Tuesday, March 13, 2012

French Polynesia long stay visa issues

We started our French Polynesia long stay visa application back in September of 2011 at the French Consulate in San Francisco.  The application needed to be submitted in person, along with proof of insurance, bank statements, fingerprints and one hundred and thirty seven dollars.   Three to six months later your application might be granted approval.  Having sailed from San Francisco to La Paz Mexico in the intervening months our passports then needed to safely travel to the consulate in SF and then back to us in Mexico.  Via the Club Cruceros net in La Paz we found a north bound cruiser who would drop our passports stateside.  Once received and processed by the French consulate our passports traveled to Kathy's parents home in Santa Rosa, CA then onward to Spring Creek, NV to the home of our nephew Andrew who would join us for the voyage to French Polynesia.  In the interim we crossed our fingers and hope nothing got lost and that we'd avoid any surprise inspections by the Mexican Navy.  Luckily, all of this worked out.  At least until we opened up our passports last week and found the glitch. 

We'd asked for a 6 month visa that would allow us to take our time exploring the Marquesas and Tuomotu before arriving in Tahiti.  What we got was pre-approval for up to one year AFTER we've used up our normal 90 day tourist visa.  This was a nice surprise except for the glitch on the start date of July 20, 2012 which is one month later than we'd planned.  The July date pushes our first possible arrival date in French Polynesia to April 20, 2012.

Having discovered all of this after our South Pacific crew had arrived and the boat was 99.9% provisioned and ready to go we were feeling a little defeated that all our efforts and expense on the long stay French Polynesia visas might be for not.  With the boat and crew ready could we ask our crew to delay nearly a month?  It was on our way to the Mexican Port Captains office to check out of Mexico that Kathy and I decided to stop for breakfast and really hash out these tough choices.  Resolved to risk that the delay might mean loosing our crew for the 3000+ nautical mile passage to the Marquesas we headed back to the boat with trepidation.  

Preparing for one of the longer sailing voyages on the planet requires great project management and a bit of psyching up as well.  This is a big trip with lots of unknowns so getting so close to the sailing date then backing off a full month was a bit of a emotional yo-yo.  Fortunately, our crew was understanding and accommodating so we'll spend the next weeks exploring the coasts of Mainland and perhaps even sail back to Baja Mexico before building up for crossing near the end of March.