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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Receiving Packages While Underway


June 12, 2017 Receiving Packages – Not

One reason we wanted to spend some time in Seward was to receive some packages of parts and supplies.  This sounds like such a simple thing, but it can be one of the most complicated things when cruising.  Getting something shipped to you takes time, and to complicate further it can take a range of time, especially when shipping to a more out of the way place.  I remember one FexEx overnight shipment to the Bahamas that took a week, and that was only after tracking down the package ourselves and going to get it rather than wait for delivery.  And different carriers have different levels of performance in different areas.  So if you need to get a shipment and it will take 1 week to 10 days to ship, then you need to know where you are going to be 10 days ahead of time.  That’s something we seldom know when we are actively cruising, and even when we think we know, it often changes.  Then there is another challenge even once you know where to ship something.  Who do you ship it to?  In the bigger Alaskan towns where are shipping services that can receive and hold packaged.  Frontier Shipping in Ketchikan is a great example.  And sometimes marina offices will accept and hold packages, but we have found this to vary quite widely with maybe 50%-75% accepting packages, and 25%-50% not.  Seward is such a place, leaving only one choice – General Delivery through the Post Office.  Now that’s usually not a bad option since in Alaska the US Postal Service is typically the fastest and cheapest way to ship stuff, so that’s what we did.  As soon as we decided to divert to Seward, I placed a few orders for stuff, knowing that we would be around for a while, considering our side trip to Denali.

Here’s what happened.

First, as many of you probably know, you can’t pick a carrier for shipping via Amazon.  They do the picking.  Now you would think that when you order something with a shipping address of “General Delivery, Seward, AK”, Amazon’s computers would know that such a shipment must go via the USPS, not FexEx, and not UPS.  But no, they don’t know that, so shipped the package via UPS.  When it didn’t show up, I starting tracking and discovered this.  UPS said there was no such delivery address, and Amazon could only suggest that I go pick it up at UPS.  Well, that would have meant renting a car and driving about 5hrs round trip.  I don’t think so.  So I just let UPS give up and return the package back to Amazon where they credited my account.

Next, despite a discussion and confirmation via email and phone call about the package shipping via USPS, the next vendor still managed to ship to my billing address (home address) instead of the Seward post office.  So that product went to our house, and sat there for the next two months.  Brilliant.

Last was a package that was shipping from BC where of course there is no USPS.  So the very helpful company came up with a plan to ship via DHL to a dealer of theirs in Juneau, and that dealer would then reship to me via the USPS.  It sounded like a good plan, but the shipment was delayed, and DHL took longer than expected, and the package didn’t get to Juneau in time to reliably get forwarded to Seward before we planned to leave.  So rather than continue to wait around, we just had them send it to Sitka where the harbor office was happy to accept and hold packages, and we would get it on our return trip.  But now our return trip had to include a stop in Sitka, whether that made sense or not.

In all of this I think we did get one thing we ordered, but three didn’t make it.  Cruising isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.

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