Nothing in life is simple; particularly moving a storm damaged boat from the Caribbean to the UK. I was expecting a few hiccups along the way, but the past few months of waiting for Wanda to arrive has been quite frustrating.
First came the unexpected detour to Miama, including the customs inspection and fee for release of the cradle for onward freight to Sint Maarten. Then came the revelation that the journey from Sint Maarten to the UK would not be direct; Wanda would first be moved from Sint Maarten to Guadeloupe using RO/RO. This came as a complete surprise as there was no information to indicate there was a RO/RO facility at Sint Maarten; I would have started out with RO/RO had I known it was available. That was my preferred means of transport after all.
Then came a flurry of measuring and re-measuring, including the maximum length of the highest point of the yacht on the cradle. Apparently the RO/RO was a small vessel; there were concerns whether Wanda on a MAFI would make it up the ramp and not clip the top of the loading deck. Fortunately the manager at the yard was very patient and very helpful. Finally with all measurements handed it it seemed there was just enough clearance.
It took around 4 weeks for Wanda to arrive in Tilbury, located on the river Thames just outside of London. However there will still one more hurdle to go… The UK customs took an instant shine to Wanda, a beat up old sailboat being imported from the Caribbean was surely a cover for smuggling drugs. Therefore they wanted to run their special scanning machine over the boat. The shipping agent informed me that if the scanning machine did not fit they would perform a manual search. I suggested that HM Customs might take note of Wanda’s dimensions on the cradle, and check their scanning machine’s specification first to avoid wasting anyone’s time – well my time to be honest as I was paying for each day Wanda was held on the dockyard.
Two days later the news arrived that customs had been unable to fit their special scanning machine over Wanda, and would it fact defer to manual inspection. Glad they worked that one out. Next step was to break the lock and enter the boat. That was fine by me, however this would not be done for another 3 days. Apparently they had to wait for the special machine that would lift them to deck height; it was currently in use on the other side of the dock. I suggested HM Customs might try a ladder as an alternative low-tech and pragmatic solution but was met with cries of occupational health and safety.
HM Custom declared Wanda drug free after one week of faffing about and finally she was on her way. That exercise added another 400 GBP to the cost of transport. Finally on Friday the local haulers could collect Wanda from Tilbury and deliver her to Essex marina, ready for some TLC. I was delighted to be able to greet her at last. It had been a long and complicated journey.