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Sailing to Italy; Arrest Threats & Lost in Translation

We have arrived in Bari, Italy -but trying to officially check in has been lost in translation, and the Captain is threatened with arrest

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Sailing Croatia to Italy

We sailed from Croatia to Italy in 22 hours.  We faced lightning storms of course as we always seem to, and the sea state was 2.5 metres of boiling cauldron wet mess. 

As when entering any country by plane or water craft, we have to always take care of official business first.  Bari is an official Italian port of entry.   Many pleasure boats like ours don’t check in here as they prefer to cross south near Greece where the Italian coast is closer.  But to be sure – according to their own government website and all literature, Bari is definitely the port where we must officially check in.  Other cruisers preceding us have also been given a most terrible  run around in this port city too. 

The captain has just spent 3 hours and walked 9 km trying to officially check in. The exercise has been an abject failure.  We are still not formally checked in and it seems, no one knows what to do with us.

Our lagoon in Bari

Official Offices & Arrest Threats: Some Amusing Interpretations

The Costa Guardia, the Port Authority Police, Frontier Police, Customs offices … in total nine offices were visited in an attempt to officially check in to Italy.   It was a wild goose chase of epic proportions. Every office turned  the captain away and sent him somewhere else.  Nine kilometres of walking office to office to office to office in 30 degree heat.  And there is no outcome.

It was frustrating to be sure. Laugh or cry, it is just plain weird how officials just didn’t understand. And to be honest, some ‘officials’ didn’t even want to try either. Here are a few of the gems from three hours of trying to officially enter Italy (note, we were in Italy last year so we do know the drill).

  1. One of the Port Police wanted to actually arrest the captain because their interpretation was that we had arrived with our private, full scale cruise ship … and had the audacity to park it without authority in the port.  Now, as you may know, Waiata means music or song in Māori, but we certainly are not a huge cruise ship like the Symphony of the Seas. And we are not parked in the port; we are anchored in an anchor authorized lagoon named San Antonio Bay.  It’s a tiny lagoon like anchorage with rock molls (walls) and only up to 3 meters deep.  This is our shallowest anchorage yet!   Note: a cruise ship draws around 9 metres; Waiata only  draws 1.4 metres of depth. 
  2. The next official thought that the captain was asking for a city tour.  A privately escorted whip around the old town maze of streets and city was perhaps kindly,  but incorrectly on offer. We have no idea how this was the interpretation or how the translation ended up at this point. 
  3. Then there was an official at another office the captain had been sent to, who thought Greg had missed the one of the ferries that passage between Bari and Dubrovnik!  An emergency tug out to the ferry …. or wait around for the next international ferry going tomorrow morning at zero seven hundred hours.
  4. Apparently being from New Zealand we were also told we won’t need to check in anywhere …. which is blatantly slap in the face incorrect.  As a non-EU vessel checking in to the EU country of Italy, there are legal requirements (note: Croatia is still currently non EU). 

Literally Lost in Translation

Of course being an IT Sailor, it was a matter of using apps such as Google Translate to avoid any potential for confusion. But using technology still yielded no progress, clarity or understanding.  There was nothing  for the captain to do but return to Waiata shaking his head. After walking 9 kilometres in sweaty heat, we have literally been lost in translation.  The captain easily won today’s wet t-shirt competition.  And upon review and again checking government websites and cruiser forums such as NoForeignLand we believe the first office visited was indeed, the correct place to start the proper process.

Just after dark, the Costa Guardia came and did a lap of our boat. They drove around Waiata and left without tapping on the hull asking us to leave. It strikes me as funny that we are on a Lagoon in a lagoon (our boat model is a Lagoon 450S)

We are here -the blue dot is Waiata

Check in Attempt: Day 2

It is Tuesday morning. We have now slept on the dilemma after a 22 hour cross ocean sail with very little sleep. We agree it vitally important and we need to try again. But first we take great care and preparation by writing down and printing out sentences of what we need to do. We write it in Italian using our data and translation apps on board. This is no different to yesterday, but we create something written in direct language about our needs, just to be sure. We change out words like “check in” to “passport entry”. If we can’t officially check in to Italy, we will be unable to leave.

I again take the captain to the dock along with our trusty bag of legal documents and his electric unicycle to make it easier to get around to the offices as required.

We have a degree of success but first the same official from yesterday warns he will again arrest the captain for returning to the office. Thakfully some helpful young Costa Guardia guys outside the office assist and we make progress once they engage and involve a senior official. Then two senior officials speak across different offices and addresses, and progress is made. We at least now have two stamps in our passports.

  1. Number of official offices now visited: 10.
  2. Number of kilometres covered: 27
  3. Number of repeat visits to the same offices: 3
  4. Number of times the Captain has been threatened with arrest: 3 (note: all by the same person)
  5. Number of hours used trying to check in to date: 7

We are not fully checked in though …. a return to the office is required on Saturday to take care of boat paperwork. And a big wind is blowing down the coast so until then, we’ll remain on our lagoon, in our lagoon. And as I write this a helicopter is circling above Waiata and we’re thinking … hmmm.

Roxy Music (with Brian Eno) recorded Grey Lagoons in 1973 on the “For Your Pleasure” album. The track was originally called “The Bogus Man Part II)

“Blue suns and grey lagoons
Silver starfish with honeymoons
All these and more to choose
If you”

2 Responses

  1. We’ll the old saying “God loves a tryer” certainly applies to Greg. Persistence along with perspiration paid off in the end.
    We certainly hope that the third member of your party (namely Waiata) is more successful when she tries to “check in” on Saturday.

  2. Great article. I can see the Schengen shuffle being a pain.
    Would love to catch up when u are back in nz.
    We pick up our lagoon 46 in march – May.

    Stuart, Christchurch

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