It Doesn’t Suck to be Stuck in Apalachicola Florida!

IMG_9843Apalachicola Florida is a really special place. It reminds me of what the US must’ve looked like in the 1930’s. We’ve walked and boated around the town and spent a lot of time with local people and visitors. I have yet to see any chain store, fast food restaurant or even a lit sign. We love it here.

Apalach, as the locals call it, sits at the feed of two rivers that come into the gulf behind breakers far out in the gulf. It is really know for it’s Oysters (Apalach Oysters) but they have been mostly gone since the BP oil spill. I was told that the chemical that was spread to stop the spill killed off the shells. The spill didn’t affect this area and it was spread out as a precaution. Apparently the oyster business is on the mend and this place will be thriving again in 6-7 years after re-growth occurs.

D94A8271I heard great things about this place but I really had no idea until I could set foot on dry land. The city is about 2200 people or so and the entire county of Franklin is only 3500, which covers some vacation areas where people claim residence but don’t really reside. It is a sleepy little place with warm and friendly people. Fishing and oysters is the biggest business here and apparently this is the world’s largest producer of oysters.

There are mainly stop signs in town and just a few blinking red lights. No high rises or anything over three stories exists here. There are laws for that here. There are lots of shops and the food is unreal. We’ve eaten out most nights and we are in awe of this place. Aubrey loved collard greens when she tried them for the first time. Food is inexpensive, as are most things here. Boat fuel is $3.80, which is a good Florida on the water price. We paid $60 for a slip here. The Water Street Hotel and Marina is the largest hotel in the area and it has about 50 rooms and 15 boat slips that are mostly vacant. There is a pool for the kids and they are making the most out of it.

Raccoons love our boat and they had a party the first night we arrived. I stored Onyx’s food on the deck in a plastic container. The coons made fast work of it and apparently four of them had a hay day as people watched from their screened in porches. Coons brought out about 20,000 sugar ants and I had to spend about three hours cleaning and spraying off the boat. Such is the life of a boat captain. Onyx has been posted topside each night to prevent further outbursts from the local coons. It has worked so far.

We have taken advantage of the amazing sunsets and walked around sight seeing and taking evening dinghy rides to capture post card quality photography. We found the bone yard of boats up the creek last night and Aubrey really out did herself.

The kids are catching fish like little otters and taking spare tome to explore, find crabs, grasshoppers and sit on time out. That happens a lot but they are trying to go coast to coast on timeouts at every fun place we visit. They are on course to reach their goal.

We planned to leave yesterday for Tampa on our next blue water crossing but weather and high seas prevented us from moving. You wouldn’t know that the seas are 5-8 feet in the gulf from our dock and the sun is out now with the temperature at about 90. The heat index is high.IMG_9811

We plan to lay over until the day after tomorrow and set our course for Tampa Bay. The journey will take us into open water and it is 156 miles. We’ve been averaging 25-27 knots cruising speed. I feel confident in Miss Lone Star and I pray for our safe journey.

A Big Protection Dog is a Good Idea For Any Cruising Boat

I will sleep better at night knowing my big dog is watching after us on our boat.  We believe in keeping at least one protection dog in our home for security.  Why wouldn’t we take her on our boat when we cruise the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) and Caribbean?  Onyx is a specially trained former police and protection dog.  She doubles as my certified service dog.  I think that being a service disabled Veteran has its benefits.  I am writing this journal as a series of entires where I share with people how I have chosen to prepare for our adventure on our boat Miss Lone Star.

Protection Dogs on a Boat in the Caribbean

I have completed extensive research on crime in the Caribbean.  We will be most concerned with violent (person) crime and property theft.  There are plenty of different subdivisions for different crimes that most likely concern us in our travels.  I see adding a protection dog to any cruiser’s boat as a good idea.  We love having Onyx aboard  she is a great companion.  She is a working dog and preforms several very useful tasks.  I see her as a valuable member of our family and she takes her duties very seriously.  She goes everywhere with us and has intervened in several situations that would’ve become worse without her.  I’m not kidding when I say we take her everywhere.  She has flown all over the country on commercial airliners, gone grocery shopping weekly, dined at fine restaurants and hung out in bars.  She loves to go to the movies but her dark color causes people problems because they can’t see her.  I think this is a plus when picking a dog, by the way.

I teach people who there are three steps in the process of self-defense: Detect, Diffuse, Defend.  A good protection dog can provide assistance in all three of these steps and is a good complement to anyone’s self-defense plan.  In my experience, thieves are like anyone else.  They look for the easiest way to accomplish their goals.  The easiest target in a location where they are unlikely to be detected with the highest probability that they can get away without being caught are all considerations that go into most encounters with bad guys.  Everyone has a plan, even bad guys.  That is the problem with self-defense, it is entirely reactionary.  Only the bad guy knows what he is going to do in advance and it is up to the person who needs to defend herself to react and survive.  Good intentions are a key component to acting in self-defense, in my opinion, because people who take action to prevent an attack are usually acting with good intention of being honest, law-abiding people.  I like to say that adding to your self-defense “tool box” increases confidence and happiness.  Only you know your capabilities and with the right kind of practice a person becomes better.  Have you ever noticed that truly capable people never brag?  They usually don’t look like the kind of meathead that can really cause damage, but they do when necessary.

Fear the calmest person in the room.

I have taught many tens of thousand women in my time through various disciplines of self-defense.  I like teaching women because they learn at a higher level than men.  Their intuition is so much better, it’s not even funny.  I always thank my female students for keeping our species alive because if it were up to us men, we would’ve already killed everyone off.  I can’t say enough about a woman’s intuitive will to survive and protect her loved ones.  The only intuition that I would trust more than a woman’s is that of my dog.  Think about it.  We feel proud when our dog barks because she is defending our house or just doesn’t like that contractor who looks at you sideways with those beady eyes.  We tell stories to our friends about “how our dog never really liked that friend who did us wrong.”  After-the-fact.  Always after-the-fact.

I tell a personal story about a man’s (MY) intuition that failed me because I have the standard male ego.  it is so stupid, it’s funny.  Here goes:

I am at a grocery store in East Las Vegas, Nevada doing some shopping for a week-long stay in that wonderful town.  I had a branch office there for my security and investigation company.  I had a contract with a big national chain of stores who needed undercover loss prevention, security and detection of employee theft.  We provided service for 36 stores in one of the countries worst cities, in my opinion.  East Las Vegas is a super high crime area but I always thought it was good for my employees to see me in person and at unexpected times.  I got some “street cred” for showing up in especially sketchy areas of town.

Here I am, Mr. Whiteboy in flip-flops, cargo shorts and wearing a Rolex.  I drove a Ford F350 diesel truck that I had to park at the end of the lot because of its size.  I arrived, to do my weekly shopping for the apartment I kept.  I didn’t see any of my guys or any crime, except me being in a not so nice area looking like a mark.  It was a really hot day and I remember the smell of the parking lot asphalt.  I couldn’t wait to get home to eat my cold ice cream that was riding in the old shopping cart.  I had to get to my truck and turn on the AC!  I had a long diagonal walk across the parking lot to get to the big white truck.  My intuition picked up on a man who was matching my strides toward my truck.  He was in a different part of the parking lot that was away from any other cars, businesses, drug dealers, etc.  “Hey that’s strange,” I thought as I grieved for my melting ice-cream.

I checked back in with myself, about ten steps and gave my second notice for a potential problem.  “Hey man, somethings not right with that big crackhead walking towards my truck!  There’s something fishy.”  Naw, I’m a man.  I know all of this bad ass self-defense stuff and nobody would want to mess with me.  Besides my ice cream is going to melt.”  Seriously, that is exactly what my little man brain thought!  Ten steps later, same drill.  I though about turning back and going back into the store.  It was either that or trudge off to the truck.  “Shit, there is no cooler in the front of the store, surely the ice-cream with perish!”  No kidding, another true confession!  Along I went, reminding myself than chiding myself as I got closer and closer.  The man continued to look at the ground and make no eye contact, which was not normal and a clue in and of itself.  I rounded the tailgate and pushed the cart to the back door as he met me out of sight from the front of the store.  I was in no man’s land.  Nobody at the bus stop and cars driving quickly to get to the casinos, pawn shops or liquor stores.  It was just me and my stalker.

My cart bumped up against his leg as he faced me on the other side of it closer to the front of the truck.  “Give me your wallet and your watch dumbass,” is what he said.  Now, that was the truest thing I heard all day!  My immediate thought was this: “you just killed yourself over some Fing ice-cream you stupid %$#!”

He was holding a large knife and I felt scared.  He said he was going to kill me and leaned towards me at the waist.  He was  a tall guy who later trend out to be 6’5″.  He had dead eyes and looked right through me.  “Money, Body, Life” I remembered.  That is all he can take, or a combination thereof.  “Oh crap!  You don’t have your pocket gun in your back pocket, Robb!, only this stupid can of OC spray!”  My next realization on a day of unprecedented screw ups.  “You need a plan Robb, you need a plan so you don’t die.”  Life really throws a curveball at you sometimes.

I put my hands up, palms forward and told him I would get him my wallet.  I said “please don’t kill me, I will give you my stuff.”  He said, “I am going to kill you man,” in the calmest voice I have ever heard.  I knew then that Life was what I had that he ultimately wanted and that was out of the question, regardless of how stupid my brain previously behaved.  “Yea man, whatever you want.”  Compliance was anticipated as I reached slowly for my back pocket with my right hand.  I was in fear for my life and “imminent jeopardy” in the truest sense of the law.

I bumped the cart with my knee, which caused it to bump his knee.  He looked down only for a second as I retrieved my 1/2 can of OC spray from my back pocket.  Hissssss went the can as I coated his face with the lather, which also had a paint marker and the standard 10% Law Enforcement concentration of the chemical.  The cart provided me with distance away from his blade.  In self-defense, distance is time and time is well, life.  I gave him a 5 second spray and he dropped the knife after waving it in any direction I went.  Anger kicked in and I stuck him several times as he tried to fight back in an ineffective manner.  “Man, he is as strong as an ox!  Maybe it was PCP not crack?  Hmm.”  This shit went through my mind, seriously.  I am a dumb guy.

The next thing I knew I was mounting him on top and striking his head.  He had no tension in his neck muscles so his head was limp as it thudded to the pavement with each punch.  I felt the sting of the OC chemical in my hand from the cuts that I gave myself with the crackhead’s teeth.  I realized that I was going to kill this man if I continued and I took a breath.  I scanned my area and saw nobody paying any attention of any kind.  It was a big parking lot.  ” I can’t kill him but I can’t let him get away and go do this crap to someone else,” was my conscious decision.  He came to and tried to rise until I made it too painful for him to continue.  I stood him up and we walked into the store with him on his tip toes, due to the lock I held on what unbroken fingers he had left.

The employees of the store thought I was the crackhead as we waked in.  He was screaming and saying that it was ME who attacked him.  That statement did hurt my feelings, upon reflection.  I told the store manager that I owned the company who provided security for this store chain and to call Las Vegas Metro Police, ASAP.  I shouted  some police jargon that would identify me as someone who could only know what a cop should know.  I didn’t want to get “Rodney King’d!”  The responding officer showed up 20 minutes later, in true Las Vegas fashion and drew his weapon on me.  “Damn, I wish I had my  handcuffs for this guy!”  I explained myself as best I could and cool minds prevailed.  Crazy crackhead was taken into proper police custody and I could finally wipe my hands that stung and had the scumbag’s DNA all over them.

In the end, I was thanked for my time and apprehension of the crackhead.  It turns out that in addition to the crime the perpetrated on me, he had an arrest warrant out of California for.. you guessed it.. Armed Robbery!  He was extradited back to the Golden State and I never even got a subpoena for what he attempted to do to me.  My ice cream was melted but a nice grocery bagger brought in my cart before it got stolen.  I learned a lesson that I wouldn’t forget.  Don’t obsess over ice cream.  Well, the most important one was to trust intuition and look for anything that is not congruent, given your specific situation.  Anything out of the ordinary probably is just that.  If I was a woman, this wouldn’t happened.  I should’ve buried my stupid ego and went into the store watch the crackhead get tired of waiting for me.

I can safely say that my dog would’ve deterred this and many other situations where I was the intended victim of crime.  People hate working dogs, especially bad guys.  Dogs pay attention to their intuition, like women.  Dogs are great for your peace of mind and they serve a purpose more than fetching a ball if you let them.  Later in life, I met my wife who introduced me to working dogs.  She is a dog trainer among other things for fun and trains police protection dogs.  I have learned a lot from her and all I can say is thank God for women.  Learning from my mistake, I vowed to get a girl dog so that I could compensate for being a dumb man.

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

What is Your Plan for Self Defense on a Boat/ Yacht in the Caribbean?

IMG_1566

I have read much of what there is on the Internet concerning self defense on a boat/yacht in the Caribbean. Frankly, I am not impressed. I believe that it is a person’s right to defend themselves. In my opinion, it is a person’s responsibility to defend their family in a situation where a life is on the line. It is my experience that many people become victims of crime, even if just attempted, regardless of how prepared they are. Bad things happen to good people and all of that. I decided to write a journal entry on some research I conducted and my own professional opinion as a self defense and gun instructor.

The potential for crime in the Caribbean is endless. I grew up watching pirate movies as a kid. Pirates still exist but they aren’t taking loads of gold from transport ships as they did in the Golden Age of piracy. Pirate is just a fancy name for criminal.  Crime evolves like everything else. Crime is very high in many Caribbean nations. Per capita, some large Caribbean cities have violent crime rates higher than Washington D.C. or Chicago. I am not advocating that people avoid the Caribbean, obviously. I do advocate people to understand what they are getting into, in terms of potential personal protection and self defense options. Big cities are not the typical cruiser’s only concern, in my opinion.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt ~ Mark Twain

Many of us seek to travel the Caribbean so that we can be alone or undisturbed. We long for that picturesque remote anchorage to settle down for the night. We want to beach comb during the day undisturbed and it becomes easy with our big boats that can anchor just about anywhere. The Bahamas has 700 islands, who knows how many cays and at least 550 miles of distance from one end to the other. I can see this tranquility when I dream at night. My dream becomes less ideal if I were to envision one, two or three people with bad intentions on the island with me and my family.

I have always said bad guys like remote locations with poor phone service.

The fact is, there are an unlimited amount of situations that could cause a person grief, if only in their bad dreams. I believe in being prepared. I believe in doing research for data that could help me to determine what preparations I must make to keep my family safe. I also understand that sometimes data isn’t available for various reasons.  Reported cases of piracy isn’t on the rise in the Caribbean, according to the data.  There are isolated incidents in the Western and more reported cases in the Eastern part of the Caribbean closer to South America.  Each nation has different criteria and procedures for reporting crime.  Systems vary and some data isn’t published or even recorded.  Data can’t be recorded if it isn’t reported.  I think it was Captain Davy Jones that said “dead men tell no tales.”  Several Caribbean nations don’t make their police reporting data available to others or the public.  The fact that tourism is a huge part of most Caribbean nation’s economy is likely the driving factor.  I don’t think that this is just an issue with foreign nations; it happens in the United States.  I read the following news report, that wasn’t widely reported by the US Media today.

The spate of 82 shootings in Chicago over the July 4th holiday weekend, in which at least 16 people were killed.

Of course, it gives me pause.  I could look at the FBI statistics that show Chicago had 500 murders last year but I don’t see a lot of overly negative reports that warn the public not to go watch the Chicago Bulls play ball.  The perception that most US cites are generally safe in some areas prevails and so does the tourism that fuels those economies.  The media doesn’t report that Orlando, Florida has a crime rate three times the US average and that there is a registered sex offender for every 137 citizens in the county where where our larges family amusement park is located.  Why?  I would bet that tourism has something to do with it.  Wouldn’t you?  Crime is crime, reported or not.  Crime is crime, even if it isn’t maintained in a database or found in a survey.  Crime happens everywhere in the world and in some places more than others.  Consider this information:

While there has been a slight reduction in 2013 in some crime categories as reported by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF), violent crime remains above the 2012 level. Since July 2013, the government has not published national crime statistics. The Bahamas continues to have a high crime rate, particularly on New Providence Island, which has continued to experience escalated levels of violent crime. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island.

WARNING! Too many tourists & foreign investors are killed in Dominican Republic – Body Count: 39, Who is next? Canadian civil war world blogger calls DR the world’s most dangerous country!

Reliable crime statistics are difficult to come by; Haitian National Police (HNP) numbers indicating a modest drop in crime during 2012 were undercut by those from other security entities operating in-country that continued to show a steady rise since 2010. A comparative analysis of figures from various police/security entities operating throughout Haiti reflects a continuation of the trend in which incidents of crimes are inaccurately or under-reported. Haiti’s perennially weak judiciary exacerbates an already unsteady security environment.

In the past eight years, Puerto Rico’s ticker tape of woes has stretched unabated: $70 billion in debt, a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, a soaring cost of living, pervasive crime, crumbling schools and a worrisome exodus of professionals and middle-class Puerto Ricans who have moved to places like Florida and Texas.

V.I. homicide rate still among world’s highest.

Kingston is rated as a Critical crime threat post due to the violence and frequency of criminal activity throughout Jamaica. Violent crime is a serious problem, particularly in Kingston.There is no evidence to indicate criminals and gang-related activities are specifically targeting U.S. citizens.

..countries with clearly higher rates were Honduras, with 91.6 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, and El Salvador, with 69.2 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011, according to the U.N. data. The territory’s rate also would be in the same ballpark as Cote d’Ivoire, which last reported a homicide rate in 2008, at which point it was 56.9 per 100,000 people.

Do I believe that most of the crime is reported in higher density areas, such as big cities?  Yes.  Do I believe that an honest citizen can go to a large city and not be the victim of crime? Absolutely.  Do I want to be the victim of crime anywhere?  Absolutely not!  Would I be more or less concerned about crime that happened to me in a populated or remote area?  I guess the answer to that would depend upon the criminal’s intent towards me and my family.  I wouldn’t like either scenario but I would prefer being in a more populated area during a crime.  Cruisers and sailors have different problems than tourists.  Who are we going to call?  Many of the blogs or forums I read on the Internet recommend using VHF channel 16 for distress.  Depending on a radio (or who may answer the call) is not a prudent plan for self defense.

Make no mistake, I am a gun guy but I don’t believe that guns are or should be the only answer.  Certainly, they are an option for me at times.  My self defense plan starts with awareness and goes from there.  I have instructed over fifty thousand women, men, law enforcement and military people during my walk on this earth.  So that one may walk in peace.

I promise to dedicate my time, effort and energy in sharing my plan in coming journal entries.  Thank you for reading my words.

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

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 (http://www.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/fmp/fmp.asp)

And check out the offices in every single state and territory (http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp)

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

http://www.veteranjournal.com/va-ben…eteran-expats/

http://blog.therealcostarica.com/201…in-costa-rica/

http://www.expatexchange.com/expat/i…&tpcid=3325713

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star