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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Some more Internet issues



The internet went out at my step-mom's yesterday. Usually it's pretty reliable here but it seems even the most reliable systems go down from time to time.

It did get me thinking. One of the items that didn't survive our shipwreck was my AT&T hotspot. Hotspots, at least all the ones I'm familiar with, are rather expensive ways to connect to the Internet. On average people use about 35 gig of data on their home system. That seems about right, but I'm sure my home usage is higher. Netflix movies and Spotify add up. That's not a problem with the average home plan. On the road it's different. Mobility doesn't come cheap. My hotspot was costing me $75 for 10 gig. Sometimes at the end of the month I'd add another $10 or $20 worth.

That's expensive, I know, but since I do a lot of business on-line, it was worth it. Say what you want about AT&T, they have an extensive and reliable system. Since it was a pay as you go plan it didn't cost me anything the months I was home not using it.

Recently, someone gave me his old Netzero hotspot. Anybody have any experience with them? It doesn't get a signal where I am now, so I wonder how useful it will be while traveling. Often the cost of a hotspot is minor compared to the price of monthly data usage. Anybody up on what the best deals out there are?

For the next month I might just live with sketchy Internet. In another month or so we'll start heading northward anyway.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Undocumented came I



I landed on these these shores as an undocumented alien. That's what happens when your wallet is lost in a shipwreck. It's been educational.

Fortunately, my lovely wife had my passport in her purse, which went into the ditch bag. While I couldn't access any of my funds, she had debit and credit cards to at least some of our accounts. To be honest, her purse ended up in the ditch bag mostly because that's where her medications were kept. That was super important in the short term, but after the initial crisis the financial and paperwork stuff grows in importance.

I'm a big believer in dealing with local banks and credit unions. My day to day finances are run through my local institutions. When problems arise far from home they can't do much for you. For example they are unable to ship new credit and debit cards. They can only be sent to my home address or picked up at their local office. That's not much use when their nearest branch is 1700 miles away.

That's where a credit card from a national bank comes in handy. To take advantage of a $100 credit I signed up for an Amazon credit card. They are serviced by Chase bank, which I only discovered once the card came in. Maybe I should have read the small print? While I don't much care for them, they were able to send me a replacement card with just one click on the web site.

My local bank was able to send me some emergency blank checks so I could pay some bills the old fashioned way. Yep, I wrote checks, just like a dibble stick barbarian. Of course, not everyone takes a check these days, so that Amazon credit card came in real handy for gas and groceries.

One thing that really hit me was that my life is too complicated and there's only so much that can be done about it. The normal monthly bills can be set up to be automatically paid or paid on-line. What gets lost in the shuffle are bills that come in on an irregular basis.

Medical bills are the worse. Insurance pays for part of it then weeks or sometimes even months go by before my share is figured out. By then we we are on the road. The mail bounces around to different forwarding addresses. By the time it catches up with us they may have already sent a second bill.

Heaven forbid they mess up the billing on their end. Currently I'm trying to sort out a small insurance bill that they sent out about four months late. Then it took another 6 weeks to catch up to me. I think I've got it figured out -as long as they don't send me anymore paperwork. Tedious stuff.

Would you believe I worked hard to simplify our finances before setting out on the road? Good thing I did as it would be a royal mess by now. There's a cost to living in the modern world.

One weird thing about washing up on the beach with no money, identification, cards, documentation, and just the clothes on my back -I felt pretty good. I'd survived and the rest of this paperwork crap really isn't all that important in the big scheme of things.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 26, 2016

Another boat?



My lovely wife was put off of sailing for a bit. Surviving a shipwreck can have that effect on people. However, a week later we were on a cruise boat to the Bahamas. She saw a really nice little sailboat at the marina in Freeport that had come all the way from Texas. She could picture herself on such a boat. While sitting on the beach at the resort, we couldn't help but check out the navigational markers and channels. There's a good chance that another sailboat is in our future.

Of course, we still have our little Oday 19. We couldn't live on it for as long as we did on the Ranger 23, but we wouldn't have to. The Oday is a trailer sailor. Next winter could be a mixture of sailing and camping in our converted ambulance/camper. There is something to be said for using the stuff we already own.

I don't regret buying the Ranger. We had a couple good months of sailing. It was great for my health and mental state. After my dad passed I had to do something to clear my mind. It's too bad we lost the boat but it was good for me while it lasted.

One of things that we learned from this boat is that the Gulf side of Florida is best sailed with a shallow draft boat. Four feet of draft was too much for the way we wanted to sail. Live and learn. On the flip side, that keel was one of the reasons that boat sailed so darn well. That performance will be missed. Should we buy another boat, it will need to be both shallow draft and fast.

In the near term we will have to get our finances back under control. The last 5 months blew the heck out of our budget. It's time to build up the savings and clear a few bills. We've got to act fast before the boat buying bug hits us hard once more.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Going Forward



My lovely wife and I are moving forward with our lives. The good news is that my home owners insurance is paying for my lost personal items. There's a $500 deductible but they didn't quibble about any of the items I listed. Apparently our insurance covers replacement cost so we are getting a chunk of change back. The check is in the mail. Thanks to people's generosity I've been able to replace enough items that the deductible is almost covered. Nice.

Where do we go from here? Camping. Between the camping gear I kept at my step-mom's and what could be salvaged, we have enough equipment for tent camping. It's going to be pretty basic. My lovely wife get's a half price discount at Federal campgrounds so they will be a priority.

Some of the places we are thinking of camping at do not have electric power. The quick and easy solution is to use a small inverter connected to the car battery. Last year while camping on the coast of Maine, that's exactly what we did. The big downside risk is that the battery can be drawn down and not have enough power to start the car.

The car has a manual transmission so it's fairly easy to roll it down a hill and jump start it. Parking on a hill was no problem at all when we were in Maine. Here in Florida . . . hills are a bit harder to come by. Fortunately the solar panel from the boat was salvaged. Amazon had a replacement charge controller on sale so that's on order. Connecting the solar panel to the car battery should be fairly easy. While Florida doesn't have many hills, sunshine is something it has in abundance.

The idea is to spend another month or so in the warm south. After that it's back to the frozen north -hopefully, a lot less frozen by the time we get there.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Back from the Bahamas



My lovely wife and I are back from the Bahamas. After our little shipwreck incident we didn't have a lot of funds to do much of anything. However, it was a prepaid “inclusive” trip. They did hit us up for things like parking, bus rides, and other incidental fees. It was still pretty inexpensive, but mostly because we avoided spending money on side trips. After a couple months living on a sailboat we felt we didn't need to spend money to go look at dolphins.

Mostly we engaged in simple pleasures and recharged out batteries. We took full advantage of the views from our 6th floor balcony.


I played a little chess.


The ship had some nice hot tubs on the upper decks. We shared a hot tub under the moon and stars with some new friends. Not a bad way finish the trip.

We are currently back at my step-mom's here in Florida. I threw away another bag of gear that I'd hoped to salvage. No such luck. Even my “waterproof” GPS died. While it might have started out waterproof, the beating it took in a tossing boat did it no good at all.

We've some paperwork to deal with yet and there's mail on the way. Friends and family sent us some nifty care packages and those were very welcome. Things are coming together.

I'd left some camping gear at my step-mom's so we are thinking of doing some tenting before heading north.

It's all good.


-Sixbears

Friday, February 19, 2016

Low Stress

We are taking it easy: food, drink, pool, beach -rinse and repeat.

Did a little shopping. Donated to the casino.

Great room. Spending quality time sipping ice tea on the balcony.

It's all good.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Almost no Bahamas Trip

My lovely wife and I made it to the boat in plenty of time. When I came to fill out my papers I discovered my passport was missing. My first thought was that it fell out of my pocket at the restaurant bathroom. My keys and pocket change had fallen out when I used the stall. Could my passsport also had slipped out? It was dark in there and a black passport would be easy to miss.

It was an hour+ drive from the restaurant. There might be enough time to do the round trip before the boat left. However, I called them on the phone and they could not find it.

Next I asked the parking valets to check my car to see if it fell out of my pocket. The cars are parked off site so it took a while. When the guy came back he had my passport. They got a nice tip.

We had a nice dinner on the boat, went dancing, and caught a show. Later that night I climbed to the upper open decks to watch the ocean and feel like I was on a boat instead of in a hotel.

Entry into the Bahamas went smoothly. We hung put at the pool and beach until the room was ready.

Pretty decent room with a balcony.

WIFI is limited so photos will have to wait.

-Sixbears


Monday, February 15, 2016

Hard Sell

We went to the resort sales pitch. It was all part of the package deal. The promotion started soft but quickly turned hard.

Never take the first offer. It started at $32,000 then dropped to $28,000. One lady got upset at my laughter. At the very end we were offered a repo for 4,000.

We said no to everything. It was a long afternoon, one of those where you wash down headache pills with whiskey.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Nice resort, crappy WIFI

Okay . . . I've got to admit it. So far my lovely wife's vacation package is nice. The Ft. Laugerdale resort is pretty fine, with the exception of the crappy Internet and the fact they want extra for it. Pecking this post on my tablet at a McDonalds. Better connection and can get breakfast too for less money.

Tomorrow we have to sit through a 2 hour sales pitch for a time share. I did not promise to be good. This could be fun. Lunch is supposed to be served, so there is that. Last time I went to one of these I got the salesman fired.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 12, 2016

Limited access



I'm heading out on our little trip to the Bahamas. We have a few days in Fort Lauderdale, before heading out on the boat. No idea how connected we'll be out there. I'm leaving my computer at home and only taking a tablet. That should allow me to catch up now and then, but don't expect long posts. (I'm a slow thumb typist)

Now that I've been able to reconstruct all my files on a laptop I don't want to take it on this trip. It's staying safely at my step mom's.

She's watching Brownie. That dog is going to be so spoiled while we are gone.

Looking forward to talking to people on the boat.

“You know, the last boat I was on sank . . .”

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 11, 2016

More Recovery



I had about 30 gigs of data on a thumb drive. Turns out that salt water and memory drives don't play well together. Letting the drive dry out didn't help. The computer recognized it, but could to load it. A friend suggest soaking the drive in fresh water to flush the salt out. Once the fresh water dried the memory was accessible again. A copy has been moved to my new (to me) laptop.

Between the jump drive and all the files uploaded to the cloud, my digital life is pretty much back together.

A lot of the gear on my boat was supposed to be waterproof, or at least water resistant. Almost nothing “waterproof” survived. The waterproof computer bag wasn't. The marine binoculars had one side full of water. A nice little waterproof bluetooth speaker didn't make it. Even the dry bag left on the boat . . . wasn't.

The only thing that did survive was a metal ammo can. It was thrown completely across the boat and buried under wet sand. It looked a bit beat up, but everything in it was completely dry.

To be fair, some items might have failed, not due to the water, but due to the violent motion of the boat being banged around on the shoal all night. After all, conditions were rough enough to break the keel right off the boat.

My lovely wife and I spent the afternoon filling in some gaps in our wardrobe. Most of my wife's clothes was recovered and could be cleaned up. Most of my stuff went out to sea. I don't need a lot, but it sure feels good to have a pair of jeans again. Add a few shirts, new hiking sandals, and I'm good to go.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Missing New Hampshire



I must admit to missing being in New Hampshire right now. The cold and snow is uncomfortable, but the political circus would have been fun. Voting absentee ballot just doesn't have the same zip.

As I write this the results are just coming in. Looks like Hillery is having a very bad night. No matter how she tries to white wash it, it's a bad night.

As of today everyone can forget New Hampshire for another four years. That's fine with me.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Paperwork of the Apocalypse



Judging from my little personal little shipwreck disaster, the Apocalypse is going to require extensive paperwork. Even the end of the world won't save us from bureaucratic hell. I suspect at the end it'll only be cockroaches and lawyers.

I hope I've satisfied the paperwork requirements of my boat insurance company. It's a little difficult with some of my information floating towards Cuba. However, Boat US has been a good to deal with in the past so I suspect they'll treat me right. Thank goodness I didn't have to pay for the boat salvage.

One bright spot, it looks like my homeowners insurance will pay for the loss of at least some of our personal belongings. The adjustor asked a lot of questions on the phone then said he'd send claim forms my way. I've got e-mail copies already. In all my years of paying for homeowners insurance we've never made a claim so I don't feel too bad about filling out one now.

People have given us some items to replace what was lost and that's been really nice. Just got a nice almost new sleeping bag to replace the one we lost. We now have enough gear to do some camping when we get back from our cruise.

Amazon has one of my missing credit cards on file still I've been able order a few things. I'll call it in for replacement once my stuff comes in.

With any luck the paperwork will be under control in a few days.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where do we go from here?



We are going to the Bahamas. A year ago my lovely wife booked us on a mini cruise. I was a little ticked off as I'd planned to sail our own boat there. As luck would have it, we don't have a boat to sail to the Bahamas anymore.

I'd better shut up and enjoy the cruise.

It will give us a couple weeks to decompress and rethink our plans.

We've a few days free before we head out. There's a lot of paperwork and shopping to sort out before we go. Can't live in just shorts, T-shirts and flip flops.

People have been really nice and helpful. Today I was given a laptop to replace the one that I lost. It needs a new keyboard, but replacements are readily available. In fact, one's currently on order from Amazon.

Slowly we are getting our act together.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wreck and salvage

Well that was interesting.

Here's the wreck of the Morning Glory. I piled up all the stuff that might be saved, but some of that most likely will get tossed.

The keel is completely off the boat. The tow guys had to remove the mast to be able to bring it in. With the keel gone the mast was the ballast and flipped the boat over. Due to the hatches being missing a lot of stuff just drifted out to sea.

Much of my wife's gear ended up plastered to the port hull side mixed in with sand and shells. Most of my gear went out to sea. All the electronics are toast. To my surprise I was able to recover all the parts to the head. It was clean as a whistle after being washed in the sea. I guy at the boat landing offered to buy it from me and I was happy to sell it. One less thing to pack in the car.

I'm running all the clothes through the wash and most of it will be fine. It's going to take some time to work though all the gear, but I'm in no hurry. It's an R&R day.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 5, 2016

Salvage

The salvage company called today. The boat, or what's left of it, is at his facility up on slings. I signed it over for salvage, but he's allowing me a chance to find personal items. He said he found my computer bag. I doubt if the computer is still good, but there were other things in that bag that I could use.

There's really nothing left to the boat. Even the outboard is seized. Salt water takes its toll. It's being disposed of on Monday.

I've been dealing with banks and insurance companies today. We also returned the rental car to Avis. That's a story in itself, but I'm going to wait to see how that turns out before blogging about it.

One nice thing is that my lovely wife found her favorite piece of jewelry in her purse. Since the rest of her shiny stuff is missing it really cheered her up. Sometimes it's the small things.

I've no regrets. We had some good experiences. No one got hurt.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Shipwrecked!



It had been a beautiful day of sailing. We were making our way past Sanibel Island on the outside passage in the open ocean. Sailing conditions were good. We'd had a late start due to heavy fog so we knew we'd be anchoring in the dark. That didn't bother me as we'd night sailed often enough before.

Unfortunately we got tired and decided to go in at Captiva Pass so we could anchor and rest. Bad decision. We placed too much reliance on our paper charts and chart plotter. Hindsight being 20 20, we should have gone in at the much larger Boca Grande Pass up the coast.

In short, we hit an unmarked shoal. Where my plotter said we should have 17 feet of water, we had two feet. The transition from deep water to shallow was too quick to react. The boat grounded, hard. We tried repeatedly to get off the shoal, but the wind and breakers kept throwing us back on.

The boat was tossing violently from side to side and were starting to take a beating. We decided to abandon ship. The boat was rocking so violently that my lovely wife was thrown onto the tiller and it cracked. With some difficulty I was able to assist my wife and dog into the kayak. I ducked back into the cabin to get our go bag that had basic survival supplies. I added my c-pap, my wife's pocketbook with her medications, and her cell phone. Conditions were worsening by the moment. Several attempts later I was able to untie the kayak and successfully jumped into it.

We could see lights on North Captiva Island so we headed for shore. With water breaking on the shoals all around us, we paddled towards the lights. After a while we could hear surf pounding, but were unsure if it was more shoaling or the beach -too dark to see much of anything. Deciding it was probably the beach, we surfed in on a big wave and made a successful landing. Our Sea Eagle kayak really came though for us that night.

Some lights from beach houses were visible and we could just barely make out a trail. I sent my lovely wife to knock on the door of the first house we came too. I'm kinda big and ugly looking in the dark, especially after washing up on a beach. A wonderful couple on their first day of vacation took us in. Our cell phone had no service on the island so they let me borrow the land line. I called 911 and let them know what happened and had them dispatch EMS to check my wife. Outside of a few bumps, bruises and exhaustion, she was fine. Better safe than sorry.

I called my boat insurance company, Boat US, and they put me in contact with the Charlotte Harbor Tow Boat people run by Captain Kyle. They sent a boat out right away. I paddled back out to try to help the guys. The boat was tossing too violently to get back on-board. The tow boat was in danger of getting stuck on the shoals so I tried to tie a tow line on the bow cleat. With the boat bouncing violently and with waves breaking over me, my cleat work wasn't the best. The tow line came free and I wasn't going to attempt it again. The kayak was so full of water by the time I got to shore that I couldn't even flip it over to drain it. Fortunately, the 420 model has self bailing drains and by opening one of those enough water drained so the kayak could be dragged up the beach.

The kind beach people let us sleep on their couches and made us breakfast in the morning. Kyle and his crew were right back at it first thing in the morning. They tried to rescue the boat, but during the night's pounding the keel came off. They barely got off when the boat flipped over on its side and sank. As a hazard to navigation the wreck of the sailing vessel Morning Glory became a huge liability issue. Fortunately I'd gotten liability insurance and Boat US covered the salvage costs. It took three tow boats and their crews to get the boat, still mostly submerged, back to their base on Pine Island.

Kyle gave us a lift to Pine Island and called a cab for us. My wallet was lost, but fortunately my wife's purse had a debit card. Unfortunately she did not have the cards that accesses most of our funds. Those were in my lost wallet. We barely had enough funds to pay for a cab ride and a rental car. We got to my step-mom's with just the cloths on our backs and a deflated kayak.

The boat is a total loss. Kyle will save any personal items he finds, but he says the boat's pretty open. Much was lost to the sea. We lost almost all of our personal possessions. I'm writing this on a borrowed computer as mine's gone. We don't even have toothbrushes or a hair brush. It will take some time to rebuild our finances and replace our necessities. In the end though, it's all just stuff. My lovely wife and I, and even the dog, are all right.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kayak Day



The weatherman was wrong again. This time he was wrong in our favor. It was a beautiful day. We are heading out Tuesday. Our plan is to anchor out for a while so I pumped up the kayak so it'd be ready to use a dinghy.

The day was so beautiful that we decided to paddle down past the mooring field. The field is pretty extensive and almost all the balls were occupied. Beyond the mooring is where things got funky. That's where the free anchoring is. There's a lot of shabby looking boats down there. Some were half sunk. There were some boats in good repair, but they were in a minority.

Eventually we came to a nice little park with a kayak launch. We had a nice light lunch in the park before paddling home. By then the tided had turned so we paddled against it all the way back. My lovely wife and I were definitely ready for an ice cold beer by the time we got back to the marina.

Nobody here but us sea birds.


-Sixbears

Monday, February 1, 2016

Almost time to move on



It's almost time to move on. We've been taking full advantage of our week here in the marina. It's nothing much to blog about, doing laundry, using the decent wifi, running errands, checking out the local entertainment.

Everything is a bit more complicated when living on a boat. Yesterday my lovely wife took the bus down island to a pharmacy to get a prescription filled. Today I took the bus to Publix to resupply our provisions. Usually by the time we have the local transportation system figured out, it's time to move on. Tomorrow we'll top off our drinking water and fuel.

We originally planned to duck in here for a few days to sit out the nasty weather. However, it was less expensive to pay the weekly rate than for three individual nights. The problem with Fort Myers Beach is that it's a tourist town with a lot of bars and restaurants -plus all the beach gear you could ever need or want. The beach gear I can pretty much do without. I've already got swim shorts and flip flops. We do love good food and live music, so the budget has taken a hit.

One of the things we've been doing the last few days has been figuring out our cruising break. Last year my lovely wife booked a short cruise to the Bahamas -long before we bought our current boat. Yes, we are going to stop cruising to go on a cruise.

Things get convoluted. My lovely wife and I will sail to Fort Myers as there's a bus station within walking distance of the harbor. She'll take the bus to northern Florida and get our car. While she's doing that I'll sail to another location to leave the boat in a protected area. She'll meet me at that location. It's taken a while to figure out what to do.

Public transportation in the United States is a sad patchwork mess. At one time there was bus service to just about any town in America. Now . . . not so much. Forget train service. If you don't have a car in this country, you are pretty much out of luck. Our problem is that we aren't full time live aboards, but only part timers. If we could just stay on the water, we'd only have to deal with cruiser issues. Being part time landlubbers requires us to be amphibians, neither fish nor fowl.

-Sixbears