Just a quick post to caution all of you about the mistake we made at the PR customs, in the hopes that this headache does not happen to you someday.
We motorsailed into Puerto Rico at this exact same time last year. We went through all the rigamarole of customs and immigrations with no issues at all. Got our cruising permit and were on our way to discover the island.
After being here for 2 months, we got a work proposition from Live Different, in the Dominican Republic, and we took it. So from Culebra we said goodbye to all of our buddy boats, turned our boat around, and headed back to the DR. What we didn’t do, which was the mistake, is we DID NOT GIVE BACK OUR CRUISING PERMIT. We didn’t know that we should have, and we didn’t think that we would be back here this year. So we did our regular phone call to let them know we were leaving, but had our cruising permit with us.
Well…one year later (last week) we sailed back in to PR. We headed to Mayaguez to check in, thinking nothing of it. We were all in good moods and just expected this would be an hour out of our day, doing the necessary process. When we got there and told them we were checking in, they ask for all of our documentation and proceeded to tell us, “your cruising permit from last year is still active (for another 2 days), we can’t issue you another one”. “And because you are foreigners (Canadian) we can’t issue you successive cruising permits. You have to leave the country, with your boat, for two weeks, and then return and apply for one”.
My eyes instantly welled up and I had to fight back full-on crying in the customs office. There was no way I was getting back on our boat and sailing the Mona passage again, and putting our girls through that again! I was in panic mode.
It took talking with three different people, and explaining our situation (having kids on board, taking full responsibility for the mistake, etc) before they came up with a compromise. Not an awesome one, but one that is better than crossing the Mona again after just getting here. We now have to do a “formal” check-in and check-out at every port. This means we have to go to the customs office (which often means renting a car and driving to it), paying $20 to check-in, and leaving our boat documents with them. Then when we are ready to leave, we need to go back to the office, get our documents, and pay $20 to check out. If it were just the money it wouldn’t be a big deal, but the inconvenience comes in having to go to the customs office each time, because when you get to some of the ports, the custom office is not even in that town, so you have to drive to the closest one, sometimes an hour away!
Needless to say we won’t be making many stops along the PR coast, and will most likely be b-lining it to the islands.
So, if you are a foreigner, have a cruising permit, and are leaving PR and hope to return before or within 2 weeks of the expiration of your current permit, when you leave the country, GIVE BACK YOUR PERMIT. Or you will be stuck doing what we are. Not fun.