Sunday, October 18, 2020

Boat Quilting Logistics, Part One: The Mail

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!

19 comments:

Mystic Quilter said...

Definitely not a lot of blah about the mail, I find it extremely interesting. I often ponder on how you deal with mailing issues so I've really enjoyed this post from you Louise. Now, of course, I'm looking forward to part two!!

Kat said...

Lol @ the dock worker who thought your machine was an anchor! Glad you're sharing this info with everyone else, it really is fascinating how you make it work.

Linda said...

What a fascinating post, Louise. I, like many more of your followers it seemed, have often wondered about the logistics of living permanently on board a boat and, how on earth do you manage to make the beautiful quilts that you do. I’m British and have no knowledge of boats at all so I’ve loved hearing about what you do. Looking forward to the next episode!

djquilting said...

Thanks, Louise, for filling in us landlubbers about boat living logistics. Very interesting; can't wait to hear more details.

Pamela Arbour said...

I can imagine it gets tricky at times. We did some RVing for a couple of years but it made it a little easier for us since we still had a house to send mail to. I enjoyed your chat about the mail and am looking forward to the rest of the story! Thanks for sharing.

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Thanks for sharing, Louise! At first I thought you were quitting the boating world (typo in your title). But instead found it fascinating to read all the details of how you make it work. That anchor of a sewing machine--LOL!!! Great story!

Linda said...

I almost asked you yesterday how you received mail, so this was very interesting to me!

Debbie said...

You are a master of juggling the system to fit into your chosen lifestyle! Lots of foresight to figure out the mail I say!

Vicki in MN said...

I find myself always curious about your boat life, so this was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing Louise!

Sharon Tucker said...

Thank you for sharing these details, I've often wondered how you handle all your quilty needs while living on a boat. Also, thanks for sharing the paypal link - that's awesome!!

piecefulwendy said...

I enjoyed this post so much I read most of it to John. We both got quite the chuckle out of the marina guy thinking your Juki was an anchor. Hahaha. I've always wondered how you timed everything when Sean chats about picking up packages. Interesting post, thanks for sharing!

MissPat said...

Well, I'm happy my question prompted this post which was obviously of interest to many of your other followers. And yes the sewing machine as anchor was an amusing sidebar. Will await Part 2.
Pat

The Joyful Quilter said...

Looking forward to the second installment, Loise. Thanks for giving us this glimpse into boating life!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

Like everyone else, I'm always curious about how you do things - I even read Sean's posts! If you ever plan to sail through Colorado, I'd be happy to be your mailing address, especially if it's fabric! :)

Cindy said...

Thank you for sharing this!!! I have often wondered how you make this boat living work. This is just fascinating!!!! Tell us more!!!!

Anne / Springleaf Studios said...

This was a fun read and very fascinating to learn about. Thanks for sharing. Have you ever shared photos of life and sewing aboard your boat? I suppose you have but I don't recall and would love to see more of your space and how you use it. I'm in awe of your ability to live so minimally. We have a house full and I've been attempting to purge. It's not easy.

Cathy said...

I think I’d mentally figured out some of those logistics, but it’s really interesting to hear it officially. Your residency/permanent address/voting and every little bit is fascinating. And just think, if/when our old sewing machines die, they can always have a second life as an anchor!! Like everyone, I’m eagerly awaiting Part 2.

Nicki said...

What a fantastic post on the mailing situation in your world. I knew from the past posts that you sometimes had things shipped to friends in the area you are headed but didn't know about the post office holding pkgs. until you are ready for them nor did I know about the harbormaster's offices. Also, thanks for in info about Paypal. I didn't know you could print postage directly through them & get a discount. Wow, wow I will try that next time.
Looking forward to part 2 of this journey with you.

Kate said...

Thanks for sharing how you make it work. Did you have all of this worked out when you first started living on the boat or did you gradually figure out how to navigate life without a permanent abode?