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Clearing In At New Zealand

By Cheri Davidson

After all of our Seamanship Derby fun on Saturday, Picton Castle motor-sailed around the northern tip of New Zealand and into the Bay of Islands on Sunday. There were lots of lovely green hills and lush mountains and rock coming right up out of the ocean. It all looks a lot like Mahone Bay, near our home base in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. We anchored up near the town of Russell for the night with our Q flag raised (a signal that shows we haven’t yet cleared in) and went into Opua to clear in in the morning.

Clearing in can be a little adventure with every different country Picton Castle sails to. Some things are always the same, but everywhere does it just a bit different. In New Zealand we can attest that they were indeed quite thorough. Where passports and a simple crew list of names, dates and numbers will usually suffice for most, New Zealand required a one-on-one meeting with every crew member and trainee and their passport. Not a problem, and easy to accommodate. Oops, we had some beans and popcorn that their quarantine people didn’t like. Okay, easily remedied. They confiscated our popcorn and threw it ashore in sealed bags for ‘destruction’. You would think popping the popcorn would have gotten rid of any plague within. As well as everything out of our freezers too.

But unfortunately for our smallest and furriest sailor, the solution wasn’t so simple. New Zealand does not allow our ship’s cat, George, to enter without quarantine. Even if incarcerated on the ship under lock and key. When we were in Australia (which is no slouch when it comes to regulatory matters) we had to lock George up in his ‘cat condo’ for a week with a padlock, but we were allowed to keep him on board. We had taken one of the vegetable lockers and converted it to Georges home. He could not get out. To our dismay, New Zealand did not consider that arrangement an acceptable one.

Option 1 was to have George locked in quarantine ashore for the duration of our stay in New Zealand, which will be about 6 weeks (at great expense, I might add). Option 2 was to send George home. George is a member of the Picton Castle family and a good shipmate. We didn’t want to send him away to a kitty prison! With sadness I can report that George will soon be on his way home to Canada.

He was taken from his cozy cat condo with all due drama under the supervision of the Customs & Quarantine officials on Monday morning with the cameras rolling of a “reality TV show” called BORDER PATROL with which the government seems to be participating. George will be kept in Auckland for a few days until his flight back to Halifax. It will be a long journey for a wee little cat.

Once he arrives in Nova Scotia his good pal, Capt. Michael Moreland, will be there waiting for him with some yummy treats and a good cuddle. George will no doubt be Picton Castle’s ship cat once again, exploring the world and sharpening his claws on ropes. But for now, he’ll have to wait on land.

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