Sticker/Culture Shock Rant

Although we like to keep a light hearted tone on the blog and tend to focus on the good things we encounter along our way, I do think it’s important to let people know when ‘not so great’ things happen and this post is definitely a kind of rant. The dark side of life must be acknowledged, even if we do not dwell on it here. Sometimes I just want to get things off my chest. Read my complaint, or, for a stress free blog experience, scroll down to the video of a great day of sailing on the Pacific.

One of these darker things has been the sticker shock we received when we bought our mooring permit. We expected to have to buy a permit and figured it would be fairly affordable. Why did we think that? Maybe it’s because we have never yet experienced the shock of having to pay an exorbitant, what feels like extortionist, price to anchor our boat; a priviledge that use to be free everywhere. That is truly a freedom of the past. Our fee to get the permit to anchor between 6/9/2020 and 7/5/2020 was $713.32. Mike originally wanted to pay through July 15, because we aren’t sure when weather will be solid in the North Pacific and we figured we may as well just pay in advance. The bill would have been almost exactly 1000$. Um. No. We dialed back the date so we could save some money. If we can’t leave by then, well, we will just pay the extra. But it would have been hard to get it refunded if we left early. Now, sitting here in Hanalei where we are literally the only ones with permits displayed on our window, I wish we had paid for a week then made them come after us for staying longer. We feel like chumps.

Didn’t we research this before we came? Well, yes, I did. I went to this website. And I found that Hawaii had increased the rates to moor at marinas because their state marinas were in poor repair. But we would not be staying in a marina, we would be anchoring. And I could not find anything specific to that. I never imagined that we would be charged what looks like the same rates as people in state marinas. It’s almost like they don’t want you to cruise to the islands and anchor out. You think?

So based on feedback from local friends and women in my Women Who Sail FB group who were flummoxed at why we were charged so much, I emailed a copy of our receipt to the powers that be. Yep, the charge is accurate. No refunds for us. So let’s hope the weather gets good up in the north Pacific so we can leave around July 5. I include a photo of the email I received explaining the charges for your perusal and possibly your own decision making regarding where you will sail. More information, if you want to wade through a government website, can be found here.  Why transient boats at anchor are charged the same fee as the marina boats is beyond me, but we had to pay.

This email from the Kauai District Manager of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation

So our second piece of culture shock was a little taste of what feels like the police state we are living in currently.  We made the huge mistake of going to the airport to rent a car. Believe me, we learned our lesson. When you leave the airport you must go through a police checkpoint, looking for paperwork related to your quarantine for Covid 19. Hawaii still has a 14 day quarantine for anyone coming into the islands from anywhere else. People have been arrested for breaking it early. Our quarantine had been satisfied at sea, per the governor’s orders, because the logic of that situation finally caught up with the rules. We were, in effect, quarantined for over 30 days. It’s kind of hard to catch Covid 19 in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, no?

Apparently someone forgot to inform the police department that people coming into the state on their own boat were in their own category. Our officer-of-the-day made it clear that he was going to make trouble for us because, according to him, we were out of compliance and didn’t have the appropriate paperwork. He refused to look at what paperwork we had, refused to acknowledge that he wasn’t up to date on the governor’s order, refused to recognize that other agencies had different paperwork that amounted to the same thing, insisted we had 11 more days of quarantine on our boat, and implied that the rental car agency had broken the law (they hadn’t). The fact that we were cleared by the Border Patrol (Federal agency), and the DNLR (state agency), fell on deaf ears. He kept saying that we had incorrect information and we had to quarantine on our boat for 11 more days. He wanted to know why we rented a car. We needed fuel and food, we said. I guess that was permitted. Thank goodness for small blessings.

He was obstinate, concrete thinking, and uninterested in possibly being wrong. Also he would not make a simple phonecall to rectify the situation immediately, saving us all time and aggravation. For a few moments he discussed making us return our rental car and then, well, I don’t know what we were going to do after that and possibly that’s why he eventually let us go. Think about it: he could arrest us or he could let us go. Those were his two choices.  He wanted to know how his guys could make sure we were staying quarantined on our boat. Where could they come and check?  We suggested they dinghy out and knock on the hull. He said his guys were not going to do that. We said that golly that was sure a problem, then, because that’s where we live. The Coast Guard was right there by us, maybe they would help him.

If I hadn’t been so stressed out by it I might have found his obstinacy amusing. As it was, however, it gave me a very, very small taste of what some people have to put up with and are afraid of in dealing with police every single day, except my biggest fear was that he would just create problems we had to deal with, not that he would hurt us physically. He seemed keen to create an issue where there was none,  and was just so doggoned sure he was in the right, but underneath it I knew eventually he would see the light and it would work out, even if I had to get super pissed off and be mistreated in the interim.  I have the privilege of assuming that things will work out because I am lucky by birth. That is all. Good thing I had my mask and sunglasses on where he couldn’t see the rage behind my eyes.

After a lenghthy, circular logic interaction that felt endless, he ordered two young National Guard (I think) soldiers to take our information, which they did, looking like deer in the headlights. “What is the reason for your visit to Kauai, m’aam?” “Boat in transit.”, we replied. They looked confused as we spelled it for them so they could write it down. Officer Thompsom said he would follow up with us later that day. Relieved to just drive away from him,  be free of his energy, and go about our legitimate business, we went. I was too upset to drive safely so we stopped and Mike took the wheel.

Two hours later the officer called me and ate a healthy portion of raw crow as he said he had found the governor’s order and mentioned more than once that he didn’t mind being wrong. (Really? Well that’s good. So happy to hear your ego isn’t damaged irreparably.) He assured us no further quarantine was required of us. I reminded him that we already knew that. That conversation was not my finest moment. I was too busy biting my tongue to be gracious.

Two days later we  had a repeat of this scenario when we returned the rental car and had to walk through the same checkpoint with a different officer in charge. The conversation went almost exactly the same way, but this time we had even more paperwork in our hand to show them we had complied and were cleared. I felt we were super prepared; again that default belief system I am privileged to have that since I’m not doing anything wrong I won’t be hassled or caused trouble. (If you think that is true, think again.)  I was wrong.

Our paperwork was from other agencies, again this inter-agency lack of communication and cooperation, even respect. I read, out loud, pointing to each word with my finger, the governer’s order exempting us from further quarantine on the State of Hawaii Incoming Vessel Declaration Form; a form which, I might point out, was created for exactly this purpose. I pointed to the official signatures on the form. ‘Who are these people?’ asked the officer, his eyes uncomprehending. Honestly, he just had a glazed look! For a split second I thought he couldn’t actually read. I was completely confused by his confusion! What part didn’t he understand?

I read this statement to the young man. “The individual named below has met and complied with all self-quarantine requirements under the 8th Proclamation set forth by State of Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige.  Approved by the State of Hawaii, DLNR, DOBOR Kauai Distric Manager, Jeremiah Aguilera”.

This is the back of the Order for Self-Quarantine for the State of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. It’s completed on the back because we have completed the state requirement. It says exactly the same thing as the form above in regards to our having completed all required quarantine.  The DNLR provided us with this when the police would not recognize the vessel clearance form. They put our quarantine papers in a file folder for us. Apparently this wasn’t good enough, either.

Again, this new officer just somehow could not compute that other agencies were also in compliance with orders, were also working to keep Kauai virus free, that everyone was on the same page here and we were free and clear to go. However, he was younger and more impressionable, possibly worried about making a mistake (a good instinct, that), and possibly his humanity had not been exterminated yet. We had a lot of signed documents in a green paper folder that looked legit, and we were able to name drop the name of the officer we had encountered previously and ask him to call that guy immediately. The name dropping was the key. Here was something he could recognize! Nothing else mattered to him. I don’t think he ever understood or cared what official documents he was looking at. He called the officer and the problem was solved. After that we chatted with him about sailing across the Pacific. Suddenly, he became human again. Suddenly, we were not the enemy.

You know, we realize people have hard jobs right now and that they are doing the best they can as a rule and we don’t hold it against them. But was this really the best they could do? Because this was next level ridiculous and these are the kinds of interactions that come back to bite an agency in the hind end. It’s not our responsibility to educate the police on what the current law is. Not every citizen that police encounter is a potential criminal. Some people just are outside the usual box, and cruisers are definitely those people. We know that, we make room for that, we give people extra consideration for considering our situation. But come on, man! Meet us halfway here! We are all in this together, we thought.

There are any number of ways this could have been handled with more grace, with no hard feelings, and no hassle. We were willing to work with them, but they were not willing to work with us. Aloha, y’all.

So, we’re glad that’s over. I think we all learned something from the encounter, but my lesson was sure uncomfortable. I can only hope the officers we encountered will remember that not all citizens are trying to pull one over on them and get away with shit but I’m not going to hold my breath. Some of us are following the law to the letter and we would appreciate it if we were treated as such and not punished for our trouble. That’s my white privilege showing all over the place right there; that underlying expectation I have that I be treated with some kind of human dignity and respect and given the benefit of the doubt.

So we’ve kind of got a bad taste in our mouth from these two experiences. But we’re moving on. We are here in Hanalei trying to get our feet on the ground a bit. It’s lovely but the water is rough and it’s very windy each day. Good sailing, but so far no good snorkeling. Tomorrow we will go to town and take laundry to a friend’s rental house and learn our way around. Mike got in the water here and got part of the hull scrubbed while I did some client work on the phone. Life is getting back to normal, whatever that is.

Here’s a beautiful sunset from our passage. My heart rate goes down just looking at it. I am honestly looking forward to getting back out there and understand the weather is beginning to settle down in the North Pacific. It’s less stressful at sea overall, where the world is reduced to one small sailboat making its way across the water. May my next post be more positive and up lifting.

Here’s a video we took on a really spectacular day of sailing. Your blood pressure will go down by watching this, I assure you. So will mine.  

2 thoughts on “Sticker/Culture Shock Rant

  1. You’ve just survived – on a much larger scale – the incident we had aboard a Sionna in Bradenton, Florida a couple years ago! We were ticketed for failure to display our anchor light at the “ Highest fixed point of the vessel”. Thing is, as a sailing vessel, we are not required to do so. The CoastGuard regs specifically state that “the light need not be placed at an impractical height above the deck…”
    Do you think this officer was interested in the regulations? The regulations we are required to know and carry aboard our vessel? He was not. He only wanted to show me that he had power, and I did not.
    Still rankles, even two years later. I firmly believe that Police Officers are not to be allowed to be “ human”, in the sense of making errors. They need to be right 99.9% of the time, held to a higher standard.
    Sadly this is not the case way more often than it should be. God knows what might have happened if my skin hadn’t been white…

    End of my rant!

    • I remember when that happened to you. What a fiasco. That was an awful experience. But I bet that officer made his ‘numbers’ that day. Ridiculous and needs to stop.

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