Monday, February 13, 2017

Local Boaters Option at U.S. Customs

Last Tuesday was our scheduled appointment at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in Key West. As a small U.S. vessel we are able to apply for Local Boaters Option cards as part of the Small Vessel Reporting System. We applied online for the LBO which was free. Once that step is done you have to make an appointment at the nearest Customs office for an interview. (Also free!) Since Key West is the closest office, we made an appointment there. Upon completion of the interview a boater can file a float plan online with Customs and then return later to the U.S. with a simple phone call rather than an in person visit.

The local bus runs about every two hours, so we boarded just after 8 a.m. for the ride to Key West. The ride was lively, loud and crowded. Seems everyone was headed to Key West that morning. We arrived at 10 a.m. and wandered the streets until our LBO appointments at 11:30 a.m.

You can't take a cell phone into the Customs building, so Brenda held on to both our phones outside as Mike went inside. As soon as you go through the front door you pass through an airport type security line before entering the interview office. Mike reported to the office and supplied our boat paperwork and his passport. The officer simply verified the documents and Mike's ID before inquiring about Brenda's passport. Mike told the officer that Brenda was just outside the front doors. The officer walked Mike outside and verified that Brenda was there in person with a valid passport. He handed us our LBO cards on the spot and our task was quickly completed.

U.S. Customs

OK, time to play tourist. Strolling around Duval, Caroline and Greene Streets we enjoyed the beautiful weather. First we headed to the Schooner Wharf for lunch, but heard steel drums and took a detour. The artist was fun to listen to, but our stomachs were also talking. It was a quick walk along the harbor to the Wharf, where we had lunch with the family a few weeks ago. The singer was a little too mellow for us, so after we finished lunch, we wandered some more. We eventually made it back to Mallory Square and listened to the island music from one of the three cruise ships docked on the sea wall. The roosters entertained us almost as much as the music.

Sunset Pier

Because the cruise ships were blocking our view, we climbed to a second story restaurant bar that had plenty of public seating. There we had a splendid view of the festivities. The setting sun capped off a fun afternoon.

We quickly found the bus stop for our return to Marathon. We wanted to be sure of a seat. There we met many of the same people who were on the bus with us on the way down. It was almost like a reunion as we shared tales of our day's activities. Ahh, such is the life of a cruiser.


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