Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Kabul, Afghanistan

   2013 Desert Diablos…I have my black Alabama hat on; second row toward the right.

Don't worry, I will get back to the Cost of Cruising Series in the next blog post.  This post is a little bit of a detour.  Not much happening on the sailboat front; we still plan on a mid-May closing with a June/July delivery.  We are trying to have a bimini made and installed before we depart on the 4-week long journey during the summertime sun and heat.   

I was looking through some of my pictures from Afghanistan and thought that I would post a few of those on the blog.  We have had a lot of turnover lately with more departures expected in the near future.  Guys just don’t do this job long term… ...everyone has their reasons for being here, but usually it is a two-year gig for most guys.  There are some that do it a lot longer, but, on the other hand, there are a few who only do one year and then hit the road; so I would guess two years is about the average.  

I have a little less than 5 more months actually in country, then I am done; that is not including the break time that I will take between now and November.  When I depart in November that will be 2 years and 2 months since I left Vonore…..that’s enough for me.  

We have a great group of guys here.like everywhere, there are a few Sierra Hotels, but, for the most part we all get along well with each other, and we get the job done in a professional manner.  There is a ton of experience, with lots of combat time, lots of flight hours, and way too much time away from home.  Some of these guys have been gone from home, in either Iraq or Afghanistan, active duty military or paramilitary contacting, for the better part of a decade.  

As things continue to slow down here in Afghanistan, and the pullout of American military forces proceed, the risk increases.  That will definitely get the adrenaline flowing while on a mission, but when the rush slows down, and you step back and look at it, you think to yourself, "Why in the world am I still here?!"  It's been real, and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun.  I will miss the people I work with, but not this country, or the BS.  

I have included some shots of us here in Afghanistan below.

Stay safe..a lot of stupid people out there.

Speaking of stupid people……Happy TAX DAY, from the IRS.  Keep those dollars flowing, we have a lot of cell phones and welfare we need to disperse..not to mention the billions of dollars we are sending to the people that hate us, and MOOCH's vacations.  

OOPS, my common sense is showing. 

Kandahar  Desert Sunset

 Me and PJ

Huey II Heavy Gun in…... TK (?)

 Shutting down after mission in Kandahar

 C-17 (from Charleston) tail in the background at Kandahar

 Pretty good camouflage job on the aircraft….See it?

Heavy GAU over the desert……guns, 3000 rounds per minute each.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Kabul, Afghanistan


LIVING EXPENSES…. Two of these bad boys per month?   

If you missed part one or part two of this series you can go back and read them by clicking the links.  

As previously discussed, we have divided the cruising budget into 3 main categories: LIVING EXPENSES, BOAT EXPENSES, NON-ESSENTIAL EXPENSES.  The sub-categories within these categories are arbitrary and some of the items could be classified under a different category.  Don't let that wrap you around the axle.  If you think marina costs and moorings should be boat expenses instead of living expenses then, so be it…..make it that way on your budget.  

Let's take a more in depth look at the LIVING EXPENSES.  We will take a look a what is included in each of the sub-categories, and then give you the monthly budget amount for that sub-category. 

You must keep in mind that there are so many variables in cruising styles, cruising locations, and what personal comforts are acceptable, that YMMV (your mileage may vary).  What we have written is based on both our research and our experience.    

Included in this category are: 
  • Food (both provisioning and eating out)
  • Marina/Mooring Fees 
  • Communication/Postage
  • Charts/Cruising Guides/Navigation Software
  • Customs Fees/Cruising Permits
  • Personal Gear/Clothing
  • Other

In our budget we have included both eating out and our provisioning costs (both food and drink) in this budget item.  We do realize that eating out could be considered entertainment, but in the end…food is food.  Also included here will be those household items that are needed like: toilet paper, paper towels, soaps, toothpaste, etc……anything that you would normally buy at the local grocery store back home.     

When we were cruising the Bahamas, we were able to reduce our food costs tremendously by hunting and fishing along the way.  If we had owned a portable freezer, we could have reduced our costs even more.  There were several occasions that we had to give fish and/or lobsters away because we did not have the storage space in our small built-in freezer.  

We also took a huge amount of food with us from the States when we crossed over to the Bahamas (in hindsight, we took more than we needed to take).
In some cases the local fruits, vegetables, and meats were relatively inexpensive (comparable to the U.S.), but everything else was much more expensive since it has to be imported.  If you can adapt your eating style to include more of what the locals consume, you will spend less money.

The more developed the area is, the more we will spend on food; it is harder not to eat out when you are cruising the east coast of the U.S. versus island hopping the remote islands while spearfishing daily.    

When we leave again, we will leave with our freezer full of frozen meats and hope to again supplement our food stores with freshly caught/speared fish and lobsters.  Our food budget is $6750 per year, or $565/month.  In certain areas, we can do much better than this.

After we actually cast off the dock lines and begin cruising, we will spend very few days in a marina.  I think that during the entire time we were gone (from Charleston, to Coconut Grove in Biscayne Bay, to the Bahamas, and back) we spent one day in a marina.  We were at Coconut Grove, and docked in the marina so the new mainsail could be installed without having to dinghy it, and the sailmaker, to the boat in the anchorage where we stayed.

We did spend a few nights on a mooring ball in Warderick Wells in the Exumas both going south and returning north, but at $15 per night, the mooring costs were minimal.

If you are traveling up or down the U.S. east coast, you will probably spend more in marinas than you would if you were in the Bahamas, but we still try anchor out every time we possibly can.  We enjoy an anchorage much more than we do a marina slip (most of the time).  

We have budgeted $875 per year or $73/month for marinas and mooring fees.  That would equate to about once a month in a slip.  We believe will do much better than this, and if we do, that is just more money to spend on fun stuff.

This sub-category will include the cost of packages/
mail sent to us from the U.S., and any and all communications expenses such as satellite phone minutes/usage, cell phone usage, Sailmail (if we decide to go that route), etc.  

We do plan to have a sat phone on board for any necessary or emergency communication needs.  We also have a couple of unlocked cell phones that we can just buy sim cards for, if we are going to be somewhere that we think that would be worthwhile. (maybe Pueto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, etc.)  

This is a little bit of a wildcard budget area, but utilizing free wifi and Winlink for emails as much as possible will keep our commo expenses down fairly low.  If we can have visitors occasionally bring us parts or items we need from the U.S., we will cut down on postage and shipping costs.

We have budgeted $1250/year, or $104 per month.  

We have two Furuno chartplotters onboard; one uses the C-Map formatted cards for nav charts, and the other uses the Navionics formatted cards.  

I already have the Navionics card for the Southeastern Coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas, along with the Explorer cruising guides for the Bahamas from our previous cruising experience.  Yes, I know they are not up to date, but these will be the backup.

I just purchased the C-Map card for the Florida Coast and the Bahamas that will be the primary navigation source.  It is up-to-date and I also purchased the Navionics iPad app which has the current charts on it.  

We will also use paper charts as a backup to the backup…..you never know about electronic equipment.  If it does fail, it is always at the most inopportune moment.  

Anyway, we have budgeted $500 per year, or about $42/month for these items.  This is a sub-category that will probably cost us more after we have been cruising a few years than it will our first couple of years out.  We will probably not spend more than $150 per year, at most, for the first couple of years then the expense will increase as we explore new cruising grounds.  

With the limited amount of onshore activities, we only need an equally limited wardrobe.  East coat U.S. will be more wardrobe demanding, but still that is predominately shorts and T-shirts.  While in the Bahamas we spent 90% of our time in bathing suits.  We see little necessity for spending money on clothing and such that we don't need and we have precious little room to store.  Dahleen will welcome the opportunity for me to wear out the hundred or so T-shirts I have collected over the years.  

This sub-category also includes other gear like snorkel masks, fins, wetsuits, shoes, etc.  Again, at this point we are currently well-stocked on all these items and we don't see ourselves being near the allocated budget numbers.  

For this sub-category we have budgeted $1250/year, or $105 per month.

It cost us $300 to clear into the Bahamas, and obtain a 180-day cruising permit……. which is expensive compared to most Caribbean countries.  Some charge almost nothing, while others will charge $75-$200 dollars.  

We plan to spend the first two winters in the Bahamas, then move south from there.  We will spend some time around Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands (both U.S. so, no fees) BVI, and St. Martin before moving to the Eastern Caribbean Islands.  

With the exception of the Bahamas, our customs fees should be low for the first couple of years.  Panama and the canal crossing will make up for that if/when we decide to circumnavigate.  

We have budgeted $750/year, or $62.50 per month for customs fees.   

This is our miscellaneous sub-category…..anything that is deemed necessary, and that we can't plug into one of the previously discussed LIVING EXPENSE sub-categories goes here.
One of the items that will fall into this category will be any health related expenses.  We have found that outside the U.S. health care costs are fractions of what we normally pay.  

Unless we are in Panama, or Columbia where there are an abundance of U.S. trained doctors, we will plan our annual doctor/dentist appointments for the one time a year we come back to the U.S. to visit family.  Any other non-serious issues will be self treated or we will seek local treatment and pay out of pocket.  

Our health insurance costs, whatever level we decide to go with, will be budgeted under the NON-ESSENTIAL EXPENSE category.

While we are both very healthy, this is one category we might be a little under-budgted on……..we have budgeted $1600/year, or $133 per month for OTHER/ MISC items.


We will need one of these and………..

 ….one of these for our budgeted LIVING EXPENSES per month while cruising.

  $13,000/year or $1100 per month (rounded up slightly).

Remember, we still have two more categories to cover in future "HOW MUCH DOES IT COST" blog post series; we still have the Boat Expense and the Non-Essential Expense categories.  Stay tuned, we will try our best update the blog budget monthly once we begin cruising.

Thoughts are welcome, comment below.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Kabul, Afghanistan

I normally don't put the jokes and funny stuff on the main page of the blog, but this one was just too good to restrict to the FUNNY STUFF tab only: 


I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis .. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'
I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box
Large enough to hold a microwave oven.. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America 'S enemies.
I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my
Preparation .. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically
Water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter
Plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.
The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.
MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle.. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.
After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.
At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.
Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.
When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.
You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.
I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I f elt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.
Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.