It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…
~ opening line from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I wouldn’t call it the best of times. And it was far from the worst of times. But there was plenty of foolishness and despair along the way. This is the tale of two shipments of equipment, spare parts and tools for MOKEN that we sent to the Philippines. Yes, it does have a happy ending, but not without a big helping of frustration and incredulity.
You may have noticed that the sequence seems a little backwards. It was for us too. So was this whole process.
written on December 29: Some good news this week for MOKEN. Those new batteries that we ordered from China, that have been sitting in customs since November 27, finally arrived one month later on December 27. While they sat waiting for clearance, we got a lesson in how things work here.
We notified our broker by email as soon as we ordered the batteries from the manufacturer in China and provided them with a copy of the bill of lading. Then we notified them once they had arrived in Manila. When we called to follow up, apparently they didn’t have the paperwork we’d sent, so we dropped off a second copy in person at their office. A possible foreshadowing of things to come?
The broker advised us on a Friday afternoon that we should see the batteries by the middle of the following week. But when we checked back for a status update, they informed us that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) computer system had been down for a couple of days and now there was a backlog. So another delay.
When we checked again, we were now told that there was a problem with the bill of lading. At this point we were already two weeks into the process. Apparently, the paperwork didn’t mention that the final destination for the shipment was Subic Bay (a duty free zone) so we risked paying duties on the full value of the shipment. That could add another 35 percent or more to the cost of the batteries. Ouch!
To resolve this dilemma, we had to wait a couple more days while the broker checked with the BOC for a list of requirements to amend the destination. And then it took a few more to get the new paperwork in order. Sandra picked up the copies for signing from the broker’s office and ended up retyping them because the broker had listed all sorts of wrong information about the shipment in their haste.
That paperwork had to be notarized and couriered overnight to Manila and presented to BOC. The broker’s representative did that on the Thursday morning before Christmas. Everything appeared to be okay but it had to go to the law division for final review and signature. But apparently they started celebrating Christmas early because it didn’t make it out until after the holidays.
When we made one of our three daily calls and daily visit to the broker on December 26, we were told once again that we’d have to wait yet another day. Disheartened again, we resigned ourselves to call again in the morning when lo and behold we finally got some positive news. BOC would release the shipment by noon on December 27 and it would be delivered by the end of the day.
Not quite willing to believe just yet, we continued our round of calls the next morning to reassure ourselves that the shipment was really being released, loaded on to a truck and headed our way.
We were told to expect the truck at 4pm. It was closer to 6 when it did arrive. Philippine’s time. But we had batteries! And that’s when the hard work began.
Each one weighed 175 pounds and there were six of them. Chris and Patrick loaded three at a time into the marina’s handcart and wheeled them down to the dock next to MOKEN where they’ve been sitting ever since in yellow garbage bags to protect against the rain. In the meantime, it took Chris, Patrick and Rolly a day to get the old batteries out and cut out the old steel and aluminum frame. Then there was a whirlwind tour of automotive and hardware store to find some heavy gauge electrical wire.
Today they fabricated a new platform out of marine grade plywood and painted it. We rode out to the marine chandlery this afternoon to borrow their crimping tool as ours is inside the other crate that’s been sitting in Manila waiting to clear customs since the middle of November. But that’s a whole other story…(stay tuned for part 2). Tomorrow the batteries will be hefted into place, connected and tested.
If all goes according to plan, MOKEN should be operational just in time for our first guest’s arrival on Monday (December 31). Leaving things to the last possible minute is becoming a recurring theme.
update written February 19: Our new battery bank worked like a charm for our trip to Puerto Galera, including Chris’ design for keeping the batteries cool using air blown into the battery compartment from the bilge. We only installed four of them to get us underway, so power consumption was closely monitored and we ran the generator each day. But at least we got to make the trip. And after we returned, Chris finished installing the final two batteries. In the meantime, we also had to replace our two starter batteries, but at least we were able to buy those locally.