Friday, June 16, 2006

Alone in Grenada

June 16, 2006    Friday
Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada

Spent the afternoon looking at charts and reading books and guides to see what our plans might be for the fall.  Gosh, it is hard to think that far out.

And, yet again, it seems as if the insurance companies screw you.  Weather wise, the time to make the passage to the San Blas Islands (Panama) is November/December—the earlier the better.  To get there, you first go to Tortuga, Los Roques, Aves (all part of Venezuela), and the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao).  Of course, all those islands are north of 10 degrees 50 minutes.  And the insurance company insists that we cannot go above 10.50 until after November 30.

The passage from Aruba to San Blas Islands is approximately 630 nautical miles.  If we wait until after November 30 to start working our way over to the ABCs, that will add a couple hundred miles to the trip.  Then we would start the long passage, where we will likely be caught in the Christmas Winds which normally start mid to late December.

Not sure what we are going to do.  Still plenty of time to plan a route.

Bill’s nephew, Duane, sent me an email today asking what we do about money.  That was a strange coincidence because I had just posted earlier this morning on the Yahoo! World Cruising forum about that very subject.  So I will attempt to explain what we do.

We do keep some US cash aboard in a built-in safe, not a large amount.  When we leave the boat, we each carry keys for both the boat and the safe.  We don’t really use that cash.  When we arrive in a new country, first thing we do is hit an ATM at a local bank.  This gives us a supply of the local currency.   We do not use any ATM machines except those located at real banks.  (Which, BTW, are a little different down here.  They always have a locked door to gain access to the ATM.  You must first swipe your debit card to gain access to the enclosed locked-up ATM machine.  I assume this is to provide some level of security from being robbed while accessing cash.  You also must push a button to get out of there.  You are locked inside with the ATM machine while doing your transaction.)  Our bank refunds to our account for any local bank ATM fees, so we never pay a fee to access any ATM.

We also have a Visa card which is tied to the same checking account as our debit card.  The Visa card is paid automatically.  What surprised us is the time delay from when we make a charge and when that bill actually gets paid from our checking account.  The Visa billing cycle closes on the first day of each month, but they do not deduct the money from our checking account until the last day of each month.  So, for example, if we charged something on June 3, then that would be on our bill on July 1, and would not be deducted from our checking account until July 31.  In the meantime, our account earns 4.5% interest.  That surprised us.  We figured they would deduct the payment as soon as the billing cycle closed; July 1 in my example above.  Anyway, the way they do this makes me happy.

We also have a personal banker assigned to us.  We can contact her via email or phone if we need anything special done.  Almost like the old days of having a personal relationship with your bank.

We also have other credit cards with us, should the system not be working correctly and we need to charge something right away.  But to pay the other credit cards, I must get online and manually initiate the payment.  We had one AT&T Universal card that we recently closed because they wanted to charge an additional 3% for any foreign transactions.  Get real.  We told them that policy was ridiculous and to cancel the card.  After all, they are still making the merchant fee on the charge, regardless of where that transaction takes place.  And you know they also make money on the exchange rate that they apply to the transaction.  It is always the lowest exchange rate.  Do they think we are idiots!

So far, this has worked quite well for us.  Far more seamless than I thought it would be.

We also keep about $50USD in local currency on the boat  in a visible place.  This is our “sacrificial token cash” in case of boarding or robbery.  These people are so poor that they probably would be happy with that amount and think it was a lot of money.

Bill comes home tomorrow night.  Hooray!  I finished reading “Lorna Doone” by R.D. Blackmore while Bill was gone.  Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but I actually enjoyed it. 


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