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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Getting Together with Friends to say: "see you soon"
Randy
09/03/2006, Agua Dulce, CA

We have really tried to spend a lot of time with friends and family over the last year. Our dearest hope is that many of our friends and relatives will come to join us for extended periods on the boat. That said, we realize that setting off on a journey around the globe will separate us from the people we love most to some degree.

Our friends Atsuko and Razmig recently returned from Sudan and while we missed them when they were gone, the amazing stories they had to tell were well worth it.

Reflecting upon this has helped us to continue to be excited about our upcoming travels even though we will miss all of our friends and family so much.

Preparations
The Offshore K9
Randy
08/27/2006, Las Vegas, NV

No, it's not photo shop, that's a real dog PFD. Roq is coming with us and he is as properly outfitted as any dog ever was. I think the range of K9 marine apparatus would startle the average person. Roq loves the water but I am particularly interested in seeing how the astro-turf on the transom works out...

http://www.pawsaboard.com/

Preparations
Saint Brendan's Isle
Randy
08/24/2006, Green Cove Springs, FL

We have settled on St. Brendan's Isle as the firm to handle our US mailing address. There are some pretty slick services out there that will scan your mail and put it up on the web for you but the SBI folks just seem to understand the needs of a cruiser a bit better. They will even renew our Coast Guard documentation for us (every year...). We get a regular street address and they will ship anything we ask for, anywhere, whilst tossing the bulk rate garbage that currently floods the snail-mail-ways. We are about the 4,000th client of theirs and it is no wonder that they have great shipping suggestions for just about any destination around the globe.

http://www.sbimailservice.com/

Preparations
Skype Me
Randy
08/20/2006, California

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.

http://www.skype.com

Preparations
Radio Permits
Randy
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.

http://www.gordonwestradioschool.com/

Preparations
Beer
Randy
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.

Preparations
End of Summer Clearance
Randy
07/29/2006, Agua Dulce, CA

As we sort through all of the years of accumulated stuff, four piles have emerged:

- Boat
- Las Vegas
- Stash Somewhere
- ebay


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...

http://www.ebay.com/

Preparations

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