Monday, November 9, 2009

An Adventure of a Different Sort

I haven't updated the site in a while. Mostly there hasn't been anything exciting to write about. I've been sailing a bit but its mostly up and down the Sarasota Bay. During the summer it was too hot and muggy to work up the energy to sail, but now that thing are cooling off a bit its a little fun to head out.

This update is mostly about my experiences (so far) of buying an overseas item.

I finally decided to get a wind-powered, self-steering system for the boat. This is probably the single most important piece of hardware after the hull and the sails. Without one of these devices I simply could not make an ocean crossing. Heck, I couldn't even sail down to the Florida keys without this.

The company I'm buying from is in Germany. If you're interested in what a wind vane looks like or how it works are some videos of them in action (click on "Sailing" link once there).

Dealing with Peter (the owner of this company) was fine. We came to an agreement, I paid, and he shipped. Now the adventure starts. (I have never bought anything from overseas before. If you have then I'm sure this will all be boring to you.)

I called the place where the package was delivered to verify it was there and make arrangements to pick it up. The fella on the other end of the phone asks me the value of the package, so I tell him how much I paid. I'm informed that I need to call the Customs Office to see if I can "self clear" the item. Apparently items over $2,000 cannot usually be self cleared but sometimes there are exceptions.

I called the Customs Office and spoke with a friendly person there. However, she told me that this item cannot be self-cleared so i had to hire a Customs Broker.

How stupid is this? The government is deciding that I am not capable of filling out paperwork based on the dollar amount of the item? If they had said I had to get a broker because this was my first time I could understand. But my competence is rated by the value of the item? So now I had to find a Customs Broker.

The Homeland Security web site has a list of brokers they deal with in each city, so I called the first one on the list. It turns out they only broker items that arrive via truck or boat. I needed a broker that deals with items arriving via air. So I call the next broker on the list and I strike gold! I found somebody I could pay to fill out forms on my behalf. This service will be provided for about $200.

Of course, first I have to fill out forms myself that give the broker the right to fill out forms on my behalf.

Now that that part is out of the way my broker has spent half a day determining whether or not I have to pay duty on this item. Apparently she is wading through mountains of books trying to make this decision. I have no idea how much money this will or won't save. All I know is that if the government doesn't charge a duty then there are plenty of other fees they can charge to get their cut.

I'm still waiting on a callback since she couldn't find the information she needed on the first volume of books.

This experience isn't even over yet but I can already tell you that, in the future, I'll buy domestic parts even if they aren't as good and cost more money (which is the case with this wind vane). Its our governments job to make it difficult to buy the things we need elsewhere and they are really doing a good job of it so far.


Darrell said...

I bet the part was made in the USA!


sailing basics said...

I feel sorry for you, the experience must have been cumbersome and time wasting but I am sure if you would have done a market research, you would have got a good bargain on the wind vane. There are outlets that obtain them in bulk or special order and later resell them. Quite an adventure though....