When You Gotta Ship It
So... you're clearing out your shop of your beloved submarine model, having sold it to some unsuspecting.. ahem, fortunate individual. Now... how the heck are you going to get it to them in one piece?
For those who hate reading, check out the video with this information on my YouTube Channel.
Here are a few simple rules to help you get the model from where it's at to where it needs to be safely:
Rule #1: Thou Shalt Not Ship It In the First Place
It's a sad fact of life that if you ship something big and relatively fragile, it will be damaged. Sub models are no exception. I've spent hours packing a model safely only to have the new owner report back that there was damage. At the end of the day, if a carrier decides to damage something, nothing you are going to be able to do will stop them.
If you have the option at all, arrange pickup by the new owner. Of course, I know this is not always possible, feasible, or advisable, but if it's an option, I'd highly recommend you take it. It saves major hassles with shipping insurance claims, 90% of which are declined due to "insufficient packaging" claims by the carrier.
Rule #2: Thou Shall Ship With Wood, Unless Cardboard Be the Only Option!
Double-walled shipping cartons are just fine to ship in, but you need a lot of buffer around your boat, resulting in larger (albeit lighter) boxes. Wooden crates are harder to manhandle and toss around and provide much sturdier protection when coupled with adequate padding inside.
Do not ship in a Home Depot moving box or the equivalent. You need the double-wall, hard shell to stop punctures and retain the shape of the box around your boat. I don't know how many boxes have arrived to me that are squashed flat and floppy as a dog's ear...
Rule #3: Thou Shall Secure It all From Moving... At All!
Even after you remove the internals from your boat, there are still loose things inside, including linkages, bulkhead clips and drive shafts. Secure them in place with tape and then wrap them in bubble wrap. Ideally, you stuff the entire interior of your boat in bubble wrap to help press ballast weight against the sides of the boat. Lots of times they'll break loose during shipping and wreak havok inside for the entire rest of the journey.
Rule #4: Thou Shall Protect Thy Delicate Parts
If it is an option, remove dive planes, rudders and sails from the model. Ideally it will have been constructed to allow you to do so, but it rarely works out that way. If you can take it apart, do it, regardless of the time it takes to do so and for the new owner to re-assemble.
Dive planes and rudders are particularly prone to damage. Cut rigid foam to shape and encapsulate the entire thing prior to shipping. Once you have a rigid foam sheath around the front and rear assemblies, wrap it all with several layers of bubble wrap and then shrink wrap the entire thing.
Also watch your sail. Putting a sheath of foam around it is never a bad idea.
Once you have that all secured, wrap your model in shrink wrap or bubble wrap to protect that ultra-realistic and time-consuming paint job from abrasion.
When packing in the crate, always ensure that you have adequate spacing between the model and the walls of the crate, space is your friend. Leave at least 2" of space and you should be okay.
Rule #5: Thou Shall Never Ship Thy WTC in Thine Model
As tempting as it is to simply keep the cylinder securely (or so you think) locked in place in the boat, NEVER ship it this way. Unless your mounting points are rock solid and reinforced with steel, odds are that they'll shear off when some dipstick carrier throws the box around. That done, you now have several pounds of watertight cylinder slamming back and forth in your boat, happily destroying delicate linkages, ballast assemblies and foam. If you're lucky, the cylinder might only be scratched. If not, look for a cracked cylinder and a few hundred dollar bill for a new unit.
Always ship the cylinder outside the boat, securely wrapped in many layers of bubble wrap, and, if possible, another cardboard box specifically for it.
Rule #6: Thou Shall Ship by Air if Thine Pockets Are Deep
Every minute in transit bears a certain chance of damage. Shipping ground is cheapest, but usually the longest by a considerable margin. Multiplying the chance of damage by the time in transit and you get a larger percentage chance of damage by ground than air.
Now, I fully realize that shipping air is ridiculously expensive, but for some, the little added insurance against damage is worth it.
Which carrier is best? In my experience, they're all the same. UPS and FedEx have better tracking, and an easier claims process, but higher instances of damage. USPS is cheaper, has poorer tracking, but seems to be more consistent with undamaged parcels, particularly if you mark the box with FRAGILE prior to shipping. Heaven help you if they damage your boat and you need to claim, however.
There you go! A few simple rules to help get your boat from here to there in one piece. A few minutes of additional attention during packing can save hours (and days) of working through difficult conversations with the new buyer and with shipping company insurance people. It's my experience that if damage does occur, it's rare that they accept responsibility. You'll eat it, and that will hurt!
Follow the rules, take the time, use the right materials, and you'll have a worry-free shipping experience!