When we left Victoria in 2008, we said that when the time came to bring Dolphin Tales home, we would ship her. Well last fall, we started the process of getting prices from various companies and setting a schedule. There are currently four companies that are moving boats on the West Coast: Peters and May; United Yacht Transport; Raven Yacht Transport; and Sevenstar Yacht Transport. We decided to use Raven Yacht Transport, a Canadian company, and set a date for the middle of April 2017 with a loading port of La Paz, Mexico.
With shipping companies starting their voyage in Florida, then transiting the Canal with possible stops in Panama and Costa Rica, one needs to be flexible, but you may also be able to arrange to have your boat loaded for you. We made the decision to wait and be there for the loading. Since your boat is treated as cargo rather than sailing out of Mexico on her own bottom, the paper work is somewhat different. We were referred to an agent in La Paz to process the paperwork. We were asked to provide copies of the following documents:
- Yachts Registry
- Owner/Captain’s passport
- Tourist Visa
- Harbour Master Check In (when the boat and us arrived in Mexico)
- Temporary Import Permit
- API dues payment in La Paz
The agent then deals with all the exit paperwork as well as cancelling the temporary import permit.
We sailed out of Mazatlan at the end of February to provide us the opportunity to explore the La Paz area and not have to worry about weather or harbour closures near the loading date. We do know of one boat shipped out of La Paz last year that waited too long in Mazatlan and was forced to make the crossing in very poor weather conditions to make the loading date.
One of the issues we found frustrating, even after the ship left Florida and was through the Canal, was getting the exact load date and schedule as we needed to make hotel reservations and book flights back to Victoria. We were finally notified that we would be loaded Sunday, April 15, on Easter Weekend. Well, those who have experienced Easter in Mexico know that it is a big family holiday and hotel rooms can be at a premium. We managed to make hotel reservations for the Sunday and Monday nights and booked flights for Tuesday. Time to relax; the plan is set, now all we need to do is wait.
You know what they say about plans. We were notified a day or so before the planned loading date of a schedule change. We will be loaded on Saturday, not Sunday. Check with the hotel and they are totally full. Maybe we ‘ll sleep in the cruisers’ lounge… Our friends on the sailing vessel Alegria arrived in La Paz, took pity on us and gave us their forward cabin. Much better than the cruisers’ lounge at Palmira Marina!
In preparation for shipping Dolphin Tales, we removed the genoa, all the canvas enclosure and two of three solar panels, deflated the dingy and lashed it to the deck, then stored all other gear. You need to think about the ship travelling at fifteen knots and running into strong headwinds and what the apparent wind will be across the deck. We discussed preparing to have the back stays ready to be removed and were advised that we should not have to take them off for loading.
Loading day arrives and we motor out to the freighter, anchored in Bahia Pichilingue, giving ourselves lots of time to get there. We watch as a couple of power boats are unloaded and then it is our turn. We place all our fenders along the side that will be alongside the ship, and prepare two long lines fore and aft. Once we are alongside, slings come down that will be attached to the cleats, the diver hits the water and two of the crew supervising the loading climb down the ship’s ladder. Yes, the backstays will need to be removed to allow the slings on the crane to come down aft of the mast. The diver positions the slings under the boat, we lock the boat, give a key to the Load Master and advise them that a copy of the engine starting instructions are under the helm cover. They want these instructions in case there is a delay in you arriving at the unload port. And we take the tender back to the harbour.
Sunday we helped one of the other three sailboats get loaded. Another boat that was being loaded had a radar pole attached to the backstay, which needed to be removed and caused a lot of work for the delivery crew. So if you decide to ship, figure that the backstay will need to be removed, and if they don’t, that is good too. Back to the hotel for a cold adult beverage and let the stress and worry leave you.
Back in Victoria, we wait for our ship to come in. We track it on our AIS app and watch it go into Ensenada, Mexico to unload and load some yachts. We see it leave and sail out of AIS range. All we can do is just wait and see what the schedule will be, and complete our Canada Customs paperwork, which is handled through an agent in Vancouver. First thing is the Customs Information Form, where you will declare all the information about the boat and ownership; who will be meeting the boat, and their Passport number. And how much of various items, including champagne and wine in bottles, wine in tanks or barrels, and beer and ale; a copy of the boat’s registry; and the bill of sale to show that all taxes and duties have been paid on the boat.
We received the unload schedule for Ogden Point, and it falls on the same weekend as the Victoria Floating Boat Show, so temporary moorage will be at a premium. We quickly make a reservation for Monday, May 1st. Well once again the best laid plans change and on Thursday, April 27th, we are told that the schedule has changed and we are now going to be unloaded on Friday, April 28th at 6:30 pm. Time to change the moorage reservation. Unload time arrives and we catch the shuttle boat to the freighter where Dolphin Tales is waiting to be unloaded.
Off she comes; we get aboard, open up the boat and get the engine running and proceed to head for the dock in the Inner Harbour. Checking the thru hulls and we notice water seeping in around the transducers for the speed log and depth sounder. Here is where the plans change again. Instead of spending two days in downtown Victoria, cleaning the boat and putting it back together before a relaxing two day trip to Maple Bay, we call Vector Yachts in Sidney and they can haul the boat at 8 am Saturday morning. We leave Victoria at 7pm and head for Sidney Spit. So much for the moorage reservation.
Round Ogden Point in 20 knots with a contrary tide and trying to put the dodger up without losing any pieces. Dodging crab floats, we arrive at midnight and get the anchor down. Up at 6am; look around at the mine field of crab floats, we both thank somebody for watching over us and are under way to the haul out. In the slings on time and get a look at the transducers. The crew at Vector take matters in hand and locate a broken retaining nut on one unit, find a replacement and re-seat both units. Now we wait for the bedding sealer to cure. They tell us they can launch us at 6am Monday. Works for us. We are not 100% sure what caused the transducer issue. Was it a sling in the wrong place, or a jack stand pushing on them? Since the bill for the repairs was less than the deductible, the repairs were on us.
Monday arrives and we are back in the water, the bilge is dry and Dolphin Tales is on her way to Maple Bay Yacht Club and the dock she last saw nine years ago! Since then, we have spent a lot of time cleaning and removing the extra stuff you collect along the way.
Considerations if you decide to ship your boat home:
- Cargo Insurance for your boat, as your regular insurance stops when it is loaded and starts once it is unloaded, so check with your insurance company
- The boat will be dirty when it comes off, so clean it as soon as possible or you will track it all over. Check for rust stains. The amount of dirt may vary with where you are located on the deck of the ship.
- Dolphin Tales was located in front of the house and was not bad. Boats located forward had some type of hard-to-remove stuff on the hulls
- Be prepared to be flexible, as things change
- Prepare your boat for rough weather, even though one sailboat did nothing and came off fine
- Check with your bank on how to pay the charges if you are out of the country and do not have access to your local branch. We paid a 20% deposit at time of signing the contract, and the balance upon loading.
The final question: would we ship Dophin Tales again using a freighter? Yes, we would because other types of transport for our boat would require the removal of everything on deck including the arch that would need to be cut and re-welded, the mast, lifelines, and all electronics attached to these items.