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Kiribati Requiring U.S. Clearance Papers

Celestial anchored at peaceful Palmyra Atoll.

© Scott Hansen

If you’re planning a trip to the Republic of Kirbati anytime soon, you’d do well to heed the advice of circumnavigators Scott and Donna Hansen who just returned to Hawaii aboard their Tripp 47 Celestial. The Hansens left Kauai in September, sailing for legendary Palmyra Atoll. "Before leaving, we emailed Amanda Meyer at Fish and Wildlife to arrange for a permit and a $350 rat inspection," reports Donna. "While we understand the desire to keep Palmyra rat-free now that they’ve completed a $2 million eradication, we feel the fee is too high. I spoke to as many people as I could to get them to lower it, and we ended up paying $260 for the inspection. 

The cost of this fresh breadfruit and papaya breakfast gave Scott quite a fright.

© 2012 Donna Hansen

"Palmyra was our first stop after Hawaii during our circumnavigation (’89), so we really wanted to experience its magic once more. After a wonderful week exploring, we zigzagged our way to Fanning, making it in 52 hours. We arrived after 4 p.m. on a Monday, so the officials claimed overtime when they checked us in and asked $50 for their visit.

"They asked for our clearance — known as a zarpe in Mexico — and when we told them the U.S. doesn’t require them to leave the country, they warned us we might be subjected to a $500 fine. The officials at Fanning sent word to their superiors at Christmas Island, and in the meantime we paid an extra $20 for a three-month anchorage fee. We’d planned to stay a few weeks there, then spend time at Christmas Island before returning to Hawaii.

Two enormous lobsters for $20? Not too shabby.

© Scott Hansen

"We admit we didn’t do our homework, instead going on our past knowledge of checking into Fanning. Since our return, I’ve scoured the internet and can’t find any mention of Kiribati’s requiring a U.S. ‘zarpe‘. But we found out they do now. Three days after arriving, we were told we’d have to pay $900 or leave immediately! Not only did Christmas Island want us to pay $900, but we understand they also charge $150-250 to check in, as well as another $50 for a rat inspection — even though the island already has rats. We believe we were being punished for two American yachties — one had his U.S. clearance, the other didn’t — who have reportedly been a source of trouble at Fanning. 

It’s missing out on meeting more I-Kiribati, like this school teacher, that the Hansens regret most about their premature departure from Fanning.

© Scott Hansen

"We asked for an extra week to make desperately needed repairs to our mainsail, which they allowed. During that time, we did get to do a little shopping, which was expensive but we needed some fresh food, plus it helps the I-Kiribati. Lobsters were $10 each, onions were $1, and three paypayas and a pumpkin cost $20. The country is in trouble so, if you do visit, anything you can bring for trading or gifting — from flour and rice to T-shirts and goggles — is appreciated. But if you bring nothing else, don’t leave home without your clearance papers!"

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