AFTER 20 YEARS THIS EXPERIENCE STILL HAUNTS ME
By Ash Winter
We were racing from Port Dover to Dunkirk. When we arrived in Dunkirk there were several Customs and Immigration officers and Sheriffs officers at the docks. They were searching all boats as they came in. Included in this search procedure were trained dogs to sniff out drugs.
The dogs were having a bad day. They didn’t like walking on the slippery decks and they didn’t appreciate their handlers stuffing their noses in the heads looking for drugs.
Little did the handlers understand that once your dog has been forced to smell a boat head he or she has lost all ability to sense anything. Especially on Shaibu where the holding tank hadn’t been pumped in at least 15 years. As we pulled into the dock a rather gruff officer told us to stay on board and not move. I explained that we had two women on board who really needed to use the ladies room. He reluctantly allowed them to go to the toilet with orders to return immediately.
You must understand that these two middle aged women were a serious threat. In the customs officer’s eyes it was highly likely that they had condoms full of cocaine in their stomachs and they needed to poop them out and transfer them to a dealer who was waiting in the ladies washroom to make the deal.
Now we get into the actual search and inspection. All of us had to identify ourselves with name date of birth country or origin and other details. This is when things started to get testy to say the least. God forbid, I had a lady on board who came from New Zealand. What was even worse, I had a male crew member who was a citizen of the United States. What on earth were these people doing on a boat that came from Canada? It was terribly suspicious. Clearly something was very wrong.
After being interrogated at length and accused of being a liar I solicited the aid of my good friend John Dunn. I asked John to take charge and help in any way he could. At that point I and my crew just stayed with the boat and waited. Eventually I was told that the lady from New Zealand was persona non grata and that I had to get her out of the country immediately. It was clear that her pretty face, lovely smile, and lovely body made her appear to be a serious threat. I was ordered to leave at once. I explained that we had no fuel, water or food and that they could not send me to sea in those circumstances. I was allowed to get fuel.
We left one of our crew on shore and his job was to find a power boat to take our New Zealand lady back to Canada. The plan was to meet the power boat offshore to take her to Canada and we would return to port. What really gave us a great sense of support was as we left the dock about 250 men and women were chanting in unison to the 13 customs officers “A holes-A holes”. This certainly endeared me to my many good sailing friends but somehow I don’t think it went down well with the Constabulary.
After returning to port I borrowed a car from some good soul who was eager to help. I drove to Point Abino and picked up our New Zealand lady. We came back through Customs and Immigration at Fort Erie. She was asked what are you doing to which she replied “Sailboat racing”. The Officer quickly gave her a form, stamped her passport and said “That sounds like fun to me have a good time”
We did return and had a good time as is always the case when we joined our many good friends on the Interclub Cruise.