Sunday, March 09, 2008

Snail Mail

Marsh Harbor

I often say that the cruising life is wonderful. There are only two things which don't work well at all for cruisers like us. The first is medical insurance (especially when you're living in 13 or more states and countries each year). The second is snail mail.

The post office hates it when we call their service snail mail. But the shoe really fits. When we lived in Sweden, we learned how spoiled one can be by good mail service. Despite the fact that Sweden is 1500 miles long, all mail send today, will be delivered the next morning. There is no need for express mail and no need for Fedex or UPS-like companies to deliver mail faster.

In the USA, it takes 5 or more working days to get priority mail. A simple first class letter takes who knows how long. When we are on the move all the time, we never know where to send our mail to. We don't know where we will be 5 days from now. We don't know for sure the future ports we will call in because we frequently change our mind about sailing plans. Therefore, we have our daughter Jennifer collect our mail. She takes care of anything urgent. Then, 3-4 times per year she sends
a package of back mail.

Its a luxury to be in one place for a long time, like Vero or Marathon, because we can have stuff mailed there directly to us. Sometimes though, even that doesn't work. I ordered a part for our radar when we arrived in Marathon, and three weeks later when we left, it still hadn't arrived. I wrote it off as lost. However, our friends on Albion noticed that it arrived several days after we left. They'll, very kindly, forward it to Jenny. Thanks Albion.

When we got to the Bahamas, I noticed that our Certificate of Documentation for Tarwathie expires 3/31/2008. Uh Oh. That might give us trouble if we tried to re-enter the USA without any valid certificate on board. Well, Jenny and technology came to our rescue. Jenny managed to get a new certificate for us in only one week (super fast!). The next problem was to get it too us. Using snail mail in the Bahamas is even more fraught with problems than US mail. Jenny had the solution. She scanned
the certificate, emailed it to us and just now I printed it on our on board color printer. Thanks Jenny.

To send outgoing mail from the Bahamas, there is another local solution. The cruiser's VHR radio net every day has a "mail call" agenda item. They look for volunteers who are returning to the states, and who are willing to carry mail with them to be posted there. If you merely drop it in a mail box here, it could be a week or more before it gets picked up.

I'll tell on more story about mail. In 2004, before my retirement, I was in the middle of a big IT project that spanned the years 2002-2005. We did everything electronically. One day, I had to send a document to our vendor for a signature. It occurred to me that I had not been to a post office in years, nor had I received any external mail since starting my job at NYISO, nor could I remember having seen a mail box in many years. Libby paid the bills at home, so I never saw snail mail there
either. I (foolishly) thought that perhaps they banned mail boxes or even abolished snail mail after the anthrax scare in 2001. Anyhow, I sent an email to the secretary of Mr. Jones (fictitious name) saying, "What is Mr. Jones' snail mail address?" She replied, "I'm sorry, but Mr. Jones does not have a snail mail account." Jeez.

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