Good morning, Followers –
The TS Kennedy is homeward bound! Our next stop will be Taylors Point in Buzzards Bay.
Friday was full of surprises. We were scheduled to pick up the harbor pilot at 0400 for the four-hour passage into the Port Of Tampa. We anticipated being at the dock by 0800, but Mother Nature had other plans. The port was closed due to dense fog and all approaching ships were told to anchor in place.
Fortunately, the fog cleared and visibility improved as the morning progressed. When the pilot boarded the TS Kennedy, we were already about four hours behind schedule. But that would be just our first delay.
Since the ship was returning to the United States after visiting Panama, Costa Rica, and Curacao, the TS Kennedy was required to be cleared by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officials. Clearing customs is a long but necessary process when a ship returns to the United States from foreign ports. The process takes about two hours and no one can disembark the ship until the process is complete. Cadets and crew members were disappointed to learn that CBP officials would not be boarding the ship until 5:00 PM. That’s right, another delay.
Earlier in the week, every cadets and crew member had completed a Customs Declaration form. In addition to requiring basic background information such as name, address, and passport number, the form asks questions about any items that the person is bringing from foreign ports into the United States.
When the four U.S. Customs & Border Protection officials boarded the TS Kennedy, they set up their temporary office at tables in the Computer Lab. First cadets and crew members were called. Then cadets were called by division. The lines were long, but members of COMCAD worked hard to keep things moving as efficiently as possible. One by one, every person on the ship met briefly with one of the CBP officials.
First, the official checked the passport and reviewed the form. Next, he stamped the form and welcomed the person back to the United States. When everyone on the ship had met with the officials, they declared the ship “cleared”. That meant that liberty could finally begin. Unfortunately, the sun had already set. Many cadets were disappointed that their plans to explore Tampa by day would have to wait until Saturday or Sunday. It was definitely a lesson in flexibility and patience.
Shortly after midnight, I had another surprise. I went out on deck to greet my adult daughter who was meeting me in Tampa. To my surprise, my wife, my adult son, and my two youngest children were also in the Uber with her. Somehow, they had kept the secret from me without me knowing. Back on campus, Captain Simmons had been in communication with our ship’s agent to get them on the passenger list. In between my obligations on the ship, our family visited the Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens. On Saturday evening, my two daughters joined me on the Helo Deck for the Alumni Reception. I said good-bye to my family this morning. They headed to the airport as the TS Kennedy pulled away from the dock.
I hope that you and your family will welcome us home on Sunday. The TS Kennedy is scheduled to dock at Taylors Point at 0930. The ship will begin its transit of the Cape Cod Canal after 0800. As always, times are subject to change.
Captain Michael J. Campbell