Montenegro, Bar - checking in
To our surprise, the two staff available to take care of our check-in barely spoke English and without internet, we couldn’t use Google Translate. With goodwill and lots of smiles, we managed to communicate the necessary for them to fill our forms in the computer. The next step would be to pay for the cruising permit at the bank or postal office, with difficulty eventually the lady decided the easiest way was to tell us to go to the big blue building near the dock (Customs building), and explained it was time for her to close for lunch but she would wait for us to return.
We called a couple of more times, still no answer, so we started calling on what are the usual favourite channels of ports we’ve called in before (channel 10, 11 and 12) all attempts were left unanswered. Knowing that Montenegro Customs could be difficult if procedures were not followed we decided to call the marina on channel 9 as per the notes in the pilot book to ask for assistance. The reply came immediately and although we were not going to stay at the marina they kindly explained to us where to go, “gate 5” they said.
A bit puzzled with the name of the dock we looked carefully to the chart plotter trying to identify where “gate 5” could potentially be, a small note indicated that the Quay where the rescue boats that we could see from the harbour entrance was the right place, so we made our way in. As we approached we realized that the side that we were told to go into was totally occupied by the rescue boats and some impounded yachts, the decision was made we would dock on the outside of the dock somehow.
The Customs dock is a commercial concrete dock quite high and suited for much bigger boats having only a few huge bollards at a great distance from each other, on top of that it has tractor tires and other fenders like rollers suited for cargo vessels, not yachts. We could also see some heavy duty rusted cables protruding from the dockside, hopefully, we would be able to dock without assistance and without damages.
Due to the truck tires and distance between bollards I (Ana) is about to do what for us is unthinkable, jump off the boat to the dock at a distance and with The Dream not yet tied, just looped on to a bollard at amidship, to secure the back of the yacht.
A stressful manoeuvre aggravated with the fact that to facilitate our departure we were going to be port side to the dock and that would mean John would be at the main helm station on the starboard side with reduced visibility to my whereabouts and all the dangers of this dock.
Slowly, slowly on a gap of the light wind gusts, we made our move, we had one chance because once I jumped onto the dock the only way to return onboard if we failed docking would mean jumping in the water to swim back to The Dream.
With the Coast Guard crew watching from the other side of the dock but not moving to assist we successfully managed to dock without any incident to report.
Quickly we started tidying up the sails and cockpit before proceeding to Customs but within 5 minutes we already had them calling us on the VHF in authoritarian tone and an officer waiving at us frantically to come to formalities immediately (where were they when we called them?!)
Not having much of a chance of making sure that all was perfect with our docking etc. we followed the officer leaving the person that was calling us on VHF unattended.
When we arrived at the main Customs building we received instructions in broken English to proceed immediately to the Harbourmasters office, a 3 story grey building somewhere to the left 200 meters ahead... Quite vague directions, of course, most buildings nearby were greyish and around 3 stories high but none within 200 meters!
A bit lost we started inspecting the closest building entrances to find the right place and although our first attempt was the correct building, the first door we tried was the entrance for the residential side of the building, as we circled the unit to check the building behind we found the right entrance.
To our surprise, the two staff available to take care of our check in barely spoke English and without internet, we couldn’t use Google Translate. With goodwill and lots of smiles, we managed to communicate the necessary for them to fill our forms in the computer. The next step would be to pay for the cruising permit at the bank or postal office, with difficulty eventually the lady decided the easiest way was to tell us to go to the big blue building near the dock (Customs building), and explained it was time for her to close for lunch but she would wait for us to return.
We rushed our way back to the first building we had passed and looked for the post office to pay for the fees. We were received by a very grumpy lady that couldn’t care less if we were there or not. Lots of smiles again (to no avail), fees paid and we rushed back to the harbourmaster's office to conclude the first part of the check-in formalities.
When returning to the office another couple of sailors, a bit lost, followed us in, not realizing we were concluding our formalities they assumed we were jumping ahead of them when we approached the counter at the signal of one of the staffs. While they were being told the office was closed for lunch in a broken English that they were not understanding we helped explaining what the staff was trying to say, they reacted a bit rudely but we couldn’t care less we were finished there and needed to rush back to the Customs building to get our passport stamped before the afternoon breeze picked up making our departure from the dock even harder.
Stamping the passports was fast and easy and in no time we were fighting our way out of the dock. Not an easy task (especially without a working bowthruster) but we managed to leave the dock unharmed and only with a scuff mark of dirt made by the tractor tire fender on the dock.
For 7 days cruising permit vignette, we paid 33.05€ (inclusive of the post office administrative fees)
For 1-month cruising permit vignette, the cost would be around 95€
***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, Customs, Immigration and where to dock