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After getting turned on to them by the TV show A Game of Thrones, I’ve been working my way through the 5 novels in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and quite enjoying them. In these books, messages are sent from place to place via homing ravens and while that may be a tad less efficient than what we have to deal with, receiving hard mail and packages is not without its challenges when one leads a transient lifestyle as we do. The following is an example of what I’m talking about.

During our trip to St. Martin from Bequia, it became obvious that our autopilot was no longer fit to steer our boat. Research and troubleshooting led me to the conclusion that it was simply the drive belt on the autopilot which needed to be replaced, an inexpensive and easy fix, or at least, it should have been. Following a link on our friend Drew’s blog, we ordered two belts ($19.99 each, one to use and one for a spare) and had them shipped to California where we had intended to pick them up when we traveled there for our visit. The company we ordered them from shipped them out within hours of our order and USPS got them to Cali within a couple of days. All was well and when we arrived at our daughter’s house, the belts were waiting there for us along with several other items that we had ordered.

That’s not too bad, right? Right, except for the fact that when we returned to our boat and unpacked our bags after our trip, the belts were nowhere to be found! I don’t know if they got thrown out with the trash or the dog ate them but we couldn’t find them, nor could our daughter when she later searched her house. They were gone. 🙁

Oh well, I guess we needed to order two more then.

Do you think maybe Demi hid the belts on us?

A second identical order was placed with the same company only this time, I had the package directed to my sister’s house in Canada. Again, the supplier shipped the order the same day that it was placed and UPS, the shipper this time, also did a good job of getting the products delivered. Crossing the border into Canada though, the order was subject to duty and brokerage fees. Yes, the cost of the belts is adding up. Why ship them to Canada and not directly here? We did have some additional mail that we needed to get into our hands and my sister’s ravens were not up to the task. I thus felt that consolidating the entire shipment into one FedEx package here to St. Martin would be the best option.

My sister was able to repackage the belts and our mail and drop it off to the courier’s office rather promptly and as we’ve come to expect from FedEx, they did their job and got it to St. Martin within a few days. What started off as a pretty inexpensive fix, when all was said and done, turned out to be not quite so inexpensive after all. Here is the final tally:

Would it have been cheaper to have them sent directly to St. Martin? Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. It would also have been less expensive had we not lost the first order! All I hope is that, after spending all that money, the new belt which I installed yesterday, does the trick. If not, I will not be too pleased.


  1. That charge seems to be a total rip off by FedEx. I am only assuming of stops it made on its journey. I did a 1kg package to a Yaught in transit to Grenada about 6 months ago from the U.K and it cost 90us. This package was picked up at 2pm, it was in Tennessee by 2am us time, in Porta Rica that night, and was delivered next day.
    Is it just possible that FedEx enjoy putting that bit extra on for U.S and Canadian clients, because they are in a minority of parcel carriers?

  2. Just a question regarding “mail from Canada”. Do you find that having mail sent from someone back home is a better solution than using one of the mail forwarding services where you can look at your mail online and decide what needs to be physically sent. I’m asking for future reference as we will be facing that question in no so far off future. Thanks in advance for your opinion.

    • We need to maintain an address in Canada and it just happens that we “live with” my sister. She opens all our mail. There is hardly anything that we need to have hard copies of. In this particular case, she had to send us the replacements for our credit cards which had expired. All our bills are done electronically and if there ever is something that I need to see, my sister scans it and emails it to us. For all this she charges us nothing, except to have us reimburse her for her costs. I doubt you will find the same deal from any mail-formwarding company.

      So, huge thanks to my sister, Edna! 🙂

  3. Hi Mike,

    I’m assuming (warning! warning!) that the belts from the St. Martin Budget Marine (RAY/A18083) didn’t fit your autopilot?


    • It may have but I knew the ones I linked would for sure (my friend has the same boat as us). Look at the price: $60.00. The ones I ordered were $20.00. As I said, hindsight is 20/20.

  4. Mike,
    Sorry, thread drift, I couldn’t find the “email us” spot…..

    I would be interested to hear your comment now or sometime in the future on Taru’s post

    Seemed very unusual and candid. Perhaps only so because they have left and may not return for many years if ever. And for the same reason, perhaps you cannot comment. Don’t mean to stir up a hornet’s nest but as you have been there for sometime now, you are highly qualified to comment. Thanks.

  5. Mike I know that you are rarely in one place for an extended period of time, but if you have any contacts in St. Martin, ask if anyone has an account at The Mailbox. It is in Simpson Bay on the lagoon side. You can get a mailbox there with a Miami address. It’s a perfect solution for sending mail and small packages.

    Short of that, did you check into sending it via ocean freight (CaribTrans or Four Star)? Even small packages can be sent quite economically. I know well the costs of FedEx to SXM. Good luck in your Logistics search!


    • I haven’t heard of anyone using the service you mention. For us, the shipping issue is not solely cost but rather timing. FedEx gets packages here NOW, when you want them. Fortunately we have a few friends here with local addresses so we can have stuff shipped to them.

  6. Our friends on s/v Joana (see our research page for their website address) just shared this link with us. Apparently the business is located in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and they carry a wide selection of belts.

  7. Maybe next time we could obtain them for you and pass them off when next we meet?
    Happy strumming!
    Currently in Culebra

  8. That is some seriously cute baby . She makes my ovaries hurt. Haha

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