Banana boat from Antigua to UK
27 May 2017
One of the reasons for buying Deep Blue was that she has fabulous storage space. You can safely hide your belongings away, store lots of provisions, dedicate large lockers to certain items like ‘tool locker/cleaning products/spares’ etc and not notice just how much stuff you have. This has certainly proved to be the case as we sorted through our personal belongings when packing everything we wanted to keep into boxes to be shipped back to the UK.
Humping boxes from the boat, into the dinghy and then into a storage locker didn’t make sense in the Antiguan heat so we checked into Jolly Harbour Marina to do this, and then put the boat to bed, until her new owners arrive. After sorting, giving away and finally throwing away anything that wasn’t returning with us, we ended up with 35 boxes!
Shipping the boxes back has turned out to be a straight forward exercise. Internet research led us to Geest Line, who has been carrying cargo back and forth between Europe and the Caribbean for over 60 years. The origins of the service lie in the shipment of bananas eastbound. Instead of the ships returning in ballast, it provided the perfect opportunity for establishing a general cargo service carrying everything from small packages to large project machinery. Between their office in the UK and their agent here in Antigua, Francis Trading Ltd, they have guided us through the necessary paperwork which basically means putting together a Packing List of the numbered boxes which identifies what is inside and the value, providing copies of our passports and, for the UK side, completing an online Customs form.
Our two shipping options were putting the boxes onto one or two pallets or a 10ft x 8ft container. The difference in price was small (pallet US$1250 minimum charge or container US$1500) that we opted for a container and yesterday, after receiving confirmation that the Customs Warrant had been issued, we headed into the capital St. John to pick up the final paperwork and then to the port to load. Finding transportation of our boxes proved a bit tricky as they don’t seem to have ‘a man with a van’ or even hire vans like we do in the UK. However, our friend Barry, originally from the UK/USA, who now lives here, offered to provide the transport and so we packed his SUV and had to do two trips.
The port area is like a small city with people and machinery moving here, there and everywhere, lots of shouting and laughing, and a constant flow of trucks arriving and departing with goods. Docked in the port was a large ship being loaded with yachts on their way back to Europe. Many boats in Jolly Harbour Marina were getting ready to be loaded. This is a big operation and big business too.
Once our boxes had been signed off by Customs we were shown our container. A fork-lift truck moved our boxes from the loading area to the container on a pallet and would you believe it, one box fell just as the pallet was lowered to the floor – yes, of all the boxes, it was the only one containing crockery! It didn’t drop far so should be ok. Once everything was in, our belongings only just about covered the floor area of the container. With the doors closed and sealed our container will now await the arrival of the ship Klipper Stream in a couple of days’ time for the 10 day trip to Portsmouth.
We headed back to Deep Blue who now sits considerably higher in the water!