The good news is that our boat work is now slowly being completed and the list of things to do is getting smaller and smaller, although I think like with a house, the list will never really be finished.
We are still waiting for an original document for our boat registration that has been couriered from New Zealand that we need to get a Transit Log for the boat from the port police to be able to leave. Not sure when it will make it here with not so many planes going to Greece.
And then we are still waiting for the deletion of the yacht from the Greek register, which is a lengthy progress that requires the involvement of different authorities who need to stamp a paper. If the paper expires before all stamps are on, the whole process has to be started again. I think we are into round 3 now… Did I mention the process is frustrating? Our new friends process with their catamaran took 8 months to get the boat de-registered from the Greek register – they were told it would take around 3 weeks…
But by far the most frustrating bit is the issue with Tim’s visa. The kids and I have German passports, so we are less effected than Tim. Also Tim has already been in Greece for 2 weeks in January to purchase the boat, so those 2 weeks count towards his stay now. We knew that we could apply for a residence visa for Tim before his Schengen Visa expired for Greece on the basis of our relationship. So in early April I contacted the Aliens Buero (no, that is not a typo its really Aliens Buero!) to ask how we go about that. I got back a cryptic message to say that everything is closed due to Corona Virus and we have to wait until things open again. So once things started to open, we went to Immigration office pretty much immediately, just to realise its still closed. Tim went back the following week and they didn’t let him in. They handed us a paper with Greek writing and a website, saying to go on it and manage it from there and to go away.
So we did that, sent an e-mail. Got an e-mail response referring us to another e-mail. From that e-mail we got a link to a contact details page all in Greek and with another e-mail, from which we still haven’t heard to date. I also e-mailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which referred me to same e-mail from which I haven’t heard. Simultaneously Tim contacted the Greek Embassy in New Zealand and New Zealand Embassy in Europe and I contacted the Germany Embassy. With the German Embassy being the most unhelpful, the New Zealand Embassy coming right next, and the Greek Embassy in New Zealand being most helpful, but unable to do anything. None of them can help with visa extensions. Also Armando who we bought our boat of tried to call Immigration to talk to them in Greek and explain the situation. The lady notified us in that phone call that now Tim’s visa was 4 days overdue and that he has to leave the country immediately and there is absolutely no way to extend it or make his stay “legal”. She doesn’t want to take into consideration all the efforts we have done by e-mail and in person all of which we have evidence of – she doesn’t even want to look at our e-mail trails!
A few more phone calls later Tim went to Immigration again just to be told the same. The Port Police can’t give us a transit log because Turkey hasn’t opened its boarders yet. Apart from the fact that officially our boat is still a charter yacht, because its not deleted from the Greek books yet – due to corona delays – so realistically we can’t move the boat yet, because the Marina is only open for private boats.
What a great situation to be in. We couldn’t go anywhere during lock-down and everything was closed – we complied with all the rules. There is no allowance that we are all just coming out of a global pandemic… We can’t just leave our boat, because its our home – we have nowhere to go to with 2 kids and a dog. We can’t go to another country, because most are still closed. And we can’t really stay either, because Tim is overstaying now and most likely accumulating hefty fines.
The tourist operators here are crying out for tourists to come in and bring business back to the country. Its really tough for the small Greek businesses as this is their main season and tourism is really big. They all have suffered like most countries due to lock-down periods.
And here we are – already in Greece – self-funded with health insurance – no burden on the country – willing to stay and spend our money here – corona free, since we have already been here for nearly 3 months and they threaten us with fines and are not willing to consider our situation and the other cruisers situations (there are many of us) in light of this unprecedented pandemic and the restrictions we have all been under. One other lady who is in a similar situation has even been threatened with imprisonment – because of a visa that ran out during corona. Its simply ridiculous. Even the website of the European Union recommends to automatically extend tourist visas that have expired due to corona for another 3 months – but no – not in Greece.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that our 11 boxed are due to arrive by ship in Athens at the end of June – also delayed by Corona Virus, since there is not much air-traffic anymore. So that means if we have to leave Greece prematurely all our belongings will finally arrive in Athens after 3 months, but we won’t be here anymore – Its like hair pulling stuff.
I really hope we will still find a solution to be able to stay at least for long enough to receive our belongings and be able to leave safely without having to rush to another country once they hopefully open up again.
Not at all the beginning of our cruising journey we envisaged – but we are not alone. There are so many families in peculiar situations on boats all over the world and since we are a “minority” in the scheme of things I think there is no real consideration for those special circumstances.
I guess its all part of the journey and we have to except that the country has got bigger problems to deal with, like all the refugees from Syria and to drag the economy out of the pandemic. But nonetheless it would be so nice to be able to see something of Greece rather than having to rush out with a sour feeling about the treatment the cruisers get here being stuck in this pandemic.
Fingers crossed Greece announces in the next week that all tourists that are already here get their visas extended for another 3-6 months!
So it will be interesting where we will be in the next few weeks. It might be Turkey, it might be Albania/Montenegro/Croatia and ideally it would be still Greece.
That’s it from us this week. Sending us our love and thank you for being here.