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December 24, 2012

1 Overheard from a cruiser clearing into Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Arriving in the anchorage off the Brunei Yacht Club a sailing couple proceeded to search out the right officials to complete the required paperwork to legally be in Brunei after entering from Malaysia.

In European countries and North America there is usually a special dock provided for commercial and pleasure boats to clear in with the proper authorities. However, sailing into many countries of the world is very different from arriving by plane, bus or train. It is incumbent on the owners of boats to search out the proper authorities. This may involve finding as many as four different offices that may be located miles from each other. Offices required to legally clear in usually include the port authorities, immigration, customs and quarantine.

In Brunei they have conveniently located all of the required offices in the Serasa ferry terminal. All one needs to do is anchor your boat at the yacht club then take your dinghy over to the ferry terminal. However, that may sound simple but first how does one know this on first arrival and secondly where is the ferry terminal (not easily identifiable).

So, our innocent and recently arrived sailing folk proceed to where they think it is most likely the proper authorities are located. Somehow they miss the mark by a mile and end up in an office where english is only occasionally heard on a radio advertisement and even more rarely spoken. In trying to make their needs understood they are overheard by someone else in the office who speaks excellent english. He comes over and asks them to wait a minute while he finds the right person for them to talk to.

Enter a man so heavily weighed down with gold braid that he can hardly stand up straight. Don’t forget that Brunei has a lot of liquid gold i.e. oil. Friendly, helpful and obviously well-connected they feel they have found the right person to help them. In conversation they finally learn he is the head of immigration for Brunei.

Asking the sailors where they are from and learning that the sailors are from the United States he proceeds to tell them “Ah, the U. S. has everything.” And without the slightest hint of sarcasm he adds “and here in Brunei we have the money to buy everything!”

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