30 December 2016

Flashback Friday | A Day In The Life Of Cruisers & Worker Bees

Today is Michael d’Agostino’s Flashback Friday. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog three years ago and have lots more followers now then we did back then (thanks guys!) so many folks may not have seen some of our earlier blog posts. 

I wrote this post when I was living in New Zealand. We had sold our old boat and were both working for a while to top up our cruising kitty (savings account in sailing speak) before we headed back to the States to look for our next boat. After having lived aboard and cruised on our boat in New Zealand, it was quite a shock to the system to have to go back and work in an office. This post compares a day in the life of a cruiser living full-time aboard their sailboat and a cruiser wanna-be stuck in an office. 

{This post was originally published in May 2014. You can find it here.}


Scott and I are working for a few months to top up the cruising kitty. It got me thinking about what my average day looks like cruising versus working. We need to get a new boat pronto.

A Day in the Life of a Worker Bee

You are not my friend.

The alarm screeches at you at 6:00 AM. Grope around in the dark to try to find it so that you can hit the snooze button. Give up, turn on the light and silence the little beast.

Get out of your spacious double bed. Yawn. Stretch. Take a shower with hot water. Wash and rinse your hair as much as you like. No coins required.

Make coffee and turn on the TV. Get depressed as you listen to the news stories about people starving, wars, corrupt government officials and the latest sporting scandal. Get distracted when the way too cheerful weather presenter tells you about all the rain headed your way. Wonder what kind of drugs he takes. It is really possible to be that chipper when talking about the weather? Apparently it is.

Sigh. Get dressed. In clean clothes. In tights, a skirt and a top which silently whispers, “I’m a professional. I know what I’m talking about. I have a PowerPoint presentation to prove it.”


Get on a train. Full of people. All sneezing and coughing and spraying germs on you. Sneeze and sniffle back at them. We can all play this game.

Stare out the window at the office buildings and the shops. Watch the people on the train think about going to work in the office buildings so that they can get a paycheck and buy stuff in the shops. You can see it in their eyes, "We must drive the economy. Work, work, work! Earn, earn, earn! Spend, spend, spend!"

Hand the lady next to you a tissue – she really needs one. Get off the train. Walk to your office building. Stop in at the shop across the road. They sell chocolate. It's going to be a long day. You'll need some.


Sit in a chair at a desk with a computer. All day long. Stare at the computer. Make fancy PowerPoint presentations to convince people that you’re a professional and you know what you’re talking about. Stare out the window. Such a lovely view of McDonald’s. Think to yourself, “At least I’m sitting in an office building, not serving hamburgers.” You feel better. Because inner peace comes from knowing there is always someone worse off than you.

Send a few emails. Talk to people on the phone. Have a cup of tea. Eat your chocolate. Turn off your computer.


Wait at the train station. Wait some more. Get on a train. Wonder why people are so rude. Watch the young mother struggle to get her pram on the train. Watch the people right next to the door watch the young mother struggle to get her pram on the train. Obviously, they have been superglued to their seats and are unable to help her. Fortunately, you sat in the one seat without superglue. You help. Poor cute little baby – doesn’t know he has a life of working in an office and making PowerPoint presentations ahead of him. Maybe that's why he is crying.


Stare at the fridge. Will it to produce something delicious for dinner. Give up. Go get takeaway pizza. Sit on the couch. Turn on the TV. Watch a show about people starving, wars, corrupt government officials and the latest sporting scandal. Highly entertaining because it can't possibly be real. Plus everyone is wearing such nice clothes. And their hair looks shiny and pretty.


Set the alarm for 6:00 AM. Drift off to sleep and dream about sailing.

A Day in the Life of a Cruiser

When you live on a sailboat, you get views like this.

The splash of the water against your boat gently wakes you up at 6:00 AM. Have a good stretch, look out the porthole and smile. While you’re stretching, bump your head against the side of the cramped little v-berth. Stop smiling for a minute. Okay, back to smiling. You’re on a boat and the skipper has made coffee.

Grab the clothes you had on yesterday (and possibly the day before and maybe the day before that) and put them on. They don’t smell any worse than you, so you’re good to go.

No shower. No hot water. Oh well. You’re on a boat. It could be worse. You could be starving, living in a war-torn nation run by corrupt government officials and watching the news on TV about the latest sporting scandal.


You don’t.


You have a leisurely breakfast. You go for a hike. You have a picnic lunch. You stare at the incredible views all around you. You sail to a new anchorage. You enjoy a sundowner in the cockpit and watch the dolphins play and the sun set. You eat a dinner of fresh snapper. And you sigh with contentment.


You’re home already. On your boat. Home is where the heart is. Your heart is on your boat.


See above – whiling away the hours.


Drift off to sleep and dream about sailing. No alarm required.

If you work, what's your favorite and/or least favorite parts of your job? If you're retired or not working at present, what's the biggest difference between your days as a worker bee and what you get up to now?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!  

28 December 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Glow Plugs

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - The engine on our boat works now! {If you've followed us for a while, you'll know how darn exciting this is.}

2 - We had to remove this panel to access the glow plug starter and replace an inline fuse.

3 - There's a reason for panels like these. They hide all of the scary bits and bobs that lurk behind them.

4 - Whenever I hear the term "glow plugs," I think about glow worms which makes me think about the "Inchworm" song from the Hans Christian Anderson musical. I can't get it out of my head now. 

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

26 December 2016

Finding A Wee Beastie In The Eggs

I had a rather ordinary start to my day. I got up, had some coffee, went for a walk with Scott and then started to make breakfast.

When I opened the egg container this morning, I found a wee beastie lurking inside.

Here's what he looks like up close. Doesn't he look a little cranky to you? I'm guessing he hasn't had his morning coffee yet.


Scott brought him back from Glasgow with him. Every day he keeps turning up in new places. Scott's fun like that.

We used to have another wee beastie on our boat in New Zealand.

Here's a close-up. Clearly, he's had way too much coffee. And he's got a weird kind of drool thing going on.

For some reason, neither of our wee beasties have names. Odd, isn't it?

The rest of the day was far less entertaining than the egg incident. We worked on the engine. There were wire brushes, grease, grime, oil, dirt, dust and other unpleasant things involved. Plus a lot of paper towels. Lots and lots of paper towels. There's a reason why boaters call paper towels "white gold" - they're essential to most boat projects.

Just in case you needed proof that I actually worked on boat projects today, here's what my hands looked like at the end of the day. That's oil and grease under those fingernails, not a new trendy manicure. Living on a boat is just so darn sexy and glamorous.

How did your day start and end? What do you think we should name our wee beastie?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

23 December 2016

Happy Holidays!

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

We'll be having our usual holiday festivities over the coming days - enjoying a Christmas curry and watching Monty Python's The Life of Brian. Whatever your plans are during the holiday season, we wish you heaps of joy, good cheer and happiness and a wonderful New Year!

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

21 December 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Nativity Scene In Tenerife

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Several years ago, we spent Christmas in Tenerife. Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands, located off of the coast of West Africa.

2 - On Christmas Day, we went to Loro Parque, a zoo in Puerto de la Cruz, and then walked around town checking out the Christmas decorations. 

3 - I got a kick out of the nativity scene and how they used dolls to represent Mary and Joseph. I love the beard they drew on Joseph with a magic marker. 

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

19 December 2016

Sandcastles | Anna Maria Island, Florida

One of the first things we did once Scott came back was to go through the very long list of boat projects that we have to do before we can head off to the Bahamas.

Here's the problem with project lists - they're utterly depressing. They make you realize how much you have to do, how much it's all going to cost and how much you don't have a clue about.

What do you do when you're overwhelmed by your boat project list? You lock up your boat, get in the car and drive as far away as you can before you run out of gas. We got as far as Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida where we rented a cottage for a week so that we can chill out and muster up our courage to tackle the boat project list.

We've been going out for long walks on the beach while we've been here and admiring sandcastles.

This one isn't so much a sandcastle as a sand snowman.

And it wouldn't be Florida without a turtle made out of sand and shells.

There were plenty of more traditional sand castles. Some were pretty elaborate with complicated moat systems.

Do they have better sandcastle making equipment nowadays? The ones I made as a kid never looked as good as the ones we saw.

And of course, sandcastles as a reminder that everything fades with time. I wonder what this one looked like originally before the water and wind eroded it.

When's the last time you made a sandcastle or played on the beach? 

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

16 December 2016

Kililing Time At The Airport

Scott made it back yesterday, but not without a wee bit of drama one comes to expect from air travel. His connecting flight to Orlando got canceled, but they were able to reroute him on another flight which got in an hour later.

Since I had time to kill at the airport while I waited for him, I wandered around taking pictures and doing some people watching.

For those tourists flying into Orlando to visit Disney World, the whole experience starts at the airport. 

I had fun watching all of the little girls sit next to Snow White to get their picture taken. I kind of wanted to get my picture taken with her too.

Traveling on airplanes is hard enough as it is, fighting your way through the crowds and struggling with your bags. It's even a million times harder if you aren't fully mobile and have to get around in a wheelchair.

 I did a double take when I saw this statue. It looked really life-like.

The airport was decked out for the holidays. There was a great a cappella choir wandering around the airport and singing Christmas carols.

And that's it for today. Scott's got jet lag and he's still a bit shattered from his trip, so I forsee a lot of napping on today's agenda.

Do you like air travel? What's been your best and/or worst air travel experience?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 

14 December 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Chang Beer In Thailand

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - We like trying local beers when we travel. 

2 - One of my favorite beers in Thailand was Chang.

3 - Sometimes, they served it over ice with a straw. I thought that was kind of weird.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

12 December 2016

Making Lists

Since Scott is going to be back this week, I've been madly making lists of things that need to be done before we leave for the Bahamas.

I like making lists. Lists bring order to chaos. Or else at least they give you the illusion that you have some sort of control over the chaos. Lately, I've been dividing my lists into categories to get a handle on what needs to be done.

Some tasks are incredibly unpleasant. 

You'll notice that there's only one item on this list - change the joker valve in our marine toilet. Anything to do with toilets is unpleasant by default. It's not a difficult job, it's just gross.

Then there are the tasks that you should have done already, but didn't. 

As we all know, I'm a real pro when it comes to procrastinating unpleasant and boring tasks. There's always something better to do, like watch videos of cats on YouTube. I should probably try to get at least one of these things done before Scott gets back.

Lots of boat related tasks will drive you to drink.

There are some tasks I've been saving to work on with Scott, many of which we'll need to tackle before we head off to the Bahamas. They're the types of tasks that are bound to be frustrating or go pear-shaped. I suspect that they may drive us to drink at the end of each workday. If not drink, then into the arms of a comforting chocolate cake.

Some tasks are downright annoying.

Anything that has to do with computers, the government and filling out forms is automatically annoying, like taxes. Then there are the tasks that you thought you had ticked off the list, but nope, it didn't work, so you have to do it again. I'm thinking of our teak shower grate here. The first two times I tried to fix it failed. So it's back on the list again.

Some tasks fall into the category of arts and crafts.

I've got a number of sewing projects to do. They'd be a lot more fun if they involved glitter.

I love doing anything related to food. Except dishes.

Because groceries are so expensive in the Bahamas, we'll stock up as much as we can before we leave. I've already done an inventory of what we have on the boat so that I know what we need to stock up on. Now I just have to figure out how many cases of beer we should bring. Last time we were there, we ran out.

Internet research can be fun. And distracting.

There's a number of thing I need to research on the internet. The only problem is that I get sucked into sites like Bored Panda instead of researching more important things like dinghy anchors.

Those are just some of the things on my To Do List. What's on yours?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

09 December 2016

Look What Santa Brought Me!

I must have been on Santa's nice list this year, because look what he brought me - a Honda generator!

Well, he didn't really bring it to me. He just sent me a link to the Honda holiday sales site and told me to go pick it up myself. That was kind of a drag, but I thought to myself, give Santa a break. After all, this is a busy time of year for him.

But then it turns out he expected me to pay for it myself. What the heck Santa? This isn't how things used to work when I was a kid. I remember getting an amazing Barbie Dream House one year. It was awesome. It even had an elevator that the hamsters used to love riding in. What made it even better was that Santa didn't ask me for my credit card details when he dropped it off.

My how times have changed. Who would have thought that I'd be so excited about getting a generator for Christmas and that I'd willingly fork over my credit card to Santa's elves.

Some of you may be thinking that maybe I was actually on Santa's naughty list. After all, who writes to Santa and says, please bring me a generator? Well, I did. And I really was nice this year. Well, most of the year.

Although we have solar panels on our sailboat, they're not always going to be enough to meet our power demands, especially when it's cloudy out. This generator is going to make things so much easier, especially when it comes to keeping the electronic devices charged. Because without a fully charged computer, I can't blog or work on my writing. And if I can't blog or write, that would make me cranky. And if I got cranky, I probably wouldn't be very nice and we know how important it is to stay on Santa's good side. After all, I'm hoping Santa brings me a composting toilet next year.

Did you make a list for Santa this year? What's on it? Or, if you're not into Santa, what would be your ideal birthday present?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

07 December 2016

Tick, Tock...Time Is Running Out | IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there is a question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question prompt is:

"In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to know how I answered the question, have a read below.


When I read this month's question all I could think of was that five years from now I'm going to have a lot more gray hair and way too many wrinkles. I'm not getting any younger. Time is running out. I probably should have started this whole writing thing a lot earlier in life. {Sigh}

It was all kind of depressing so I decided my best course of action was to ignore the question. Not to brag or anything, but I'm a real pro when it comes to procrastinating difficult and unpleasant tasks. Instead, I turned my attention to searching for that bag of emergency cookies I stashed someplace.

While I was digging through the cupboards, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. I screamed and jumped back, bumping my head on the cupboard door.

"Well, hello there! I'm Esme, your personal life coach," a woman said brightly as she sat down on the settee. "I'm here to help you work through this month's IWSG question."

"My personal life coach," I spluttered as I put the bag of cookies on the table. "How did you get in here?"

"Never mind that," Esme said. "We're here to talk about you, not me. Do you know what a personal life coach is?"

"Of course I do," I snapped as I rubbed the lump on my forehead. "I used to do career and development coaching as part of my job. I even went on a week-long course in Sydney to become an ICF credentialed coach."

"Oh good, then you know how this works," she said. "Let's start with some questions using the GROW model. You know - G is for Goals, R is for Reality or your current situation, O is for Options or how you can achieve your goals and W is for Will or what you're going to do and by when."

I folded my arms and glared at her, but she didn't seem to get the hint that I wasn't interested in a coaching session.

"Can you pass me those cookies?" she said as she settled back into the settee. "So, what do you want to achieve in the next five years in terms of your writing?"

"I know what you're doing. You're going to ask me a bunch of open ended questions and try to get me to increase my awareness of the situation and identify my desired outcomes," I said. "It won't work. I'm on to you and your coaching Jedi mind tricks."

Esme just smiled at me and ate another cookie. At the rate she was going through the cookies, there weren't going to be any left for me.

"Fine," I said as the silence grew uncomfortable. I tried to grab the bag of cookies from her, but she was too quick for me. "If I answer your question, will you leave me alone?"

She countered with another question. "If you were in my shoes as a coach, what would you do in this situation?"

I hated to admit it, but it was a good question. "I guess I'd try to get my client to understand why they're resistant to being coached."

She handed me a cookie and didn't say a word. More uncomfortable silence. I shifted around in my seat and after a few minutes said, "I guess I don't like answering questions about goal setting because I might not achieve them."

She handed me another cookie. I was beginning to think my middle name should be Pavlov. "Okay, fine, I give up," I said. "In five years, I'd like to have finished and published the murder mystery I'm working on."

"And...," Esme prompted.

"Isn't that enough to accomplish in five years?" I said, noting that she hadn't offered another cookie.

"What do you think? Is that enough?"

"All right, I could aim higher. Maybe I could also write and publish the second book in my mystery series." I really wanted another cookie so I continued. "I suppose I could also turn my short story into a novel and try to get a couple of other sci-fi/fantasy short stories published," I said as I held out my hand for another cookie.

"Looks like our time is up and there aren't any more cookies left. We'll have to tackle the other parts of the GROW model another time," she said as she passed me the empty bag. "One last question. What specific actions are you going to take between now and our next coaching session?"

"Buy more cookies," I said.


In all seriousness, this isn't really how coaching sessions should work, although having plenty of cookies at hand isn't a bad idea. The GROW model is a simple and well-established coaching model (there are lots of other good models out there too). If you're interested in finding out more about it to help with your own goal setting, you can find information here and here.

What are your goals five years from now? Have you ever had worked with a personal life or performance coach?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 

05 December 2016

Cost Of Living Aboard Tickety Boo | October & November 2016

It’s time for our regular cost of living update, which I do every two months. We've been tracking how much it costs to live aboard our Moody 346 sailboat, S/V Tickety Boo, at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida, where we were initially laid up during last hurricane season and where I'm now living while Scott is working overseas. While Scott has been in Scotland, I've been staying on our boat and slowly ticking things off of our project list. So, our live aboard costs are pretty much just that - cost of my daily living aboard our boat and occasionally buying stuff for Tickety Boo to keep her happy.

You can find links to other cost updates from ourselves and others on this page, as well as on The Monkey's Fist. If you want to know how much we spent over the past two months, have a look below.

Cost of Living Aboard | August & September 2016

Overall, we spent $6,706 during October and November which is up a whopping $4,265 from the previous two months. Yikes!

The primary reason that we had such an increase in spending was due to healthcare bills from an issue I had way back in March. I wish I could say that was the end of the healthcare bills for the year, but sadly there's more coming due. And all of this is even with insurance, thanks to the huge deductible and out-of-pocket expenses that we have to pay before insurance kicks in. Remind me never to get sick again.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what we spent, here are a few things to note:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising and RV costs.
(b) We haven't included costs related to storing our Scamp travel trailer ($21 per month) because we track the cost of our RV and cruising adventures separately.
(c) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka ACA/Obamacare), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition. After spending a pretty big chunk of change for health insurance during 2015, we were in a bit of a quandary about whether we should go ahead and get coverage for 2016 or take the risk and pay the tax penalty for being uninsured. In the end, after weighing up the potential tax penalty, possible tax credits and risk of being uninsured, we ended up getting insurance for 2016. If you want to know more about our health insurance options and quandary for 2016, check this post out.
3 - Scott has been in Scotland taking care of some work projects and tending to some other matters, so grocery and entertainment costs are less than they would be normally.

4 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax. Boo.

GROCERIES | Total = $357

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.


This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here - like bug spray.

ENTERTAINMENT | Total = $169

One of the great things about hanging out in Indiantown is that there really isn't all that much to spend your entertainment dollars on.

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat. We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals etc. in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.


Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. I have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 6GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. While Scott is away, I've also added on a $10 monthly international call plan so that we can have our daily phone call.

BOAT FUEL | Total = Nil

Because our boat hasn't left the slip, we haven't needed to spend anything on diesel or gas.

LPG | Total = Nil

I've been primarily using our microwave, an electric burner and crock pot for cooking, so haven't needed to top up the LPG tanks. Electricity is included in the slip fee so it makes sense to use that for cooking.

MARINA COSTS | Total = $1,166

Keeping Tickety Boo in a slip is one of our biggest expenses. The monthly cost of a slip with electricity at Indiantown Marina for a 34.5' boat is $572.40. The guys at the marina will also come pump out our holding tank on demand - $5.30 for each visit.

BOAT STUFF | Total = Nil

This category is for all the stuff we've been buying for the boat. We've got a long list of stuff we need to get for Tickety Boo - some upgrades, some maintenance related items, equipment etc. I haven't been working on many boat projects lately so there has been zero spend in this category during the past two months. The expenditure in this category will probably increase quite a bit over the next two months as Scott gets back and we start buying things again for the boat and ticking items off of the project list.

TRANSPORT | Total = $49

This category is for costs related to our vehicle, mostly for gas to keep it going and drive into the nearby "big city" of Stuart for errands. Gas is so cheap these days that I've really been able to keep these costs down.

MEDICAL EXPENSES | Total = $3,558

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

OTHER | Total = $1,210

In this category, we break out how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else - things like laundry ($3.25 for a wash and dry at Indiantown Marina).

The big expenses in this category were for travel related expenses - Scott's plane ticket back to the States ($840) and airport parking and taxi fare for my trip to Portland ($99).

Do you budget and/or track your expenses? If so, do you find it helps you manage your money better?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

02 December 2016

November In Numbers

Clockwise from upper left corner: (1) IPA - my favorite kind of beer; (2) Andy Warhol exhibit in Portland; (3) Press on nails - research for my mystery novel; (4)  Family fun - searching for gravestones; (5) A new coloring book!; and (6) Thanksgiving festivities and friends.

It's time for the monthly recap in numbers - an assortment of odd tidbits and random thoughts that popped into my head when I was reflecting back on the month.

  • 1 – The number of beers I had during election night coverage. I went with a nautically themed beer – a Boatswain American IPA. It was a delightful distraction.
  • 9 – The number of hours it took to fly from West Palm Beach, Florida to Portland, Oregon to visit my family. Once you add in travel time to the airport, time spent waiting in lines and sitting around time, it makes for a long day. My flights were on time, which was good. However, on one of my flights, the guy sitting next to me was in a serious need of a shower, which was not so good.
  • 3 – The number of times my mom and I visited Lone Fir Cemetery in search of dead bodies. I realize saying “dead bodies” probably doesn’t make sense. One expects the bodies in cemeteries to be dead. But you never know, so it doesn’t hurt to specify to the universe that you’d prefer the bodies in the cemetery to be dead.
  • $20 – How much my new messenger bag cost me. I had been hanging onto my old one for a really long time in an effort not to spend money unnecessarily. But it finally gave up on life and, to be honest, it was starting to smell bad like that guy on the airplane.
  • $1.50 – How much it cost to rent Star Trek: Beyond at the Red Box kiosk while I was in Portland. I had no idea what Red Box was all about. What’s even more astonishing is that I had no idea they have one in Indiantown. I just always assume anything I really want or need requires a drive to Stuart. Turns out, DVD rentals can also be found in Indiantown. Dunkin Donuts and Red Box - why would anyone ever want to leave this place?
  • Gazillion – How many boats there currently are in slips at the marina. Okay, maybe not a gazillion as there aren’t a gazillion slips here, but after the long, quiet summer, it’s starting to seem a little crazy here with all of the people.
  • 7,505 – Number of words I wrote on one of the days during the NaNoWriMo Challenge. I was mentally exhausted by the end of that day.
  • 4 – Number of days of Thanksgiving festivities at Indiantown Marina. The owner puts on a huge celebration for everyone here including live music, meals (including Thanksgiving dinner), drinks and more. A good opportunity to catch up with friends and eat far too much.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month:

Emigrating to New Zealand | How & Why We Did It
Some Secrets are Dead Boring
Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

How was your November? What are you looking forward to in December?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!  

30 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | NaNoWriMo & Secret Projects

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words. Plus this isn't a photo, it's a picture of a screen shot, so that's another rule broken.

1 - So, that secret project I was working on during November - it was NaNoWriMo.

2 - NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a challenge where people sign up to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. That's 1,667 words a day.

3 - After my dismal failure last year, I decided to keep it a secret this time around.

4 - I was late to the party, starting the challenge on November 11th, and finished on November 27th. I skipped three days along the way, which means I wrote 50,021 words in just 14 days. No wonder my brain hurts.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!

28 November 2016

Emigrating To New Zealand | How & Why We Did It

New Zealand has a rich Maori history.

One of our blog readers (hi Richard!) asked if we could share a bit more about our experiences in New Zealand. That wasn’t a hard request to say yes to considering how much we love New Zealand.

When I was visiting my family in Portland, I went through the boxes we have stored at my sister’s house. I found all sorts of weird and interesting things, including chest x-rays.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Chest x-rays? That’s weird.” 

Yes, saving chest x-rays is kind of weird. Honestly, I have no idea why I saved them. But they were really important once upon a time when we applied for permanent residency in New Zealand in 2008.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “So, what were the chest x-rays for? Get to the point already.

Okay – here’s the point. If you want to emigrate to New Zealand, then you have to prove that you don’t have tuberculosis (TB). Normally, this wouldn’t be a worry for folks like us who didn’t live or work in areas with a high risk of TB. However, my sister had TB and underwent treatment for a year, so I was terrified that it might turn out that I also had TB. That would have probably meant that we could kiss the opportunity to move to New Zealand goodbye.

So, because I have TB and chest x-rays on my mind, I thought I’d tell you all about our experience applying for permanent residency including all of the other things that caused me to lose sleep during the process, like worrying that I was on the FBI’s wanted list because I had accidentally robbed a bank while sleepwalking back when we lived in the States. Or worrying that they would think that one of us was some sort of mail order bride.

If you’re thinking of emigrating to New Zealand, and a number of Americans are looking into it following the election, then read on. Even if you’re happy where you are, you might be curious about what's involved in emigrating to another country or maybe you just want to know more about this mail order bride thing. If so, read on.

Haihei Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Why New Zealand?

Probably the more logical question is why not New Zealand?  The country is gorgeous, the people are down to earth and friendly and the sailing is great. Who wouldn’t want to relocate to New Zealand?
Prior to our move to New Zealand, we had been living in Scotland since 2001. During the dark and gloomy winter nights, we would watch shows on the telly about people who decided to chuck it all in and move to faraway places, like New Zealand.

I remember that we would say to each other, “Wouldn’t it be fun to move to New Zealand?” But the conversation usually ended there as we moved onto more profound discussions about which soap opera is better - East Enders or Coronation Street. Okay, we never really discussed that. It was more along the lines of Scott saying, “Why do you want to watch that stupid soap opera again? Didn’t you just see it yesterday?”

Then, one day, out of the blue, I got a call from a headhunter asking if I’d be interested in a job in New Zealand. I asked her if they aired East Enders and Coronation Street on telly in New Zealand and when the answer was yes, I said, “Sure, sign me up.” 

Turns out getting the job was the easy part. Going through the visa application process with Immigration New Zealand was the hard part. Here’s what it involved.

{Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this was our experience in 2008 and things will probably have changed since then. Plus, we’re not immigration experts or lawyer. This isn’t immigration advice, so take our story with a grain of salt. If you’re seriously interested in moving to New Zealand, check out Immigration New Zealand’s site for the real scoop on how things work.}

The port of Auckland as seen from our sailboat.

Types of Visas

First off we had to decide what visa to apply for. We could have gone for the relatively straightforward work visa which would have allowed us to stay in the country temporarily (up to five years) while I was working for the company that made me the job offer.

The idea of having our visa status tied to a specific job was a little unnerving. What if that didn’t work out? What if we wanted to stay in New Zealand? So, instead we applied for a skilled migrant visa which would allow us to live in New Zealand permanently. The downside of this decision was that the process was more onerous and time consuming, as well as having a greater risk of not working out. Considering I had already given notice at my previous job and was due to start my new job in New Zealand in a couple of months, the thought of not obtaining a visa in time was nerve-wracking.

{You can see the different visa options here.}

Peachgrove Bay in the Mercury Islands. Great place to anchor and watch the sunset.

You’ve Got Skills?

In order to get a skilled migrant visa, you need to have skills that can contribute to New Zealand’s economic growth. Because New Zealand is such a small country (around 4.4 million people), they have skills shortages in certain areas, like medicine, procurement, forestry science, physics and, to my surprise, organizational development. My background and work experience were pretty run of the mill when I worked in the States and Scotland, but fortunately they turned out to be my golden ticket to New Zealand.

I love the flower baskets hanging in front of the police station.

Expression of Interest

Once I figured out that I had desirable skills, the next step was to fill out an Expression of Interest (EOI). To be honest, it seems like a silly name – who wouldn’t be interested in moving to New Zealand?

The EOI is an online form that you complete to make sure you meet the criteria for a skilled migrant visa and, more importantly, have enough points to be considered. It’s kind of like a game show where the host asks you increasingly difficult questions. If you answer them correctly and earn enough points (minimum of 100), then you’ll be accepted into the selection pool. Every two weeks, the EOIs are reviewed and some are selected and invited to apply for residency. You currently need a minimum of 160 points to be selected. I can’t remember how many points were needed when we applied – I think 140.  We had 180 points. {You can check out how many points you have using the points calculator here.}

Here’s the criteria you have to meet and how we stacked up when we submitted our EOI back in 2008. {N/A means points aren’t awarded for that specific criteria.}

If you’re selected, then you have to provide proof of everything listed in your EOI. You don’t have to provide it up front.

1 – Identity (N/A)

This one’s easy-peasy. You just have to be able to prove you are who you say you are. Have your passport handy.

2 – Character (N/A)

New Zealand doesn’t want to let any dodgy characters into the country. I can’t really blame them. I’ve sat next to plenty of people on trains late at night who were of questionable character. They’re usually the ones that have had way too much to drink and throw up on your shoes.

This one was one of the biggest pains in the you-know-what for us. Because we’re Americans, we had to have an FBI background check. This involved getting our fingerprints taken at the local police station in Scotland, filling out a form and sending it into the FBI. Then it was a matter of praying that neither of us had unknowingly robbed a bank in our sleep or had had our identity stolen and used by people who knowingly rob banks while awake. We also were up against the clock as the FBI background check can be notoriously slow.

Because we were living in Scotland at the time, we also needed a background check from the UK. And to top it all off, because we also hold Irish passports, we needed a background check from the Republic of Ireland, despite the fact that neither of us has actually lived in Ireland.

Most people only have to deal with one background check.  We had to deal with three. Plus three times the fees. Fortunately, it turns out we were of good character in the States, the UK and Ireland.

3 – Health (N/A)

This was where TB comes in. We both had to have medical exams, blood tests and the infamous chest x-rays. It’s all understandable. After all New Zealand doesn’t want to take people in who could be a danger to their population or be a burden on their health care system.

You can only get these exams done in the UK by certain doctors who are approved by Immigration NZ. In addition to worrying about TB, I was also paranoid about my weight and waist measurement. I’m not sure what they require nowadays, but at the time we applied your BMI and waist measurement had to be within certain parameters. I had read too many horror stories on immigration forums about people who had been denied because they ate one too many delicious McVitie’s digestive biscuits. We went on a bit of crash diet before our medical exams.

Thankfully, we passed the medical exams with flying colors. And then we went back to eating cheese, bacon and cookies.

3 – English (N/A)

Kind of a no-brainer. You have to be able to speak English. Because we’re American, we didn’t need to take a test to prove it.

4 – Age (20 points)

You have to be under 55 to apply for a skilled migrant visa. The younger you are, the more points you get. I was middle-aged at the time, so I got 20 points. {Because I was the one with the job offer, I was the principal applicant and only my age was factored in, along with other criteria.}

5 – Skilled Employment (50 points)

You have to be able to prove that you’re able to work in skilled employment by providing evidence of work experience and qualifications. Because I had a job offer from an accredited employer, I earned 50 points. If my job offer had been outside of Auckland, or if I had been offered a role in an area of absolute skills shortage or a future growth area, I could have earned even more points. It’s kind of like picking Door #1 and winning a washer/dryer vs. picking Door #2 and winning a brand-new convertible.

6 - Qualification (60 points)

You can earn points if you have a recognized qualification, such as a university degree or vocational qualification. I racked up the maximum points in this category due to my Ph.D. Turns out all those years of study finally paid off.

7 – Work Experience (30 points)

I had 10+ years of work experience related to my job offer so I earned 30 points. You can earn additional points if you have New Zealand work experience and/or work experience in an area of absolute skills shortage.

8 – Family in New Zealand (Nil points)

Because we didn’t have close family in New Zealand, we didn’t earn any points in this category. Heck, we hadn’t even been to New Zealand before we moved there.

9 – Partner (20 points)

This is where Scott came in. We earned 20 bonus points because he has a university degree.

A cute single track bridge somewhere in the countryside.

Mail Order Brides

Once our EOI was selected from the pool, we were invited to apply for residency and provide proof of everything we claimed. This was a mad rush of collecting paperwork, medical exams, background checks and, interestingly enough, proving that neither one of us was a mail order bride.

I would have thought a marriage certificate and the fact that we argued over the remote control would have been enough to prove that we were in a genuine and stable relationship, especially as we had been married for 15+ years at the time of application, but  it wasn’t. {By the way, a partnership can be two people, same or opposite sex, who are in a legal marriage, a civil union or a de facto relationship.}

To prove our marriage was genuine, we had to provide copies of joint bank account statements, letters addressed to the two of us (like holiday cards and party invitations), photos of us together on vacation (I used one of us riding camels in Tunisia), mortgage documents and the like.

Blue Lake on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Biting My Nails

After submitting all of the paperwork, then the waiting started. I was starting to get concerned that our gamble wouldn't pay off and we might not get approved or get approved in time for me to start my new job.

Why didn't we just go for the regular work visa rather than go through all the hoops for the skilled migrant visa? I asked myself this over and over again as I bit all of my nails off. After I ran out of my own nails, I tried to bite Scott's nails off, but he gave me a pack of McVitie's digestive biscuits to chew on instead.

I hit refresh on the Immigration New Zealand's tracking system constantly  to see what our status was. If your internet crashed during 2008, I might have been the cause by overloading the system with my incessant demands for updates. Sorry. I also might have been the cause for the McVitie's shortage at your local grocery store. I'm not sorry about that one though. I needed all the McVitie's I could lay my hands on at the time.

Auckland's Sky Tower as seen from a cafe on K Street.

Breathing a Giant Sigh of Relief

Finally, and just in the nick of time, our approval came through and we were the proud bearers of passports with lovely New Zealand residency stickers in them. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Although, it was probably more like some sort of hyperventilation kind of thing than a simple sigh. Either way, it was time to pack the bags and head to New Zealand!

If you want to read more about our adventures in New Zealand, you can find a list of all of our blog posts on our time there on this page.

Have you ever emigrated to another country? What was your experience like? Is there another country that you've ever thought would be fun to live in one day?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!  

25 November 2016

Flashback Friday | Freedom Of Speech & Boat Names


Today is Michael d’Agostino’s Flashback Friday. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog almost three years ago and have lots more followers now then we did back then (thanks guys!) and many of them may not have seen some of our earlier blog posts.

I had mixed feeling about whether to share this post for Flashback Friday. I often write quite silly and fluffy stuff on the blog, but this one is much more serious post about freedom of speech.  

When we lived in New Zealand, we would walk the docks at our local marina and check out the other boats, and their names. One boat had a name which I found offensive. It inspired me to reflect on the importance of freedom of speech, even when you don't always like what someone else is saying. 

I realize this post may not be everyone's cup of tea, but freedom of speech is something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently following the recent US election. I'm curious what you all think about it too. I'd love for you to have a read and share your thoughts in the comments.

{This post was originally published in September 2013. You can find it here.}


Westhaven Marina, where we currently keep our boat, is a lovely marina centrally located in Auckland with friendly staff, good facilities, great views of the downtown area and Waitemata Harbor and lots of different types of boats. 

Like most children, all of the boats in Westhaven are sweet-natured and have their own unique beauty. Except for one boat who I suspect bullies the other boats in the marina around and quite frankly frightens me. I blame the boat’s parents for giving her what I think is an offensive name, which may be the reason she is so mean-spirited. 

I’m not going to say what the name of the boat is, but it basically describes what a mob of angry people might do to a poor innocent person whom they hate because he or she is different. What they do their victim might involve a rope and a tree perhaps. And if you can’t quite figure out what the boat name means, they have a very helpful illustration on the side to help you out.
I’ve given some pretty obvious clues so you’ve probably figured out the name by now. If not, trust me, it isn’t pleasant. And if you’re American, it's particularly unpleasant. But maybe that’s just me.

I happen to think that describing ways to kill people on the side of your boat both in words and pictures isn’t very pleasant. A sailboat is meant to be a “pleasure vessel” and death kind of takes the “pleasure” out of it for me. You expect pirates and violence in the Gulf of Aden, but you don't really expect to see a boat with a death threat on it sailing in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand.

I try to give the boat owners the benefit of doubt. Maybe they adopted her and find it too expensive and time consuming to change the name she came with (I can relate to being cheap and lazy). Perhaps they don’t know what their boat name means (although the picture kind of gives it away). They’re probably Kiwis so I imagine the name doesn’t have the same impact on them that it would have on an American (although it does describe a way to kill people). Maybe they can’t read (but again there's the picture). Or maybe they’re just trying to be ironic. Who knows.

Part of me would love to set up my own little private agency which gives out tickets to people with offensive boat names (and maybe silly and stupid boat names too), but then I remember that I’m a big fan of freedom of speech and that it does come with a price. Sometimes that price involves being offended. People are free to  name their boat what they want and I'm free to choose to be offended or not.

By the way, feel free to give us a ticket for having a silly boat name – Rainbow’s End. We inherited the name when we bought the boat and, while it isn’t the name we would have chosen, we don’t find it offensive. Plus we’re too cheap to change her name and repaint the boat. And the bonus picture of a seahorse on the stern somehow makes up for it. If you’re offended by the name “Rainbow’s End”, exercise your freedom of speech and let us know.

What are the best and/or worst boat names you've come across? What are your thoughts on freedom of speech?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi! 

23 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Parade In Rhodes


Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - There's nothing more fun when you're traveling than to stumble across a parade, like this one when we were in Rhodes.

2 - I'm thinking about starting to wear flowers in my hair on a daily basis. They really jazz up an outfit.

3 - The costumes some of the kids wore during the parade were incredible. So much work must have gone into them.  

4 - I think my favorite group of kids were the ones with their pets. One even carried his bunny rabbit in a cage along the parade route. Not sure what the bunny thought, but it was adorable.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - pop by and say hi!