Ask Capt. Gary by Capt. Gary Joyce
Well, the 2016-17 scallop season started off back in November with a … whimper, and we weren’t the only ones who couldn’t find a commercially viable surfeit of the tasty critters. Up side? There were plenty of just-too-small scallops around, so that bodes well for next year, barring any ecological catastrophes in between.
As December approaches (when I’m writing this), Irish G’bye is still in the water, hopefully to provide a base for some recreational scalloping and clamming ops in the coming months, the weather hasn’t been unduly cold (though, yesterday, we did shut down the outside shower for the year), and I’ve got a zillion things — as usual — to do on the boat when I do pull her.
I had to cancel a week’s trip to Florida for Thanksgiving week a couple of days before I was supposed to leave (yeah, that sucked), but it got me thinking about what’s involved in shipping your watersports gear anywhere when you’re off to warmer climes. A buddy of mine, going on his first fly-fishing trip to Belize was worried about hauling his zillion-dollars-worth of gear via the airlines. Now, we all know how careful airline folks are with baggage and freight (I can say that … I worked as a cargo handler at JFK for 18 years, and I’ve put forklift blades through some seriously valuable stuff). But, I digress …
Back in the day, I’ve had to transport dive gear, surfboards, fishing gear— hell, even a hard shell kayak once —to various far away destinations, so I’ve got a few pointers for those of you doing it for the first time.
If you’re serious about your fishing — that usually means if you’re a fly fisherman …but it applies to anyone who has a favorite stick, reel, etc. — remember to insure the stuff before the trip or check your insurance policy to see if gear is covered. If you can’t find something specific about transporting gear, call your insurer and ask.
The next thing is to call the airline you’re flying. Know specifically what size cases you’re bringing, find out if there will be any charges, how much per, etc. Whatever you’re told on the phone, ask to have it noted on your reservation. The more paper you can back things up with the better.
Consider shipping your rods and reels ahead of time. If you do, make sure you have every bit of customs paper work. Other countries “usually” don’t mind you bringing stuff in, as long as you bring it out. Have proof you brought it out of the US, receipts, proof of ownership, everything. You’re gonna’ need all of that to get in and out of where you were and get your stuff back home.
As for packing rods, Plano makes a bunch of different carriers, Orvis, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shop all carry their own. My only caveat is get a hard case, rather than a soft one.
Remember that you want foam on both ends of the case, rubber band or otherwise keep your rods together (you don’t want them rattling around inside the case), and it won’t hurt to bubble wrap them as well. You might want to bring some rod tips and glue, just to be safe, or invest in some neoprene rod tip covers.
Can you make your own case out of PVC or ABS? Yup. Just think it through, make sure you incorporate a means to carry the case, have easy-but-secure access (a screw top) for the TSA, and cushion the interior appropriately. If you use Schedule 40 pipe it’s going to be kinda’ hefty. Schedule 200 is thinner walled — I had a rod blank delivered in it via UPS with no problem. You might want to clean off all the product ID stuff on the PVC and maybe get a little artsy -check out some of the vinyl paper at www.carbonfibervinyl.com. Make sure your name and contact info are on the case, legible and easy to find.
As for your reels. If you’re not carrying them in your carry-on luggage, I’d get a good solid case from Pelican. They come with pre-cut foam cubes so you can design the interior for anything, and come in virtually any size you might possibly need. I swear by them as does anyone traveling with delicate or expensive items. Pelican boxes are also securable with TSA locks, they’re waterproof, and pretty impact resistant, etc.
I was editor of a dive magazine for a bunch of years, so I did a lot of dive travel. The two things I always had in my carry-on were my regulators and mask. Depending on the destination; i.e., non-traditional dive destinations; you may have to haul everything …and spare parts. But if you’re heading for the traditional destinations, the infrastructure usually will have what you need. Before you borrow any gear at a tourist destination, tell them you want to try it out first. Definitely give your BCD a test before the dive! If you really care about using a wetsuit someone else peed in … bring your own. Me? I don’t care.
If you’re going coldwater, bring your own drysuit. There’s enough task loading diving in cold new places, you don’t want to have to learn using a new drysuit also.
Oh… make sure your reg is a DIN and make sure you bring your own adapter. No matter where you go. (If you’re not a diver the latter makes no sense; if you’re a diver it does.)
You can’t beat one of those big dive gear packs with wheels. Mine was a Cressi bag that had every color of the rainbow and screamed “steal this really expensive stuff!” Fair play, in all my travels, the only thing I ever had stolen was a nice little Tekna knife … and that was on a trip in the US.
If you’re a photographer … well … rule number one for photogs is: your gear stays with you as carry-on, period.
Though camera gear has simplified for the non-professional shooter, it hasn’t for the pros, so I checked in with one of the more respected pros in the business, Greg Johnston (www.gregjohnston.com), for what he uses. Greg and I have put some serious and, in some cases, seriously rough miles on the road together over the years. We started bouncing around the world back in the mid-90s together at Sport Diver Magazine, and Greg’s still at it.
That said … “I have been using the Think Tank Photo Rolling Cases by Airport International (www.thinktankphoto.com) for years,” said Greg. “I have put mine through hell and the rollers and sliding handles are strong. Tenba and others make similar cases but Airport cases are my top choice.” I’ll take that as an ultimate recommendation.
If you’re travelling with your boards, there’s only one thing I can tell you. Get a really good board bag (a travel board bag, not something to keep road rock from marring that ‘gorgeous’ glass job) that has heavy-duty zippers (like YKKs) and really good padding (including around the rails). Wheels on the bag make airport running around a lot easier. If you have a fixed skeg, get a foam skeg block.
Go back up and read what I wrote about contacting airlines ahead of time in the fishing gear section. An airline agent’s, “No, we don’t charge extra for a board bag,” means they probably do. And the smaller the airline (especially if you’re looking for that no-one’s-ever-surfed-here-before spot and flying on commuter-like planes that you know you’re going to die on) the more likely it is you’re going to get charged through the nose … budget for it.
Your board bag will also cut down on the amount of extraneous luggage you have to carry, so stuff all your clothing, wetsuits, etc., in the bag around your board(s). I’ve always used FCS bags (www.surffcs.com). They come in a ton of different sizes and are a quality product. Other guys I know swear by DaKine bags and I’m sure there are others. You spent $600 for a board that weighs six pounds …pack it like it’s worth that. And see about insuring it with the airline (when you get to Indonesia and say insurance, remember that the guy isn’t laughing at you, just at your question).
Enjoy your trip, wherever it may take you.
Anyway … it won’t be long before we’ll be talking about getting the boats ready to launch back here. Meanwhile … stay warm.