Tunisia, Hammamet - checking in
The final stop of our first season in the Mediterranean was Tunisia where we were going to spend the winter months enjoying this new country and doing some maintenance and improvement jobs on The Dream.
The reason for choosing Tunisia as the final destination for this season came down to the Schengen 90/180 days rule and the cost of the marina and life, paired with a mild winter the decision was easy, the only thing we didn’t know how easy would be was the check-in formalities for the yacht and ourselves.
After leaving Palermo we had a great sail rounding the west side of Sicily, passing between the Egadi Islands and then across the Sicilian Strait, with lots of Dolphins and even the final catch of the season an 8.5kg Mahi-Mahi (Dorado).
Shortly after entering Tunisian waters we were called on the VHF Radio by the Tunisian Maritime Police or Navy, not sure. The first time they called us we didn’t even notice because we were still catching the signal from the coast guards of both Italy and France cluttering the radio with several warnings constantly, but maybe an hour later we heard the second call and when replying learned that they had tried previously without success. Oops, this information could be the beginning of a not so nice conversation on the radio but the officers thought maybe our radio had not been in range of the communication but truth be said when they said it was their second time we immediately recalled that one message on the radio calling a vessel we couldn’t understand the name. The reality was that the radio conversation was very polite and welcoming, asking the usual questions, vessel flag, home port, last port of call, number of crew and passengers and destination, finishing with a “Welcome to Tunisia” in a very happy tone.
We carried on with our approach to Hammamet keeping a close eye on the immense number of barely visible fishing pots as the night rolled in. We arrived the marina shortly after 8pm in complete darkness and waited for instructions on where to head with the yacht. Eventually, they told us we needed to moor alongside in front of the reception for check-in formalities, like an arrival dock.
After filling all the forms for the passports and for the Aduane (Customs for the yacht) the conversation switched to what we had onboard, equipment, alcohol, cash, tobacco but with great focus on cigars and whiskey. To both questions I replied on my girly tone that we don’t drink whiskey, it’s not our cup of tea, we prefer wine and gin and that seems to have settled the conversation, but they still wanted to inspect yacht.
Once we all got to The Dream they finally realised we have a dog, a big dog, in fact, although I did tell them several times we had a dog on board and needed to check her in also, they didn’t care about her. With Ella in full view wanting to show the love, the official's inspections was just like in Morocco super fast and pretty much resumed to them getting in the boat in the salon area and leaving immediately without opening any cabin or storage cupboards.
That was it, we were formally in Tunisia, but the marina contract took one week to be completed because all is done at that lovely Mediterranean pace.
Later we found out that two other that arrived after us and who we became friends with had been asked for some baksheesh and gifts, the first boat 20€ while the second 30€ plus a cheap bottle of whiskey.
***UPDATE- important information regarding check in and out formalities
After speaking with a few of our French dock neighbours upon their latest experiences with authorities during check in and out (they suffer less language barrier than us) we have identified items that can cause issues during check in and out of the country by boat.
Note that if any of these items are carried onboard they should be declared on arrival and probably they will be kept with Customs Aduane services until departure (when they should be returned).
Satellite phones(unsure if this includes iridium go).
Night vision binoculars.
Large quantities of Alcohol (especially if still unopened).
Cash (not sure on the amount but would be more than a couple 1000€)
Be aware also that it is illegal to take Tunisian money out of the country.
***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 Port Police, Customs and Immigration