10 minutes of sailing? 

It's farther across Buzzards Bay than it is from USVI waters to Jost. 

Yeah, he fucked up. He sailed 10-15 minutes in the wrong direction.  I've been off by over a mile at times, it's not that much.

 

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2 minutes ago, Cruisin Loser said:

A mile south of White bay is about 1-1.5 mile from the USVI/BVI "border". Maybe 10 minutes of sailing? 

It's farther across Buzzards Bay than it is from USVI waters to Jost. 

Yeah, he fucked up. He sailed 10-15 minutes in the wrong direction.  I've been off by over a mile at times, it's not that much.

 

I don't think he fucked up about where he was.  He admits he knew quite well he was in BVI waters, but thought that innocent passage wouldn't be a problem, and that he didn't know about the exclusion zone.  And unless there's more to the story (and there usually is), it seems to me that the BVIs were quite heavy handed with the fine.  However, for me, the question is "why was he within spitting distance of Jost when he was going to Francis Bay from St. Thomas?"  Unless he started off from the north shore of St. Thomas (Magen's?), it makes no sense for him to be that close to Jost if his destination is really Francis Bay. 

As a former prosecutor, I can say from experience that one of the factors we used to use in recommending penalties was how strong a case we had.  Did the defendant admit guilt, or almost as good, did he tell such a bullshit set of lies that it made claims of innocence look ridiculous?  You wouldn't believe some of the stories I heard about how a defendant came into possession of certain pieces of stolen property.  Here, our intrepid skipper says he's going to Francis Bay, but he is found heading towards Jost Van Dyke.  Now, if he's left from Magens Bay and the wind is blowing from a certain direction, then it kind of makes sense he'd  head that way (towards Jost) before tacking southeast to get to St. John.  I get that.  But if he left from Charlotte Amalie (or really anywhere from the south shore of St. Thomas) and his destination is really Francis Bay, then I'm having trouble understanding how he wound up where he did.  Maybe there is a reasonable explanation; it's just not apparent to me what that would be.  It could be that this skipper's explanation was laughable to Customs, and they wacked him with a high fine because of that.

My guess is that after he calms down a bit, his lawyer is going to explain to him that it's going to cost about 50K in legal fees for a 10% chance of reducing his total fine from 20K to something as low as 5K.  At that point, he quietly drops the matter and this goes into his "you won't believe what happened to me during COVID" bin of stories.

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When I was in St Thomas in Aug the boat I was going to deliver to Panama was in BVI. From a outside prospective they were definitely bending things very hard in there favor due to the Covid-19 lockdow.  I fully support any country and it's efforts to take care of it's people but my limited experience was BVI on relation to please boats was as far into the cookie jar as they could stuff there arm.  Extremely overpriced management fees and some of the most horrifying billed labor I have ever seen.  

If landfall wasn't made then sorry sorry, you are going to have to put one thru the bow to get me to stop and pull in to get fleeced.

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9 minutes ago, SASSAFRASS said:

If landfall wasn't made then sorry sorry, you are going to have to put one thru the bow to get me to stop and pull in to get fleeced.

I understand the sentiment, but there are certainly countries in the world where they will be happy to oblige, including the USA.

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34 minutes ago, Mark Morwood said:

I understand the sentiment, but there are certainly countries in the world where they will be happy to oblige, including the USA.

For sure, I have Hove to many times to let whatever officials run the numbers but there is no way I am going to head to port in case like this.  This is full on BS, which I would expect from the US for sure but they don't seem to have acknowledged Covid19 yet....

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Reasonable policing would have been "Hey boys, there's a pandemic going on. You're mile and a half inside the border. We really don't want to be dealing with the possibility that you might be contagious, so why don't y'all just point your bow off that aways and see yourselves out of our territory? Oh, and don't let us catch you in here again, otherwise we'll have to make an example out of you."

Compare and contrast that with: "Yeah, we're in the middle of a pandemic, and we're so concerned about it that we're going to haul you back to port, impound your boat, arrest you, force you into a hotel, and then send you on your way back to the States. Oh, we'll be keeping your boat for the duration, too. Good luck paying that bill!"

I'm sure the BVIs don't give two shits about my opinion of them and their gov't... but my business won't be theirs, for a long time coming.

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The guy who wrote the article sounds like a typical entitled whiner.  Given his attitude in the article he probably gave the same amount of attitude to the police/border patrol, which last time I checked, never goes over well. I can't see what wind direction or sea state would require a tack all the way over to Jost Van Dyke. People like that give cruisers a bad name/reputation. 

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First line in the FP article the owner says he's spent ten years in the VI. Any moron who's lived down here that long should well understand that the BVI uniforms have gone whack on enforcing their border, and frequently get really pissy about it. Numerous fishing boats have been impounded and crews locked up. In days gone by everybody from St Thomas used to zip over into BVI waters to fish and dive without clearing in. Over the past year there have been increasing numbers of boats discovered in USVI and BVI waters with much coke/cash/illegals/guns onboard, you name it. Big coke bust on Tortola recently (at a police officer's house). Hurricane destruction and Covid have hosed up the economy and spun up tensions, and it's not at all smart to not venture forth without checking local knowledge. The course they claim to have sailed is not typical, but possible if you wanted to do a scenic drive by of Jost... just really, really stupid. 

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So based on the comments in this thread, the BVI authorities are more corrupt that I would have guessed.

Yes, it sounds like the skipper screwed up but the BVI authorities used the opportunity to shake them down. The guy is definitely not getting his money back. The BVI's sound nice, but they also sound like a place to steer clear of, at least for the near future.

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So Third World nation opts for the extortion over actually protecting their Island from the pandemic.  If protecting the Island from disease were the priority they would have stayed upwind and forced the boat out of BVI waters, instead they forced them into harbor and made them disembark.

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37 minutes ago, sailman said:

So Third World nation opts for the extortion over actually protecting their Island from the pandemic.  If protecting the Island from disease were the priority they would have stayed upwind and forced the boat out of BVI waters, instead they forced them into harbor and made them disembark.

You are assuming the cap wasn’t an abject prick, and given that same was quite out of his way in navigating, and the hammer came down heavy, I’d bet that he was a jerk and they didn’t take his shit

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17 hours ago, Hukilau said:

That is a lot more information, but I think it makes them look worse in some ways.  If you are going from St. Thomas to Francis Bay on St. John, I don't see how you get to within a mile of White Bay on Jost.  Unless of course you intend to go to the BVIs.  I hesitate to offer legal advice on the internet, but I think fufkin's got it right.  The old "But your honor, I didn't know it was illegal.  And anyway, the cops arrested me for the wrong thing" defense is rarely successful.  For good reason.

That is like going from Whitehall Bay to Annapolis and "accidently" ending up in Saint Michaels :rolleyes:

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58 minutes ago, sailman said:

So Third World nation opts for the extortion over actually protecting their Island from the pandemic.  If protecting the Island from disease were the priority they would have stayed upwind and forced the boat out of BVI waters, instead they forced them into harbor and made them disembark.

Can you clarify for me: which of both involved parties plays the Third World nation in this story?

Thanks.

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58 minutes ago, sailman said:

So Third World nation opts for the extortion over actually protecting their Island from the pandemic.  If protecting the Island from disease were the priority they would have stayed upwind and forced the boat out of BVI waters, instead they forced them into harbor and made them disembark.

OTOH dropping the hammer on this guy in a very public way is keeping 100 other boats from "accidentally" going to Foxy's ;)

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35 minutes ago, Matagi said:

Can you clarify for me: which of both involved parties plays the Third World nation in this story?

Thanks.

Seeing as how only one nation has its panties in a bunch...

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1 hour ago, sailman said:

Seeing as how only one nation has its panties in a bunch...

100% agree.

Luckily, the officers remained professional and acted according to international law, as they were trained.

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Made the front page of the local St Thomas paper today. FWIW, rumor has it that several confirmed Covid cases in the BVI were traced back to people sneaking into the BVI by boat, and they are more uptight now than ever. I love them, but don’t have any plans to visit there this winter. Tourism dependent economies throughout the islands are in dire straits, and health dept’s and tourism officials are routinely out of synch.

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I definitely had no intent to denigrate the BVI's or their government. My inquiry was innocent and my mind was wide open. I have no idea what the level of corruption in their government is, or among their employees.

I think the patrol that intercepted these folks was unnecessarily heavy handed but totally within the law. The skipper isn't going to get his money back. I do understand why US sailors may be viewed as persona non grata with our infection numbers.

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BTW - It was not cash only, it was paid with a credit card.

Covid has sure changed things, last I was in the BVI it was a very friendly laid-back place. The locals thought it was hilarious when we asked about them clearing through customs for their numerous trips back and forth to the USVI, they just laughed and said "No Mon, that's for tourists :lol:"

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28 minutes ago, kent_island_sailor said:

BTW - It was not cash only, it was paid with a credit card.

Covid has sure changed things, last I was in the BVI it was a very friendly laid-back place. The locals thought it was hilarious when we asked about them clearing through customs for their numerous trips back and forth to the USVI, they just laughed and said "No Mon, that's for tourists :lol:"

Early articles that I read stated that the BVI authorities rejected his attempt to pay with a card. Maybe at some point they relented on that.

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On 12/2/2020 at 11:25 AM, SloopJonB said:

After a couple of weeks cruising with friends in the BVI we came to the considered conclusion that they are overrated.

Food was lousy.

Natives were largely surly despite us all being friendly and tipping well.

Weather and water were incredible but the wind mostly blew at night.

Anchorages were polluted with noisy party boats.

We won't be back.

I agree Sloop, we were back there last winter for 3 wk charter, sorry I think we saw the best of the BVI back in the 80's. when we cruised there.

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On 12/3/2020 at 12:27 PM, Ajax said:

Early articles that I read stated that the BVI authorities rejected his attempt to pay with a card. Maybe at some point they relented on that.

Are you sure the FP article and the Guardian article are the same case? The stories seem different. And the FP article says that they weren't detained, boat wasn't impounded, and they were back in the US.

The Guardian couple's story seems...more fishy...

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On 12/3/2020 at 9:27 AM, Ajax said:

Early articles that I read stated that the BVI authorities rejected his attempt to pay with a card. 

I once, as a Canadian and ex-USA resident (I retain my passport but I don’t live there anymore - at the moment anyway) drove down from Canada to Montana once to visit parents.  I came off the interstate highway in the little town of St. Regis.  Right after zooming off the exit there is a stop sign - which I didn’t notice after a 10 or so hour day of driving, and it was dark - and I went right through it.  There were no cars anywhere to be seen, being a small sleepy town, and it was late-is at night, so there was no near collision.  

Within a few seconds, there was a cop right behind me with his lights flashing.  Pulls me over, notices the British Columbia plates (I’m quite sure he had no clue where that was - probably thought Britain :-) ), tells me I went though a stop sign - which I honestly didn’t notice, zooming down off the highway at that speed.  He issued me something like a $300 fine.  Which I had to pay him in cash.

He directed me down to the casino in town just a ways down the road, where there am ATM machine, following behind me.  I got out the cash and paid him.  Easy. :-)

Not sure if that’s a Montana thing, or just how they deal with furriners there: make’em pay a lot of cash in hopes they won’t come back, and the local cop also gets a cut of the action. :-)

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It's called a speed trap.

Lots of shitty, corrupt little towns in the States are reputed to make much of their revenue from that sort of thing - 70 MPH to 20 with no warning and a cop waiting at the sign and like that.

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There are definitely elements of two separate events being discussed here.  Captain of Blue Skies paid his fine, got the fuck out, and is now pursuing legal action...UNCLOS/innocent passage/improper reg posting as you can read.  The other case involves a group that did not pay, and was held under "quarantine" for about two weeks awaiting court hearing...had a court date...paid $1,000 each, total $4,000  in fines, which was far less than they were originally being "asked" to pay while their boat was held and persons were in "quarantine" in a hotel.   The BVI has a "exclusion zone" in effect as well as their border, which is likely to complicate things further regarding Blue Skies case.

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