feet on the ground
November 5, 2006 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Getting from North Carolina to Oxford, England without flying?

My fiance is not afraid of flying. He's not too cheap to fly. But for reasons that I don't really feel like going into, but that I am gradually coming to accept, he will not accompany me on an imminent adventure to the UK + maybe Europe if it involves flying out of an American airport and dealing with all the, uh, "new rules" craziness we've been hearing about lately. I myself would, in fact, prefer a mode of transport that would allow me to bring along my own water.

He did a quick search for boat travel, but may not have known how to search. I have the impression that it would be quite expensive, anyway, compared to a $350 (or less) airline ticket. Although it could be fun, I guess (though in general I'm not attracted to the idea of "taking a cruise").

I really want him to come with me, and it's important to me that we be able to travel in general. Does anyone have any ideas? Can we travel from here to there and back again without taking a plane?
posted by amtho to Travel & Transportation (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Though they are expensive, here's a list of freighters leaving port soon. There are Philly to Liverpool and Charleston, SC to Felixstowe steamers listed.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:49 PM on November 5, 2006

If his problem is 'security', you should probably make him aware that most boats will have security checks as well.
posted by reverendX at 9:50 PM on November 5, 2006

Some googling finds me this page, which lists various ways to sail transatlantic. Yea, it's expensive.

What about flying out of Canada (or the Bahamas, or....)?
posted by raf at 9:51 PM on November 5, 2006

How do you know he isn't afraid of flying?
posted by LarryC at 9:55 PM on November 5, 2006

The "new rules" were enacted because of occurences in the UK, so I don't think it's really going to matter if you go to Canada and then fly to the UK. You could try going to Canada and then flying to France or elsewhere in Europe and then taking a ferry or train to the UK.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:56 PM on November 5, 2006

Bus from NC to Savannah, GA. 12 days by ocean freighter from Savannah, GA to Tilsbury, UK. Motorcoach to Oxford.

If you had any experience as yacht crew, you could probably pickup any number of ferry gigs for private yachts being repositioned, although this is somewhat seasonal. General aviation is another possibility, if you can cultivate anyone with business or private charter jet connections, and you have some schedule flexibility. Because, there aren't any TSA bullies standing at the ends of the red carpets laid out to the stairs on the private jets...
posted by paulsc at 9:59 PM on November 5, 2006

It's not the "new rules" per se, but the somewhat nonsensical way they seem to be implemented by (doubtless underpaid and underinformed) personnel, and the fact that the rules themselves aren't completely disclosed in advance... I think. I'm not that up on it. Being careful makes sense, but making someone throw away a full water bottle rather than drinking it on the spot (for a mild example, and I'm not reading this myself) is somewhat infuriatingly wasteful.

He's not the type to jump to conclusions without good evidence, and it's not really up for debate, so thank you for understanding... I'm not sure how things are at other countries' airports, but I get the impression things are rather, as I said, wasteful and arbitrary-seeming, and he won't put up with it. I avoid the subject, or I'm sure it would depress me.

So *that's* what we're trying to avoid. Is it better in Canada? Really, we don't have that much to spend... I'd be willing to try a somewhat creative mode of transport if it were safe enough.
posted by amtho at 10:06 PM on November 5, 2006

This would be in January or February. I'm invited to a February 3 wedding in Oxford UK.

Haven't even started trying to figure out lodging (inexpensive, I hope, somehow).
posted by amtho at 10:08 PM on November 5, 2006

Google for "repositioning cruise" -- the cruise ships take passengers as they move from one seasonal cruising ground to another. Not incredibly cheap, but I have seen 19-day trips from say, Miami to Genoa for around 1,500$ (one way). The Caribbean ships move to the Mediterranean, and vice versa: though this time of year is the wrong time to get to Europe. Much cheaper than a comparable cruise, if you have the time, and not so much on-board chaos and bullshit. As noted, look into freighters as well. A number of them do the Great Lakes run to the Baltic, for example, but they are not cheap.
posted by Rumple at 10:09 PM on November 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

LarryC - We've flown together before. It's been a while, but I'm pretty sure he's more angry than afraid.
posted by amtho at 10:18 PM on November 5, 2006

OK, I just read that "Most Trans-Atlantic freighter voyages take 10 to 14 days". Thank you, though, raf and paulsc. This won't work, I'm afraid.

I wonder if flying out of Canada (I've wanted to visit Toronto anyway) would work.
posted by amtho at 10:25 PM on November 5, 2006

The freighter cruise paulsc links to above is 110Euros/person/day (that's $140US), plus 255Euro fee ($324US). It's 12 days from Georgia to England. So, suppose the bus fare from NYC to Georgia is $100/person each way and it takes 1 full day, and then you stay in a hotel overnight in Georgia (say $70/night, two nights).
That's 24 days x 140 = 3360
3360 + 324 + 170 = 3854

So, $3854 per person and nearly a month in transit time. And bear in mind that you'd have to work with the freighter schedules, which will not have as many depart/return dates as passenger air does.

Dorothy Gambrell who draws the comic Cat and Girl took a freighter trip to Asia this summer. Here are her pictures from the trip. I don't know if this is the same class of freighter that paulsc's link goes to.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:42 PM on November 5, 2006

Er, I see that I should have previewed. I think you're making the right call.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:44 PM on November 5, 2006

It looks like Canada is using the same rules as the US.
posted by smackfu at 10:56 PM on November 5, 2006

Again, I don't think it's necessarily the rules themselves that are the problem, but arbitrary seemingly-arbitrary offshoots of the rules. If there's a good chance that things are more clear and systematic (for lack of wanting to write another essay explaining what I mean) in Canada, maybe he'll consider it.

And, in case anyone's wondering, he puts up with far more pickiness from me :) Not that I think he's being arbitrarily pickiness, but then, neither am I.
posted by amtho at 11:01 PM on November 5, 2006

Ugh. Strike the first "arbitrary" and change the last "iness" to "y". Time for sleep.
posted by amtho at 11:02 PM on November 5, 2006

All travel is about compromises. Once you research your options, the choice will be between dealing with airline security and spending a whole hell of a lot more money and time (how valuable is your time? especially your "vacation" time?) on any other mode of transatlantic transport.

Your decision is yours, but his dislike of the security process would have to be extraordinarily strong... and your willingness to go along with it would be pretty extraordinary too.

An interesting question would be: what personal preferences of yours is *he* supporting to the tune of thousands of dollars plus long chunks of human time?
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:34 AM on November 6, 2006

Amtho, there's gotta be other things in life that are stupid and arbitrary that your SO has to put up with. Going to the DMV, paying taxes, buying a car, etc...

Maybe this hangup about flying and going through security points to a deeper psychological problem?
posted by wfrgms at 12:36 AM on November 6, 2006

(And I meant "an interesting question for you to consider," not "tell us the answer.")
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:36 AM on November 6, 2006

The "arbitrary" rules in writing.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:23 AM on November 6, 2006

Going through security at the airport isn't terrible at all. You take off your shoes (for a valid reason; one idiot in Britain attaches C-4 to his shoes and ruins it for everyone) and have to discard any liquids over 3 ounces and not in a clear plastic baggy, which they provide.

The rules are clearly posted everywhere throughout the terminals and announced over the loudspeakers and are followed consistently. Water bottles are in fact collected before going through security, but you're welcome to finish them off if you wish to do so. Beverages purchased in the "sterile" section are now permitted on board.

Aside from an obnoxious and ill-conceived rule to discard your fluids, which you're already completely aware of, nothing else has changed since September 11th. And really, not much changed since before that. You've always gone through a metal detector, and had your carry-ons and checked baggage x-rayed.

If your concern is about waste, consider the additional $1500+ you'll be spending to avoid US airport security, in addition to the cost-benefit of the time lost by a 14 day voyage on the seas. Donate the additional money you would have spent and you're already doing some good.

It strikes me that this is an obnoxious and frustrating security request, and perhaps a bit of an Orwellian, slippery-slope concern, but the rules ARE evenly applied and enforced and posted and available to all. There aren't any secrets, and the TSA provides slippers and baggies and such for your privacy or protection. You can request a personal screening if you get flagged for any reason (which itself is very rare.)

You have rights even through TSA and they are available in the form of brochures or online.

I've flown about 6 legs in the past month and haven't had more than a 5 minute wait in any security lines. Again, all rules ARE clearly posted and evenly enforced. And not as "crazy" as all that. You have to throw out liquids. Prepackage your makeup containers into a plastic baggy first, and you'll breeze through.
posted by disillusioned at 3:00 AM on November 6, 2006

I don't think you have a huge range of options but you could consider taking a ship to somewhere the Caribbean - like Barbados - that has lots of flights to the UK and working it that way. A similar plan would be to go by land to - say - Cancun in Mexico and catch a flight to London from there.
posted by rongorongo at 3:00 AM on November 6, 2006

Internet guide to Freighter travel.
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:07 AM on November 6, 2006

Seat 61 has advice on getting from Britain to almost anywhere in the world by train and ship. The US:
It may not be the cheapest way to go, but it's cheaper than a business-class airfare, and includes six night's accommodation and all meals. The greatest liner of them all, Cunard's brand-new Queen Mary 2, sails Trans-Atlantic from Southampton to New York roughly once each month from April to Novermber. It really is the only way to arrive in New York...

You can get special-offer fares from as little as £799 one-way (with free return flight) sharing a 2-bed cabin, although full-fares start at around £1,400 one-way.
There are also links to freight ship booking agents.
posted by caek at 3:39 AM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

So, to clarify: you can now take things like laptops on planes bound for the UK? It is only the liquids that are an issue? I recall when the last scare erupted, they were severely restricting all carry-on luggage. Thanks!
posted by Goofyy at 4:23 AM on November 6, 2006

Yes, laptops are okay, as are handbags/briefcases and carry-on bags. The no-carry-on rule was only briefly in place.

More generally, you should chat with your fiance. There's a time and a place for noble gestures in the face of featherweight oppression, and that time and place is when it isn't hurting your beloved. It's fine for him to be angry about the dumb rules, but he shouldn't be effectively taking it out on you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:45 AM on November 6, 2006

What about a road trip? ("Across an ocean??") It might be possible to drive up to Northern Canada (Newfoundland or somewhere on the mainland), take a ferry to Greenland (do these exist?), hop over to Iceland, and then to Scotland and drive to Oxford from there.

This may take you a long time. Remember your sextant, and bring plenty of citrus fruits to prevent scurvy. Pack all of your meat in salt to keep the maggots out.

But seriously, it may be possible to drive.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:46 AM on November 6, 2006

take a ferry to Greenland (do these exist?), hop over to Iceland

The only regularly scheduled passenger service to Greenland is by air. After all, why would there be a car ferry to a place where the towns aren't linked by roads?
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:07 AM on November 6, 2006

I sympathize with your fiance. It's degrading and humiliating to attempt air travel nowadays; the only people who fly are those that can swallow their self-respect and dignity. The nonsensical arguments advanced in support of the nonsensical requirements make things even worse: "You can't have small plastic bottles of water, even empty, because you might mix chemicals together in them to make a bomb. Here's a one-quart waterproof plastic ziploc bag." No intelligent person can fly without encountering severe mental discord, which is unpleasant.

A friend flying with one tiny bottle of lotion, one chapstick, and two lipsticks recently had her lipstick and lotion confiscated by security. Apparently the female screener liked the lipstick color. So if you're traveling with lipstick, try to go through a line with male screeners.

Nevertheless, it's a long way to travel by sea. And no, Canada's regulations aren't particularly different than the U.S.'s. I find them slightly looser, but not so much as would make a vast difference in your experience.

I would suggest that you try to convince him thusly: "Honey, I know you hate doing this and I know the security checks are stupid. But this wedding is really important to me. I'll take care of all the bag packing and dealing with security. Can you please do this thing for me? I'll be very grateful."
posted by jellicle at 6:12 AM on November 6, 2006

Canada has the same stupid rules for air travel that the US does. Something about not confusing travelers. The screeners are more polite about it, though.
posted by QIbHom at 6:36 AM on November 6, 2006

jellicle's suggestion wouldn't be so bad except for that bit when you get to security and they ask: "Did you pack your bags yourself?"

I'd persuade him to go and get him to complain to as many people about it after the fact as possible (airlines, airports, travel agents, politicians). It'll be more satisfying than just not going, especially if you can tie complaints departments up for long enough to make them lose money on your flight.
posted by edd at 6:37 AM on November 6, 2006

jellicle's suggestion wouldn't be so bad except for that bit when you get to security and they ask: "Did you pack your bags yourself?"

...at which point you say "Yes." It's not like they have an array of SQUIDs pointed at your noggin or will penetrate your skull with an array of nanoelectrodes to download your mentality, for Yog-Sothoth's sake. In any case, they haven't asked me that in years.

I still think that problem here is the fiance's urge to throw a tantrum about this, and not the restrictions themselves.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:52 AM on November 6, 2006

ROU_Xenophobe: "the fiance's urge to throw a tantrum about this" is exactly why I think they'd say "No" rather than "Yes".
posted by edd at 6:55 AM on November 6, 2006

ROU_X - I must at least to respect his being true to his beliefs; he gives the same to me, and neither of us ever does anything the "easy way" it seems.

jellicle's comment is close to spot-on; it's the arbitrariness of both the rules themselves and enforcement (why MUST it be a zip-top bag? Why isn't that explained on the TSA page) that's most galling, and apparently there are more egregious examples.

Even if the rules are the same in Canada, I very much wonder whether the security workers themselves might be more civilized than the unfortunate examples we hear about in the US?

This is also apparently not just about what can and can't be brought onto a plane. There are apparently other types of incidents that have been happening -- he feels so strongly about this, and it sounds to me like he has some good points, that I do hope I can convince him to at least put up a web page or write an article or something. Mind you, I'm still going myself whatever happens.

Yes, his inflexibility on this does bother me a bit -- I also want to do a lot of fun things with him involving travel, not just go to this one wedding, and I'm worried about my going off to have an amazing adventure myself while he sits at home alone -- but I do owe him my understanding at least.

Based on what I've learned here, I don't think there's any way we're going to go by sea -- the time commitment is too much, if nothing else; the choice seems to be between flying and his not going.
posted by amtho at 7:32 AM on November 6, 2006

QIbHom: Can you give a little more detail about the Canadian screeners being more polite? Or at least how you know this (personal experience, I'd assume)? Maybe there's a chance I can convince him.
posted by amtho at 7:36 AM on November 6, 2006

It does strike me that if the fiance were to have no carry-on bags at all, no belt, no coins in pockets, slip-on shoes, clean socks, leave the semtex at home. then they would be pretty much guaranteed a hassle free transit through security. You might also consider starting your trip at a smaller airport where the security could be less of a cattle call? And, even though as noted the Canadian security might be just as rigorous and push the same button, maybe it would push it a little less hard if it was a foreign power enforcing it.

and, you know, ROU is kind of right. This is not a trivial inconvenience to you. You say you have gradually come to accept this. Good for you. But be aware that from the outside, on the basis of information available, this combination of an accentuated perception of a problem combined with extreme avoidance behaviour certainly suggests there might be more issues like this coming down the pipeline for you. If you're cool with that possibility, great. Could he be encouraged to fly, and then follow that up with letters and so forth detailing his objections to the process -- surely more constructive than his silent protest which will affect the system not one iota, but will affect you considerably.

It also makes me wonder if the problem here is, in fact, that he has something he is afraid will happen when he goes through security, such as some previous indiscretion he hasn't yet confided with you, and he hopes that non-airline immigration/customs will somehow be less rigorous? Consider the power of a guilty conscience. It could be something trivial, that yet is a burden.

Having said all that, I'd love an excuse to cross the Atlantic on a ship, so run with it if you can afford the time and money

On preview: you've thought it through. Good luck. BTW, you might look at Patrick Smith's "Ask the Pilot" column in Salon.com -- he regularly beats up on airline security there (from the perspective of a commercial pilot) and your sweetie might be interested in that perspective, and those of his fanatical readers who flood the letters columns there. Might be a good outlet for him.
posted by Rumple at 7:45 AM on November 6, 2006

FWIW, I recently flew from small international Canadian airport to Europe: the Canadian screeners were very polite. I did not have to take off my shoes. I saw no need to carry on shampoo or other liquids. I made sure I didn't have nail scissors. I carried myself as if I had nothing to hide, which I did not. I was politely asked to remove my laptop which was swabbed and checked with what I presume is a mass spectrometer. I passed through the 'wand" no problem because I was sure not to be wearing metal. There were no stressed out people in line that I observed. It was routine and painless. Yes, I was a good boy and perhaps rebelling would have been fun -- but they hold all the cards. I suspect one major difference might be that in Canada we are generally more willing to go with the flow, and there is less likely to be folks kicking up a fuss and raising everyone's blood pressure. It can happen in Canada, but the chances are lower. Fly from Halifax -- less obnoxious than Toronto, less excitable than Montreal.

(Though, maybe this would just confirm that the man is looking to squish us all, or something. Like the signs say, no one has to submit to security if you choose not to get on the plane. I guess that's back to problem #1, eh.)
posted by Rumple at 7:56 AM on November 6, 2006

Rumple and others - you are kind and thoughtful to comment as you did. I've known him since 1989, been close to him since around 1991, and we've been living together for years, during which time my own perceptiveness has increased along with my understanding of him in particular. I probably don't know everything about him, but I know when he's hiding something - never from me, sometimes from himself. He's not hiding anything now, not even from himself.

I'm convinced that, after discussing it with him recently, I know his real reasons, and respect them. But that doesn't make it easy for me.
posted by amtho at 7:57 AM on November 6, 2006

I didn't mean that to sound as if I'm some kind of super-perceptive person, just that I'm not nearly as clueless and blind as I was once. And, oh, was I. So dumb. Slightly better now, and he and I know each other.
posted by amtho at 7:59 AM on November 6, 2006

I fly from Canada to the UK all the time - just did it. New liquid rules as of Nov 6th:

Effective November 6, the maximum quantity of liquids, gels and aerosols permitted in carry-on baggage has been increased to 100ml/100g (3.4 oz.) per article. These items must be placed in one clear, closed and re-sealable plastic bag no larger than one litre (one quart). There is a limit of one bag per person, which must be removed from carry-on luggage and placed separately in a screening bin at airport security.

Unsealed, open, coloured or opaque plastic bags of any size with liquids, gels or aerosols in containers of any size will not be permitted through pre-boarding security screening in carry-on baggage. Similarly, liquids, gels or aerosols in containers larger than 100ml/100g (3.4 oz) will not be permitted through security screening as carry-on.

Items exempt from the above restrictions include baby formula, baby food and milk for passengers traveling with babies and under and prescription and essential non-prescription medicines.

You can find all this info on the Transport Canada website or Air Canada website, or any other airline website actually. I buy bottled water past security and take it on the plane with me. No problem. I also take more than the specified liquid on board with me and it wasn't questioned a few weeks ago. No shoes off, no strip searches, just 2 minutes through security in Toronto and I was on my way. So flying out of YYZ may be an option for you.
posted by meerkatty at 8:52 AM on November 6, 2006

If you're now thinking of how to make a flight work, I think the advice to fly from a smaller US airport is good. Security checks I have been through at small airports have always been better, more relaxed, less arbitrary feeling than security checks at large airports.

Canadian officials generally are a bit less in-your-face than US officials generally. This said, most US screeners I have dealt with have been perfectly respectful normal people. And I have had a few experiences with Canadian officials who didn't know the rules and made life hard (border agents, not airport screeners). So Canada isn't a magic panacea. It's also far away from North Carolina. If memory serves, to get to Halifax from NC will be a 20+ hour drive to Bar Harbor, a 3 hour ferry trip, and a 3+ hour drive in Nova Scotia. Toronto will be maybe a 14 hour drive, plus border crossing; Montreal will be similar.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:56 AM on November 6, 2006

Maybe it will help to remember that we only hear about the really bad and outrageous cases of airport screening absurdity. Just like we only hear about the really bad doctors, the really bad foster parents, the really bad priests, etc etc. Most of the time airport screening works okay and is not an arbitrary painful nightmare.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:00 AM on November 6, 2006

I think the experience of going through screening is largely affected by your expectations of it. If you know exactly what is coming, and prepare for it, you are far less likely to have any problems.

I've traveled internationally and domestically a fair few times this year, and have never been hassled. I try to travel simply. I don't carry much on with me, I slip my shoes off when I get to the conveyor belt, make sure any metal items are in my carry on bag, and take my laptop out. Plus I don't bring any food or drink with me, and (now) I put any toiletries into my checked bag.

Doing this, I've never even been looked at funny. They tell me to walk through the metal detectors, say "thank you" and off I go.

I do however often see people in front of me walk through the metal detectors wearing a huge necklace, or still wearing their shoes, or talking on their cellphone or something. These people will often get a harder time - or at least the mandatory frisking.

The point of my story here is that the rules really aren't that bad - its just that people often times don't follow them, and then get hassled. With the rare and admittedly despicable exception of racial profiling, I really don't think airport security is that bad if you just follow the few simple rules.
posted by heh3d at 9:55 AM on November 6, 2006

Also note that some things about the way you buy your ticket can get you flagged for extra screening. I believe buying a one-way ticket, or buying tickets very close to the time you're leaving, can have this effect.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2006

They have to be resealable bags so that they don't come open and dump the contents all over the place or inside the machines. Why they don't tell you that, I have no idea.

The difference between Canadian screeners and Americans is anecdotal at best, but any difference probably comes from them being:

1- Canadians
2- More respected as authority figures by the general public on a daily basis (Americans are generally rude to bureaucrats who, in turn, are generally rude back)
3- Better paid/better educated (Being a TSA screener is a crap job, in Canada its not glamerous, but its a living)
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 PM on November 6, 2006

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