We will call The Florida Keys home through December and we are making the most of it. We’ve made a lot of friends that grew up here who told us where the locals go! Aubrey is really proud of this video and so am I! This is a video of our experience at Alligator Reef!
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!
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
I recently decided that I wanted to take the training to become a PADI Divemaster. The Divemaster rating is the first professional certification in the PADI evolution for divers and most people never contemplate it. After doing a little research on the program, I can see why! It makes sense to me that a Divemaster’s skills need to be really solid to teach and lead dives. While every diver is responsible for their own safety, a Divemaster is responsible for everyone’s collective well-being. My Divemasters have been jack of all trades and have a great deal of knowledge. I decided to pursue the course last night as I contemplate finishing my Rescue Diver certification in a couple of weeks.
I figured that the learning curve would be pretty steep but after a little research, I saw that a Divemaster’s endurance and swimming assessment is certainly no joke. One portion of the training is this assessment, which is daunting. It is completed on the same day with no rest between the watermanship stamina exercises. All skills are timed and points are awarded for performance. A candidate must pass with a minimum of 12 points out of a possible 20. I have never settled for mediocre or barely passing so I set the following goals for myself. If I complete it as stated, I will get 19/20 points.
400 M swim with no gear or goggles- 6-8 minutes
800 M swim with snorkel gear, face down and not using hands- 13-15 minutes
15 minutes of treading water and or floating, hold arms out of water for the last 2 minutes
100 M diver pull in full gear, pulling a tired diver who wears full gear- less than 2 minutes
I think this will be fun to train. I have never been a swimmer and frankly, I have never swam laps. I am going to take a few swim lessons to hone my skills. Luckily, we have been working out regularly and my cardio is getting much better. Thankfully, I have lost about 20 lb. in the last 3 months, which makes me want to run like Forrest. I will need to incorporate about 5 days worth of pool time per week into what I am already doing for exercise. I love the fact that Aubrey gets in the pool with me and swims laps. The kids are even swimming a few times per week and making good progress. We are turning into a pod of dolphins!
It is strange to think of our transformation from land dwellers to being in the water so much in just a few short months. We will be leaving dry land for the boat and uncharted waters in less than five months. We are so excited!
We took pictures of this sailing yacht at night and we decided that the image was “wall worthy.” This is the un-edited image. We were told that this boat spends the summers in Massachusetts and the winter around St. Croix. It had a very large crew and they all had busy jobs, from what we saw in a couple of days of it being in port. Christiansted was one of our favorite places on the island of St. Croix. It had a very laid back feel and it was quaint. The streets weren’t busy and there were more local people than tourists. I have been all over the world and I can say it felt just like the hometown I never had. The fort guards the harbor as it has since the 1700’s when the Dutch built it to guard against pirates. It is ironic that the US Park Service maintains the Dutch fort and it is open to the public.
There were a lot of great shops and restaurants in town. We dined at a place named Savant. It was walking distance from our little Cay. There was a shortage of fish because of the storms that surrounded the islands. The owner said that he bought only one thirty pound fish for the night and was lucky to get it because nobody was fishing. We were lucky to get a private table in their courtyard. It was an interesting evening and we dined with some people we met on our Cay. Our new “friends” were from North Carolina and the matriarch of the group invited us to dinner. She was a really flamboyant gal who had done a lot in her time and we thought she would be good company. Her friend who lives on the island was planning to join us and she said he had authored six books about the Caribbean. We arrived on time and she chose our seats for us. Have you ever met people like that?
We learned that she nicknamed herself “Catherine the Great.” Seriously. Cathy turned out to be obnoxious and one of the most condescending people I have ever met. I guess she could command the room, in her mind, because she insisted on paying the large price of dinner. Her Highness said that she would come and visit us when we moved to the island. Luckily for us, her friend was worse. He was a pompous man who seemed to think he was gracing us with his presence. He had a very colorful life and probably had a lot to share but he didn’t. He drank rum like it was free (actually it was) and didn’t speak to me about anything substantive except how he thought my wife was beautiful. He mentioned to her that she was older than his girlfriend, which would’ve made that girl his granddaughter’s age. Life is funny but at least we had something to laugh about.
I am so thankful that I married the woman who is my best friend and confidant. I know that many people say that about their spouse but I know it to be true. I spend all of my waking time with my girl and our kids. We are so lucky that we don’t really fight or become irritated with each other. It is rare. She is the only person whom I could dream of spending a year aboard a boat with me. I feel so lucky to have her and our kids. It is my dream to get the opportunity to raise two little children. I have three older kids and I love being their Dad. The littles haven’t seen the Caribbean and I can’t wait until they see their first unspoiled island.
I saw a lot of people who were content with what they had on St. Croix. People seemed to be happy with less. We are spending a lot of time de-cluttering our own lives in our preparation to move. I spend the good part of my day going through my training gear, gun stuff and bullets. I can’t take it all and I don’t need most of what I have. I spent a lot of time being a firearms instructor and it amazed me at how many stashes of bullets I had in my garage. I think it has hit the hundred thousand mark or so. It is a good thing that bullet prices are high and I will make a bundle selling what I can’t shoot, take or lose in the remaining months that we have in Austin. I spent two hours separating varieties of bullets I had in one bucket. I felt like a big squirrel counting my nuts. I’m not sure what I needed with thirty holsters but I’m sure someone will be happy to take them off my hands.
I ended the day with a nice motorcycle ride to see our boat docked in the local lake. I love to ride in nice weather. I am really happy that my Harley is the only vehicle that we will take to the island. I found myself dreaming about riding it through the rain forest of St. Croix.
Robb commissioned Miss Lone Star from a poor sucker who didn’t know what she was worth. After hauling her from the bottom of the lake, he completed minimal repairs to make her more than sea worthy. He served in the US Army as a Paratrooper and that gave him ample experience to captain our vessel and the souls aboard in the Caribbean Sea. He has the face only a mother could love and never met ice cream he didn’t devour. He is the proud papa of five beautiful children that all have his nose and flat feet. He spends his spare time sharpening knives, watching the symphony and talking in his sleep to Lenny (imaginary friend). He successfully courted our First Mate for eight months. She agreed to marriage after he proposed to her in a phone booth. They met through a classy online dating service.
Mrs. Aubrey is our beautiful First Mate and was reluctant to join the crew at first. That is, until she was promised 2 1/2 shares of Miss Lone Star’s plunder. Her skills as a brave hunter will keep us fed if we get marooned (seriously). She has helpful knowledge of stitching that she gained from torturing small animals throughout her childhood. She might repair the engine, paint a portrait or jump into a flying kung-fu kick at any moment. We firmly believe that she is Roger’s (from American Dad) sister and taught sailors how to speak properly from a young age. Aubrey harnesses a wide array of tactical shooting skills and knife fighting capabilities. Her favorite color is purple.
Blake has wanted to live on a boat since he watched his first episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He is our Unable Seaman and longs for the day when he finds his first gold piece. He is also very anxious to “boom” his first shark, although he thinks all of the seafood he consumes is chicken. He has lost more fishing poles in his short life than fishermen twice his age. He has a wicked bad attitude, which is tempered only by his lack of good behavior. We have high hopes for the lad and pray be gets his sea legs to leave the diapers behind. On a serious note, he is a cute little boy who has much to learn. We love his lively imagination and love of the ocean. We think that he will take to the sea-faring life because he has to do what we say. He will likely be found swabbing decks or hunting for lizards on a deserted island naked.
Bianca is probably the most anxious of the crew to begin our voyage. She holds the honorary title Chief Stew until she can learn how to serve herself or pick up her own dishes, for that matter. At that point, she will likely call a mutiny or call a vote to take over as Captain. Bianca’s real talent is art. She has a sparkling natural wonder for the world and its creatures. We think that her Kindergarten teacher’s biggest wish is for her to graduate or get kidnapped, whichever happens first. She doesn’t currently enjoy chores or work of any kind so the transition to cruising life should be interesting. We have no doubt that she will amass enough stories (real or imagined) of life on the high seas to embarrass us and cause most strangers concern. She was voted first kid to get her own reality show in by her fellow classmates in Sunday School. She speaks English and disagrees that “timeout” is in the dictionary.
Onyx might be the most educated and obedient member of the entire crew. She is most content when snuggling the Captain on the couch or terrorizing small dogs and babies. She originally hails from California where she gained her experience as a dope dog for the Sheriff’s Department before she was fired for failing a piss test. She is a good swimmer but prefers the boat to the dinghy. Her biggest regret is not settling the score with the Fed-Ex man before joining our crew. She enjoys type B poodles, gunfire and a good poo in the morning. Her sign is Virgo.
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.
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.
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.
I was talking to a man who commented on our journal today. He lives in the Philippines with his wife and moved there in 2010. He misses Texas and plans to return someday. I have been dreaming about living on my boat in the Caribbean so much I guess I never stopped to wonder how much I will miss Texas when I leave. I love Texas and all that is here. I’ve always loved its history and pride. I like the sense of security I have here and the rule of law that is present where I live. Texans are fiercely independent and are notoriously stubborn. Just like me.
My wife and I have decided to take a lot of Texas with us on our journey. We are taking a packing a few nice things that will make it to our home in the US Virgin Islands one day. I am definitely taking my smoker and I have a good feeling that we will make fast friends with a lot of great people. Not just for the ample bar-b-q’s at our home. I love smoked salmon. I wonder how the Caribbean fish will smoke? We are both excited to learn some new Caribbean cooking styles and incorporate them into our own styles. Image having some 24 hour smoked brisket with a side of fresh lobster. That won’t suck.
I feel good that we are taking a long time to travel before settling down. We don’t have a time-table and we may end up going anywhere the trade wind blows us. We may stay for a while, if we like it. Who knows. I was looking at some of my new cruising guides and I see that a lot of Captains take sailboats from Florida to the US Virgin’s in 30 days or so. That amount of time gives an extra 10 days to spend here and there. That cursing schedule breaks down to about 25 miles per day. I was day dreaming about maybe taking Miss Lone Star all the way down to South America. I’m both that thrilled about spending a while lot of time in Venezuela but along the coast would be OK with me. Anyone who know me would understand that I am a nut. I might just take a left turn at the Panama Canal. I do long to see Coast Rica and some of the other areas in Central America. I guess only time will tell where we go on our adventure.
It has become apparent to me that if anyone was going to take a boat to the Caribbean with no schedule or location intended, it would be a Texan. I am pretty sure that we have a lot of Texas friends who will come to visit us. I can name a few others from the rest of the US who would want to make a visit. I wish I had a friend in the US Virgin Islands.
I am going to miss country dancing. I have grown to love it and have spent a lot of time all over spinning my girl around. I guess I can take that with me. I know that I am going to take Mr. Johnny Cash with me everywhere I go. I image he has been to the Caribbean before. I’m taking two of my cowboy hats. Aubrey and I have decided to take our boots with us on the boat. Texans are funny. I guess that means I need some jeans too. The list goes on.
I will miss hunting pigs, deer and birds. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about shooting one of those swimming Caribbean pigs. I love delicious pigs and think there might be an over-population problem. In fact, I am almost sure of it. I will miss barbecued quail legs. Seagull probably won’t be the same but who knows. Rednecks are funny like that. We will try almost anything once or twice. I will miss football games. I will miss riding my Harley all over Texas. I will definitely miss taking long distance trips to Nashville or the South. I am taking my bike to the Island. I know it seems a little different because St. Croix is only 27×8 miles. Oh, well. I can’t give up everything. I have decided the Harley will be my transportation and also a great way to save on gas. I noticed that the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post on the island has some rides but many of the people don’t ride Harley. You don’t see that much in the states but having a motorcycle on a small island is a luxury in itself. I try not to think about the fact I sold my beloved Ford Truck with a lift and 35 inch wheels. I won’t need it there and it got ridiculous gas mileage after I lifted it. Oh well.
For now, I am happy with the idea that I am taking enough of what I love on my journey. I hope I won’t miss Texas too much. I think I will have good feelings every time I look at my boat and see her name Miss Lone Star.
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
It was really important for us to find a lifestyle that could fit with our lives. Cruising feels like a natural fit. It is one thing to buy a boat and prepare for a voyage, but another actually picturing yourself actually on a boat for a year. We are trying to make the best plans to continue our lives on our boat.
It is harder with kids. That’s what all of the cursing/sailing live-aboard blogs say. Some people think we are crazy to set off for a year with two little ones. Ours are 3 and 5, not counting the 2-year-old German Shepard who thinks she is a human. We have spoken to a few people who actually think this will be a once in a lifetime experience for our kids. I tend to agree but we are having to make a plan so that we don’t go out of our mind before we arrive in St. Croix, USVI. I always love to hear from people who are currently living aboard a boat with kids and I would love to have some comments and suggestions.
My wife Aubrey and I decided to take this seven or so months before we get on the boat to enrich our lives with some pursuits that we’ve dreamed of. One big one is to learn how to paint from a classical teacher here in Austin. We are stoked to learn how to draw and paint. I think it will give us a great hobby to spend time while we are in some of the most beautiful territory on the planet! We also bought some additional camera equipment. Aubrey is a professional photographer and I didn’t think she could want or need anything else but I was sure wrong. We got a super cool (Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L) wide-angle lens that I can’t wait to try out. We are already planning our coffee table books of amazing images from our journey. I can’t image how many amazing family pictures we will have after a year.
We are both full-time college students and moving on to second careers as elementary school teachers when we are done with our degree. We enrolled in a fantastic university that is online and highly accredited. I am taking as many courses as possible before we leave so that I can say ahead of my expectations. We are really happy that we can study and earn credits while we are aboard. There is a big shortage of teachers in the US Virgin Islands and that is one of our considerations for relocating to St. Croix. Thanks to the US Army for providing for my degree. I am a service disabled veteran and my benefits also allow Aubrey and the kids to go to college for free.
Aubrey plans to continue photography for weddings and portraits once we get settled in. She is an amazing artist and it is important to me that she can still do what makes her happy. I guess a lot of people use the USVI as a destination for weddings. I bought a nice camera and I am learning as much as I can. I look forward to all of the opportunities to get once in a lifetime images as life goes on.
I am learning to play the guitar because I can’t sing. I think that will be a good way to pass the time on the boat and I can’t wait to hear Aubrey sing to some cool tunes. Our daughter Bianca has a great voice too.
I am getting re-certified on my scuba certification and taking some extra classes in Texas before we leave. I plan to get some time as a wreck diver in Florida when we are counting the days until we go into open water. This seems like a really fun thing to be able to do in addition to being a great skill to have living aboard a boat. My plan is to have my advanced open water rating then add wreck diving and rescue diver in Florida. I am going to buy some extra air tanks so that I can go longer between fill ups at port. I have dreamed about finding some cool Caribbean wrecks all of my life. I am hoping to skin dive for most of our lobsters so I don’t waste air in my tanks. imagine that, free lobster! It is hard for me to believe that my dreams are coming true so soon. I am truly thankful.
I feel somehow addicted to Amazon and all of the great books that I can’t stop buying. I am burning through them as fast as I can open the mail. There is so much to learn. I read a book called “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South” yesterday. It was a good read and written by a man who has been cruising the Caribbean for 30 years. It was a good buy but I can say that his book “Tricks of the Trades” was just a re-cap of the first book and I wish I hadn’t bought it in combination. He isn’t much for buying fishing tackle. He told a funny story about using a Barbie head with a hook inside as a lure. I’m glad I didn’t read the book when I had a young sister in the house! I feel sorry for what I did to her Barbies without using them to catch fish.
I spend a lot of time on a great forum that seems to have no shortage of useful information. I like that I can post a topic and many experienced people give comments and suggestions. If you are reading this journal because you are planning to live aboard a boat it needs to be book-marked on your computer. I have found a lot of other blogs or YouTube channels that interest me on this forum.