Family Reunited and Health Insurance Craziness

Family Together

Family Together

This weekend our daughter Ren arrived from San Francisco for a weekend attending a bridal shower. This gave us an opportunity finally to have us together with both our daughters. The first time we were all together since November 2013. Both girls visited us at the start of the year, but on two different schedules, in South Africa. We were invited to a “luau” at a bar called Rum Runners in Raleigh on Friday night, so we got this picture of us. It was a good time with some entertaining music and comedy.

Our daughter Ren is also starting to plan a wedding for next summer, to her long time love Patrick. She went to try on wedding dresses and her mother and sister had a fun time of it apparently. She actually found a dress she loves and we put money down on it. Oh boy. They also spent lots of time doing other planning. Still, I managed to spend a little quality father/daughter time with her before she had to return to California. She’ll be back in September for her friend’s wedding.

When we last left the blog, we were looking at health insurance. My friends, who were here while we were gone, assured me that the insurance premiums had gone through the roof before Affordable Care Act. I was still rather shocked at the premiums for two people of our age, with ridiculous >$10K deductables, and not a lot of cost protection from the out of control health prices in this country. So much so, that I considered finding out what it would take to keep our travel health insurance going, for which we had paid through the end of August.

That’s when I found out that our travel insurance didn’t cover us for as long in the US for a visit back as I expected. It turned out we weren’t covered! We briefly considered leaving the country that very night to get our coverage back in action (even called our friends in Toronto who invited us to visit them). You can imagine how this idea stressed us, with Ren not yet here and the possibility of our leaving the country. Karen said that no matter what she was going to be here for the wedding dress shopping. But, fortunately, the next morning my friend Andy put me in touch with someone who got us some short-term gap coverage for ONLY a few hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, we signed up right away for the health insurance plan that will go in effect on the 15th of July and paid our premium (that costs half as much per MONTH as our ANNUAL travel health insurance). Ugh.

My advice to anyone returning home after their journey, is to make sure you check with the travel health insurer to make sure they will cover you until you can get new health insurance. Ours had specific rules I was unaware of relating to returning that were different from just temporarily visiting our home country. Can’t say I blame any insurer for not wanting to cover anyone in the US without major money. While the US healthcare may be superior in some respects (debatable), the cost for medical care (and thus insurance) is just insane compared to the rest of the world. If practical, I would just fly out of the country to have healthcare done rather than put up with it.

We have good mobility with Karen’s new car, and have found an apartment. Move in date isn’t until mid-August, so we will continue living on the boat with trips to Raleigh and other places in between.

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Land Lubber Progress

We have been preparing ourselves mentally for our transition back to land. So, we aren’t exactly kicking and screaming as we start this process. However, that’s not to say our start has been barrels of fun.

We spent almost two weeks in the Raleigh area before July 4th (big thanks to our friends Andy and Aliza who let us use their house again – this time while they were gone on vacation). Our time was occupied by a number of “settling in” activities.

The biggest was searching, looking at, and ultimately finding an apartment with a six month lease so we can have a temporary home to sort through all of our things and decide what we are going to do next with our life. The apartment move in date isn’t until mid-August, so we’ll still be spending a lot of our time on the boat. Our friends Patti and Gerard are also going to be gone on vacation during part of July, so we have another house we can stay at in the Raleigh area as well. Big Kudos to Karen who started the apartment hunting process weeks before we got back to the US.

We also looked at a number of cars and found and bought one that will be primarily Karen’s. She got a SUV crossover which will provide some outdoor utility and hauling capacity if we need it for moving things. For myself, I’m struggling to decide what car interests me. And there isn’t a rush to get another car yet.

Meanwhile, we have slowly started reconnecting with friends and family, but it will take many weeks or months before we reach out and manage to meet up with even most of them. Especially with the other projects we have to do. And, once we finish with our family and old friends, we have quite a few new sailing friends, who have also moved back on land, we would like to visit with in many corners of he world.

Lastly, during the last couple of weeks, we started looking at American health insurance, and our initial investigations were as horrifying as we feared (ridiculously expensive). But, friends have suggested that the online marketplace we were using is not the best way to find good pricing, so we hope contacting insurers will result in better results. We think part of our problem is that we’re just joining in half-way through the year, and the new policies aren’t really designed for that.

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4th of July in the USA

US flag over marinaWe finally get to celebrate 4th of July in the USA again after six years! But, we kept it on a nautical theme by celebrating at the marina in Carolina Beach where Tahina is staying.

BBQ foods on the ICW

BBQ foods on the ICW

During the day we had fun watching thousands of boaters taking their boats out down the ICW, many of which stopped at our fuel dock. We saw one boat go aground, and another damaged his boat running into a piling with his solar panel on the fuel dock.

The marina ordered in some BBQ from a popular restaurant in town, and most of the resident boaters and a few transient ones showed up for a bite and drinks. Karen and I were pretty popular with lots of folks asking about our trip. Later a bunch came by Tahina to hear more stories and see a few pictures.

July 4th fun

July 4th fun

In the evening, we weren’t disappointed we didn’t go to Wilmington where the big fireworks show was being held. There were tons of folks shooting fireworks all up and down the ICW. So, we had plenty to watch.

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Talk About Scary

frankdivingsharksWhat is scarier than spending five years leaving home and sailing around the world? Scarier even than diving with over 100 shark? I’ll tell you: coming home and suddenly realizing all the things that want to come out of the woodwork and grab their greedy paws on your wallet!

We’ve been back less than two weeks, and our only plans were to get somewhere to live a few months in our last home town so we can get ourselves situated and begin thinking about what’s next for our life. Of course, this means we need to get a car, or two, so we can get around. And then we start realizing there’s a huge number of other things we need.

moneymoneyCar insurance (tags, vehicle taxes, sales taxes, state inspection, etc.), health insurance, lodging insurance, utilities, phone services, Internet service, property taxes, new clothing (our tropical clothes will get us through the summer – but, Winter Is Coming!), our smart phones are old – time to upgrade, and the list goes on. We can be thankful we can avoid getting a residence phone (just use the cell phone), and we don’t need cable TV (just use the Internet). But, when will it end?!

I can just seeing the web of tentacles reaching out to sink their teeth into our every pore and try to suck the very life (money) out of us!

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Tahina Completes Expedition

Yesterday, we completed our expedition and ended up in the exact same spot where it all began on November 14, 2009. We had a very pleasant passage from the Bahamas and sailed across the gulf stream to end up in Carolina Beach, North Carolina at the same marina – and even the same slip – where we were located at the start at Joyner Marina. So, full circle! Below is a picture from before we left, and yesterday after we arrived:

Tahina at Joyner

Tahina at Joyner

We had a brief visit from a US Customs and Border Patrol officer who completed a form for us and asked a few basic questions. Then we were officially back in the US. A short while later, our daughter Trisha arrived after driving down from Raleigh. Happy reunion! She is staying with us and is helping us clean up the boat some. We are inviting friends of Tahina, and family members to come down to help us celebrate our return.

We plan to have some food and drinks on Saturday afternoon. If you are a friend of Tahina, then drop me a note here or E-mail, and we’ll add you to our invitation list.

It’s been the experience of a lifetime on this trip, and I have to say the emotions and thoughts approaching this moment have been very interesting. We have both been dreading and looking forward to completing the journey on many levels. The cruising life has been a very wonderful experience. We had the great fortune to spend two wonderful weeks in the Bahamas with two other cruising sailor boats which greatly enhanced the last experiences of the trip (both s/v Gromit and s/v Salty Ginger arrived safely last night in Beaufort, NC). We were all trying to get the most out of our last few days – and we relished every moment of it. We were so fortunate to get to share that time with them and it so much helped with the emotions we were experiencing.

At the same time, we are so looking forward to getting back to friends, family, and a sense of home. We have been on the move for so long, we are unsure how long it will take us to like staying in one place again. We may never adjust. But, right now we are thrilled to have one daughter back on the boat, and a bunch of friends and family coming down tomorrow to celebrate.

One final thought, it isn’t about how you go about doing a trip like this, or the places you visit. What makes doing something like this worth all the trouble to make it happen is the experiences you have when its all over. We have had a wealth of experiences that we could never have imagined at the start. And those experiences have hopefully taught us some things about how to live our lives going forward to value the new experiences of life.

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Coming Home This Week

Tahina and Crew

Tahina and Crew

We’re coming home! Tahina left North Carolina in November, 2009. And now after 45,000 nautical miles circumnavigating the Earth, some amazing adventures, a few trials and tribulations, fantastic wildlife encounters, making new wonderful friends, and building a gigantic library of memories (read this blog) – this phase of our travels is finally coming to an end. We expect to arrive in North Carolina in a few days. We’ll take a couple days to clean up the boat, and then we’ve planned to invite some friends and family to come down to Tahina near Wilmington, NC and help celebrate our return next weekend. If you’d like to come, or even if you can’t make it, drop us a note here, or on our Facebooks, or e-mail.

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More Fun in the Abacos

Tilloo Cay

Tilloo Cay

We have been having a blast with our Canadian friends on the boats s/v Salty Ginger, and s/v Gromit. After our first stop and Lanyard Cay we moved up to Tilloo Cay and Tahina anchored in beautiful turquoise waters in just 5-6 feet of depth over sand. We had acres of beautiful water all around us and we loved it. Nearby was another beach with a great “camp site” which had some basic furniture brought in by other boaters so you could do cookouts under the trees, relax by a camp fire in the evening, and enjoying the beautiful white sand beach going in both directions.

Tilloo Cay pool

Tilloo Cay pool

We spent one afternoon just lounging around the shallow water sand bars in our very own giant multi-olympic-sized pool. Occasionally a big ray would come scooting by and we managed to get some pictures of one. We brought out lots of water toys on our dinghies and just hung out for hours.

We moved the boat up to Marsh Harbour – the main town of the Abacos – and got some provisions at a huge American-style grocery store. Karen and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a restaurant with the adult crew of Salty Ginger one night.

Amelia zooming

Amelia zooming

Early the next morning we moved north a few miles to Fowl Cay – which is home to a protected marine park. We loved the beautiful waters on the south side, but everyone piled onto Tahina and we moved out to the north side to anchor amongst the reefs. We had a delightful few hours snorkeling the various reefs out there. Beautiful colorful coral, lots of fish, lots to explore. The kids enjoyed becoming part of my underwater photography and were often swimming into view. Lots of photos in the slideshow down below. The photo here is of Amelia – which shows you why they call their boat Salty Ginger.

Hope Town lighthouse

Hope Town lighthouse

After relaxing the afternoon away at Fowl Cay, while we waited for high tide, we sailed a few miles east to Hope Town of Elbow Cay. They have a lighthouse near the town, and it was a favorite photography object. The Gromits were meeting someone on the island, so Salty Ginger and Tahina went ashore and enjoyed a lunch in the town, and did some souvenir shopping. We were also checking out the real estate as this is a beautiful place – but, we found it to be a bit pricey.

The next morning, Tahina led the way through a shallow area along Elbow Cay sailing the whole way back down to Tilloo Cay. The Salties took some pictures of Tahina as we were sailing down. After lunch, we took Tahina’s Dinghy down with the Salties and a couple of the kids and did another snorkel off Pelican Cay. We saw some awesome Spotted Eagle Rays – the largest I’ve seen at about 1.2m in width, and got some good pics. We also saw some shark, and a nice variety of fish and coral again.

BBQ BBQed

BBQ BBQed

That evening, we did another cookout on shore. Actually, Graham of Salty did all the cooking on his BBQ grill which he brought ashore. He set it on a makeshift table made out of wood, which kind of caught fire after he had been cooking a while. But, we got it under control. After another nice pot luck dinner, which was capped with some great desserts from all three boats, I got to play some frisbee on the beach! Later, Liam – the son from Gromit – made a nice camp fire again. The girls Amelia and Maya came over and serenaded us with songs and guitar, and ZoĆ« performed an amazing Tahitian dance (she learned at a Tahitian school in 2011).

Yesterday was a rainy day (which we knew was coming). Liam came over to Tahina for a few hours of video game playing. Karen was invited to play board games at Gromit – which she enjoyed as always. I spent many hours today – another rainy day – processing hundreds of photos – of which I’ve reduced it down to a mere 75 for you to enjoy below:


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We have to wait another few days to see if a weather window will develop to allow us to sail our final leg back to the US. We are definitely having a great time while we wait though! A little while ago, we saw a big shark swimming through “our” swimming pool. The kids just watched “Jaws” last night, so I don’t think they’re going swimming today.

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Now in the Abacos

Tahina Abacos

Tahina Abacos

Karen and I have been to the Bahamas a few times before. But, we have never visited the Abacos for some reason. Our Canadian friends on s/v Gromit and s/v Salty Ginger went to Mayaguana while we were in the Raggeds the previous week. We decided to rendezvous in the Abacos – where Gromit was last at 7 or so years ago – and they would be completing their circumnavigation there. They have a favorite snorkeling site there which they remember fondly, and a favorite beach camp site (which they called “Club Med” because they had so much fun last time).

We got a message from Salty Ginger that the two boats had left Mayaguana Thursday (23-May) and would be arriving Abacos on Monday morning. Since we were only one day of sailing away, we spent a day doing laundry and prepping. We had a mini household disaster when I accidentally left an open container of hydraulic steering oil on a counter and Karen knocked it on the carpet, AND a few drops landed on our freshly folded laundry! It took us half a day to get everything cleaned up. Oh boy.

On Sunday morning, we left at the crack of dawn and had very good conditions for a brisk sail during the day. We were within 20 miles of the turn around Eleuthra island, that would put us on a direct course for Abacos, when I decided to try hailing the two Canadian boats on the VHF. They actually heard us and were only 25 or so miles away. It was a happy virtual reunion over the radio, and we were able to communicate through the night to coordinate our arrival.

Lynyard Cay, Abacos

Lynyard Cay, Abacos

Tahina, being the faster boat, arrived first to the pass we had decided to enter through the barrier reef and cays which provide the wonderful shelter for boats in the Abacos. We arrived just a few minutes too early (before sunrise), so we hove to (sat with our sails perpendicular to wind – sort of like parking your boat, and a very comfortable way to take a break while you don’t move very fast). When the sun was up (and a little rain squall passed) we dropped the sails and motored slowly up to the pass, and confirmed the pass conditions were good, and were soon in the smooth protected waters. It was a bit shallow, so we had to pay close attention to the charts to ensure enough water leading us to the anchorage. The photo here shows what the view from Tahina looked like a couple of hours later – that white sand beach was later vacated by the day-trippers and we had the place to ourselves! The map below shows the track of our trip to the Abacos and if you zoom in you can see other places we have gone since.

A couple of hours later after our arrival, the other two boats had negotiated the same pass (with tips from Tahina) and were soon anchored close by. We have spent the rest of the week greatly enjoying the company of the four adults and four kids and spending our time snorkeling, swimming, playing on the beach, enjoying pot-luck dinners and camp fires on the beach until late at night with a moon that gets brighter every night. I took a panorama from my seat around the camp fire one night shown below (click for larger):

Beach fire

Beach fire

Yesterday I pulled out my kite aerial photography gear and we took photos with a GoPro camera of each of the boats from above. The photo at the top of this post shows Tahina in the shallow water we anchored in, and the nearby cay and beach we have been playing on at night (called Tilloo Cay). The photo here shows the happy new family circumnavigators on their boat Gromit (named after Wallace and Gromit).

Gromit family

Gromit family

Below is a slideshow capturing a few of the moments so far in the Abacos. It’s been a great time so far, and a great way to finish off our long voyage around the world!


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We plan to continue exploring these fantastic cruising waters for another week before we start looking for a weather window to head home.

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The Ragged Islands of the Bahamas

Sunrise Bahamas

Sunrise Bahamas

Weeks ago, we got some great tips from an old sailing buddy, Dave who is formerly of s/v O’vive and s/v Melusine (who we first met in 2003 in the Bahamas), for the Bahamas. Dave and his family live in Florida and regularly cruise the Bahamas. His favorite cruising locations for the Bahamas are in the Ragged Islands. These island cays border the eastern edge of a vast shallow area of water south of the Exumas. The islands provide shelter from the trade winds and deeper waters, yet provide easy access to fantastic coral reefs and fish. We had been looking forward with great anticipation to arriving at the Raggeds. We left Great Inagua the day after checking in to the country there, and sailed for one day and a night to arrive early the next morning on the 16th of May. The picture here is of the awesome sunrise we had before arrival. See the map below which shows the passage from Great Inagua. Zoom in to the north-western end to see the places we went in the Raggeds.

Flamingo Cay

Flamingo Cay

We chose to go to Flamingo Cay first. We arrived and dropped our sails before entering a narrow pass between ragged rock islands going from 1000 feet to 30 feet of water under our keels in less than a mile. We tried out a bay on the north side with a pretty beach, but there was a slight swell in the bay that would have made it uncomfortable at anchor. We moved to the west side of the island and anchored off a pretty bay with another white-sand beach. Later I went ashore and explored the beach, found a trail to the north beach (which was marked with flip-flops and rock cairns), and took pictures of the beautiful beach there (one of them is below). There are a few other photos of the beach in the album further below. Late in the afternoon we had a nice rain shower that rinsed the salt off the boat.

North Flamingo Cay Beach

North Flamingo Cay Beach

Karen snorkeling

Karen snorkeling

The next morning, I took Karen to three different beaches on the island. We took lots of pictures and found some beautiful conch shells on the beach. We also saw some interesting lizards with very curly (even coiled) tails. The next day, we left to move the boat to Water Cay – a 10 mile sail north east. We actually had to motor most of the way because it was upwind that day. We were amazed at the beautiful waters here. It was everything Dave told us to expect. We anchored in super shallow water near Water Cay. There was a rusty fishing boat shipwreck nearby. Later, Karen and I took the dinghy out to some coral reef and had a great snorkel. We saw very healthy coral, and lots of coral fish. There’s a bunch of underwater photos in the album below.

Tahina from Kite

Tahina from Kite

The next day, in addition to snorkeling, we got out my kite and special camera mount and tried taking some pictures of Tahina and the islands. Unfortunately, by the time I set it up, the winds had dropped. So, the Kite wouldn’t fly very high. But, we got a few good shots of Tahina anyway. We later took Tahina out a couple miles to a blue hole. This is a circular shaped deep spot which usually has a coral reef around it (possibly the reef and currents form the deeper hole, I don’t know). Anyway, I had already investigated it earlier and wanted Karen to try it out. Her back was bothering her though, so she missed snorkeling it. I saw some great fish there including sting ray, baracuda, dog fish, trigger fish, and had a huge swarm of jacks surround me for a few minutes (they seemed attracted to my bright yellow fins). Great fun!

We moved the boat to another anchorage on the north side of Water Cay after the blue hole. The next morning, I was up well before the crack of dawn and prepared us for a pre-dawn departure. That was when we sailed to Georgetown as mentioned in the previous post. Below is the photo album which shows you a few glimpses at the fantastic experiences and sights we had at the Raggeds. If we come back to the Bahamas, we are definitely going back there!


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Move to Georgetown, Great Exuma

Yesterday we woke up before the crack of dawn to move the boat to Georgetown, Exuma. We had spent several days in the Ragged Islands 30 miles south of Georgetown (which I will write about later after I process photos). The Raggeds a series of cays (little islands) bordering the edge of a vast shallow area south of the Exumas which provide a huge array of coral reefs, blue holes, and many kinds of fish. To the east are deep waters between the many islands of the Bahamas. We did some snorkeling and island and beach explorations. But, our goal on this morning was to move the boat 25 miles north-north-east to a place called Hog Cay Cut which would afford us the shortest route to Georgetown. The map below shows the route (zoom in to see how awesome the water in the Raggeds look):

speed and depth

speed and depth

We had about 15 knots of wind from the south east, and once we departed the anchorage we raised our sails. We were soon sailing at 9 knots average, which in this case was a bit unnerving. Why? Because we were in pre-dawn conditions in only 20 feet of water with coral reefs all over the place. We needed to be at the cut by high tide at 9AM. But, we had good satellite imagery from Google Earth, and charts. So, we were reasonably confident we shouldn’t hit anything. We continued like this for a while, and the shallowest we saw was 12 feet. Then we approached the area south of the cut where we knew it was going to get shallow. When it got to 8 feet, we stopped and lowered our sails. We then motored towards the cut. By the time we got near it, we only had 4.5 of water under the hulls (our keels are about 3 feet deeper than the hulls). Yikes! In fact, we saw as little as 3.8 feet briefly. But, we never touched bottom and it was sand anyway.

Approach to Hog Cay Cut

Approach to Hog Cay Cut

When we got to the cut between two islands, we knew it was in a zig-zag. You could see rocks blocking the straight route, but you could also see deeper water in a S like shape. Once in the cut it was 10 feet deep and we actually breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the way through the cut was uneventful except to make sure we stayed in the center because it was only a couple boat-widths wide! Below is the view as we departed.

Through the cut

Through the cut

St. Francis Resort

St. Francis Resort

We wanted to go to Georgetown to get some provisions. But, the main reason was to re-visit the home base to where we bought Tahina in 2008. Stocking Island is home to a place called St. Francis Resort. The owner is a South African man named George who is the sales representative for St. Francis Marine (the maker of Tahina). He sold us Tahina. So, we drove Tahina right up to the resort so we could take a picture showing that we had brought Tahina full circle right back to where we bought her after sailing around the world.

George of St. Francis

George of St. Francis

George came out in his custom St. Francis power cat to greet us. He said Tahina looked great and looked good enough to be shown at the Miami Boat show! What a nice compliment. He was actually serious, because he said he was looking to show a St. Francis at next year’s show. We told him we weren’t interested right now because we aren’t currently planning to sell our boat. Later we went to visit him at his nice restaurant and bar and he treated us to some drinks while we told him a few stories about our trip. Below is a map where we are anchored now just south of St. Francis Resort off the island (away from mosquitoes).

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