The monstrosity of the ferry had to be boarded by bus and so we bundled into one with our luggage, first on best seat. The Cat named ‘Alakai’ was just as massive on the upper deck where we found a seat with surround views.
Who should join us on the voyage across the waters to America but our American cyclist friend too, Ken. He had cycled back from St John’s to Halifax and then shuttled to Yarmouth. The ferry sailings are numbered as winter approaches. Not a good situation missing the last of the ferries to then have to go back the long way round through New Brunswick!
As more seats became occupied, it suddenlty dorned on us as to whether we needed a ‘visa’ given we were only going to be in the States for nigh on three weeks just passing through. Oh shit! The fine print said we did, even though there was some confusion whether our entry was classed as a land entry versus sea!!!!
Claire was frantic pushing mobile phone buttons applying for the waiver document they call ESTA. Once the ferry was beyond the shores of Yarmouth, service would be lost and with it the possibility we would be returning because of being turned around at Customs and Immigration on the other side. Eeeeeeek, stay calm Claire but hurry it along.
Huh, Ken said they have holding cells dockside for illegal immigrants like us without the proper clearances! We’ve watched documentaries on prisoners in US detention centres … hurry Claire hurry, the ferry is moving.
With her application sent, there was only me to do. The fine line between pressing the send button and and the no service signal going ping was a split second.
We were in no-man’s land as the ferry powered from the shores of Canada destined for the beaches of the US. Five and a half hours to cross the open Atlantic sea. Within a couple nautical miles from disembarking, the ferry pulled up and started reversing.
Did they too forget something and so were backing up to get it? Nup, something had got sucked into the Cat’s intake turbines and the Captain was trying to spit it back out. Everyone’s eyes were on what would bob up to the surface – a whale, a fishing boat or net, a container? Or were they just flushing out the toilets before land fall.
The short bus ride to Customs and Immigration when we did dock at Portland, Maine was tense because we had no phone service to receive a magical waiver form confirmation.
“Welcome to the States, what is your purpose of your visit?”
“Where will you be staying?”
“How long will you be staying?”
They processed Claire first; checked passport, took finger print scans and a photo. The printer rattled out a form, it was the ESTA one. A relief of “Yay.”
When it came to me it was passport checked and then, “Have you got your ESTA?” At first I looked dumbfounded as to what to say. Claire represented me with our frantic panic application over the waters some ways back explanation. Apparently, mine wasn’t confirmed.
Oh great! I could see the yellow glove treatment emotion in the Officers expressions on the other side of the terminal counter and standing there I jiggled with what happens now nervousness.
A Supervisor was called over, all the remaining bus passengers had been processed and were now on the bus waiting for us. A conversation and a form filled in, finger prints and photo and then a rubber stamp versus a rubber glove.
“Welcome to America, please enjoy your stay.”
We picked up our rental car, navigated to our Airbnb accommodation, found a Walmart to purchase a phone with some access to Google Maps and over a glass of Australian Merlot, sat around a breakfast bar with our hosts getting to know them.
Helping Tom put the cast iron furnace chimney back together signalled it was time to rub sticks together for a fire. The first for this new winter season approaching. It was just lovely as the naked flame behind the glass glowed and the homestead warmed up.
Strewth, what another day in the lives of the Rurus!
The statement of the day had to be the one made by the receptionist at Enterprise cars when a customer asked if they had GPS for hire.
“We lost our privileges and therefore, our customers did too.”
Thank goodness the good ole US of A gave out a ‘get out of jail’ pass privilege.
To have been sent back to Canada or be held in a detention cell, no correspondence necessary!