Michael secured the seal and the loading was done. Now our container will wind its way through the streets of Jacksonville to the port, be loaded on a freighter and chug its way to Grenada. Bon Voyage, safe travels.
It’s a strange feeling knowing every ‘thing’ I cherish is in one huge box and will be traveling eight days over the ocean, destined for our new home in Grenada. The recent demise of the Jacksonville based cargo ship, El Faro, is on my mind. Such a tragic loss of life and a grim reminder that weather can wreak havoc on the best laid plans.
We were supposed to get a call from the driver before he drove the loaded container away so we’d be there to get the final Bill of Lading paperwork signed but it didn’t happen and the container was gone when we checked the lot where it had been parked. In one sense that may be a good thing. I was wondering how I’d feel watching it pull away with all our family heirlooms tucked inside.
When we first talked about sending a container down to Grenada, I thought it would be a big and complicated deal. We talked with our friends, Dan and Alison, who had shipped a container to Ireland and they were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing so I realized it would be much more doable than I had anticipated.
We started by meeting with a freight receiver when we were in Grenada in September and asked him how his operation worked – how to meet the container, work with customs and get our belongings to our house. He was very matter of fact – no problem, they do this every day, etc. and gave us pointers on how to ensure the transfer was smooth – excellent records of what is in each box and accurate receipts for all purchases. We also asked him which shipping companies he liked to work with best and chose one of those, Sea Freight, to handle our shipment. Michael then worked with Sea Freight in Jacksonville and all conversations seemed easy and straightforward.
All the way through the process, I was keeping an extensive spreadsheet of what we were bringing. I set aside 200 numbers for items we already owned. For these items I listed the box number, what was in the box and cross referenced it to an appraisal list we had generated for insurance purposes. Boxes 200 and up were reserved for new items we bought. I recorded the price we paid plus had both the original receipts and copies that I placed in a binder so it would be easy to answer any questions the customs officer may have. My understanding is the customs officer will arbitrarily pick a box, we will need to say what is in it (from my spreadsheet) and they may or may not open it to validate what we say. We can bring anything that is over 1 year old into the country without paying duty. Everything else will be charged duty. It is important to keep clear records to pay the correct duty and to be able to distinguish new verses older items. All in all, we have 306 boxes/items.
We started out reserving a 20 foot container but as the boxes built up, we changed to a 40 foot container. Michael had rented storage space from a nearby location that could accommodate a 20 foot container on site which would have made it easy for us to fill the container where we were storing a lot of our purchases. Unfortunately, they were unable to fit a 40 foot container on their property so Michael had to scramble for an alternative location. This was harder than it may sound. You can’t just drop this huge box on a street and many commercial parking lots either aren’t big enough or don’t allow trailers to be dropped on their sites. Michael tried working with the Atlantic Beach police department who were uncharacteristically unhelpful. I’m not sure if the officer was just having a bad day but after Michael explained what we were trying to do, stating he wasn’t planning to park on the street and did they have suggestions for us, he got a lecture that we couldn’t park on the street. DUH, that’s why he was there. They offered no alternatives. Oh, well.
Anyway, after a couple of frustrating, nerve wracking days and lots of conversations with lot owners, the local Kmart graciously agreed to let us drop the trailer at their location and leave it for a couple of days so we could load it. Michael scheduled the main loading day for Monday, November 30th with Tuesday being the day to complete any final packing, building braces for the back of the load so it wouldn’t shift and scheduling the pickup of the container from the lot. From there, it would be taken to the port and loaded on a cargo ship leaving for Grenada on December 8th.
Our plan is to leave Jacksonville on December 9th, rent a car and drive to Miami with Mick and then catch a direct flight to Grenada on December 10th. The container is scheduled on arrive in Grenada on December 16th and we need to be there to meet it with the freight receiver and get it cleared through customs. We are leaving our car in storage in Jacksonville. It will be filled with a few totes of winter clothes, kitchen essentials and our To Go box (the first day and travel essentials like wine glasses, dog bowls, silverware, etc.). This is the first time we won’t have a storage unit – almost everything will be in Grenada or in the car. I wonder how we will do without our hammocks. Right now that seems like the biggest thing I’ll miss traveling with while in the US – but with the stands, even broken down, they take up a lot of room.
Michael reengaged our crack loading team from when we left Jacksonville, Asher and Marybeth, to do the heavy lifting and one of his photography buddies, Dwight, also lent a hand for part of the day. They started out by emptying our long term storage unit in Middleburg. This is where we had all our art and keepsakes stored for the past year and a half. It’s a bit of a haul from Atlantic Beach but it is above the flood plain which is hard to do in this part of Florida. Usually, we rent U-Haul trucks because they have a low floor making it easier to load, but for this move we rented from Penske because their trucks have a lift gate and a high floor which would line up with the container floor. This way we could back the Penske truck up to the container and essentially walk flat across from the truck to the container. This worked beautifully.
After off-loading the Middleburg items and stopping for a quick lunch, we started loading items from one of our local 10 by 10 foot units. We got most items packed and transferred in one load and then went back to finish that storage unit and emptied the second unit at the same time. When we were done, the container was filled about ½ way to the roof and 95% to the back door. All in all, it took 9 hours including driving between locations and lunch. A good day’s work.
That evening, we went through our house and added any last minute items to our final boxes. Our goal was to ship everything possible via the container so our suitcases would be able to accommodate any last minute items and Michael’s essential photography equipment. On Tuesday, we loaded the last couple of boxes, Michael’s tool chest and Michael constructed a braced barrier so items wouldn’t shift during the voyage. The container was locked and sealed with a special, numbered zip tie and off it went.
We have a few days to finalize everything in Jacksonville – final doctor’s appointments, a short meeting at the bank, the Beaches Photography club’s holiday party, one last shoot for Michael, one more haircut, facial and mani/pedi for me and then we are off to our new home and to collect our belongings.