We arrived on Christmas Island!
We rolled up the sails just after we crossed the finish line at 2:30 PM, grabbed a mooring ball, and proceeded to . . . desperately try to figure out how to get a visa for Carl. The World ARC staff is so good at taking care of things and we are so used to not needing visas that none of us thought about Carl needing one for Christmas Island, since it is part of Australia.
Applying for the visa on-line takes 5 minutes with a good internet connection. But, without it, well, it takes much longer. Our usual stand-bys to help with remote internet were not available. It was past 1:30 am in the US and even my mother, who is always up late, had gone to bed. Carl’s contact in Belgium had a predicted response time of several hours and we needed the visa in minutes if we were going to clear and be able to leave the boat the same afternoon.
The Border Patrol called us and asked us to come to shore. We decided not to mention our predicament in case one of our desperate satellite e-mails miraculously reached someone. The officials who met us were very relaxed. I spoke with the Biosecurity lady who asked us to keep all food on the boat and only bring ashore trash that had no food contamination on it. Meanwhile, Joe dealt with the immigration folks. Joe came away and said they had said nothing specifically about Carl but Joe thought we should get the visa reference number and give it to them the next morning.
Slghtly more relaxed, I continued with my plans to rent a car from the visitor center up the road. Lunatix had scrambled to get to the mooring field in time to clear so their skipper, Freddy, also came to the visitor center to get a car. When we walked in, the very cheery ladies (Julie and Hannah) working there told us they had watched the boats come in and had been following our travels on the ARC website. They even knew about Cobin’s birthday!
This inspired me to fill in the details of the Lunatix story. I asked Freddy, who is sailing with his adult daughter, why they didn’t have their VHF on and he told me that they have to conserve power because they don’t have a generator and only have some sort of solar panels that get energy from something they put in the water. So, they leave the VHF off. I asked him why they had done erratic maneuvering when we came upon them. That, too, had an explanation. He said they don’t sail downwind as well as we do so they had to sail at a different angle to the wind. When they saw us, they decided maybe they could match our angle and turned when we approached. I confirmed that they had not been boarded by fishermen but let him know we were prepared to deal with them if he had been.
Around then, the tourist center started getting busy. Freddy and I were trying to rent cars, a lovely woman was telling us all about the island, other people were trying to buy things, and we were trying to get internet, all at the same time. Then Stefano’s (World ARC staff) phone rang and the call was for me from the Australian Border Patrol. They asked if I had a reference number yet for Carl’s visa. I did not and they told me that Carl needed to stay on the boat until we had the number. Carl was in the other room at the time so I told him he needed to go back to the boat and I would work on his visa. I got the internet password for the only WiFi on the island and . . . it didn’t work. I had three of our four phones with me and it didn’t work on any of them. The poor staff was trying to accommodate all of us with limited resources (after us and Lunatix, they only had one rental car left) and being very pleasant. However, the internet wasn’t working and Carl was going to be stuck on the boat until I could get his visa. Oh, and the visitor center was closing in 5 minutes.
I got a code for another WiFi station and it seemed to work. I went outside so they could close but then it stopped working. I went back inside and explained that I just needed 5 minutes of internet somehow so I could get the visa and get Carl off the boat. Jahna, also a very kind lady that I think is in charge of the office, very generously offered me the use of their computer. It was then that I realized I had taken the photo of Carl’s passport with the one phone I didn’t have. Ugh. A few panicky moments later, after contemplating a trip back to the boat, someone staying late, etc, I realized Stefano had a radio. Carl gave me his details over the radio, I went inside after they had officially closed and used the staff’s computer, eventually found the right website (there are multiple ones that significantly overcharge for getting a visa) and got the reference number for the visa! Then I had to call Border Patrol on Stefano’s phone. They said they would try to get the visa processed for the night but, worst case scenario, it would be done by morning. On my way back to the boat, they called Stefano’s phone and let us know it had come through and Carl was free to move about the island! They told me I should be happy we were on a small island and not the mainland! And I am!
Next time we go to Australia, we will try to remember the visas! Carl took us all out to dinner to celebrate our arrival and Stefano joined us as well. He is going to come on Charm for the trip to Cocos so it was a nice time to get to know him a little better.
All of that is big news but the biggest news is that Tully lost her first tooth! It has been loose for a few days. When we first discovered it, she told me, “There aren’t enough people on the boat. I want more people to know!” I wrote my mother and the problem was solved. Tully got a whole series of e-mails asking about the progress of her loose tooth. Tomorrow morning, we will see what sort of prize the tooth fairy has left!
Christmas Island appears to have all kinds of things to do. We are equipped with a 4WD rental truck and a map so should have no trouble occupying ourselves. The good news – no volcanos to hike! Well, technically Christmas Island is the top of an underwater volcano but there isn’t too much top out of the water. So, a respite, at least on this island.