Caribbean Travel Blog- Q&A With WikiAnswers

I was interviewed by Wikianswers and Answers.com about our choice to live aboard our boat and cruise the Caribbean for years in search of a new home.  It was a great interview and I decided to publish it to my Caribbean Travel Blog to allow our readers to better understand why we made our choice and what it is like to live aboard our boat.  Enjoy!Caribbean Travel Blog

Q&A with Robb Hamic on Answers.com.

Robb, you live on your boat, the Miss Lone Star, with your wife and two children. Can you tell us what life is like living on a boat?

Living on a boat with the whole family is interesting each day! The live-aboard lifestyle is fun, relaxing, hectic and chaotic all at the same time. Living in a small space with a dog and two kids can be challenging but we make the most of it. We don’t have to remind ourselves that we are living the dream everyday but our pesky kids try to give us the business, when they get the chance. We are always busy until there is nothing to do. We take the time to share some of life’s greatest moments with each other and we have grown much closer as a family aboard our boat.

What influenced your decision to live on a boat?

I had the dream of living in the Caribbean since I was a kid. I dreamed of sailing the open sea and diving for pirate gold at the bottom of the ocean. I would catch lobsters with my bare hands someday! It was a kid dream that never died, in reality. We ultimately came to the radical decision of living on our boat because of a number of factors. School violence in the US is prevalent and early childhood education is spotty in schools. We thought we could do better but why do it from a home in a suburban neighborhood? We felt guilty for having a big house, multiple cars and too much stuff that we didn’t use. It made a lot of sense to keep only what we used daily or wanted forever. We actually save a ton of money living on a boat in the Caribbean compared to our everyday life in Austin, Texas. We are creating memories that are unreachable for many people and we felt the positives outweighed the unknown. Continue reading

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?

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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

US Coast Guard Boat Registration (Documentation)

I came across a thread on a forum concerning boat registration.  We are preparing for a long voyage in the Caribbean and proper documentation is required to clear customs in all of the countries.  I read that the Bahamas might grant US cruisers an exception since they deal with many US boaters.  What a bummer it would be to get through the Bahamas and into the Dominican Republic to find that you didn’t have the proper paperwork to enter the country!  I certainly didn’t want this to happen to us so I did my research.

The US Coast guard grants documentation on US Vessels for US Citizens.  This process will document the vessel with the US Government and provide the boat owner and crew significant benefits.  One advantage of having a USCG documented boat is that the USCG Document provides a record of liens and owners that stays with the boat. This can often make selling the boat simpler. Also, buying a boat using a Marine Mortgage-type loan often requires the boat be USCG documented. The boat is used as collateral for the loan and the interest on the loan can often be written off in much the same manner as the interest on a home mortgage.

Another good reason for USCG Documenting a boat is if you plan to travel to foreign countries. State registrations are not recognized internationally, where USCG Documented vessels have international recognition. The further you are from the US, the more important being USCG documented becomes.

Being USCG documented also means that the boat is US flagged and provides you with some legal rights and protections a state registered boat would not receive when in foreign waters. Finally, USCG documented vessels are entitled to aid from the US Consulate when in foreign waters, which is not the case with state-registered vessels.

What is a Documented Vessel?

A documented vessel is one that is registered by the Federal Government through the U. S. Coast Guard, rather than titled and numbered by a state. Pleasure vessels of 5 net tons and over (26 feet in length and up) may be documented, and commercial vessels 5 net tons and over must be documented.

What are the Citizenship Requirements?

1. All individual owners must be U. S. Citizens

2. In order for a corporation to qualify as a “citizen of the United States,” it must be incorporated in the U.S.; the president or other chief executive office must be a U.S. citizen, and there may be no more alien directors than minority of the number required for a quorum. There are requirements pertaining to stock ownership, according to the use of the vessel.

3. There are specific requirements for partnerships and other types of ownership

I completed the full process online and it cost me $133.  The process should take 4-6 weeks to complete.  All of the forms are available online and are .pdf fillable.  I had to sign a statement that I wouldn’t allow a non US Citizen to operate the boat in foreign waters.  I look forward to getting my new documentation back in the mail.  One important note is that boats have to be named and the name can’t already be in use federally.  There is a boat search tool on the Cost Guard website that allows you to check name availability.  I was happy that our boat “Miss Lone Star” has never been used.

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Captain of the Miss Lone Star