Container Packing for Internationals

By Barney Harris 6701 & 8011

This year’s Internationals marked the first time that a container of Albacores was shipped from North America to the UK. Planning for this began soon after Worlds in 1999. We began with a call for reservations – a non refundable cash deposit to hold a spot in the container. We asked for non refundable cash so that we had a tangible indication that a person was really serious about going to the event. With an event like this more than a year in advance, just about everyone will say they would like to go. There is something about putting up money in advance that makes noncommittal, confused people think very clearly and is the only way for planners to get a “real” answer in advance.

We began by obtaining several quotes to ship a container round trip. There are many little ins and outs of shipping things internationally, and it took many phone calls and emails to get an apples to apples comparison of the bottom line price. Some freight forwarders would merge some items together such as ocean freight (cost of carriage on the ship across the ocean) and terminal handling charges (cost to load the box onto the ship). The bottom line is that we had to ask for clarification on each term to be sure no cost items were left out. After several rounds of cost clarifying and some sharpened quotes, we selected the freight forwarder based on the expense and their responsiveness.

We obtained an ATA Carnet to clear the boats and gear through customs in the UK and back into the US. The Carnet is like a passport for stuff – and it simplifies the process of getting into and out of a country for a temporary visit. We were also able to buy insurance through the Carnet provider which covered the load during transit.

Loading was conducted at a facility north of Baltimore. The labor contracts with the port require any containers to be loaded by longshoremen. We sought to avoid this and had the container trucked to a site beyond the reach of the union’s tentacles. The site was a covered warehouse. The container on a truck chassis was backed up to the loading dock. We were able to roll each boat in, get it prepared for shipping, and pack it into the box out of the sun and rain.

We used a 45 foot “hi cube” container which is just large enough to fit 12 boats in three sets of four. Each set consisted of one hull hung from the overhead, two suspended from the bulkhead, and one upside down on the deck. Each hull had a pad secured to the deck at the mast partner and a 5 foot length of 2×4 strapped across the side decks about 2 or 3 feet forward of the transom. The fore deck pad was formed by rolling a 2×2 ft piece of carpet around a length of line which was wrapped around the hull. The partner pad was further connected by a length of line around the rolled carpet lead through the mast partner and secured to the mast step. The rear 2×4 was simply wrapped around the hull and lashed off. We also added a length of line secured to the thwart and lead around the hull to the opposite side which provided a nice hand hold when lifting the boat on its side.

The inside length of the container was less than 45 feet, so the boats had to be overlapped about one foot. We put the first set of boats into the container stern first and the second set in bow first so the bows could be overlapped. We would fold a piece of carpet over the corner of the transom which rested against the inside of the container and secured carpet between the overlapping bows. With each boat tied up and in contact with one another, the load was pretty stable and resistant to moving.

The shrouds and spreaders were removed from the masts and we wrapped each mast with carpet at the spreader fittings, whisker pole ring, goose neck, and cleats. We then slid the masts into the container along the sides of the bottom boats. Each mast is padded where it will contact the deck or other masts, and so were isolated from each other.

One key to this was the dollies which were collapsible. The light weight aluminum Seitech and Spoot Ride dollies can be disassembled to fit into small spaces between boats, and would enable a 12 boat load. This loading method may pose difficulty for those in the UK since the vast majority of their dollies are welded and do not collapse. I estimate that a 45 foot container could hold a minimum of ten and possibly 11 boats assuming each boat came with a rigid welded steel dolly.

HAPCO Marine donated two 600 foot spools of line – one spool of 3/8 inch diameter New England Sta Set x-lite and one spool of 5/16ths Samson Melges braid to be exact, to the container effort. The x-lite was cut into 27 foot lengths – the exact size for Albacore main sheet; and the Melges braid was cut to 22 foot lengths, suitable for an Albacore jib sheet. HAPCO anticipates that much of this line will be useful after the trip and will be included in future rebuilt and new albacores.

Ten boats and gear were packed into the container for the outbound trip. We packed 11 boats into the box for the return trip along with ten spare masts, and an assortment of other gear. All boats and equipment arrived in the same condition that it was loaded. It required around 5-6 hours to load the container for each leg of the trip. We arranged the container to be delivered at the West River Sailing Club two days before their Annual Regatta. Unpacking in the US took only 55 minutes – and we had 11 Albacores sitting on the lawn ready for the regatta that week end, boosting our numbers to 24 for this event. A perfect end to the story.

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