Sailor says arriving yacht crews felt ‘unwelcomed’
Customs have come under fire from participants in this year’s Marion Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race.
A number of sailors that completed the 645 nautical mile race from Buzzards Bay, Marion, Massachusetts to St David’s Head, Bermuda were reportedly left fuming after arriving in local waters earlier this week.
According to one sailor, who asked not to be identified, participants arriving after 5pm were denied permission to dock and come ashore until the next morning.
And this, he said, made sailors feel “incredibly unwelcomed” and sends the “wrong impression” of Bermuda.
“The people in Marion made us feel very welcomed but her Majesty’s Customs has made visitors to Bermuda and returning residents feel incredibly unwelcomed by the manner in which they conduct themselves,” the sailor said. “Boats finishing after 5pm or so were instructed to anchor overnight in St George’s and then come to the dinghy club (Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club) in the morning.
“Bear in mind these are people that have been sailing for four and a half, five days to get to Bermuda that really want to take a shower and sleep in a bed that’s not bouncing all over the place. They also have family members waiting for them and in most cases when you’ve got a crew of ten there’s only sleeping accommodations for four or five and the way it works is that when half the crew is on watch the other half are resting.”
Assistant Collector of Customs, Tracey Kelly, did not return e-mails or phone calls to this newspaper to respond to questions concerning this matter by press time yesterday.
According to the identified sailor, race participants were ordered by Customs officials to remain at sea because the Yacht Reporting Centre on Ordnance Island, St George’s had closed for the day.
“For much of the year Customs is open 24 hours a day in St George’s but somehow they manage to be closed in the summer when yachts show up in the middle of the night and it just gives off the wrong impression of Bermuda,” the sailor added. “These guys should be bending over backwards to make sure the visitors of Bermuda are welcomed and made to feel at home.
“I’m not saying roll the red carpet out for them. But it’s not as if this is a unanticipated event like some boat arriving randomly from Florida, Europe or wherever. They know when these events are on so whether it’s the Newport Bermuda Race or Marion Bermuda Race they need to plan their staffing so they have the ability to check everybody in — whether it’s 11pm or 1am.
“The hotels here are crying for business and now we are trying to turn away the people that spend money which makes no sense. I don’t know who is responsible for this but it’s the wrong policy for Bermuda.”