After considering how to remote our US presence we decided that a global call friendly phone solution and a US mail forwarding address were all that we really needed.
There are a few voice over IP phone solutions out there but we have determined that Skype is the service to beat. While I hate to bet against Google and Google Talk, Skpye is presently far ahead when it comes to a total phone solution. Our Skype account allows us to call other Skype users over the Internet for no charge. It is pretty easy to convince friends and family in Japan and the US to buy a $10 mic for their PC and spend 5 minutes installing a rather small application when "free" is weighing in the balance. We can call all standard US and Canada phones for free until the end of the year and the rest of the globe is about 2 cents a minute. Skype also gets us a phone number, for all of our technology challenged friends (how retro!), and free voicemail. Not bad for $38 a year. The audio quality and latency are also good (not great but acceptable for business).
Google is still our choice for email and we will be integrating our route planning and logs with Google Earth here.
08/09/2006, Costa Mesa, California
We both now hold Marine Radio Operator Permits. We only needed the Restricted Permit, which is like an FCC fund raiser (the FCC keeps no record of Restricted Permit holders and if you fill out the form and pay a fee it's yours) but were required to get the MROP for our Yachtmaster certification. The MROP requires you to take the Commercial Radio Operator Written Element 1 test. Studying for the test was a fairly easy and worthwhile exercise in retrospect. We took the test at the Gordon West School. Gordon and his wife are awesome and they own all of the radios in Costa Mesa as far as I can tell. I haven't gotten such a cool certificate since grade school.
I have reconsidered getting a HAM license now that I have begun to dig into the ICOM 802 SSB we just purchased. The marine high frequency radios operate much like HAM radios but you can only transmit on the marine channels unless you're a HAM. SailMail is an email service that operates over the SSB and is looking like the way we will do most of our email. With HAM transmit capabilities our email options will be broader (and cheaper). The HAM requirements should be dropping the Morse code element any day so I think I'll hold out.
08/02/2006, Agua Dulce
We had a little BBQ with lots of friends over last weekend with the goal of reducing our beer inventory. I enjoy brewing beer and typically make 30 gallons or so at a whack. This tends to last quite a while. I have bequeathed my brewing tree and brewing gear to Dan K. (the original Brew Master in these parts). But that still left us with two kegs and many cases of Weizenbock, Scotch Ale and Apricot Ale. Our friends didn't even make a dent, guess we're not as young as we used to be. They did kill one of the kegs but we have a lot of work to do. Too bad you can't sell beer on ebay.
Beer, in my experience, is rather expensive in the Caribbean. While you can get a case of beer in the US for about $20, it can easily be $50 in the islands. Many bars sell a bottle of beer for $6. On the other hand you can get a 750ml bottle of pretty good rum for $3. I don't drink much but I enjoy wine and beer with food and a nice single malt from time to time. That said, the spirit of our trip is to immerse ourselves in the substance of the rest of the world, not to swim up stream. I am now researching a substantial list of rum drinks.
07/29/2006, Agua Dulce, CA
As we sort through all of the years of accumulated stuff, four piles have emerged:
- Las Vegas
- Stash Somewhere
I don't know how people got along in the garage sale era. We're controling the boat pile which is good. The Las Vegas pile is decidedly small as we don't know how long we'll keep the place in Sin City. The Stash Somewhere pile is also in pretty good shape. On the other hand the ebay pile grows faster than I can post auctions.
I'm not actually sure how much money we're making in relative terms. I think I could earn as much on an 'hours invested' basis working at Krispy Kreme. I'm pretty sure that ebay and PayPal are doing ok though. The best thing about ebay is that it allows you to get rid of stuff that you can't stand to throw away. It is the greatest recycling system on the net. It just feels better knowing that your stuff will go to those who will appreciate it rather than a land fill. In the end, when your travels are through, perhaps you can buy it back on ebay so that it can take up space in your closet again where it belongs.
Ebay is an amazing marketplace to study also. For high demand items ebay is very efficient. I sold two identical items one month apart and the price I received was within 1% variation. There are also interesting currency dynamics. When the Euro gets strong the French out bid all the folks from Idaho, even with the shipping penalty. You get a lesson or two in the effect of time zones on market dynamics as well. You get the best prices when you list items so that they close at an hour when the most interested parties are conscious.
Another week or two and the high profile stuff will be out the door. Then it will start getting tough...
07/20/2006, Southern California
Last weekend our friends the Mac Kenzies came over. Thomas and Emily have three beautiful and very smart kids. As we are hoping to have them visit often we spent some time imagining different routes to take around the globe and different places to visit. We will be "cruising", so other than knowing where we are in the present tense everything is always up for discussion. We do have a rough plan though. We will of course tune our thinking as we progress with careful consideration given to weather, civil unrest and prevailing conditions.
Our travel sketch looks something like this:
Fall/2006: Begin in the Bahamas and Florida area to break in the boat and finalize equipment
Winter/2006-7: Cruise the northern Caribbean
Spring/2007: Cruise the Leeward Caribbean Islands
Summer/2007: Cruise the Windward Caribbean Islands
Fall/2007: Cruise up the Caribbean coast of Central America
Winter/2007-8: Cruise Cozumel and Grand Cayman
Spring/2008: Cruise the Galapagos and cross the Pacific to French Polynesia
Summer/2008: Cruise French Polynesia
Fall/2008: Cruise western Polynesia (Rarotonga, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia)
Winter/2008-9: New Zealand & Australia
Spring/2009: Soloman Islands, Micronesia & Guam
Summer/2009: Aoga-shima, Ko-jima, Kamakura, Nihon (Japan)
Fall/2009: Okinawa-jima, Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong & China Disneyland
Winter/2009-10: Philippines, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia
Spring/2010: Sri Lanka, Bombay & India
Summer/2010: The Maldives
Fall/2010: Seychelles, Madagascar, Africa
Winter/2010-11: The Red Sea, Egypt
Spring/2011: Cyprus, Turkey, Greek Isles
Summer/2011: Croatia, Italy
Fall/2011: South of France, Spain
Winter/2011-12: Morocco and the Canary Islands
Summer/2012: Western France and the UK
Fall/2012: Azores and the ARC (Atlantic Rally to the Caribbean)
07/12/2006, Marina Del Rey
Hideko and I try to get out sailing at least a couple of times a week while we continue our liquidation process. In the midst of getting our house on the market and selling things on eBay, sailing reminds us why we're doing all of this. We were out on the water for 10 hours today with our friends Margaret and Arjun. Wednesday nights MDR hosts the infamous beer can races, we barely got down the channel (and crossed the finish line for fun) before the 60'ers ran us down. The boat you see here is "Spiderman", a well maintained Catalina 28 out of Marina Sailing.
Seeing as how we'll be out in the wide world for some time we have tried to make sure that we can fend for ourselves and see to the necessities of life. As we focus more and more on reducing possessions I find Costco less and less valuable. The other day we were there to buy things to get the house ready for sale when Hideko spotted a hair trimmer. She was ecstatic. The trimmer rated high on her list of must haves so that she could make sure I always had a proper hair cut. For $25 it was a bargain. Or so I thought. It is hard to imagine but you can get a botched hair cut even when the barber simply shaves your whole head with a #3. Discovering the skills you don't have is an interesting process. I'm hoping this one develops rapidly. I will be cutting Hideko's hair sooner or later so retribution is near at hand.