You would think that the cruising life allows you complete freedom to take your boat to any place you want and spend as long as you like. To a certain extent this is true, but in practice there are some constraints that all cruisers have to deal with. Probably the most frustrating constraint to our freedom are boat parts. Life on the ocean is extremely harsh when it comes to the wear and tear on parts of your boat. The salt of the ocean is highly corrosive, the constant motion under way puts a lot of strain on the boat and rigging, the wind puts enormous forces on the rigging, the hundreds, or thousands, of hours on the engine put a lot of wear and tear on the machinery, etc., etc. Inevitably, things break.
Most boats carry as many spares as they can manage to fit on the boat – mostly of the things most likely to break. But, there is always something that breaks that you don’t have a spare for, or spares that have been used up. In some cases, you can afford to go a while without getting the part fixed. However, someday a part goes you HAVE to fix as soon as possible – your boat can’t go anywhere. Then the nightmare of constraint occurs.
If the part is inexpensive, you ask other cruisers if they have it or you try to make a fix. If that doesn’t work, you go ashore and look for chandleries. If they don’t have it, or there are no chandleries, then you have to get the part ordered from another place. This is when the real problem begins. How to get the part from some foreign port to where you are. Meanwhile, you likely will have to sit and wait for the part to arrive. Especially if the part keeps you from using the boat in some way.
You can likely just get on the Internet and order the part from a favorite chandlery, and have it shipped by FedEx or some other delivery agent. FedEx will likely cost you $150 or more no matter what the size of the package. Others might be cheaper, with varying degrees of reliability. However, just ordering and having them send it doesn’t guarantee a speedy arrival. In some countries, the customs and local delivery agents may cause you all sorts of delays and costs. Every cruiser has a story of the package that went awry in its delivery. In some cases, deliveries can be delayed by days or even weeks or months!
Fortunately, there is another delivery option that most cruisers try to adopt. Get someone coming from a first world country by air to bring the part in their luggage. This greatly reduces the risk of delays due to customs and delivery agents. And, it can reduce the cost quite a bit, although if your friend has to pay for an extra bag, you may get stuck paying for a baggage fee.
Any time you have a guest arriving to spend some time, you are likely to ask them to bring a bag or two (or more) filled with boat parts or favorite foods, books, or movies and other items from home. And, if you go home for a visit (like we are now), you can be sure you will buy lots of stuff and bring it back to the boat.
I just completed a big order (35 lbs of stuff) from our favorite online marine chandlery – Defender.com. They have most of the parts cruisers need at discounted prices, and their online system is very friendly for cruisers. They keep track of previous parts you’ve ordered and make it easy to re-supply the spares. They also keep track of your previously used addresses so its easy to get the order to your favorite friend’s house, or your mail service.
We have also been buying supplies from our favorite merchants for clothing, shoes, electronics, movies, kitchen supplies, foods, and more. We will have at least two extra bags for all the new stuff we’ve purchased on our way back to Australia.
We also brought our Raymarine chartplotter from the boat to the US so I could ship it to Raymarine to have it repaired. One of the buttons stopped working. It’s a lot cheaper to bring it via luggage to the states and ship it to them than take the risk with international shipping.