Cape Verde, Mindelo - checking in, out and about
We arrived in Mindelo Friday afternoon just before Xmas, we knew how laid back things are in Cape Verde.
Maritime police close at 4 pm, but to be able to check in you need to get to their office before 3 pm, and immigration seems not to really care if you only come to do a check the following Monday.
Being the last working day before the holidays seemed to have brought an even more laid-back attitude towards the yacht's arrivals, apparently, there were a few yachts that had planned to depart during the Xmas weekend but had left their formalities for Friday only to be surprised with a closed door even before lunchtime and being told by the commercial harbour security guard to come back Monday.
So there we were in this big anchorage clearly full of several boats that wanted to depart and needed their clearance papers and boat documents back, and almost as many others in need to do their arrival formalities.
The mood was clearly on the festivities and not on serious business.
Given the authorities relaxed attitude, we decided to follow their lead and went out and about our business.
Finally, Monday morning came, and early morning we proceeded to the commercial harbour area to do our check-in.
The first stop was the immigration office, a small office opening directly to the street with two very polite officers, both speaking French and English besides the obvious official Portuguese language.
As we enter the office we are pointed to two chairs and asked when we arrived. I timidly say Friday afternoon.
The officer asks for a crew list, which we don’t have, and gives us one to be filled, takes a copy of our passports and boat registration. Asks where we came from, checks the form I just filled and proceeds with stamping our passport with Monday’s date totally not interested in our real date of arrival.
He confirms we can only stay 30 days, but an extension VISA can be arranged at their main office, not in their office.
With stamped passports, we proceed to the next office just around the corner of the same building. It’s the Maritime Police's turn this time.
This time we enter a corridor that leads to a few offices, I tell in Portuguese one of the officers that we have arrived and need to check in and he replies back in reasonably good English taking some time to, realise I’m speaking in Portuguese with him.
Again, he seems to speak a few languages, and communication is not a problem.
He points us to a chair and desk gives us a form, and asks for our passports and boat registration documents. The form is a bit more focused on the details of the boat and crew but still requires the same information as the one from immigration.
Then he asks for clearance papers from the previous port, and I just give him the receipts of the marina in Las Palmas and the receipt from our Customs inspection, none are clearance papers, but he seems happy to see some official-looking papers. Takes all into another office and returns just with our passports and the receipts which he then says apparently they no longer collect clearance papers from the previous port of call if from another country.
He explains he will keep our boat registration documents and that before moving on to another island we need to come here to get a clearance document that needs to be presented to the Maritime Police at the next island together with our Boat Registration document. We are not given any receipt or document mentioning they are now in possession of our very important Boat Registration document.
The same procedure is apparently to be repeated on each island.
All in all the procedures took maybe 10 minutes.
A few days later we return to the office to get the mentioned clearance document and our Boat Registration to go visit another island. We wonder how is this going to go, will they find our papers?!
After 5 minutes of waiting, they return with the clearance document and our registration.
With papers in hand, we lifted anchor and moved to another anchorage in the south of the island with the intention of in the following morning sailing to another island.
The following day plans would be changed as we realised we made a reasonably big navigation mistake by arriving at Mindelo instead of Sal so we decide to sail back to Mindelo.
We arrive mid-morning so I rush to get back to the Maritime Police office to cancel the clearance document, but it’s Friday before New Year's Eve and although it’s before lunchtime both Immigration and Maritime Police were already closed for the weekend holiday.
Monday after New Year's Eve we swing by the Maritime Police office again to cancel the clearance document we didn’t manage to cancel the previous Friday and to request departure documents. Not many questions were asked about our change of plans just confirming that we didn’t leave Mindelo for another island. The officer simply wrote cancelled on the clearance documents and issued a new one this time stating as the next port of call was Fernando de Noronha, Brazil before sending us off to Immigration.
At Immigration the officer quickly found our arrival papers, stamped them and then our passports. Wished us a good trip and finished by saying that if we changed our departure plans not to wait too many days to come back to the office and cancel that stamp.
Formalities in Cape Verde were indeed the most relaxed we had found so far in our travels.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community. In this post you can find information regarding check in and out procedures with location for the Port Police and Immigration