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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

St. Kitts and the Monkeys

So nearing the end of our cruise, day 6 saw us visiting St. Kitts, another British protectorate island. Making a quick entrance into the harbour, there was not much to speak of , until we were within sight of the city of Basseterre. Again, houses filled hills surrounding the harbour. This never gets old! We were up early, to get a quick breakfast, and a full day of exploring in. Around us on the dock was a smaller cruise ship, and two large sailing ships. The harbour was also filled with pleasure sail boats.

When we made our way to shore, we came upon a market right off the dock, with shops selling souvineers of every stripe. In addition to layers of shops, and pubs, there was locals hawking picture opportunities with monkeys. While many would argue the monkey pictures are exploitation, we couldn't resist.

After our moment with the monkeys, we searched out a cabbie who would take us to the beach... any beach, every beach! We contemplated taking a train that runs the distance of the island. It offers a train ride one way, catamaran the other. We heard mixed reviews on it, and it was pricey. So cab it was.

We enjoy the flexibility of setting our own schedule, while being guided for a reasonable amount. Originally our plan was to check out a few beaches, including South Friars Bay, and CockleShell Bay, then go to the Marriott Beach Club. We made a quick stop at South Friars Bay, then on to Cockle Shell Bay.

We quickly decided there was no need to go to the Marriott!

We had a few pints, and lunch at the little shack on the beach. There was a larger bar down the way, but it just didn't have the same welcoming atmosphere. There were sea doos to rent, and a volley ball game going on. We chose to relax in the rental loungers, and get a massage for $20! No!  There was no happy endings! The day was more like a happy beginning! From our loungers we could see Nevis, about 4km away. In between there was a sailboat anchored in the bay. I couldn't make out the name on it, but it was rather easy to imagine it said Tranquilo!

We stayed at Cockle Shell Bay until 1:30, then headed back into town. Along the way back we drove past a few new developments going up. St. Kitts has a policy that allows ex-pats to gain citizenship through investment. Perhaps program worth looking into! More on that later.

While we only roamed the south end of the island, we were already impressed with the beauty and friendliness! Many told us that the north end was far more lush and vast, with more populated areas.

When we got back to town we roamed the shops for a while, looking for t's and whatever else we could remember this special place with. We stopped in to a little restaurant over looking cruise dock, before embarkation. As we sipped on our pints of Carib, we got 'the email' from back home. My mother sent word that the final conditions of our offer to purchase the boat had been accepted. Pending a survey, and coming up with money we don't have, we're gonna be boat owners!! This calls for a toast! I think??

St. Kitts was a fitting place to get such a confirmation... we could DEFINITELY see ourselves spending a lot more time there! Being a British Colony... who knows!?
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Saturday, 23 February 2013

St. Lucia and the Pitons

December 13 saw us stopping in St. Lucia, where we planned to see the Pitons. I'm not a details guy, but it's my understanding the Pitons are twin volcanic formations that rose from the sea bed, at the south end of the island. Sounds impressive!We determined that a catamaran excursion would be the best way to see them. Others planned to take snorkel trips, but we chose to go sailing for a couple reasons. First, 'someone' forgot the snorkel gear back home, which we won't dwell further on. Secondly, 'someone' had some deep water issues. So the thought of swimming around a volcanic formations seemed a little overwhelming. Right decision, or opportunity lost?? We could debate that for a long while!

I woke as the sun was just breaking the horizon, and peeked out to see where we were at. I could see the southern tip of island just off the starboard fore of the ship. That's front right to my wife, and others who have no interest of learning a new language. Included in that view was the Pitons rising high above the south west edge of the island like giants guarding the island passage. The sun was rising over the island just we sailed along side of the Pitons. It was a majestic sight to see such lushness contrasted by these huge dark, shadowed formations. It gave me a profound appreciation of how special a place the Caribbean truly is.

I went back in the room thinking I should rouse Leanne, to get an early start on our day. Remarkably, she was already well on her way to making herself even MORE beautiful than I ever could have imagined... again! We got to breakfast early, and had time to watch the scenery unfold as we sailed broadside to the island. Each bay we passed told a new story of island life. From the small exotic resorts, to populated villages, each story was exhilarating, exciting. We docked at Pointe Seraphine, Catries City. It was a large exotic harbour, full of life. There was a small airport near the entrance, and houses sprinkled densely up the surrounding hills. Along the shore a rainbow of brightly coloured dingys waited to taxi people to the moored sailboats spread throughout. By the time the ship landed we were waiting anxiously by the disembarkation point, .

After getting off the ship we went to our excursion meeting point on the dock, and met Chad Bousquet, our guide. He herded together our group of tourists and we walked the 200 yards, to our waiting catamaran. A minute's walk to an excursion is my idea of convenience!

Once on board we grabbed a cosy spot on the edge of the trapeze, did the SPF15 workout and stretched out in the sun. We sailed out of the harbour, past an anchored cruise ship, and south toward the Pitons.

We sailed into Marigot Bay, a small boot shaped bay, that offered shelter from the ocean. It was sprinkled with a handful of sailboats. Some were docked, and some were anchored in the bay. Ashore, there was a dive resort, a beach bar and a few other businesses catering to the passing tourists. We put a BIG check mark beside this spot on the map with future visits in mind.

Further south, we stopped in Anse Cochon, home of a remote little beach resort called Ti Kaye Village. The sand was dark, volcanic, making the water less clear than ideal. Not to be mistaken for undesirable, it was warm, and welcoming just the same. By now it was 5 o'clock somewhere, so I wandered up the shore to a hillside tiki bar. I was really looking for a bottle to gather sand in. Unfortunately the only option was a beer bottle, that needed the liquid removed. Oh darn! I was embarrassed by the fact the bar, technically, wasn't open for another 45 minutes. But not so much so as to not ask for the favour of an early serving. Since she wasn't subject to Ontario liquor control rules, As I was handed the beer, Leanne had caught up to me. Thankfully I had asked for two. As we walked back along the beach, we were approached by a local vendor. He offered to sell a few local handicrafts which we had little interest in. Next he asked if we wanted to buy some "smokie, smokie"!? Wanting to get through a day WITHOUT being arrested, we hustled on.

Back aboard the cat, we continued south, replaying the scenery in reverse, that we witnessed aboard the Victory earlier in the morning. We were a little disappointed when we turned around and headed back north, having come no closer than about a mile from the Pitons. By now the rum was flowing, and we were all dancing. So our disappointed faded quickly. Yes, the thoughts of one day being aboard our boat, tunes whistling, and wind pushing along became very real at this moment!

Once back ashore, we still had half the day left. We left the cruise terminal area, and found a waiting cabbie. He offered to take us on a quick tour up the hills over looking Castries, where we would visit an old fort. We jumped in, and off we went.

Half way up we stopped at a lookout over the city, where I made some new friends. Continuing on, our guide told us the history of St. Lucia, detailing how it had changed hands over the years. I could look up what he told us, but I certainly can't recite the details by memory. It was an interesting tale just the same. As we continued back down toward sea level, a comforting feeling came over both of us. We could see ourselves coming back here, and could even consider it as a new home.

With a couple hours left before we set sail again, we decided to stop for a late lunch, and a beer by the bay. We enjoyed some local fare right at the bottom of the harbour. To my amazement, we had actually uncovered some exotic foods that I was MORE willing to try than Leanne!

We walked back to the harbour, stopping to feed some stray dogs as we cut through a ship yard. The locals appeared to think us strange for sharing our water with the mangy beasts. It was a labour of love for us.

As we climbed back aboard, we left with good memories of a lush land, warm welcoming people, and lots to love in St. Lucia.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: Barbados or Bust

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: Barbados or Bust: Barbados... It's a British colony, with lush land, and nice beaches. We had originally planned to tour Barbados via a Friend of an inve...

Barbados or Bust

Barbados... It's a British colony, with lush land, and nice beaches. We had originally planned to tour Barbados via a Friend of an investment adviser we were working with. He would take us to the island hot spots, and his social club for lunch. Unfortunately we had to break ties with our investment adviser since he couldn't get his mind around our plan to quit the rat race. HIS goal was to see us build as much wealth as possible. Sounds great, but not so compatible with a life of sailing.

We landed in Barbados, and sought out a cab for downtown, with a plan to 'figure it out'. Fortunately, we met Adrian Baily, a cabbie/tour guide who saw no value in taking us the three blocks to downtown, and convinced us to venture further. For a nominal fee of $50, he would give us a tour of the island, then take us to Turtle Beach to spend the afternoon. Eager to get out of the rain, we agreed, and jumped in. Adrian quickly reminded me that I wasn't driving, and had to move to the left side seat! British road rules!

Being a somewhat religious culture, churches were considered a significant cultural attraction in Barbados. We visited the church that Tony Blair observed mass in while on the island. Then we visited the golf club where Tiger Woods got married. Insert Tiger joke here! Adrian wasn't supposed to be driving on this property so we got our first real life paparazzi experience!

As we headed out of town, across the island, we saw a duo of monkeys scattering along a fence rail. They were common in Barbados, and roamed freely. Until this point we were not overly keen on the flat landscape that was Barbados. But the thought of Mickie, our Alaskan Malamute, having a monkey for a pet was tempting!!

We climbed up one of the few hills on the island. and took time to stop at a clearing to take pictures . A short drive from there, and we were at Turtle Beach. It was one of those days where if you didn't like the weather, waiting 10 minutes was a sure cure! Unfortunately,we got dropped off at the wrong part of that cycle. We pondered whether to bother with the beach but rationalised we had our swim suits on, what harm would come from getting wet? There was a couple on our tour from Ohio, as well as their visiting family from Germany. They too agreed staying at the beach was worth the gamble. We got Adrian's cell #, hoping we would be true to his word, to come back for us.

As we walked onto the beach, the rain subsided, as the clouds scattered, almost like they were saving the sun till we arrived. The sand was soft and white. The water blue/turquoise blend. It was a nice beach, though not the best I've seen. Perhaps the most feature was Smoothie's, a small beach bar. It was a  basic hut, selling beer, and a few other beach essentials. For a buck you could use their washroom. However, if you spent $10 with them, the washroom was free for the day. Wise investment. The washroom was even clean! For another $15 I was able to rent snorkel gear. I cursed this fee, since I had my own gear. However, since my gear somehow got left back home, it was of little use.

After trying to snorkel I quickly realised the water was too rough and stirred up to see much of anything, and decided a nap on the beach was called for. Something to be said about warm sun, in December!

Around 2:30, rain made an encore appearance, cuing us it was time to head back. Adrian was there within minutes of our call, and we made good time back into town. Having two hours before boarding, we decided to check out downtown. We got drooped in the core, and roamed aimlessly looking for exciting ways to part with our money. Within 20 minutes we were frustrated by the lack of exciting shopping opportunities so we headed back towards the port. Close to the ship we found several tourist geared souvenir shops, but still found them to be uninspiring, and surprisingly empty. Clearly Barbados wasn't famous for shopping. It was equally clear that Barbados was not going to be a part of our future adventure plans, or a place we would ever call home.

We climbed back on board, and headed to the Lido Deck to find Lou, and a tasty Mojito!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Day At Sea

As day 3 broke, the BIG challenge ahead, surviving the open ocean.

We left St. Thomas on Dec 9, around 6 PM and headed straight south, toward Barbados. This meant a full day at sea. It's rumoured that I'm not overly fond of deep water. Seems someone started this rumour when I became known for water skiing with socks on!? Crazy how that translated to fear of fish biting toes, ect, ect!

Anyhow, with a a full day at sea ahead, looking at open ocean, and only open ocean, it represented a new experience. A slight challenge? Always an adventure.

We woke relatively early. I enjoyed the open vista from our room's balcony, while Leanne enjoyed the view from the room's dressing mirror! Soon she was even more beautiful than I could ever have imagined, again! We headed to the  pool deck to grab loungers, scrounge some breakfast, and make our first "Lou" meeting.

Life on a cruise ship, especially during a full day at sea, involves many important decisions. First up, finding lounger setups that will host a full day of sun, while balancing the needs of close proximity to the head, the salon, and the pool. Perhaps more important, we needed to also be close to that secret place where the beer is kept, so Lou doesn't get burnt out servicing our needs!

Next, breakfast, is always a daunting series of life altering judgement calls. Buffet, or dinning room? We are buffet people, so this one tends to be easy. However, the Carnival Victory has two buffet lines!! One for the fruit and vegetable loving breakfast dinner, and one for the hard core Meatatarian! Ok, can't fool you here. It was an easy call each time for me. "See you back at the lounger honey"!

After a hearty breakfast, the rigorous regimen begins. Starting with the SP15 workout, we lather suntan lotion over every exposed nook and cranny, and in my case, a few that shouldn't be exposed! Spread towel out, pointed at the sun, and scope the landscape to formulate a people watching list for the day! All that done, we're now ready for Lou, and the most important decision ahead.

Sensing our readiness, along with our trepidation of the tough decision ahead, Lou appears with two icy cold beers. A Coors Lite, and a Bud Lite! He sensed that our decision would be tough, and wanted to help with some 'thinking juice'. One gulp, a little small talk, and suddenly the answer we seek becomes obvious... two Mojitos!

Lou slips away for a few moments, allowing us a chance to formulate a more detailed plan for the day. 3 minutes later, and the plan comes into focus. Sun, pool, people watching, food, and the occasional ogle of the ocean view if boredom sets in. And at 4:30 sharp we would head for the room to get ready for our 6pm dinner seating. Tonight was formal attire night, so Leanne wanted to be sure I cleaned up respectably!

Around noon a tinge of boredom set in, so we took the opportunity to get to know the ship. Often when we go to resorts, and leave it to the last day, to discover all the things we missed during the week. We were happy to have a day at sea early, to avoid that this time.

We started at the back (stern for sailing people, like we hope to become). There we discovered the pool there had a retractable roof! Cool! Another bar as well! Getting better! We headed up the steps, to the top deck. As we were studying the view of where we had been, we nearly got run over by people using the jogging track for the purpose it was actually intended. We scrambled out of the way, only to stumble upon the mini golf course. Over come with exhilaration we trekked on forward.

Across the main pool deck, we saw the water slide, kids pool, then discovered an oasis... the adults only pool area! Wow! We had no idea. Two hot tubs, two hammocks, swing chairs, and a bar! The area overlooked the whole pool area, and the ocean! People watching, ocean watching, and privacy! Sweet! We resolved we would be back. But for now, continue down, and fore!


Next we went to the entertainment hub of the ship we did an inventory of the bars. There was the casino bar, the comedy bar, the piano bar, the cigar bar, wine bar, and lobby bar. How do we balance the needs of all these bartenders in need of work!?

Last stop was the fitness area/spa. We heard that some people go there on a cruise and we needed to see why? When we got there, it was very welcoming. They encouraged us to check it out. Treadmills with a view of the ships path. Video monitors, hip music, and a vibe of healthiness. Definitely a place we SHOULD spend more time. But with so much to do... And how could we derive any real world experience here? On our boat, our exercise will be derived from swimming after two mangy beasts and lifting them on and off the boat!

Back to our loungers for some much needed rest! Later we headed up to the adult pool for our last drink, before heading to the room. We met a few couples there, who we would share some fun times with throughout the week. We met a young Mormon couple, who we chatted with throughout the week. They told us of how they met, where they were from, and gave us insight into their religion. They informed us that while it tends to be a rather conservative religion, they explained that they do enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage. By my understandings, they seemed surprisingly liberal. More on that in later chapters!

Finally we head back to our room for some rest and preparations for our formal dinner. Amazingly, we managed to get to our 6pm dinner setting, moments before 7PM!

We had a nice dinner and headed out to patronise the bars of every stripe, that we encountered on our tour. First up the lobby bar for an after dinner drink, and the sounds of live piano music. We followed it up with a cigar in the cigar lounge, before heading to the piano bar.

We both enjoy live piano music, and love the duelling piano bar in Harrahs, Las Vegas. We weren't disappointed with our experience at this one. Perhaps it was the crowd, more than the entertainment that made the night. None the less, our performer had enough tunes to keep us all singing round the piano straight through to close! We also met John and Jodi, from Florida, who we'll discuss again before the cruise is over!

For now it was time to retire. Barbados tomorrow, and we wanted an early start!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

When the Saints... First Stop,St. Thomas

After several hours of having nothing to do, but wait for luggage.. and drink... while lounging by the pool, our luggage arrived by our cabin door. It was a nervous time, not because we had anything worth stealing...but because we had tucked a bottle of rum on in our bags. A no-no! We feared someone might catch us in all our sneakiness, and leave the bags dockside! "Let that be a lesson to you, Hamill party of two"!!

For dinner we had a table seating of 6pm. Far too early for the sun lovers that we are. So we moaned about it well past the 6pm seating time, leaving us with the buffet as our only option that night. Oh well, "got a big day tomorrow" we rationalized. Plus, we had to plan our excursions, for day one!

We spent many hours scouring the internet for excursions, in the months prior to our trip. We researched excursions we would be offered on the ship. We also researched excursions we would be offered shore side. Shore side excursions tend to be up to 20% less than ship board options. It also appeared there were more options, more creative possibilities. The downside of shore side purchases was that a cruise ship will not wait for passengers who get delayed by an independent excursion. For St. Thomas, we planned to take a jet ski tour, that we would purchase when we landed. It was to take us to several of the island hotspots. What's that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

As we pulled into Charlotte Amalie harbour, at around 7am, I was wide awake. Excited as an child on christmas morning. Surrounding the harbour was steep hills, painted with palm trees, and speckled with houses, neatly lined up, like seats in a movie theatre. I stood on our balcony dutifully watching every movement,almost as though I thought I might learn something!? I scouted out the visible hopspots and tried to finalized a plan for the day. Once my beautiful wife completed her morning routine we sprang from our room. The elevator was slow, so we took to the steps. I think I skipped 4 of every 5 steps on the way down. Being married to a step teacher, this presents no challenge to Leanne.

The minute we stepped onto St. Thomas, our plan for the day just kinda got lost. We knew that St. Thomas was a great place to buy gold, and the gold shops were everywhere. I had promised Leanne nice new earings for our first anniversary, which was November 23, so we had our work cut out. We roamed from shop to shop and even I enjoyed it. The shop keepers were keen to sell but it was no where near as high preassure as Dominican Republic or Mexico. We were warned that the shop keepers would try to take advantage of 'cruisers' knowing they had a limited amount of time to make the deals. So I needed a plan to break them down. Yes, I would have to use the 'boss lady won't let me spend much' approach. BAD plan for buying gold jewelry for the 'boss lady'! After an hour or so we had a firm idea of the deals that were available, but we weren't where we wanted to be. We decided to wait, thinking they may lower their prices later in the day.

It was time for the beach, so we decided to grab a cab. As we approached the taxi line, we heard another couple say they were heading to Magans beach, so I pitched them on sharing a cab. Little did I know that the cabs were actually buses, that typically took a full load of people each trip! Can you say Rookie!

As we wound through town, there were jewelry shops on virtually every corner. At the edge of town we started up the winding road that climbed the hills surrounding the harbour. The road curved back and forth, with each turn presenting an exciting new challenge for our driver. Around every bend a new, even more breath taking view presented itself.  At the climax of the hill, you could see the entire harbour, the waiting cruise ships, and a smattering of sailboats that filled the harbour. Looking ahead we caught our first glimpse of Magans Beach, and the Atlantic side of the island.. We descended down the back side of St. Thomas slowly twisiting and turning, until we came out at the beach, an oasis more beautiful than I could have imagined. The sand was white, and pure, with a swath of palm trees trimming its edge. The bay was horseshoe shaped, with turquoise water, and a lonley island at the opening. Yep, this is DEFINATELY a place I could see myself living!

After laying on the beach, and dipping in the warm water, we decided to explore a little. As we got up we noticed an Iguana lazing about 20 feet away. We took a few pics, but figured he wouldn't make a very good pet for our dogs! Further down the beach we found a shack doubling as a bar. The beer was cold, the service good, an a view of the ocean was included. Who cares how much the beer cost!? Although I think it was still cheaper than tax happy Canadian prices... a LOT cheaper!

Soon it was time to go 'back to work'! Yes, we hadn't settled on a jewelry purchase for my lovely wife, so it was time to head back to town. As we climbed on our bus, "the Big Orange Crush", we listened to Reaggae Christmas tunes, en route to town.

We checked out some shops downtown, but realized we were badly out numbered! There were two of us, and about a gazillion gold shops! Discouraged we headed back to the cruise terminal. I figured the merchant I had negotiated with there had room to move, and I had Canadian prices on my iPhone by now! He had no hope!

Reality was said merchant didn't seem as eagar to move as I hoped. He refused to acknowledge my Canadian pricing, and budged only slightly. We were still about $100 apart! Leanne put on a brave face, promising that it was ok, she didn't need new earings. The little voice in my head warned me to be careful... this COULD be a test!? As we headed back to the ship, I felt a store pulling me in. Ignoring Leanne's assurances, I told the merchant I was looking for .25 - .5 carat diamond earrings, I knew the prices in Canada, and he had one chance to make it worth my while to buy there. He gave me a better than expected price, DONE! Amazingly, my little voice stopped screaming!? Although, I began to wonder if I needed to find a gift to make up for the difference between purchase price, and expected purchase price?

As we headed back to the ship, the concept of living on a boat, and visiting exotic ports seemed a little more possible, a lot more exciting, and my resolve to do it strengthened. Looking at the boats in the harbour, I could see me bbq'ing, while Leanne tries to throw Daeyten overboard!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Scout it Out!

So we have a boat! In fact we have a boat that has been to the Caribbean once before!! Great, it will find the way for us! But where are we going to go? I suddenly realised that the Caribbean was still a big place... relatively speaking, anyway.

If we were going to make a plan to sail to the Caribbean, we should probably know a little more about the 'where'! Sure we have been to Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, (combined 12 times). We loved catamaran trip to Saona Island, in the DR. But to 'sail the Caribbean' we needed to know more about the WHOLE region, and where to target.

The surest way to get a feel for some of the islands we most wanted to visit, was research. The library, the Internet, travel guides. They all would lend some insight into the hot spots, the pristine beaches. But all are subject to opinions. Other people's opinions. I've made a life from being different! How can I count on other people's opinions!?

Chartering a boat would give us personal insight into where we wanted to focus our travels, but robbing a bank to pay for it seemed like an impractical trade off. Taking a cruise was the most affordable way to see multiple locations in short order, on an even shorter budget.

We booked with Carnival Cruise lines, and got a balcony room, mid ship, port side (right for land lovers) for less than $1200 per person, with airfare tacked on. Thanks to various points programs I even managed to tack a few extra days on the front and back to extend the vacation.

We booked a southern Caribbean cruise, leaving from San Juan Puerto Rico, on December 9, 2012. The trip included stops in St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, returning to Puerto Rico on December 16.

We arrived in Puerto Rico mid day, the day prior to our sailing. We didn't sleep much the night before, so we got some sleep upon getting to our room. 15 minutes later, we set out for Old San Juan. We could see the fort from our room, so surely it was walkable!? Or not!

30 minutes in, a taxi pulled up beside us. I guess the driver saw me choking for air in my sweat soaked T-shirt. As Leanne was hopping with excitement around me, he suggested he could get us to Old San Juan cheap, and quick!! Mercifully, Leanne suggested it was a good idea. I was already in the cab.

We arrived in the old city, to a culinary festival! Sweet!! People were dancing, and drinking in the streets! Go figure! We grabbed a beverage, roamed the narrow alleys, and sampled the foods. As darkness set in, dancers and musicians came out, filling the air with festive melodies! I could get used to this. But we had a big day ahead, and little sleep behind us, so we headed back to the hotel around 10PM. We cabbed!

Morning brought excitement of our first cruise. We could board by 4, which meant we would try at two. Still we had a few hours to kill, so we went to the hotel's 9th floor infinity pool, over looking the harbour. There we got first glimpse of the Carnival Victory, our home for the next week. Excitement intensified! Leanne quickly realised that even I couldn't flip this boat... easily!

We swam, we drank, we packed, then we cabbed, arriving to chaos at the cruise dock. Organised chaos, but chaos just the same. We had been prepped by our travel agent, and prepped again by the hotel bartender. We even got prepped by the cab driver en-route. So I got out of the cab like a cruise veteran, handed our bags over to some one who looked all official and stuff, then prayed I'd see them again.

Upon arrival on board, our prayers were answered. Although we didn't have our bags yet, we found out that we could get an 'all inclusive package' for the week. Not that we are alcoholics... by most definitions! But having beverages all week, not getting the bill till the end... that was scary! Having fixed costs was a much more comforting option. Even at $700.

After getting our first drinks, and settling pool side, in a lounger facing the big screen, we were greeted by 'Lou'. He told us "I'm Lou, I am your server for the week". He seemed nice, and he knew where the beer was. Good enough for me. Time to start reviewing the itinerary for the week, and researching destination excursions.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Dreams to Plans... Making It Real

So everyone has a dream... including you, right!? But now what do you do?

Make a plan.

So how do I come up with a way to "sell t-shirts on the beach"? In reality, I've tweaked my dream a bit. Call it mid life crisis, or call it corporate burn out, or just call it craziness/laziness. Somehow, I've managed to convince myself that I should sail the Caribbean for a while, in order to recharge the batteries, and maybe find a place to set up shop, after my Chris Columbus like urges are satisfied. What's really amazing, or perhaps scary, is the fact that my wife, Leanne, and even my son, Daeyten have stopped giving me the "are you nuts" slant of their eyes, whenever I mention 'the plan'! WTH?

So now that I'm starting to feel like I might actually convince them my plan could work, I realised that sailing experience would be a good place to start. Sure I've sailed dingys since I was 8. My last boat, a 14' Zuma was a great boat to learn wind patterns on. Hell I even sailed it on the Atlantic!! OK, Northumberland Straight, between PEI and New Brunswick! But it flipped often, and wouldn't accommodate 3 adults, and two Alaskan Malamutes..

OK, so a slightly bigger boat, we could all learn on, STEP One. Thanks to a large tax return, around $10 000, we were in the market for a boat. Something used, in the 27' range would enable us to spend weekends aboard, get us used to the life style, and learn how to sail with instruments. I searched websites, read blogs, forums, visited marinas, and searched more websites, to find a boat that was suitable. Having attended the boat show each of the last 6 years, I learned that I wanted a Catalina. I hadn't learned enough about boats to understand why that boat brand appealed to me. But I knew I wanted one just the same. On one occasion, I drove all the way to Erie Pennsylvania to look at a Catalina, which turned out to be dingy and musty smelling. Not to be discouraged, we went poking around the Midland area the following weekend. We found a Catalina 27, and had made arrangements to see it Saturday afternoon. While waiting, we poked into another marina, who told us a Hunter 33 had just come on the market, and it was near the Catalina 27. It was also listed with the same broker who had the Catalina. But It was newer, bigger, and priced well beyond our $10 000 budget.

We meet the broker at 3:00, and check out the Catalina. It was clean, and well kept, but small and awkward layout. Disappointed, we asked if it was possible to see the Hunter. He told us the Hunter was in dry dock, and not a problem to see. When we went in, we where instantly hooked. It was clean, spacious, and showed no obvious signs of need. More important, it had already been to the Caribbean once, so it would show us the way!!

Problem with the Hunter was price! A lot of price!! About $40 000 over budget! Once it became clear that Leanne was not going to let the Hunter go easily, I had to do something. So I low balled. I was convinced I wouldn't hear back from them, but I did. It was listed at $50 000, and I offered $35 000. They came back at $40 000. Now that I realised they were taking me seriously, I did what any man would do... I panicked. I realised that I was one caulky counter offer away from having an agreement, with no plan on how to pay for it!!

After ignoring their counter offer for about a week, the seller's broker emailed me, asking why we hadn't responded. How do I tell him that we are big dreamers, with no money? So instead, I meet with a financial planner. I had come to realise that in Canada the government likes when you invest in RRSP's. So much so that putting money in them sometimes gets you more money! So we found a way to get the extra money to pay for the boat... in THEORY at least! But we wouldn't actually have the money for a while! So back to the broker, we propose a meeting in the middle. But with a delayed closing. After wrestling over the details for what seemed like years, we had a deal. Step one, Buy a Boat, DONE! Whats next?? More Planning...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Beginnings

Everyone Needs a Dream...
Remember that line from the cult classic movie Pretty Woman? Well I do believe everyone should have a dream! An most do! But how many people have the courage to dream BIG? How many have the courage to dream BIG and talk about it? How many have the courage to dream BIG, tell it to anyone who will listen, and TRY to make it happen.

Reality is too many in this world dream BIG, but that's where it stops.

I've dreamt of living by the ocean, for as long as I can remember. I used say I'm going to sell t-shirts on the beach when I grow up! Well I've decided it's time to grow up, and in this blog, I'm going to share my journey, success or fail. My hope... is more people dream, and more people chase their dream!