Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cost Of Cruising Year Five


I give up.  Never again will I say that NEXT YEAR we will spend less!  It just never happens.

By this time, we've actually learned to cruise more economically... We spend less on food that gets thrown out, we don't provision in huge quantities.  We anchor out most of the time and have even cut down on transportation costs by learning to take the local bus system instead of renting a car.  Our entertainment costs aren't even that big!  But then the costs for keeping the boat in good shape rear their ugly heads and all our frugal ways are for nothing!

It is hard to believe that we have been here in Grenada for an entire year.  We have been either anchored in one of the bays, tied to a mooring, or sitting high and dry on the hard spending mucho dinero on boat projects!

It is easy to forget how the money is spent, so I'm really diligent at keeping records.  I enter every cent we spend into a spreadsheet that is totalled at the end of each cruising year.  This year we made a discovery that has saved us hundreds of dollars!

Using credit cards is easier than you would think in the islands.  Most places take them and we have routinely used them for groceries, dining out, bar tabs and anywhere they're taken so that we could rack up the rewards dollars and keep easy track of expenditures.

In the beginning, our Bank of America Travel Rewards card truly had no foreign transaction fees.  And while it still technically does not... they have found a way to sneak them in under our noses.  Some months ago, I was reconciling our bank statement and realized that the amounts weren't adding up.  The charges on our receipts did not match what was going onto the credit card.

It took me a while and more than a few phone calls to customer service ~ who, by the way, have NO idea what is going on ~ but eventually I realized that while technically NOT applying a separate transaction fee for exchanging the foreign currency... (drum roll please) they were applying a very unfavourable exchange rate to each charge.  Doing the math... I learned that using our credit card was costing us as much as $300 US some months!!!

Immediately we stopped using the credit card and changed over to a cash-on-hand basis.  While we are no longer building large piles of rewards bucks, the money we save in one month by using cash is about equal to a year's worth of rewards!  So if you're using a credit card in the islands, check your receipts and don't go by what the customer service people tell you.

So, let's take a look at this year's numbers. Our categories have remained relatively consistent from year to year, showing you everywhere our money goes.  This year we had a record amount of expenditures for the work we had done on the boat.  Our boatyard bill was big, but we did a lot starting with the bottom job, where we took the paint off down to the fiberglass and had a new barrier coat applied... to the cosmetic work we did on the freeboard part of the hull... to the preventative maintenance we did on the engine, rudder post and prop shaft... it all added up!  Then we replaced all of the standing rigging and lifelines, as well as some of the running rigging.  We topped it all of with a nice new survey from Neil at Mango Projects!  We highly recommend him if you're in need of a survey.

All of these boat related expenses can be deducted to leave you with the costs of simply living in Grenada.  I guess you can't really call it cruising, since we haven't moved the boat further than the next bay over for the entire year... But you know what I mean!

So, without further ado...



Next year may be very different if our plans for Puerto Rico pan out, so this might be the last year that our cruising costs are 100% time on the boat.

You can take a look at our previous years and compare:
Year Four
Year Three
Year Two
Year One




Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Artist In All Of Us

If you can tell how civilized a place is by whether or not they have a Sip-N-Paint... then Grenada is movin' on up!

I've heard of these parties in the 'States.  My daughter and her husband have done it and I've always been intrigued.  But living on a boat, space is limited for things like paintings and such.  When the Facebook page posted the Flamingo Tote event (if you only knew how much I love flamingos...) I wanted to go but talked myself out of it.  A conversation with a friend, also on the fence about going, tipped us both!  We made plans!

I could hardly wait for the day to arrive.  This is so much different from the things we normally do as cruisers and I looked forward to some giggly girl-time!  And yes!  There were men there as well!  No way I could induce Bruce to do this.  Just forget it.  So, Maureen and I met up with several other friends we've met from around the island, and had a lovely and quite civilized time setting our inner artist FREE!
My initial circles.  You can see the many different tries... no matter.  All of that will be painted over!
My expectations were low, let's just get that right out there.  I have no talent for painting whatsoever and I wasn't even sure that I could produce something that I would even show in public... but I was up for the challenge.  I was somewhat relieved when I learned that there were actual instructions on how to create this picture that were vague but easy enough to follow.  First, they passed around a paper that had three circles drawn on it.  We were to simply draw these circles on our medium, be it tote or canvas. Then wait for further instruction.  Simple enough - but I had to make it more difficult.

I wear my bags on my left shoulder.  If I painted this flamingo as instructed, it would be facing backward.  I would have to flip it so it would face forward when worn on the left shoulder.  I know.  It's a sickness.  Not only would I be painting something like this for the first time, but I would paint it backward!

Of course our creativity was aided by these nice young men offering wine whenever our glass got empty!  Yes please!  We got to try out several different varieties, all lovely and cold on a warm Caribbean evening.

Things were moving pretty slowly but we were all having a grand time laughing and cutting up.  It was fun being able to see how everyone did their own thing.  We were all making the same picture, but everyone had their own way of doing things that made it really interesting.

The next step was to make these strange loops.  They came around with the page with the circles again and showed us how to add these additional shapes.  In my mind I had to find markers on the circles then reverse them to be able to make them in the same position on my backwards piece.  I had to work at it a bit, maybe the wine helped, maybe not!

The cool thing was to go from looking at the shapes abstractly, to making them look like a flamingo in my mind's eye.  Then I could make some minor adjustments that made it look more "right" in my mind.  Very awesome stuff happening in my brain right now!
From circles and shapes to a flamingo!  All it needed was a beak!
Next, we were all given some paint to work with.  We were instructed to mix the colors to make the background whatever color we wished!  That's where things got crazy!  Everyone had their own version going and seeing all the different combinations was the neatest thing!

We had to overlap the edges of the flamingo a bit, then let it dry before continuing with the PINK!
Some did canvas, others did totes!
We all kept dabbing and dotting and mixing and brushing until at some point, we felt we were done with  putting on the finishing touches.
This one on the right is my favorite.

The wet paint had to dry before we could start on the Flamingo or it would all run together. This was the perfect time for a little mixer and some nibbles!
A quick stop to get a refill and off to the buffet!  Pockets in our aprons hold the wine glass handily!
The kind folks at Le Chateau Restaurant and Bar were our hosts for this event.  The venue was beautiful and the wine plentiful.  When we were invited to line up for a heavy hors d'oeuvres, they didn't have to tell us twice!

Everything was delicious!  There was shrimp, pizza, fish fingers, won tons, cold cuts and crackers and beautiful fruits.  Wow!  Guess we won't be having dinner out after all!

With six o'clock rapidly approaching, we were finally called back to our tables to commence painting the Flamingos!

Pink, red, white, grey and black paints were doled out and we took one more look at the instructions.  They told us to use the red on the lower parts then mix it with pink and white as we got to the top sides so that it would look like light and shadow.  OK, if you say so!

OK, it kind of looks like light and shadow.  More paint please!
Somehow, suddenly we were done!  It was beginning to get dark and six o'clock had come and gone. The guys were waiting on the porch for us to finish so that we could go out for dinner.

We took our wet masterpieces and posed for photos at the door, then said our fond farewells.  The evening had been a delight!  Who knew this was in me???  Now I've got a new tote bag to wear out and about, and whenever I see one like it, I'll know that I share a unique experience and some fond memories with that person.

Everyone did so well.  There were many different and unique styles, but each one of them "worked".  I guess there IS a little bit of the Artist in all of us!

Thanks to Grenada Sip-N-Paint for coaxing it out!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Houseless - For Now

Photos from Zillow Listing
Six years.  We've lived on our boat for almost SIX YEARS!  How can this be?  Where has the time gone?  Time truly does fly when you're having fun.  In all of these years we have barely missed living in our townhouse back in Corpus Christi.  Looking forward to the next adventure has kept us from missing the past and while we've had family living in our townhouse it has been easy to just not think about it.

Until we had to... Then fast-forward three short months, and suddenly the townhouse is SOLD!  We expected it to take a year to sell as many of the other townhouses in our neighbourhood were on the market and moving slowly.  Within two months we had a contract!  I almost didn't let myself get excited because so many things can happen in real estate.  We closed today!

I have to tell you that having a daughter in the business turned out to be a life-saver for me.  She took care of most of the back-and-forth drama involved in selling a house, AND she kept my (rather inept) realtor on her toes.  In fact, she basically bypassed the woman altogether and kept our deal moving forward by providing updates and helping all parties involved to get everything submitted in a timely manner on our end.  When it came time to close, she and I went over the closing documents together and got the MANY mistakes corrected going in so that there would be no surprises at the last minute.  

I know you think perhaps my opinion is biased, and I would have agreed with you before I learned first hand with a real life comparison, Melissa Honeycutt is a cut above!  If you're looking for a house in Florida, you might give her a call.  OK, enough with the commercial advertisement... moving on...

I'm storing the pictures from the Zillow listing here so that I can remember the home that Bruce and I so lovingly furnished and enjoyed for some years.  I want to remember the place, and then close that chapter because it makes me melancholy and there are so many new ideas bumping around in my head.  

As they say with Cruisers - Plans are made in sand... at low tide.  And how true that is!  Three months ago, all of our plans were changed.  Three months ago we were just going with the flow, living here in the Caribbean with no particular place to go.  Three months ago, we were just going to chill and cruise up and down the Eastern Caribbean until we were done cruising and ready to sell the boat.  

Now, just three short months later, we have options!  We have cash in the bank that is just burning a hole and with our cruising grounds made more finite, and Bruce's strong desire to get back to Puerto Rico... a new plan is born!  

We've got  a new bimini and enclosure in the works for Dos Libras, and as soon as that, and hurricane season are done - we will cruise back north to Puerto Rico.  We are still working out the details with our insurance agent, and we will make multiple stops at favorite spots and spend some time in places we dashed through on our way south, but we are thinking of buying a condo and dividing our time between land life and cruising the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  

The more we think about it, the more in love with the new plan we become.  Flights from Puerto Rico are CHEAP and I can hop back and forth to see my kids very easily, AND they can come see us too! We can shut the condo up and take a Cruise Ship to the other islands very inexpensively from Puerto Rico.  We can revisit the many places we loved on the island and we can host friends in our guest room when they stop by on their cruise east and south!  AND... Amazon Prime works there!

The other, more sobering consideration is our health.  Bruce will be 76 years old in a few weeks.  And while he is very healthy and spry for his age, it will be a comfort to know that should he need something, his Medicare will work in Puerto Rico, and it's a short flight to the US if he needs something more serious.  For me, I've got a very inexpensive international health plan that restricts the number of days I can spend in the US... And Puerto Rico is not considered part of the US!  Perfect!  It's the best of both worlds for us!

We are both really looking forward to our new life and in our minds, things are already changing.  No... we are NOT done cruising entirely, but we will no longer be "liveaboards".  We will live in Puerto Rico and have a sailboat just like everybody else for at least the next couple of years.  We want to take advantage of and enjoy some of the big $$$ we've spent on upgrades in the past year!  We will be so close to world class cruising grounds that we can just hop on the boat and be in the BVIs or USVIs or simply enjoy the many beautiful spots in our own back yard.  

The possibilities are endless and we are super excited!  The question has always loomed over our heads "What does Life-After-Cruising look like?" and now we know.  We are looking forward to finding a new condo to live in that we can love as much as we did our last... At least that's the PLAN! 

Coming in the front door, to the right is the living room.
Follow that to the informal and formal dining areas...
Dining room with custom wet bar and the patio (now painted white - the murals gone) 


Our beautiful custom kitchen!


Master Bedroom where I drank my coffee every day, watching the seasons change outside the windows.

Master bathroom.  I left the paint in the shower room but painted over the flamingos i the ante-room.  
Our peaceful seafoam guest room
Our office/TV room
Bruce's/Guest bathroom

Downstairs half/bath with the picture Bruce loved left for the new owner
That's it.  We are looking forward.  If there is anything we have learned in this life it is that you can be happy anywhere.  Life is what you make of it and while "things" can make you happy temporarily, it is the experiences and memories that you make that mean the most.  Bruce and I are looking forward joyfully to the new plans and memories we will be making very soon!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What's A Dinghy Concert?

Early bird gets the primo spot!
It sounded like a good idea... anchor an old barge out in the bay, put up some awnings and some chairs, then put the word out to those rowdy cruisers!  Dingy Concert at Le Phare Bleu!

Thanks to our friends Judie and Scott for the invitation to ride along!  Bruce and I walked over the hill from Prickly Bay to Secret Harbour to catch a FAST dinghy ride around to Woburn Bay and beyond, to where the concert was about to begin.

These concerts are held every couple of months and although we've been in Grenada for almost a YEAR(!!!!) this is the first one we've been to.  I've gotta say that our interest has been mild at best... floating in the hot sun, surrounded by a bunch of drunk cruisers with loud music pounding relentlessly and no way to escape should the need arise...  It's been easy to talk ourselves out of it in the past.  Well, this was anything BUT THAT!

Oh no, we don't want to be THAT close!
We arrived early and poked around to find a spot that wasn't too close to the huge speakers.  Dinghies were coming in a steady stream and we were able to tie on a few dinghies back from the barge.  It was relatively windless and already getting hot, so we tied off, grabbed a drink and a float, and slid into the cool water to wait for the music to begin.

We waited for a few more dinghies, then tied off to them!
Fello frolickers!
Bruce got in a micr-workout!


Judie!
Scott - dinghies beginning to fill in the space!

It wasn't long before we were completely surrounded!
Bruce... why are you up there in the hot sun???
The bar on the barge got busy!
Yeah, that's more like it!
He doesn't look happy... but he is!  I promise!


OK it might be time to get out of the water!!!
Just in time for the concert to begin!
I had no idea who was performing.  I just didn't really care.  But when Thamara St. Bernard and Dennison "Lion Paw" and D-Unit started the show, I perked up quick! My expectations were rather low... but within seconds they were blown out of the water!  These singers weren't good - they were GREAT!  I took some video, but it doesn't do them justice.  I was mesmerised and transfixed!  They played a nice mix of music - old favorites and their own creations.  Thamara is an angel!  




This little dog has pretty good balance!
Pretty good turnout!



I spotted friends Cary and Maureen over on the barge enjoying the show!
You can't see it well, but this guy had dreads down to his FEET!
The show was wonderful.  Thamara kept telling us the next song would be the last and the crowd objected wildly!  I think they did four encores... it was difficult to tell since the band couldn't leave the stage!  But eventually it had to end.  The flotilla of dinghies began to get loose and drift slowly away.  The revellers weren't ready for it to end.

This is the boat that brings the pastries to the anchorage in the mornings.

Drifting away...

We did a loop around the barge to get a better look.  

A couple of other party-goers anchored in front of the barge. 
Crowd is breaking up!
I couldn't believe how good it was.  My respect for these young musicians is real.  They stood up there facing the hot sun and sang their hearts out for us.  They're true artists and I'll pay better attention should we get the opportunity to see them perform again.

The dinghy concert was a smash hit!  We had a blast sitting in the middle of an undulating mass of like-minded party-goers!  Bruce and I don't get out to this kind of fun often enough!  Thank you to Scott and Judie for getting us off the boat!

Oh, and there was a drone flying around above us!  Here is their footage!