This phrase typically refers to becoming wealthy or successful, so it might seem strange, in a declining economy during a pandemic, that "our ship came in" but it literally did. The BBC Scandanavia docked in Genoa just for us, or more specifically, for Berkeley East.
Most people would naturally assume that when we announced BE would be traveling back to the United States, we would sail her across the Atlantic, as we did when she came to the Mediterranean 11 years ago. And that makes sense given it was always our plan.
But as we began the discussion this summer, we pondered the pros and cons of sailing versus shipping, and giving Berkeley East a ride on a cargo vessel seemed the best option, simply due to our desire to make things happen quickly. With sailing, the planning, prep and execution would be a near two-year endeavor, while transporting would have BE in Florida by November.
With the decision made, we started the search for a yacht transport company and quickly found that the real trick was finding one that actually had a ship available and a committed schedule. It is common practice for transport companies to book yacht space before knowing when, or on what ship, the yacht would be moved. They can require up to 70 percent of the contract amount up front, change the date on a whim, for up to 30 days, and often a ship is never found. And in today's world, cargo ships prefer to carry containers, as they take up less space, and garner more profit, than yachts.
The deck of the BBC Scandanavia had been booked in advance for mega power boats going to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, and we were able to snag the last open slot for Berkeley East. With the carrier issue solved, we began the huge undertaking of preparing Berkeley East for her excursion across the Atlantic. In addition to our typical winter works, BE's sails, solar panels, bimini, dodger, all had to be removed and housed onboard BE (not a simple task given that Berkeley East's cabin and deck lockers were already full). Anything that could possibly fly off the rig or deck needed to be stowed or secured, cabin bits were buttoned up so nothing would fall, or bang, and cause damage to the interior. Fuel and water tanks needed to be as empty as possible, batteries were disconnected. In the end, Berkeley East's cabin was jam packed, her exterior was bare.
We spent two weeks working to meet the deadline, pausing for breaks to watch the cruise ships being built across the harbor, ending the day enjoying the activity on the dock behind BE. Loud, lively Italians sharing kisses and hugs, at family dinners and celebratory events. There was little-to-no evidence in Genoa that the Delta variant was creating havoc around the world.
When the BBC Scandanavia arrived, we were ready. And when the day came to move Berkeley East the five miles to the freighter, Northwestern Italy was beginning what would become two days of record-breaking rainfall, some areas receiving more than 30 inches in 12 hours. Thunder, lightning, torrential downpour, and 25+ knot winds were the conditions.
We've moved BE in the rain before, but never without a dodger and bimini; the drops felt like tiny pellets of ice stinging our faces and eyeballs, the clouds shrouded our view all the way to water level, we crept along with eyes peeled for obstacles. Along the way, we had a close encounter with a 250-foot yacht that graciously stopped and let Berkeley East pass. We navigated carefully in rolling seas dodging huge pieces of debris washed down from the river in the storm. As we neared the Scadanavia, we were relieved the sky was clearing, but the movements of a 1,000-foot cargo ship blocked our path. News that BE's loading time had been delayed left us driving in circles for hours. This was not the type of new adventure that we had in mind.
Snapshot of Berkeley East's track going in circles waiting for the ship to be ready.
When Berkeley East was finally called alongside the ship, it was impressive to watch the crew take action; positioning slings, placing straps, calculating where to position BE in order to avoid collision with the ship's crane. At one point, there were 13 men on deck and two divers in the water working in sync, pulling lines, inching Berkeley East forward at the instruction of the load master. We were still aboard when Berkeley East was lifted, hovering above the water. We watched nervously as her 37 tons was maneuvered in tight quarters.
After several hours of assembling stands on which Berkeley East would rest, welding them to the ship, lashing BE down from her deck cleats, she was almost ready for her journey. There were two more boats to load onto the Scandanavia, but nighttime had fallen, so it would wait until morning. With luggage in tow, we said our goodbyes to BE and placed her in the capable hands of the crew of the BBC Scandanavia. In a few weeks, we will offload Berkeley East in Ft. Lauderdale and begin the process of putting her back together again.
We had one afternoon in Milan before flying home to North Carolina. The beautiful Italian city was buzzing with tourists. While the weather was wet and dreary, we enjoyed one last meal in Italy, strolled past the magnificent cathedral, found some styles only an Italian could pull off. Berkeley East may be leaving Italy for good, but her crew will definitely be coming back.