Friday, October 30, 2009

They're here!

And it is done. There are four 55-gallon drums of African rocks sitting in my driveway. Photos to follow. Right now I have rocks to sort.

On the way

Sometimes walking the dogs works wonders. I made some phone calls this morning, nudged some people along (again), and took the dogs for a walk.

When I got back, the paperwork had been completed and faxed, and now the shipper is just waiting for me to show up with dead presidents.

More later.......

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost doesn't count

Did I say I expected another delay? Uh-huh. Hung up in Customs for the third time.

Now I have to reschedule the trailer, the help, the the the........and I changed a doctor's appointment for this.

What is up with this shipment? And I'm not even smuggling anything!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Almost here........

The African rocks finally are here in Tampa. They're not in my driveway yet--that would be too easy--but they're at the EcuAmerica warehouse awaiting Customs inspection tomorrow.

The plan is to pick them up on Friday morning. Whether that's really going to happen remains to be seen. I've had so many delays with this whole thing since the beginning that another one wouldn't surprise me. But it sure would be nice if it would happen Friday as planned!

This past weekend, the 50th Annual Tampa Gem & Mineral Show went off without any serious problems. I don't know what the attendance was, but I was pleased with the number of people who stopped by my table.

I was frankly astonished by the number of people who asked me about the African rocks. I knew that members of the Tampa Bay Mineral and Science Club are eagerly awaiting the new material, but I had no idea they were spreading the word to other clubs in the area. Members of three other clubs all stopped to ask me when I will have African stuff to sell.

All I can say is "Soon......"

I did find out why malachite is so unavailable. According to the owner of the mining company, the mines are holding onto it and crushing it for use in copper smelting.

Malachite can be so beautiful, and grinding it up for use in an industrial process is a total waste.

Stand by for more information on the African's almost here...........

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moving in the right direction

After much pushing and shoving (on e-mail, that is), my African rocks are finally moving in the right direction, which is toward Tampa.

Customs released them yesterday, with no explanation other than that they wanted to go over all the paperwork for every shipment in the container.

However, because Customs had them in storage from October 3 through the 19, Vanguard had to pay a storage fee, which of course they pro-rated among all their customers who had shipments in that container.

I can't quite figure out the logic here. Customs detained the shipment so the receiving shipper has to pay a storage fee? I don't like having them pass it on to me, but I understand why they did it.

The bottom line, though, is that there's been way too much government interference in this process on both sides of the pond!

I sent the check for the destination fees Express Mail today, which means they should release the shipment on Wednesday. It should depart the New Jersey warehouse where it's sitting now either Thursday or Friday. Note that I said "should," not "will." I don't trust anything at this point.

Meanwhile, I continue to be glad I found some western material and all that Wyoming jade--I would be in a world of hurt for the Tampa Gem & Mineral Show this weekend if I didn't have it.

But I do wish the last two boxes from Wyoming would get here.....there's some Shirley Basin blue agate in one of them that I really want for this weekend!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movement, maybe?

I called Vanguard again and asked for a customer service supervisor. This time I got someone with some sense.

She went over the invoice with me point by point, explained everything, and said the shipper in South Africa should have told the mine about these charges so they could tell me. So it sounds like that's who dropped the ball.

I have so say, I do like the mine staff. They have been very helpful throughout this process.

In any case, the shipment was released today. The container has been picked up and will be stripped (unpacked) tomorrow.

And the rocks should be on the way by Friday.

African time, imported

Now this is getting ridiculous. My African shipment arrived in New York on October 3.......and there it sits.

Vanguard tells me that since it's an LCL--Less than Container Load--and that there is something else in the container that Customs isn't happy with, there's no telling when it will be released. Of course, Customs can't release the stuff they aren't examining, so they let us all sit and wonder what's going on. Meanwhile, my first gem and mineral show is this weekend.

On top of that, Vanguard now is saying I have a bunch of fees due that they didn't quote me on the original invoice. Anyone who knows me personally already knows that that kind of thing irritates the you-know-what out of me.

I spent all day Friday questioning customer service at Vanguard and getting nowhere. The women there finally blamed it on my shipper, which is ridiculous. The shipper has been very clear that they told me about every single bit of information that Vangard provided them, and that the shipping straight into Tampa is already paid.

I'm on hard deadline with a story right now, but when I finish it I'm going back and get my teeth into someone farther up the food chain at Vanguard (or Brennan, the parent company).

At least I know about it now, and can deal with it before it causes any further delays in the shipment. Stand by for more details.......

Monday, October 12, 2009

More delays

And the delays in the African shipment aren't over yet. It's still sitting on the dock in New York instead of being almost here.

It seems that since my shipment is an LCL (less than container load) it was packed into a container with a bunch of other stuff. There was something in that container that US Customs wanted to inspect. So the whole thing sat there until they inspected whatever it was.

The shipper says their paperwork shows that the container has been released. That means they'll get my rocks sometime in the next few days.

However, they will not be here in time for the Tampa Gem & Mineral Show. I won't have them until the next month's show in Orlando.

It sure is a good thing I picked up some backup material.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Heading For Home

After five snowy days in Wyoming, we are trying to leave for home. Our plan was to leave Story this morning, go as far as Casper today, and spend this afternoon and Saturday morning rockhounding in Shirley Basin.

It seems, however, that the weather had other ideas. The big snowstorm that was supposed to move in late this morning got here overnight instead. It's supposed to dump 8 inches of snow in Shirley Basin, and the low tonight here is predicted to be -1.

Definitely not good rockhounding weather. That will have to wait for the next trip.

We did get the jade we bought shipped....and we badly underestimated how much we had. While we were hunting I picked up some agates and some other odd pieces of pretty rock that I can't identify--maybe 20 to 25 pounds of it--so I have to figure that into this.

However.......we took 6 large Flat Rate Priority boxes to the Post Office this afternoon. The lightest box weighed 4o pounds, and the total weight was 255 pounds and change. When you allow 10 pounds for the boxes--considering that I reinforced them--and 25 pounds for the other rocks--that still means I just shipped 220 pounds of Wyoming jade home.

I hadn't gone through the buckets until I packed it all. There were a few pieces that don't look like much, but most of it is very nice, and there's a lot of pink jade among it all.

I am really looking forward to getting home and getting it sorted out. Of course, with the African material due in next week, it may be a while before I get all of it organized!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Jade Lady

This morning on our way up to Story, Wyoming, we stopped to see the lady in Casper with the jade. What she had was amazing. All colors from very dark green to pale green, and some pinks. I'd already paid her for some of it, but we bought more and ended up with about 150 pounds of jade of all sizes and colors.

She also gave me three small blue agates from Shirley Basin.

And to think I hunted all over Shirley Basin in the early 1990s and never knew about the agates.

Now I just have to figure out how to get home with all of it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

It’s taken me three weeks to digest my experience at William Holland School of Lapidary Arts well enough to sit down and write about it. It was a singular experience, and one that I truly hope to repeat next year!

Kym had already been there a week to take a wire sculpting class when I arrived. We originally had planned to both take cabochons, but then she changed to chain making.

As a result, there were only two of us in the cabochons class, myself and a lady from south Georgia who was less serious about learning to cut cabochons than she was staying away from home for a while. She was only there about half the time, so I ended up having the instructor to myself a lot of the time.

My instructor was Gene Baxter, who’s been teaching cabochons at William Holland since the mid 1970s. One thing I really appreciated about him was that he didn’t have an agenda for the class; he let me identify my weaknesses and pick projects that would address those weaknesses. As I result I learned much more than I would have learned from a more structured course.

During the week, I cut a total of 20 cabs. A couple of them were experiments just to see if I could cut the particular material; I was able to cut them, but I won’t bother to try them again. Some of the others I cut in a freeform shape specifically because of the pattern in the material, because I’m trying to develop an “eye” for what makes a good freeform cab and what doesn’t.

One big thing I learned was not to fear experimenting. I’ve been so afraid of messing up nice pieces of material that I’ve avoided cutting them. However, I had one piece of “I dunno” rock break on me twice, and I just cut it smaller both times until I had a very nice—albeit small—cab out of it.

I was surprised at how much I already knew, but overwhelmed by how much there still is yet for me to learn. I’ve already made a “lapidary challenge list” of things I want to learn to do and I’m starting down that list one thing at a time.

I’m also enjoying teaching on Wednesday evenings. It’s fun to watch the beginners start to grasp what to do with a stone besides just look at it.

Just as an aside, the ocean vessel SAF Marine Oranje docked in New York on October 3. If all goes according to plan, my African material will arrive in Tampa on October 17, one week before our club show. I won’t have time to get many slabs cut, but if I can get the barrels unpacked I’ll at least have some rough there. I’ve also committed to the November Orlando show, the December Withlacoochee show, and the Tomoka show in January. Plus there are club tailgate days……

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wonderful wonderstone

I just started slabbing some of the Nevada wonderstone I got for my upcoming gem and mineral shows. I had some doubts about it when I first saw it, but the first end cut is absolutely gorgeous.

It just goes to prove that old adage: never judge a rock by the rind.