This is one incident that did not
happen to me, but to my owners, so I will let them tell you this very sad story
As part of our
departure preparations, we had to decide what we were going to do with
everything we were not going to keep or take with us, such as furniture,
books and clothes, photos and memorabilia. For the items we were not
going to keep, we placed ads in the local paper, held numerous "yard
sales" and donated several items to charity. At the
end of this exercise, we were left with items that were most precious to
us which included:
- photographs of Bob and his son's backpacking trip to Alaska
- photos of my racing trips to Bermuda
- 100-year old family heirloom
- two 100-year old family bibles
- Bob's great-grandfather's civil war certificate
- Collectables and pieces of furniture that we wanted to
keep, either for sentimental reasons or because they were valuable.
Since we could not find room for these on Long
Passages, we secured a storage locker in the Annapolis area.
We were very careful in the selection of the locker and made sure it was
climate-controlled and dry with very good security. After finding
one that met our requirements we paid for a year's rental and moved our
items in. When filling out the paperwork, we named Bob's son as an
alternate point of contact with his address and telephone number.
Also, we informed the owner that we were off to sail around the
world and would be out of touch at times, but that we would always pay for
a year when the rent came due. We were confident that we had thought
of everything and that our possessions would be safe and secure.
Well, we were wrong.
While sailing the lovely islands of the Caribbean, a shipment of
mail arrived with the bill for our locker, we paid it and everything was
copasetic. The months went by and in March 1994 we arrived in Panama with
great anticipation of our transit of the Canal. One of the last things we
did before leaving Panama, was to order our mail from our service in
Florida. When it arrived in Panama, we paid the bills and on March
31st, we were on our way across the Pacific.
After a 10-day stop in the Galapagos Islands, we made landfall in the
Marquesas 30 days later (see Charred Starter), Once in Nuka
Hiva, we ordered our mail from the states. We settled in to enjoy
this incredible paradise but, after 2 weeks no mail had arrived.
OK - no problem there is nothing in there that couldn't wait. We
faxed our mail service to find out what had happened and were told that 2
packs of mail had been sent, so we waited some more when 1 of the 2 packs
arrived. A call to the main post office in Tahiti regarding the 2nd
package was fruitless as our limited French made it difficult to
communicate. We felt we could wait no longer so we left for Tahiti,
stopping along the way in Takaroa in the Tuamotos. The Tahitian Fete
and then weather conspired to hold us there another 14 days, as 30-35 knot
winds pinned us to the concrete wharf.
The winds finally abated, switched and 4 days later on 29 July,
we arrived in Tahiti. As you can imagine, the first thing we did was
to find out if our mail had arrived and Yea! - it had. We were very
excited as getting mail is one of the biggest pleasure to cruisers - that
was until we opened the package. As we sorted through everything, we
came across a bill for our storage locker, a late notice, and then a
REGISTERED LETTER! Upon reading it, we were horrified to learn that
this was a notice which gave us 4 days to pay our fee or else they would
AUCTION THE CONTENTS OF THE LOCKER! - the letter was dated April. We
immediately called our lawyer friend and asked him to confirm that this
had actually happened and he came back with the bad news - all was gone -
we had lost everything except for what we had on the boat.! We were
devastated and suddenly realized how people must feel who lose all in a
flood or fire.
The following describes the chain of events
which caused this to happen.
- The locker fee came due the end of March just as we left
Panama. We had completely forgotten about it due to all the other
things going on at the time.
- In 1993, Bob's son moved from Maryland to Florida. We had his
new address and phone number, but had forgotten to provide this new
information to the storage company. So, they were unable to
contact him, as he would have paid the bill for us until we were able
- We arrived in the Marquesas, the end of May and spent 6 weeks
there before reaching Tahiti the end of July and finally getting all
our mail. All the notices and the registered letter languished
at the mail service. Although the mail service signed for the
letter, it was placed in our stack of mail to be sent to us when they
received directions from us.
- The small print of the storage locker contract stated that if
the fee was not paid in 10 days, a late notice would be sent. If
no payment had been received within 5 days after that, a registered
letter would be sent informing the customer of it's intention to
auction off the locker contents in just 4 days. This
meant that the customer would have had less than 20 days to pay the
past-due rental before the contents would be auctioned by the company!
|So, by the time we had reached the Marquesas,
all of our most prized belongings had been sold. What hurt the most was
the realization that the things that meant the most to us, such as photos
and memorabilia, were probably discarded by whomever had purchased the
contents. Our friend in Annapolis tried to recover some of our
items, but the storage company refused to divulge the name of the
buyer. Through some perseverance, he found out that most of the
valuable items had been sold at "flea markets," but the buyer
had three items he had not yet sold, - Bob's tuxedo, one of the family
bibles, and Judi's
Newport-Bermuda Race souvenir plate. These were the only items
returned to us. Altogether, more than $10,000 worth of belongings
were sold for just $690.00 The money was also given to us, but it
was of small consolation for what was lost, not just in monetary value,
but in the memories of our past.
- Read all the small print in the contract before signing
it. How many times have we been told that? If we had done
this, we might have realized that, even if there was just a slight
delay in receiving our mail, we would not have had enough time to
respond before everything was sold. (We were new to cruising,
though, so this may not have been apparent to us.) We may also
have been able to negotiate with them to have this clause removed or
altered to give us a longer time to be arrears.
- Cruisers can be out of touch for weeks/months at a time,
especially when crossing the Pacific.
- Mail shipments get delayed or lost. The officials in
Nuka Hiva told us that Tahiti will often not send mail to there.
Although, this was not the case, this scenario could have happened
earlier when we were in the Caribbean, as we often had mail shipments
delayed for undetermined reasons. Also, we tended to only
have our mail shipped to us once a month. If we had received our
mail the end of one month, and the notice sent the beginning of the
next month, we would not have received the notice until the end of
that month - maybe too late to respond. It was just luck
that we received the first notice in time to pay it.
- Name several family member and/or close friends as alternate
points-of-contact. We thought by naming just one person, we
were covered, not considering that he may one day move.
- Have the storage fee paid automatically by either credit card
or direct debit from your bank account. We wanted to do this,
but the storage company was not set up to do this. Also this
would have been a major charge of about $1,000 which many cruiser
credit cards may not be able to take at one hit.
- Request the company send you the bill 60 or more days in advance.
- Grant authority to the person handling your mail to open
all registered mail and deal with it, if possible for them to do
so. We could have given that authority to our mail service and
ask them to make a month or two payment on our behalf. That
would have bought us time until we received our mail They would
have probably put a message in our mail to let us know what was
happening or faxed us back with this information once we made contact
with them in the Marquesas. Now, with email, communication is a
lot better. Hardly anyone was using email in 1994. My,
how things have changed!
|This was a very painful lesson for us to learn
and we hope that by telling our story, we can prevent it from happening to
others. From that time on, we'd occasionally send things to my
sister and brother in Oregon, to keep for us. But when we decided to
off-load 5 boxes of stuff from the boat, we felt we could no longer
continue to burden them, so on a trip to visit them in 1999, we again
obtained a storage locker.
- We now have 4 people listed as alternate points-of-contact.
- We read the small print of the contract very carefully, and although
they too have the ability to sell the locker contents, the time-frame
for doing so is not so tight.
- We requested that the storage company send us our bill 60 days in
advance and, so far, they have complied.
- We wrote on the contract that we were sailing around the world and
may be out of touch at times to ensure they knew that there were
extenuating circumstances if the fee was not paid on time.
- Again, we were not able to have the fee paid automatically, but
hopefully, the other contingency arrangements make that a non-issue.
- We also did not grant authority to open our mail to our mail
service, but still may do that.
Even today, we still think of some small item which we loved and then
we remember - Oh yeah, it was in the storage locker and that it is gone
Read on to find out
what happens when a fiberglass boat hits an immoveable object