Ocean Breeze: Shipping Nightmares

When shipping anything to Mustique, it’s safe to assume that anything you can imagine (and probably a variety of things that you can’t) can and will go wrong. As I’ve mentioned before, there are numerous design conundrums that come into play when you’re working on a remote private island like Mustique that just don’t exist in a place like New York, where you can have anything shipped to you at any hour. When you order something to be shipped to Mustique, it has to work its way through customs in Saint Vincent where it can easily be stalled indefinitely, never to emerge.

While I was frantically trying to get Ocean Breeze ready for its inaugural season, I ordered this gorgeous four-poster bed from India, which shipped in pieces, all numbered. Linda’s butler Bashie kept calling customs to find out what the hold-up was.  Now, Vincentians are lovely people but can be quite loathe to ever deliver bad news, which can make the where and why of an item’s progress through customs all the more difficult to divine. We at last discovered that the many, many pieces of the bed had somehow ended up separated from each other in different parts of the massive customs warehouse.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already in complete panic mode trying to get this project done on time, what a cherry on the top of the utterly chaotic sundae! It was then that I began to develop a sort of no-holds-barred resourcefulness that has served me well throughout the subsequent years I have spent on Mustique. I booked myself on the next available charter flights (the only way to get from island to island in those days) to go see what was really going on at the customs house.

There happened to be, in the basement of Ocean Breeze, many cases of Riesling that had been left over by the former owners. It was a very fine wine but not to Linda’s taste and so she had instructed me to do whatever I pleased with it. I figured if my wits and charm were not enough to get the problem solved once I got to St. Vincent, perhaps the wine would help.

Once I got there, I became fast friends with my customs broker and within a couple of hours, all of the many pieces of the bed had been rounded up and were ready to ship. What a relief! Yet another lesson in doing business on Mustique, a friendly face-to-face (and some wine) will get you everywhere, staying put and making demanding phone calls will get you nowhere.

If only customs was all I had to worry about!

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