Who Do You Think We Are – FedEx?

9 December 2008 By Rubi McGrory

At a crew dinner down island, we made friends with the restaurant’s proprietor. Upon discovering we were headed to a neighboring island, he asked if we would drop some things off to his brother—an attaché, shoes and a suit for an interview. Plied with a few rounds of drinks, we agreed. Before we dropped off the parcel, we added one of our boss’ ex-girlfriend’s very large underpants to the bag. You could claim we acted immaturely, but I would argue back that other people’s underwear is very funny, and a small price to pay for door-to-door, inter-island transport.

Such a request is not at all unusual. In fact, transporting cargo is one of the oldest purposes of a water-borne vessel. For many, it seems odd to sail a boat from place to place whose only purpose is pleasure and entertainment – so why not throw something in the bilge or strap it to the deck to be delivered at your destination.

Over the years, my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to compare lists of “Things We’ve Carried,” or better yet, “Things We’ve Been Asked to Carry.”

When I asked Captain Ed (not his real name) what he’s been asked to transport, he responded, “Totem poles and twelve-year-old girls.”

In a small island (three acres, 50 villagers) off of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, he was greeted fondly by the chief, who warned of recent shark attacks. A villager pulled the captain aside, knowing that yachts coming through are always headed to Australia or New Zealand. In broken English, the man asked Captain Ed to take his daughters away so that they may have a better life. With a heavy heart, Captain Ed politely denied the man’s request.

“The totem poles were a different story,” he said, laughing. They had been sitting in the jungle for 20 years and were probably riddled with eight-inch millipedes.

Mostly, we are asked to convey relatively small, less significant loads. We’re not talking contraband substances here; many of them are everyday items that would be difficult or impossible to ship by conventional means. Here are some examples (for the protection of everyone involved, the names of people, boats and locations have been withheld):

· A tender full of diapers

· Mainsail for a 100ft sailboat

· Countless VHF radios

· Lawnmower for a taxi driver

· Weed whacker for a marina owner

· An 11ft handmade sailboat (from Bequia to Newport, R.I.)

· Complete brass section for a high school marching band

· Live Christmas tree

· Starter motor for a Honda Civic

· Car seat covers

· 14 doors for a new house construction

· Children’s swing set

· 80 cases of wine for a boat show

· A chest freezer

· Birth control pills

· Washer and dryer

· 30in plasma screen TV

· Replica suit of armor

· Hot tub

· Cases of canned sausages to trade with locals

· 50-hp outboard motor

· Two sanders and a skill saw

· Laundry detergent

· Dryer sheets

· Boom for a Little Harbor 54

· Bicycle, which subsequently washed overboard with stern rail

We know this is only the tip of the iceberg. What weird and wacky items have you been asked to transport?