Cruising in Europe: How to cope with Covid and Brexit issues

With the double difficulties presented by Brexit and Covid-19, Helen Fretter speaks to the experts and provides all you need to know about cruising in Europe this summer

Cruising in Europe was once the comparatively simple option, negotiating weather systems in Biscay and overcrowded anchorages being the major concerns for anyone planning to cruise Atlantic or Mediterranean shores in former years.

Today, cruising in Europe is anything but simple, thanks to a moving jigsaw puzzle of Covid-19 travel regulations and post-Brexit restrictions for non-EU citizens.

With much long-haul travel still off the cards and a vast choice of cruising areas to explore, Europe remains one of the best options for safe, enjoyable sailing, though a degree of forward planning and flexible thinking is needed.

Spectacular Isla Sisarga in northern Spain: cruising across borders will require more planning for UK sailors. Photo: Tor Johnson

Attempting to keep on top of latest regulations is a bit like catching snowflakes; as soon as you think you have one in your grasp, it will have vanished, only for a dozen more to have appeared. So while we generally prefer to avoid caveats and disclaimers, the information that follows is likely to change and should be thoroughly checked before making plans.

The situation is liable to change for both welcome and unwelcome reasons, including fluctuating Covid-19 rates, the reopening of tourism, but also as lobbying by organisations such as the Cruising Association and RYA yield some bureaucratic simplifications post-Brexit.

Cruising Europe from the UK

Setting off from the UK into Europe should be simplified later this year (2021), with an online reporting system replacing the C1331 paper form. Since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, cruisers have been required to fill out a C1331 customs declaration form with details of their boat, crew, and departure and arrival destinations and dates every time they travel out of or into UK waters.

The form can only be sent by post to the Border Force team in Dover, and if a voyage is delayed by more than 24 hours then a new form with a revised departure time has to be submitted – a situation the RYA described as ‘farcical’. The new system will go live later this year and will be called ‘Submit A Pleasure Craft Report’, filled out via the gov.uk website.

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