Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Home Address: Never-Never Land

“How do you get your mail?” It’s a question often asked of my husband Jim and me, both as we prepared to go cruising, and since moving aboard. Our response? “We don’t. Our daughter does.”

One of the many joys of cruising is the total absence of junk mail—not counting the junk e-mail, of course. We certainly don’t miss the daily requests for charitable contributions, the weekly Val-Pac coupons, the monthly catalogs of stuff we have neither money nor space for, or the myriad other mailings that used to fill our mailbox and then find their way to the round file, usually unopened. Does anyone really read all that stuff? Before leaving we sold our house, gave away most of our possessions, and rented a storage unit for the valuables we chose to keep. We arranged to pay our bills on-line, and we allowed most of our magazine subscriptions to lapse. Everyone that we want or need to communicate with has our e-mail address, and we are now able to get several periodicals that we value on-line. Most of the time not receiving paper mail has been of no concern to us. Bottom line: we have no home address.

However, you may have noticed that just about every form ever devised has a space for an address, presumably a home address. Even on-line forms frequently require an address to submit the form to order something, make reservations, join a group, get information, whatever. To fill in the blank with s/v Caloosa Spirit just doesn’t seem to fit with what is customary or desired, not to mention being useless for contacting us. So in the interest of snail-mail convention and to maintain some semblance of citizenship, we started out using our daughter’s mailing address, thereby retaining our residence in Indiana. We have since changed our residency to Florida, but our daughter still gets our mail. She has been gracious about receiving some of the junk that used to come to us, and she’s usually good about checking with us about anything that arrives that she’s clueless about. She’s even been known to send us a packet of mail now and then.

One time, though, not having a home address ran us into a brick wall when our laptop computer went on the fritz. What with daily e-mail via cell phone, on-line banking, electronic navigation, etc., the laptop has become an invaluable crew member. So the day that I turned it on and the screen remained blank was a dark day, indeed. The need for computer healthcare was only slightly less traumatic than the need for personal healthcare would have been!

Since the laptop was only a year and a half old, the first step was to call the manufacturer to find out how to go about getting some warranty work done. We were in Punta Gorda, FL, at the time and called from the Best Western where we were dinghy-docking. Peggy, the front desk clerk, was an angel in helping us with our phone calls. The manufacturer would overnight a box that we could then use to return the laptop to their service center for repair. Then, a few days later, they would ship the repaired laptop back to us. But the whole floating-address thing was a real obstacle! Without a home address we were uncertain about the logistics of first getting the box shipped, then getting it returned to us wherever we would be at that time. So we asked for the nearest manufacturer’s authorized repair center that might be somewhere in the vicinity of Punta Gorda. The tech’s answer? “I don’t have that information, but you can go to yahoo.com to find it.” To which Jim calmly responded, “Well, no I can’t, because my computer isn’t working!”

When we got transferred to someone who could actually be helpful, the tech on the other end insisted on a local address to fill out his computerized form, so finally, in desperation, Jim gave him the Best Western address. We did manage to determine that the closest service center was in Sarasota, so we decided to sail on and get the laptop fixed there. Sarasota was on our planned itinerary and the city turned out to be a delightful place to spend some time, but we spent longer than we planned to. That’s right—trying to get the laptop fixed. Jim had learned from the manufacturer’s phone tech what the suspected problem was, so that was the first thing the service center fixed, after they got around to ordering the part. But that didn’t make the laptop work. So they tried something else, and that didn’t work. The third time might have been a charm, but, since each part they tried required another day to order and install, we finally called a halt to their trial-and-error approach. We were running out of time to get to St. Petersburg, our next destination, and we had plans to attend the boat show there. So we left Sarasota, still without our laptop working. Needless to say, our e-mail and bills were piling up, and sailing without our electronic navigation gave me the heebee-jeebies. I admit, I’m terribly spoiled, and, yes, pretty clueless about the dead-reckoning approach. Using our paper charts we managed to find St. Petersburg successfully, running aground only once in the process.

In St. Petersburg we were delighted to find a good spot in the anchorage close to the boat show, then went about finding a way to use the mail-in system to get the laptop repaired. Within walking distance of the harbor Jim found a mail-drop where we could have the manufacturer’s box shipped, then send the laptop back to them. Computer health seemed only a few days away. We thoroughly enjoyed the boat show, but when the box hadn’t arrived at the mail drop after four days, Jim called to check on it. After several phone calls he eventually learned that it had been sent to the Best Western in Punta Gorda!! Apparently, whoever listened to the addresses Jim gave over the phone wasn’t able to override what was already in their computer. Go figure.

Finally, the box arrived at the mail-drop in St. Pete, and we made sure that the repaired computer would be sent to my mother’s address in Indianapolis. We had plans to leave Caloosa Spirit in St. Pete while we went up to Indianapolis for a wedding, and we would be staying at Mom’s. Just to be sure, after we arrived Jim called to check on the mailing address for the repaired laptop, and was reassured when they gave him Mom’s address. To our collective huzzahs, the computer arrived at Mom’s as hoped. But… the screen still didn’t work!!! Soooo, we sent it off again wondering where in cyber-land it would end up this time. Jim gave the St. Pete mail-drop address for the return shipping, just in case the repair wasn’t finished before we returned to Florida. When Jim called a few days later to check on the status of the repair, he was told that the laptop was due to be shipped the same day. But we weren’t due to return to Florida for another week. Miraculously, the shipment was appropriately rerouted and the laptop arrived again at Mom’s while we were still there. With bated breath Jim turned it on and—lo and behold—the laptop was healed! It turned out that the reason the laptop didn’t work when it arrived the first time was that some cord for the screen part wasn’t connected, and the tech had obviously not tested or rebooted the computer before shipping it. I guess we can’t all be rocket scientists.

So we’re back to e-mail (junk and all), on-line banking, net-surfing, and all the other fun things we can do with our computer. When we’re in Indianapolis we pick up our mail from our daughter, and the envelopes, magazines, and catalogs become a reminder of the life we left behind. We still don’t miss their regular delivery, and we still don’t have a home address. But just in case we have to play mail-tag with our laptop manufacturer again, we’ve started collecting mail-drop addresses in our various ports-of-call. Then again, they only have just so much room on those forms….

Posted Tuesday July 20, 2004

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