Nassau Bahamas

The Fridge Debacle

We’ve heard from a few readers that our blog only highlights the good stuff and not much bad, but the truth is, we’ve been really lucky so far.  We truly haven’t had any major issues or scary moments to write about.  JR and I have had a few squabbles, and I’d be happy to share those with you if you’d like, but for the most part since the Derecho on our first night as owners of Journey, it’s been relatively smooth sailing.  We are waiting, as no trip like this is without some fright, but so far our stories are wonderfully dull :)

Our biggest problem to speak of, if you can even call it a problem ‘cause we’ve met cruisers with WAY more serious problems than this, has been our fridge.  We’ve decided the fridge that came with Journey was about 14 years old based on some dates we saw on some of the parts.  If that’s the case, it had a good run.  We noticed a few times coming down the ICW that it would run and run and run and not get really cold (it has a little freezer that *should* freeze).  JR would give it a rest for a few hours, then it would miraculously come back to life.  He called the fridge company when we were in Vero and they suggested installing a LED that would help diagnose the problem; JR was happy to do so.  This stalling and resting scenario happened about 3 or 4 times, but it wasn’t until Bimini that it really gave us a time.

About a day after we got to Bimini, the fridge decided it needed a break.  JR tried the resting trick to no avail.  The LED was saying that it couldn’t start the compressor and JR spent some time trying to figure out why this could be.  After doing some serious troubleshooting and feeling like he truly knew what the problem was (moisture somewhere in the refrigerant lines caused by a bad seal), he spent a couple of days pulling his hair out trying to determine the best course of action.   Considering he didn’t have the right tools to fix it himself, ordering the tools would cost about half what a new fridge would cost, and he didn’t want to think what a marine refrigeration technician in the Bahamas would cost, he resigned to ordering a complete replacement fridge as the simplest solution.

Now the question became, how to get it shipped and to where.  JR wanted to get it shipped to Miami and sail back across the Gulf Stream to get it to save on shipping and forgo the entire hassle of having it sent to the Bahamas in the first place.  I was like, “Nope.”  I posted the question on my Women Who Sail FB page and a few ladies offered to bring it over to us!  Just another reminder of how awesome that group is, but we didn’t want to trouble anyone and we didn’t want to wait and coordinate a meet up place.  We finally decided to get it shipped to the Bahamas.  It didn’t help that we started the ordering process on a Friday afternoon and our cell phone was fried (rather drowned) so we were using expensive calling cards and a public pay phone.  After weighing a lot of options like a mail boat to Bimini, plane to Bimini, a shipping company to Bimini or Nassau, we decided the most direct and most used route would be UPS to Nassau.  Trust me, a lot of thought went into this decision!  So, come Monday morning, JR called Defender and placed the order, paying for international shipping (dang) and being particularly careful that the package was marked “for yacht in transit” as well as attaching our cruising permit with the paperwork.  He really did a thorough job of taking care of details so that the picking it up part in Nassau would go smoothly.  Ha.

There is debate about customs charges in the Bahamas.  You can find lots of evidence online that ANY marine part, accompanied by a cruising permit, will be exempt from customs charges.  Trust us, we can email you links to Bahamian tariffs if you don’t believe us, but upon arrival to UPS in Nassau, the lovely ladies just shook their heads and said we had to wait for customs to decide how much the charges would be…  They also requested the cruising permit, which JR had already sent, a revision of the invoice from Defender to include the boat name, and more time for customs to sort things out.  It is important to mention that JR ordered the fridge on Monday, it was DELIVERED to Nassau on Wednesday and we arrived the following Tuesday.  It had been at the airport for 5 days and UPS had marked it as “abandoned” because they had not heard from us.  After our visit to UPS, JR came home and emailed various links that specifically said no customs charges for boats in transit and the nice ladies at UPS always responded, “Noted.  Much thanks, Sir.”

We had been choosing to stay at Nassau Harbor Club Marina (instead of anchoring out) because that’s where UPS was going to deliver the package, and each day we waited to hear from them…  Finally, Friday afternoon around 4 pm a UPS man called and said that since it is not a part that keeps our boat from moving, we are required to pay a customs charge of 45%!  Now, we don’t feel it’s necessary to go into specifics of what marine fridges, shipped internationally cost, but add 45% tax to that and it equals A LOT.  They even charged the 45% customs tax on the SHIPPING cost.  Really?  But, we were (are) in someone else’s country and we wanted our stuff (and out of that marina.)  Pardon the phrase, but they had us by the balls.  So the dude was like, “If you pay the fee, I’ll bring it to you today.”  Talking to customs couldn’t happen until the following Monday and sweet JR asked the UPS guy if customs would offer a refund if he paid now and sorted things out Monday.  The UPS guy did a bellylaugh over the phone, I heard it.  So we paid.

It took JR about 4 hours to remove all the old parts and install the new ones.  It’s nice and cold.  We have ice, cold beer, we have lettuce again, and I even put the Captain Morgan in the fridge, because that’s what we needed to drink in order to forget how much money customs charges in the Bahamas.

JR holding the most expensive marine fridge in all of the land!

JR holding the most expensive marine fridge in all of the land!

There you have it, our biggest itch thus far!  Again, we are so thankful that this has been our biggest “problem,” and we are thankful that it is over.  Cheers.