Month: September 2008

French Polynesia Long Stay Visa Application……

September 23, 2008

September 22, 2008

This was the main reason that we both came to California at this time. I had
a trial run applying for the visa when in Los Angeles by myself in June.
With our boat documented at my sister’s address, we were deemed no longer
residents of Southern California, so the LA office rejected my packet. We
had to apply at the French Consulate office in San Francisco. We do not
intend to cross the Pacific until early next summer, but it is takes time to
get the Long Stay Visa. Once they accept a packet it takes 3-4 months to
process. Something about SF-Paris-Tahiti bureaucracy. If you are approved
you have 90 days to pick it up. One person, of a married couple, must
personally return with both passport to pick up the visas. You then have 90
days to check into the country.

If you do not go through the hoops to get a Long Stay Visa you can only stay
in French Polynesia for 30 days with a 1-2 month extension. That is a very
long way to travel for such a short period of time. Once you have the L.S.
Visa you can get it renewed. You do have to leave from time to time, but it
is a much better way to go. With great diving throughout this large region
of the Pacific, we were motivated to do whatever it took.

Here is a list of requirements for this visa application:

· Application forms, in French (3 copies)

· Passport valid for 1 year (3 copies)

· Passport photos (3 copies)

· Proof of health insurance that is valid outside the US and
guarantee of return of our remains in case of our death

· Financial guarantee/proof of income: minimum $1700 per month per
person (2 copies of statements from bank or brokerage firm)

· Letter written in French certifying that we will perform no paid
activity

· Police clearance from the city where we reside or last resided in
the US – translated into French

· Letter written in French explaining our purpose of applying for the
long stay visa

Friends in Paris, Clark & Vincent, provided the translation service. Our
French was never very good & has not been helped by a year in a Spanish
speaking country.

Applications for this visa are accepted by appointment only on Monday and
Wednesday afternoons. The No. Cal portion of our trip was scheduled around
our Monday Sept 22 appointment at 2 pm. It was a happy coincidence that my
Dad’s side annual family reunion fell the day before. Scott & I brought Dad
& enjoyed visiting with my sister Alberta & her husband David as well as all
the other Brain’s relatives.

We had everything in order on Monday September 22 except the paper from the
Sebastopol Police Department verifying that Scott was not a known criminal.
I had gotten my clearance in June, but just for good measure got a current
one. Our translating friends used my June clearance as a sample for what we
needed, just changing the date. As soon as the secretary got in, we were
there with our $20 cash fee and were soon on our way to SF, our packet
complete.

We were early along with several others at the Bush Street office, near the
gate to Chinatown. We showed our appointment slip to the security guard, our
bags were searched & we walked through a metal detector. We were happy to
get the young, sweet looking woman behind the glass, not the more stern
officious looking man. She went down her checklist & we handed her the
documents one by one. Or in most cases: three by three. She neglected to
ask for our proof of health insurance, so we volunteered it and she said
fine.

If it goes as expected, my sister will get a call from the SF office in
early January. I will wait until nearly the last of the 90 days to fly from
wherever we are to pick the visas up. We want as much leeway as possible in
getting there, not to be rushed. We figure they must have to make allowances
for weather or repairs, since we will be arriving by boat. But no sense in
getting the officials suspicious by checking in “late” if it can be
prevented. As we left, we breathed a small sigh of relief that it was out
of our hands & now just a waiting game. If we don’t qualify for this thing,
we don’t think anyone can.

After the No.Cal trip, Scott went back to So.Cal ahead of me to pick up and
pack up the umpty umpty amount of boat stuff we needed to take back with us.
We stayed in LA mostly with Scott’s Aunt Barbara who was very tolerant of
our taking over her living room; making it look much like a cross between a
SCUBA store and Yacht Chandlery…..

Scott & Cindy, just back from L.A., Mazatlan, Mexico

Quick Trip to Cabo San Lucas…..

September 11, 2008

September 9-10, 2008

There are certain things you never send in the mail: passports, original
boat documentation, original import permits, etc. These happened to be the
things that the office in charge of issuing permits to visit the
Archipelagos Revillagigedos required. So we flew to Cabo San Lucas.

Just reaching the right office to find out what was required to get a permit
was tricky. If it hadn’t been for the patient & persistent assistance of
Elvira Lizarraga we would not have succeeded. Elvira is the best marina
manager in the entire world. I know we have not been around the world yet,
but we can say that without hesitation. She made multiple phone calls & sent
multiple emails on our behalf. The only private boats that go there are
divers. And not many cruisers are divers, so getting this permit was not a
commonly known procedure.

Once we found out the long list of original documentation required, we
realized we had to travel in person to the Oficina de Proteccion de Flora y
Fauna de Cabo San Lucas. We could have taken the ferry but that would have
been an all day trip each way & we were running short on time. Our flight
back to Los Angeles was booked for September 13. So Elvira booked the once
daily Mexicana flight to Cabo for us. Initially the price showed as $525 per
person, so Scott was going to go alone. But when Elvira pushed the “Buy
Now” button on the Spanish language Mexicana website, the price dropped in
half. Very interesting & noted for future reference. We decided it would be
more fun together since it was the same price we’d planned to spend for
Scott alone.

At the end of the short flight we were assaulted by the Cabo hawkers for
taxis, timeshares, and rental cars. It turned out to be less expensive to
rent a car for the day than take a cab. After a few wrong turns we made it
to the office in town. Sr. Biol. Carlos Eduardo Narro Flores was most
helpful & we were glad to hear that they are now welcoming private boats to
the islands and that the permits are free. The area has a sad history of
fishermen slaughtering the manta rays & sharks that are an unintended
by-catch. It is now a marine sanctuary with a 12 mile “no take” zone. There
is a Navy outpost and they will investigate & prosecute reports of illegal
fishing. The islands were completely closed to visitors for 3 years, but now
the wildlife has recovered enough that they issue permits to a few live
aboard dive charter boats and as many private boats that wish to go. We were
only the 3rd private boat requesting a permit for this year.

Our planned visit to these islands is for the month of December. It is a
good thing we started early on the permit application process because once
Sr. Flores copied all the required documents he mailed copies to the La Paz
office for rubber stamping. The permit that was to be delivered via DHL to
Marina Mazatlan in “1-2 weeks” appeared (after much follow up from Elvira) 6
weeks later.

Scott posted a detailed outline of the process required on a cruising weblog
called the “Southbound Net” so that others might benefit from our
experience.

All our business was accomplished that first day. But there is only 1 flight
each way per day so we took it easy at the Comfort Inn, listening to the
rain. Strolling around Cabo’s marina & town was not enjoyable due to the
aggressive hawkers everywhere. We felt accomplished & relieved to get back
to Mazatlan where the approach to tourists is much more mellow.

Scott & Cindy, Mazatlan, Mexico

Marina Mazatlan……

September 8, 2008

September 2, 2008

Scott did a brilliant job of navigating us through the breakwater in the
dark. I know that because I didn’t hear any crashing noises as I had my eyes
closed. The navigation lights are hard to distinguish from the lights on the
land. So the visual is very confusing. We had our prior track on the chart,
which we knew was a safe path, so he just followed that back in. Still scary
for me.

The dock master, Elvira had left instructions for security that we would be
a late arrival so they were expecting us. It was great to see our Tres
Amigos (security guards) there to catch our dock lines. There had been quite
a lightening show all evening, not close enough to be scary, but quite
impressive. We were so exhausted after 2 full days & 1 ½ nights at sea we
couldn’t crawl into bed fast enough. I made the big big mistake of leaving
hatches open. At 4:30 am I awoke to a deluge of rain pouring inside the
boat. Scott was absolutely passed out & of no help. Yikes! It took me an
hour to scurry from cabin to cabin closing everything, mop up some & finally
get back to bed. Needless to say I was pretty tired all day & took it pretty
easy.

September 3-8

We met 2 other folks on boats. There are only 12 boats with anyone aboard
out of over 300 boats in the marina. It is called “off season” for a reason.
It is unbearably hot & humid day & night. We are so glad we spent the big
bucks to install air conditioning because we would not be able to tolerate
this climate otherwise. . Most other boaters do not have air conditioning
which is why there are so few people here at this time of year.

We get slow WiFi on the boat which is adequate to send & receive email. But
we can walk 10 minutes up to the marina office to hard wire the laptops to
use Skype. The office is blessedly air conditioned.

It seems a slew of business was waiting for us & we are busy busy busy. For
me the main concern is my Dad. He fell again, without injury, but it is hard
to know what is best for him now & I feel so far away. Our flight to LA is
September 13. I wish it was sooner.

Our other immediate project is to obtain a permit to dive in the Islas
Revillagegedos (San Benedicto & Socorro Islands).

Scott & Cindy, Mazatlan, Mexico