Getting mail in Seychelles

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Cruising is often described as routine maintenance in exotic locations, and like many turns of phrase is well-rooted in common experience. We’ve been mired in more of the fix/repair end of the spectrum lately, an occasionally more frustrating twist. While parts or consumables needed for maintenance can be pretty well anticipated, you can’t carry every spare part you might need for repairs.

The first hurdle to fix our watermaker, a Spectra Ventura, was just figuring out what was wrong: we had it serviced at the certified Spectra service center back in January, but had been producing rapidly saltier water. JT Halden, who runs a marine service business in Florida, was a rock star: I can’t recommend him enough (and am so grateful to Patricia for the introduction!). JT gave us frank, thorough, and timely feedback over email, exactly what we needed. His detailed input for troubleshooting helped Jamie to get to the crux of the problem: unfortunately, the membrane we had the dealer in Phuket replace just seven months ago had failed.

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Jamie and Andrew spent days troubleshooting – JT was a huge help

As disappointing as that is, it was a relief just to hone in on the problem. And, thank goodness we could figure it out in a country with dependable, secure mail service to bring in parts, right? Had this happened after we left, we would have been out of luck until we reached South Africa sometime in October- I’ve heard nightmares about shipping anything into Madagascar. That’s a lot of water hauling.

The various bits we needed were shipped to good friends in California, former (and future) cruisers who understand what it’s like to be far from home and need stuff in a hurry… with the added bonus that they’re both pilots and have access to discounted courier service. Fantastic! I’m so grateful for their support.

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Next comes the easy part: delivery from FedEx, repairs, and getting on our way. Well, it turns out that even despite the reputation for good mail service, bringing in parts isn’t straightforward, especially when trying to get them without paying added duty- something our “yacht in transit” states entitles us to here.

Our role here started on Saturday morning with delivery notification from FedEx to the office at the Seychelles Yacht Club, which provides great service for visiting cruisers as everything from mail stop to watering hole. The notification directs us to the post office, where we’re told there are some forms to fill out. Jamie heads off to catch them during their Saturday business hours, and is told they can’t help him until Monday. OK, fine! We’ll come back.

Monday morning finds us anchored on the other side of the island, away from where the unwanted boarding / thefts / assault have happened on cruising boats recently… no problem, it’s just a bus ride into town to get the shipment.

We began our morning waiting at a busy bus stop with the commuters heading from the east side into Victoria, as morning sun warmed the central ridge of mountains.

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About an hour after leaving the boat, we’re at the post office…where we’re told we must go to the Customs offices in the cargo area of the airport to complete additional forms. OK! Back on the bus, and a ride to the south side of Mahe.

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In the customs offices, there’s some waiting. Some forms to fill out. Lots of desks with busy form-producers and fillers and stacks of paper. The forms we complete here have to go back to the post office for processing. But first, our application for duty-free importation must be signed off by the director, but he won’t be back until after lunch (it’s 11am)- can we wait?

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We work out with the  staff that our forms can be sent to the post office by email once their director signs off…a handy trick Andrew worked out after trial and error on getting packages into Seychelles earlier.

At this point it really IS lunch time, so on the way back to the bus stop we go to Jules Take Away. This hole-in-the-wall (as all the take-aways are) came highly recommended, but the location near the airport was a little out the way. Convenient today!

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Tiny “take away” joints like this are the best way to food that is local, delicious, and affordable in Seychelles. There’s no seating, just a window opening into the area where chef/owners serve their daily menu. Generous portions were about $5 each: a firey goat curry; fish liver curry – or kari pwason, in kreole. Lentils with onions, some kind of papaya mash, all served on rice with a spoonful of truly nuclear chili on the side. This makes hours of chasing packages very easy to bear!

 

Right. Time for another bus ride.

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Back at the post office, we check in with staff to make sure they know our paperwork will come through by email, and leave our phone number so they can confirm – or get in touch if they need us. We’re told they’ll call when it’s ready for us to take back to the airport… in a couple of days. Back on the bus again, homeward bound. At least this time we get seats!

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Spending a day on a tour that could be called Greater Bus Stops Of Victoria isn’t a problem. If we felt inconvenienced, it would be easy to hire an agent to do all the paperwork and running around. But it’s not cheap, and we have more time than money, so it’s an easy choice. But funds aside, there are still good reasons to spend the time.

We got so see one beautiful view after another on the back roads of Mahe, and a window into the layout of family compounds and gardens from our elevated lookout.

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We could stop by the Kaz Zanana art gallery, which has a bakery inside with the most incredible baguettes. Yum!

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We were able to meet people we wouldn’t have and enjoy conversations that never would have happened otherwise. Like the friendly guy who welcomed us to Seychelles, in 50% Kreol / 50% English / 100% enthusiastic greeting, the woman that laughed at my goo-goo eyes for her adorable baby, or the fellow in the bus stop who talked to me about alcohol problems and the breakdown of family units after a street person stumbled through on his way to collect plastic bottles in a large sac (at one half rupee each at a recycling center – about 40 bottles will get him a local beer).

After about six hours logged mostly between busses, bus stops, and queues, we were back to the beautiful beach and headed towards Totem.

On Wednesday we repeat the process and hopefully get our parts out of hock: along the way, I wonder what I’ll get to see, and who I’ll get to meet.

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One Response to Getting mail in Seychelles

  1. Ruth August 6, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    Ahoy Totem,
    Congratulations on your huge crossing! Have fun in Africa and congratulations on your book! So exciting.
    Love the Kamayans

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