Sink or Swim

It was about two months ago that I broke the news to my parents about our upcoming journey to move aboard our 37′ Cruisers Yacht, and take a year to cruise the Caribbean, ending up in St. Croix. Had I been able to make the two calls to my Mom and Dad at once they would have both replied in unison, “You had better get the kids into swimming lessons, yesterday”.

Sink or swim

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Veterans Cruising the Caribbean

Robb Hamic

My friend Kevin told me about one of his pals that retired from the Army and bought a sailboat.  He said that his pal spent all of his days aboard and cruised the Caribbean.  I thought it was really nice for a guy who got all shot up in Vietnam to be able to live his life the way he wanted.  I imagined the two of them in crystal clear blue waters off Panama on a boat.  Kevin is a great guy who lost his eye in Vietnam.  He is always conscious of issues concerning disabled Veterans.

I am 100% service disabled Veteran from the Desert Storm Era and I receive many benefits from my service.  I was concerned about many things as I decided to live aboard a boat for a year and then permanently settle in a US Territory.  There are so many little details that have to be taken care of before we leave.  Many Veterans receive their medical care and medications from the Veteran’s Administration.  We receive pensions, educational benefits, housing grants, mortgage loans and many other great benefits offered because of our service.  Our dependents also receive many benefits that also have to be addressed when we move.

I read a thread on a forum recently where a service disabled veteran asked questions about how to set things up so that he could cruise the Caribbean and understand his benefits.  I think that it is normal to be concerned.  It sometimes takes a long time for Veterans to get benefits and they worry about losing them.  Vets always want to follow the rules but the bureaucracy is hard to understand.  I get a lot of information from other Vets.  This is for them.  I provided him my advice based on my own research.  This is information that is directly relatable to service disabled US Veterans.

I found that you can record a “traveling” status with the VA that you currently are enrolled. This is important because if they schedule visits for you, C&P exams, etc. they always do it in the region that you are enrolled. Putting them on notice that you are traveling is good so that they don’t do that. It would be prudent that you do an exam once per year, somewhere there is a VA medical facility. The VA maintains a long list. Keep in mind that the VA maintains a strong presence on US territories. 100% SC gets you a lot of things. I would do the following if you haven’t yet:

1. Register on Ebenefits. You can see everything here and print many needed items while you are traveling. You can order meds, etc. You can update a mailing address from time to time as needed. You can view upcoming exam requests by the VA and reschedule as needed.

2. Get your military ID for you and your family on a base in the US before you leave. This will get you access to any base world wide. Take your 100% letter and birth certificates, marriage license, etc. and they will print them on the spot.

3. Enroll your spouse and kids in ChampVA. This is free insurance. They can be seen at many private doctors and VA clinics. Remember that if you need medical care at a private location while outside the US, The VA will pay or reimburse you for it- just like in the states.

4. You need not have a mailing address.  You can get one if you settle down.

5. Disability pay is nontaxable abroad or in the states. It is specifically excluded on IRS forms and if that is your only income, no tax or reason to file a tax return if this is your only income. If you reside in a US territory, no tax or reason to file with the IRS for anything. Once you establish residency in a territory, you file a form with the IRS to advise them that you are no in a state and they understand that no further IRS forms will be required.

6. Direct deposit goes through as normal and you get your money.

7. You can settle anywhere that is not on the US list of countries where you can’t collect military or SS benefits. The list isn’t long and I doubt that you would settle in one of those countries anyway.

8. If you are unlikely to get much mail you may want to get a stateside address for a mail drop like someone stated. If you are in a port for sometime, you can pay for the mail drop to bundle up your mail and send it to you. You fill out forms to authorize this. A relative or close friend is a good idea bc they can open your mail and send you a message.  There are some great mail services in Florida oriented toward cruisers.  These services will pen and scan your mail so that you can view it through email.

9. US Coast Guard provides free transport on space A status for you and your family if you have an ID Card. This is a cool option and free. The VA may reimburse you for airfare to see your doctor depending on your location.  The VA will reimburse you for doctor fees or hospital stays if you are in a foreign country.

Read up on the VA Foreign Medical Program (

And check out the offices in every single state and territory (

Also, if rated 100%, you can utilize ANY active duty facilities medical center, and in fact I’ve heard, if possible, the VA prefers this as they don’t have to repay a foreign hospital.

There are literally 10’s of thousands (if not more) rated veterans living as expats in damn near every country in the world, and still get all their benefits (even if they have to see a German doctor for a physical every 2 years or travel to a base).

Check out all the expat forums…eteran-expats/…in-costa-rica/…&tpcid=3325713

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Personal Protection on a Boat

I found little information about “personal protection on a boat” on the Internet.  We are planning a move onto our boat in July 2015 and we plan to spend the hurricane season in Florida on the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW).  We will get underway on our Caribbean voyage as soon as possible and we will be in foreign waters.  I wrote this to provide my perspective to others who are in similar situations.

Protecting Miss Lone Star

Protecting Miss Lone Star

My background is in the military and law enforcement.  I am a retired US Army Veteran.  Later in life I became a professional tactical trainer and specialized in guns, knives, tactics and Israeli Krav Maga.  I have instructed law enforcement officers on all weapons that they carry for defense, custody and control.  I taught instructors and students throughout the world in all of the above and more for over 15 years.  I have been involved in more than a few dozen handfuls of violent encounters.  I firmly believe in a person’s right to defend themselves, their family and anyone they choose to protect in a time of need.

 Sailing and cruising the Caribbean is a topic that is loved by many.  The lifestyle attracts many of us free spirits who want to find fun, solitude, new cultures and adventure.  It has been my life-long dream to have my own boat blowing the trade winds of the Caribbean.  I am lucky enough to be able to realize my dream at such an early age and we recently made the decision to set our date to set off.  I knew this decision brought many responsibilities, given my personal experience.

Protecting miss lone starMy young kids and beautiful wife will accompany me on our journey which will take us throughout the ICW in Florida, all of the island chains in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spanish Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands.  We plan to spend about a year cruising our power boat through remote anchorages and we will likely not see others for several days at a time.  We will also find port in large towns such as the Nassau.  Our plans require a lot of options for our protection while underway.  I have been paid to analyze a person’s risk in given situations professionally and I will detail the risk assessment, potential threats and measures that I have undertaken to ensure my family’s safety.  Happy reading.

Research has led me to observe that piracy exists in the Caribbean. What is piracy?  In my opinion, Caribbean piracy is a kin to a “thug(s) on a boat.”  It appears that the vast majority of reported piracy consists of theft motivated crimes.  Sometimes people are hurt and sometimes they are just robbed.  Many cruisers are forced from their boats and others are left on their vessel after theft.

Aubrey GSD traing Schutzhund

Aubrey GSD traing Schutzhund

Unfortunately, when someone is allowed to control you and your family, what ultimately happens to you is up to them.  I know a lot of people who say, “I’d just let them take my money.”  I have heard this statement from men and women for a decade whom I trained personally.  I taught people who a bad guy can only take three things from you.

Money, Body, Life or a combination thereof

Think about it.  These are the only options at hand if a person has control of you.  What they take is up to them.  People ask, “What will they take?”  I don’t have the answer.  Only the bad guy can answer that question.   I know that most crime is opportunistic.  I see a lot of crime happening for one motivator, such as money, then turning bad when the bad guy decides he wants something more.  Rape happens, not just on a boat in the Caribbean. Just ask 74% of the female population in the United States that has been a victim of some form of it.  Murder happens.  Not just to be mean.  People murder to cover up crimes.

I have often told my private clients “never go to a secondary location with a bad guy because that is where the really bad things happen.”

One problem with living aboard a boat is that it is a convenient and mobile secondary location.  Furthermore, boats are valuable resources to people who would board them with bad intentions.  How much is your vessel worth?  I am certainly not writing this to convince people of the dangers in life.  I know some people have to see the world through “rose collared” glasses.  I know that many people take a very moderate view on protecting one’s self.  Some people choose to live in denial because it is less scary.  That is their right.  I don’t wish a debate with any of these people.  Life has taught me different and I choose to be a happy, smiling guy with a lot of information and several plans when action is required.  I suspect that many like-minded people will read this for the same reason that I wrote it.

I hope that this journal proves to be a resource to people in search of information.  Please take the time to look for frequent new posts, videos on our YouTube Channel and other useful information about our journey.

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