Trials and Tribulations and Joy!

On docks with Shipping Label. YEAH!

Tuesday March 28, 2017:

First the good, no the great news, Mike and I are in the RV enroute to Halifax to actually drop off the RV and our car at the docks for shipping to Belgium. What a lot of unforeseen hassle to get to this stage. As most of you know our current plan is to ship our motorhome and car to Europe where we will live in it and travel for 2 ½ years. We want to try and have three full “tourist” seasons in Europe. We will be back and forth multiple times between now and then.

About a month ago, we heard that Mike’s Aunt in Holland was having a 97th birthday party on April 9 and the entire family in Europe was getting together. We thought that we could get there for the party. Not a chance. The major sticking points have been getting health insurance coverage while in Europe and not losing OHIP when we come back to Canada at various intervals, getting insurance coverage for our vehicles while in Europe and finally, the biggest delay of all, trying to find a customs broker or agent in Belgium that will represent us and look after the disembarkation of both vehicles. Not having someone to look after the Belgium end prevented us from finalizing anything else including the ship we were using. We talked to customs directly in Belgium and they said that we had to have a local representative. We must have called and emailed 50+ different companies. None of them wanted to deal with individuals with a single transaction. They all wanted to deal with the IBM and General Motors of this world. Finally on Thursday we found someone who said yes. The total cost for this companies service is less than $200. Do you remember the poem that said “For want of a nail the kingdom was lost?”. That is what this has felt like.

On Friday we confirmed everything with the agent in Belgium and then called our Canadian agent to verify the shipping info that we had been given earlier. It had changed. Instead of having the vehicles to Halifax by April 9 we now had to have them there by 11am March 31 which was one week away. If we missed this deadline the vehicles wouldn’t ship until May. For those who don’t know, Halifax is an 1800 km (1,000+ miles) drive. Mike had wanted to have some leeway driving out to Halifax in case we ran into any problems. Once we get to Halifax we need to have our propane tanks emptied and certified. This took many days of searching and phone calls to find someone who could do this. What I thought was a 15 minute job when we arrive turns out to be a full day affair which means we have to arrive before Thursday morning. Mike also has some mods to make to the RV that can only be done at the last minute. More about that shortly.

As you can imagine trying to get the vehicles ready and packed for three years in Europe in one long weekend means that we have been going a mile a minute. On Monday we drove to Hamilton to drop off Mike’s car so that we can get home from the airport when we fly back from Halifax. We were driving back to Toronto in the Lincoln, which is the car we are shipping to Europe, when the idiot lights came on with messages about soft tires. To make a long story short after multiple air fills just to get us to a Canadian Tire (where we had bought the original tires) we ended up having to have all four tires replaced, luckily mostly under warranty. This took the remainder of Monday and would have just played havoc with the driving schedule to Halifax if it had happened a day later. It is a 20+ hour drive non stop at the speed of our motorhome. Driving 60 feet of motorhome and car is tiring and I don’t have a clue how Mike is going to do this in two days. We can but try. Of course the 20 hours didn’t include leaving in the middle of Toronto morning rush hour! That added additional hours. We should have left when we got home really late Monday night with four new tires and put two hours of driving in and found a Walmart parking lot past the GTA to sleep in but we didn’t think of it. I am sure that there are huge numbers of things we haven’t thought of. It isn’t like there are good instructions for this. Maybe I will write a book in the future to help others, who knows ?.

Some of the other issues that aren’t resolved yet – we are still trying to find reasonable car insurance. We can’t leave the docks in Antwerp without proof of liability coverage but we would like comprehensive. So far the only quote we have received is for well over $30,000 over the three years!! We would have to self-insure at that rate. We are still looking. Health insurance is interesting because the information that you get from OHIP directly when you can actually contact them doesn’t match what Service Ontario, who looks after all the paperwork, tells you. None of the firms in Canada will sell you insurance if your OHIP coverage has lapsed and the US firms that will are very expensive. For my American friends OHIP is our provincial version of your Obamacare.

So not everything yet is resolved but we do have two spots on the ship if we can get to Halifax in time. We have someone in Belgium to get the vehicles out of customs and we have booked all our flights assuming that everything will go well. Things like insurance, doctors OK, closing down our apartment, figuring out how to stay in touch etc. will all be done while the motorhome and car are in transit across the Atlantic.

Days Later:
Good news/bad news: The boat is delayed, we were delayed. We had some problems with the motorhome and didn’t make it to Halifax by 11am on Friday. This meant that we had to stay until Monday and get the vehicles to the docks early Monday morning. We missed a family get together but there wasn’t anything we could do about that. We had 2 plane tickets home from Halifax booked for Monday night. They cost $97 each. According to the airline to change the tickets to Monday would cost us a $115 change fee (more than the tickets!). The airline said that was OK because if we wanted to cancel it would also cost us $115. I said fine, I won’t cancel and let you resell the tickets I will just be a no show. Apparently that doesn’t cost any extra.

Much Later update:
Car and RV are now in the middle of the Atlantic. The boat has been delayed multiple times. Originally we planned on arriving in Antwerp 2 days after the ship docked. We will now arrive in Antwerp 2 days before the ship docks which isn’t great. We have 48 hours enroute in Reykjavik. If we had known about these delays ahead of time we would have scheduled more time in Iceland. How often will we get to go there? We have flights from Iceland to Amsterdam and tickets on a high speed train from Amsterdam to Antwerp and a hotel in Antwerp. It is just too complicated and expensive to make any date changes at this point.

Next update will be after our 48 hours in Iceland.

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