Some of the fine, upstanding, kind and (obviously) gorgeous commenters of this blog have asked me to explain some of the logistics of quilting on a boat. How do I get shipments of fabric? Where do I store it? How do I wash finished quilts and ship them out? So without further ado, let's get into the details!
For those of you who are new to the blog, my husband Sean and I live full time aboard our boat Vector. She is a 52 foot long power boat that is designed for long distance travel, and she only goes about 7mph. This type of boat, often called a "trawler" has a deep hull, so there's a lot of space under the waterline. That means we have quite a bit more living space than a sailboat of the same length.
We are full time cruisers, have no land based home at all, and no home port. In the United States, though, citizens are required to have a state of residence, or domicile. This is where we are registered to vote, where we file our state and federal income taxes, and where we buy health insurance. Choosing a domicile has a lot of factors that full time boaters, RVers, and active duty military have to weigh. For us, being residents of Florida makes the most sense. We're not particularly emotionally connected to Florida, but it is convenient and we return each year.
Our legal address in Florida is in Clay County, and includes a mail receiving service. This is the address on our drivers licenses, bank statements, etc. We don't get much paper mail, preferring to handle most transactions online, but what little we receive goes to this address and is held securely for us. When a bill arrives, the service company sends me an email with a photo of the envelope so I can see what it is. I can ask them to hold it, shred it, or open it and scan the contents. Very useful when something time sensitive like a letter from the IRS arrives.
|Looks like our AAA cards have arrived!|
But setting aside trivial matters like tax audits, I know what you REALLY want to know. "But Louise!" you say. "What about the FABRIC??" If I order fabric, I can ask to have it delivered to this Florida address and the service will cheerfully store it for me. OK, "cheerfully" means they charge a small fee if they hold it over a month! I can check my account to see how many pieces of mail they are holding, and to double check who has sent what. Once there are several squishy fabric packages, it's time to get them sent to where the boat is.
There are a number of ways we can receive mail locally to get it into my hot little hands and under the needle of my Juki. If we are docking the boat at a commercial marina, the mail can be sent to the marina's address. If we have friends or family nearby, we can ask that they accept a package for us. Some towns, especially in New England, have public harbormaster's offices that will receive a package. Some (but not all) good old United States Post Offices will receive mail via General Delivery. UPS has retail stores and customer service hubs that we've occasionally used, too.
Those local addresses can also be used to receive packages directly from an eBay seller, or Amazon, or any business for that matter. True story: when I ordered my Juki TL2010Q used on eBay, it was shipped directly to a marina. One of the marina guys kindly schlepped the box all the way down the dock to the boat and was stunned to learn it was a sewing machine. He thought it was an anchor.
The trick for us is to know far enough in advance where we might be to allow time for orders to be processed and shipped before we leave the area. On a slow boat subject to the whimsies of the weather, those predictions can sometimes go awry. It doesn't make sense to linger an extra week just to get a late shipment of $5 worth of fabric if it means we get stuck in uncomfortable weather, but that is a rare scenario. (And let's face it, if the fabric was cute enough, I'd wait out the weather.)
In over 16 years of mobile life, we've permanently lost only 2 or 3 packages. Mostly our mail catches up to us just fine, but it does take a certain amount of focused planning. Our last package of forwarded mail included our ballots, so I'm really glad that one arrived safely. We are signed up to be permanent mail-in voters and returned our ballots last week. Have you voted yet?
|I can check online to see if my ballot has been counted yet.|
As for shipping quilts OUT, I rely almost exclusively on USPS Priority Mail. There's at least one post office in every town, and they provide free boxes. That means I don't have to store a lot of boxes on board because I know I can always get them. It's easy to buy postage and print out labels online then carry the packages to the local USPS and drop them off. I then grab a couple of new, free boxes for the next batch. Easy peasy! Medium flat rate priority mail boxes hold one lap quilt, large flat rates hold two. I put the quilts inside plastic garbage bags, sit on them to squeeze out all the air, and cram them into the boxes. Did you know that if you have an account, you can print postage through Paypal for a discount? Just log in, then use this link to access their postage page. The discount is about $1.50-$2.00 per package. Nifty!
OK, that was a lot of blah blah blah about the mail. If you have any questions about the details, please leave them in the comments below and I'll answer them there so others can see. Stay tuned for part two when I'll write about storing fabric, my cutting/ironing/sewing/basting spaces and that most rare and precious boat appliance: the full sized washing machine!