Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sea lift preparations

Vacation planning is lovely and all, but flying out of Iqaluit is a two-stage affair. I did most of the planning for the fun stuff, which is running around Europe. Cathy handles the more practical aspects of the other stage of the trip - the sea lift.

I'm sure I've explained the sea lift a dozen times, but for those new to the these parts and who don't want to dig through the archives, it's basically this: Living in Iqaluit is not cheap, nor can you just wander down to the store and find everything you want. This isn't a sea lift item for us because it's perishable, but for example, I have walked into North Mart and not been able to find chicken. Or bell peppers. Stuff like that. So if you want to save a few dollars, and make sure that things you really like to have are at your fingertips, then the best way to go about doing this is to do a sea lift.

There are two ways to do this. The first way is to just do an order online (North Mart does it) and in a few months time the stuff you ordered will be delivered to your door once the cargo boats (sea lift boats as they're called here) start to come in. Or you can do what we do; we go down to Ottawa and do it ourselves.

A sea lift order can be a fun, scary, frustrating and intense few days. But before you even get that far, you need to start your planning. Cathy's already started. It involves taking the master list of what we ordered last year and then walking through our storage room and see what we ran out of, what we're running low on and what we clearly over ordered last year. Trying to figure out how much you're going to use of something from week to week can be an issue. Trying to do it for a year is something else.

For example, soft drinks are easy. We budget one can, per person, per day. Pretty straight forward number although it does get you some deeply odd looks when you're going up to the cash at Costco with two shopping carts full of soft drinks.

But the rest can be dicey. How much pasta do you order? How much rice? We actually appear to have slightly under-ordered the amount of toilet paper we need this year. And then there's the things you over-order, like toothpaste. When we first moved here in 2005, we did a sea lift. Complete shot in the dark so we were all over the place in terms of how much we needed of different items. And in no area were we further off than toothpaste. Nearly seven years after that sea lift crate landed on the beach in Iqaluit, we are finally on our last tube of toothpaste. We'll need to buy more, although I think we'll probably cut back on the order this time around.

So yes, trying to juggle what you need to order, what you might want to try, what you might want to's a tangily business. And that's just the non-perishable goods. We're also looking at buying a new box spring and mattress, a new dish washer, maybe a dryer, some more flooring and to replace a few power tools that have up and died.

So you make your master list, then prepare with military precision what places you need to hit, what you're going to buy there, and how long you're going to spend there. Oh, and in what order you're going to visit different stores. And you need to rent a vehicle large enough to carry most of this stuff because having things delivered can cause all sorts of problems. We had $800 worth of items go missing two years ago from the time we left Costco to the time our sea lift crate arrived in Iqaluit.

Now, once you start buying all of this stuff (and you can remember to start breathing once you see the bills. We dropped nearly two grand at Costco in less than three hours last year) you have to drop it off somewhere. In our case we use TSC who will take our purchases, package them properly, crate it up (and use more nails than you can imagine) and then send the whole works to Montreal. From there, it gets put on a boat which will eventually arrive in Iqaluit.

From the time we make our purchases to the time it arrives at our front door will take about two months.

It's not for everyone, obviously. You need the patience and organization to do all of the prep work and actual work. I may be...somewhat...lacking in those skills, but fortunately Cathy is quite good at it. You need to be able to mentally and financially handle how much money is coming flying out of your bank account in a short period of time, knowing that over the course of the year you will save money because you paid $2 for that jar of pasta sauce at Wal-Mart as opposed to $5 at North Mart when you need it in January. And we won't even get into how much you save on toilet paper. If you have a baby, the amount you can save on diapers, formula and other supplies can be truly staggering.

Oh, and one other quirk to the whole sea lift, again for the new people here, we have no wharf facilities in Iqaluit. So when our stuff arrives on the boat, it just sits there in the middle of the bay until a barge can reach it. From there the crates are loaded on the barge and then driven ashore on the beach at high tide (and only high tide. We get 10 metre tides here). Once it's loaded onto the beach, we have to wait until a local company gets to it, picks it up on a forklift, drive it through the community and then deposit it in front of our house. We then get to spend about two hours using cutters and a pry bar to open the crate, and then off-loading the works of it into our house.

The scary thing about all of this is that it can be kind of fun. Which goes to show you don't have to be nuts to live here, but it's certainly helpful.

Last Five
1. Cold, cold ground - Tom Waits*
2. Hold on loosely - .38 Special
3. Jefferson Jericho Blues - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. Glendora - Rilo Kiley
5. Creepin' in - Norah Jones and Dolly Parton


Way Way Up said...

I overdid it on the toothpaste too.

Lily and Jeff said...

We're starting to plan our shopping in the GTA so that it gets shipped up with our stuff before we move, and I find it so stressful when I can't gauge how much of everything we may need (just exactly how much toilet paper do people need anyway??) I just wrote about how toilet paper is stressing me out, lol! - what a coincedence!

towniebastard said...

Well, the toilet paper is easy...figure out how much you use in a week, multiply it by about 60 and then probably add on another dozen for good measure.

Also, unless there's a risk of it expiring in the next year or so, don't worry about over-ordering too much. You'll use it eventually. And you can always sell off what you don't use. I have a friend who decided to get rid of some of the excess pop from his sea lift. He stopped when people were waving $10 bills in his face for a single tin of pop.

The story about the guy who used cases of beer as flooring because he ordered so much of it and had to drink his way out is perhaps a story for another time...

John, Perth AU said...

When you detail life in Iqaluit, it reminds me how Heinlein described living on the moon. (That's a compliment! :)

Anonymous said...

Can you let me know who (local in Iqaluit) to call for delivery of sealift container