A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Previous hurdle

In a post back in July last year (regulations, regulations, regulations) I spoke about the need for an annual “user decal” that you buy from the Dept of Homeland Security (DHS). Since they are valid from January to December, I waited until the new year before applying for ours. We could have waited until we arrived but it would have had a hard time catching up with us as the DHS will only mail it to you and you need it when you get your cruising permit. Since you have to pay for the full year anyway, there was no point in delaying and they mail it to New Zealand for free! This way we know we have it and will take it with us when we go.

To find out what the Decal is all about you can go to: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/pleasure_boats/user_fee/user_fee_decal.xml

You get one by going to the DHS “Decal and Transponder Online Application System (DTOPS)” as follows:

  1. Go to the website https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/. Apply to open an account. When the application is complete, you are given an account number which is also emailed to you.

  1. When you have your account number, go back to the website and place an order for the Decal. You will get an email confirming your order.

  1. About a week later, you will get an email saying your order has been fulfilled.

  1. About a week after that, you get the decal in the mail (and that was in New Zealand!), just like this:
It looks complicated (most Government websites seem to be like that and it really isn’t), but consider that the system has to cope with all private aircraft, boats over 30 feet and commercial trucks, it is kind of understandable.

So, foreign flagged vessel owners….don’t despair. It ain’t that hard and its best to do it before you leave.

80 DTG (days to go)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Over the final hurdle – 83 to the finish line

Last Wednesday we went for our interviews with the US Consulate for our Visae (visas). I was always confident that we would have no problems getting them – with the present state of the US economy I figured the US Government would be very keen for people to visit them and spend lots of money – but there was always that wee doubt, and a failure to get them would have been an unmitigated disaster. However, the nice man behind the bullet proof glass said that we had made it and we would get our 10 year Visae “within a few days”. Lo and behold they actually turned up the following day, Thursday, and we’re now good to go! That was the final piece of the arrangement for the trip itself, now we just have to get the rest of the domestic housekeeping sorted, particularly for stage one.

I have just finalised the disposal of the remaining dregs of the importing/distributing business that I have been part of for the past 28 years, so at the end of this month I guess I will be officially retired! Carolyn is in the throes of extricating herself similarly from her childcare centre that has been her “baby” for an even longer time, so by the time we get to go, we should both be people of leisure!

PS I've just discovered that because we have Visae, we don't have to apply for the ESTA registration before we leave, as it only applies to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Scheme. Yahoo - that's one more thing that doesn't have to be done and also saves us USD28 as well (yes, they now charge for them, whereas last time we got them 2 years ago they were free!)

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Into the home straight – 100 left to run!

Coincidentally, if we had stuck to our original departure date, the 100 day mark would have fallen on our 42nd wedding anniversary in 2 days time. I am also down to my last 50 sachets of Crystal Light Orange Sunrise drink which I bought as we were leaving last trip, so I have enough to last me through as long as I ration myself to one every 2 days. The sugar-free Pecan Delights won’t make it though as I’m down to the last bag of them. Still, I figure I can be proud of my restraint. When I bought them at Walmart in LA in September last year, the checkout lady asked if we were having a party, I guess from the number of packets we were buying. When I told her that they had to last till next June, she said, while looking me up and down (in my best southern African-American accent); “Woooeee, honey, they ain’t gonna last you till next sat’day!”

Since the last blog, we have had 2 postponements of visitors which actually suits us better. Charlie and Pauline are still coming to visit 3 weeks after we get there. It is likely that we will take the boat back to Kenosha where Harborside Yachts have a slip (berth) for us and we will provision from there, as we can’t find anything in Milwaukee. We will now probably rent a car locally for a month so we will be able to pick C & P up from Chicago and show them round a bit. When we leave Kenosha, we will travel up the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan and through the Sturgeon Bay Canal into Green Bay. It looks real nice up there – I am presently reading about it in Ron & Eva Stobs book about side trips (they also wrote “Honey lets buy a boat”). We can drop C & P off at Green Bay City (where the “Packers” come from) and they can catch a Greyhound bus back to Chicago to fly out after their 3 week stint with us. After that we will stooge back down to Chicago by early to mid August and start the Loop proper

Kathy and Dennis have postponed their visit until September. They are doing a “Route 66” tour starting on the 27th from Chicago and want to go and see the largest Christmas shop in the world in Frankenmuth, MI first. So the plan now is they will get a rental car, go to Frankenmuth, then come down and find us and stay a week before returning to Chicago to start their tour. We expect we will be down around Kentucky/Barkley, or Pickwick Lakes by then and be in striking distance of Nashville, Memphis etc. As they will have a rental car we will be able to go and visit these and other places over that week.

Cheryl, our friend from Whangarei has decided to postpone her visit till stage 2, probably from Florida when we return in March 2013.

Preparations continue. We have applied for our US Visae (plural of Visa) online….what a rigmarole that is!.......and have made an appointment with the Consulate for our interviews next week. All going well we should have those before the end of this month.

I got sent this Pic of the Wharehine New Years Eve dance and felt obliged to post it. (wow, that was over 2 months ago!) My Gogo dancers really threw themselves into their routines (they’re my Great Nieces, by the way)! I think I was thumping out “Hotel California” at the time.