Checking out of Hammamet
Close to the 6-month marker of arriving in Tunisia by boat, my passport was again coming to the end of its 90 days visa and therefore a little exit of the territory was due. With flight prices less inviting when the purpose is literally fly out and back in without delays (read further expenses with hotels, transportation etc) we decided we should just take The Dream out of its Immobilisation process and do a quick sail to the Italian island of Pantelleria, this would also act as our pre-season shakedown sail. The forecast seemed good and the distance short enough to do it in little more than 24h.
With some of our marina friends invited to join for the ride, we prepared ourselves for departure.
All of our friends have not been as lucky as us on arrival and were demanded some backshish (bribe, gift, souvenir) both in the form of cash and liquor, so we stashed the cash away both Tunisian Dinars and Euros, the same with the good wine and spirits, left some Tunisian beers in the fridge and some cheap locally bought whiskey at hand just in case.
When arriving at the formalities dock I proceeded to Customs with our friend Phillippe (a French resident) to assist with any language barriers and who knows to deter any attempts of backshish demanding, after all, Phillippe is a very big French guy and big French guys can be intimidating.
Immediately the conversation moved to the fact that my visa only had a couple of days left and I needed to pay a fine if I exceeded the limit. Giggling my way I replied that’s why we were exiting Tunisia. The subject stopped there.
The entire process took time, processing 6 passports is not easy it seems.
When finished with the documents they proceeded with the mandatory inspection, during which they managed to get alone with John and I, so the first attempt was made: “do you have money on board?” he asked John in hesitant English while making the gesture of money. I replied immediately in French that not really just a couple of Tunisian Dinars.
Not happy with my answer and assuming John is the captain he insisted again: “no Euros?”, the answer came fast: “no, we’ve been in Tunisia for 6 months now we have exchanged all our Euros already”...
Not happy with me killing the subject with the giggly tone on behalf of the “captain” he started moving towards the companionway to leave but as passing by John he asked if John wouldn’t have something for his “thirst”, with such insistent demands John had no choice but to hand him the cheap locally bought whiskey (10€ a bottle) that he immediately hide in his pants so that the guys from the Guarde Nationale (the normal police)) wouldn’t see him.
As he handed out all passports to the “captain”, John replied he is the captain but I’m his captain so he could give all to me because I know better.
And so we were free to leave to our fast sail.
On our return the following day all the senior guys were already out of duty, it was past nightfall just like the first time when we arrived and formalities although lengthy resulted in no demands of bakshish.
20 days later, upon our final departure in the early hours of the morning, the request for a souvenir was not so discreet but because we had woke them up so early I decided to be less stringent and give in easily to the backshish request. One less bottle of cheap locally bought whisky remaining on board and we were again checked out of Tunisia.