On Saturday morning, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was a beautiful day onboard the Arctic Sunrise. Tropical Storm Tammy was nothing but a bad dream, and we had finally woken up. Even the seasick gang had emerged from their bunks, blinking their eyes in astonishment at the expanse of calm, blue water and the hint of land in the distance.
We should have arrived in Miami on Friday, but the weather made that impossible. So we re-arranged our press conference for Saturday and knew we would have to scramble a bit to host our donor event and Open Boats on Saturday and Sunday. But the powers-that-be came together to make sure that didn't happen.
Miamarina at Bayside (a marina in downtown Miami operated by the City of Miami) never bothered to look at the depth of their berths. When they finally did, they found out that is was too shallow to have the Arctic Sunrise there. Scrambling at the last minute to find another spot, we came up empty handed.
Everywhere else was too shallow or occupied. If trouble bringing our ship to Miami sounds familiar, you probably remember the runaround we got in 2003, when the Justice Department put the entire Greenpeace organization on trial, threatening the right to free speech. A judge ultimately threw the case out of court.
Donor reception onboard? Cancelled. Press conference to oppose offshore drilling? Cancelled. Open Boats? Cancelled. There were a lot of disappointed Floridians this weekend, and all of us onboard feel terrible about the turn of events. We have a lot of passionate, dedicated supporters in Miami that helped us pull off an incredible image in 2004, and we were all looking forward to seeing them again.
Our Tax Dollars at Work
So plan B was to dock in Fort Lauderdale. We changed course and set off for our new destination and that's when the Coast Guard stepped in. They informed us that they needed 72-hour notice for a destination change so we were NOT allowed to enter Fort Lauderdale and we had to stay 12 miles out to sea. If we disobeyed these instructions, we would be fined up to $50,000 and the Captain could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
I am ashamed and embarrassed by my government (it's not the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last). It doesn't serve any purpose to make us jump through these hoops. The international crew has traveled to every corner of the world, and the only time they get hassled is in the United States and it happens EVERY time.
I am constantly amazed by the amount of time, energy and money the Bush administration spends on reinforcing the fear of terrorism on the American people. If Americans knew that the agencies designed to protect us from danger waste their time on silly games like this one, I'm sure they would be as furious as I am.
The Coast Guard even told our ship agent that they were "throwing the book at us." So, count up all the hours wasted by the Port of Miami, Port Everglades, the Coast Guard, the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and even the park rangers at the lovely state park where we were to host our donor event, and wonder how your tax dollars are spent to fight the real terrorists.
Meanwhile, there are 14 people waiting to get off this ship and return home, and there are two crewmembers in Miami waiting to get onboard. The Arctic Sunrise is scheduled to depart for Cape Town on Monday evening and a 30-day supply of food needs to be bought, six weeks of recyclables and trash need to be disposed of and Tweety - the Greenpeace helicopter - needs to be brought back onboard.
We thought we would be in port three days ago, so we are running low on provisions (not to mention all the food that ended up on the floor and the walls during Tammy). Some activists from the D.C. office came down to help with the supporter events, and they are not even allowed to bring us out supplies from land. We are also just far enough to be out of cell phone range, so people can't speak to their loved ones or make new arrangements since they'll be arriving home days late.
We can see Fort Lauderdale from our port side (it's 12 miles away...at least). We are so close and yet so far. Our latest information is that we will be allowed to drop anchor one mile off the coast (whoopee) at 11:45 Monday morning. Then, we'll use our rigid inflatable boats to take the people leaving the ship onto land and bring new crewmembers and supplies onboard. Of course, we've already missed our flights and Monday is Columbus Day so all the other flights are booked. We still don't have any real idea of when we'll get home.