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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Getting the boat parts back to the boat

So before we hit Seattle last week, we started ordering boat parts like crazy.  Getting stuff in Mexico is problematic, so we were stocking up on spare parts and some new stuff that we “couldn’t live without” once we heard about it.  The most interesting of which was a PureUV water filter that will kill any biological organisms in your water before running it to your tap.  You put it inline right before the water pump so the water runs through a UV light before getting to your main pipes.

Anyway, we had a giant bag packed with about $1000 in parts as part of our checked luggage.  There were two worries – one that the airline would lose the bag, and two that we would get audited by Mexican customs.  After having recently seen the famous, “United Breaks Guitars” video we were particularly paranoid.

So Melissa does some research on Alaska Airline’s website.  Turns out that in the US your bags are insured for $3,400.  But for international travel, its “covered under the Warsaw Convention, … for … approximately $9.07 (USD) per pound”, or about $370.  And then, “If the cost of replacing your luggage or packed belongings exceeds the maximum compensation amount, you may want to declare a higher value by purchasing ‘excess valuation’. Excess valuation is simply an extension of liability in the event of loss or damage, up to a maximum of $5000 (USD). If you purchase excess valuation, you'll be asked to describe the contents of the bag.“  We quite naturally assumed that meant you could actually purchase this excess valuation when you checked the bag.  Isn’t that the way you read it?  Alas…

We got to the airport 90 minutes ahead of our flight.  We go to the baggage counter and were told to stand in a different line.  So we stood in that line till we got to the front only to be told to go stand in yet another line.  When we got to the front of that line we were told, “gee, I’ve not sold baggage insurance for years.  I’m not even sure we still do that.”  Melissa assures her that according to the website, we can purchase more insurance.  Another agent comes over and they have a whole conversation about it and finally call a trainer (apparently the trainers know everything about the systems).  They’ve no idea how to do it.  They keep trying to tell us we have $3400 in valuation.  No, Melissa says, we don’t when we travel internationally.  Eventually they verify Melissa’s information is correct, but still can’t figure out how to sell us the additional valuation.  The agents assure us this won’t be a problem since we told them the value and now have their names plus we have a list of everything in the bag.  Melissa was not happy about this because, well, she would be the one arguing with customer service later should the bag get lost.  But what else was there to do?

We head for security.  At random we were picked to get in the TSA “Pre check” line.  Normally you get in this line if you have gone through the TSA pre-screening process and been given a special ID card (the Seattle TSA office where you can get one is located in Anacortes because – well, I’m sure someone in Washington DC thought that was convenient for us Seattlites).  Anyway, apparently the line was short so they were diverting some regular passengers into that line.  You can keep your shoes and jacket on, keep your laptop and liquids in your bag.  You breeze right through.  So the idea was that if you were checked out by the TSA in advance (fingerprints and background check of some sort) then they would lighten up on how they screen you at the airport.  Not sure how we ended up being picked for the lower screening requirements but they did say that they were “testing the new process”.  Hmm.  That’s reassuring in light of what a TSA employee recently had to say about the whole process.

When we reached Mexico, our bags were waiting for us.  Probably because Alaska Airlines didn’t dare lose our bags because they knew Melissa was loaded for bear. 

To prepare for Mexican customs we had printed off a copy of the Mexican customs regulations.  We had heard from other folks that this was a great way to end any arguments at the airport.  The Mexicans are so bureaucratic and disorganized (a bad combination) that they don’t actually even know what their own rules say.  So if you show up with the printed regulations they immediately give up any arguments over what you can and can’t bring in and what is actually part of your personal exemption.  The other complication is that the Mexicans recently raised the personal exemption amount from $300 to $500 per person but all the forms still have the smaller amount.  And as it turns out, so did the regulations Melissa had printed because even those had not yet been updated.  All this preparation was worth it though, because we flew right through.  They didn’t even look twice at us.

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