July was a very busy month for us. Normally “busy” for us means boat projects, but not these days. Our big boat projects have been completed and what remains (installing the water maker and a few maintenance items) are not essential until we cross the Gulf stream in late December. No, our “busy-ness” is mostly appointments, paperwork and, on the fun side, visits with family and friends! As it turns out, the two-year delay due to the pandemic was a blessing for us. Yes, we would have been “ready” to leave in 2020 or 2021 but it may have been a rush of finishing off projects, frantically completing paperwork, maybe skipping a few details and, basically, skidding into home plate i.e. throwing off the dock lines.
Our reality now? We have time to appreciate. We can sit for hours and chat with special lifelong friends over drinks, have lots of family visits, and talk at length about our trip. It makes our hearts sing to keep in touch with all the important people in our lives.
Of course, our reality is also peppered with finishing off Ocean’s paperwork and vaccines (thank you Carling Animal Hospital and Dr. Clement for making this so easy for us!), appointments for Covid boosters, eyes, dentist, doctor, finances – all that stuff that is easier done in person. We are also stocking up on provisions we can only get in Canada (Swiss Chalet sauce, Clamato juice…), and making sure we have the critical spare boat parts we might need underway.
August will also be very busy. The biggest and most important task will be building the mast supports for Wild Horses’ mast for our travel from Oswego Marina to the Catskills in New York. This part of the journey takes us through the New York State canal system where bridge clearances can be as low as 15.5 feet. Sailboat masts greatly exceed this (ours is 61 feet) so the mast has to be taken down and put on the boat deck, supported by wood structures. We, and the two other boats travelling with us, will be designing and building the structures for our three sailboats. An extremely stable set up will be critical to avoid damage to the boat or, even worse, a mast going into the drink!
Outside of that, we will be crossing more T’s and dotting more I’s as we get closer to our target departure date of September 11. And, hopefully, we will be fitting in more visits with family and friends 😊.
Oh, one more thing, Happy 5th Birthday Ocean! Our little sailing pup is celebrating her birthday today!!
We are just a few months from our departure and are thankful that we are at a point in the pandemic that we can connect more with people. Our travelling plans are something that we chat about freely and lots of questions for us tend to come up. Here are just a few of the most often asked ones, and our current responses. I say “current” only because we are always learning. I plan to update this information once we have some experience behind us.
Will our residency change? Nope. We will be moving about from country to country but the rule is that everyone has to be resident somewhere for tax purposes. We keep our ties to Canada via our bank accounts and mailing address so we will be considered factual residents. And, yes, our yearly taxes will continue to be paid to the Canadian government. Yuck but necessary.
What about income? Mike and I are both fortunate to have government pensions. While we are abroad, we will still get our regular monthly payments into our Canadian bank accounts. From there, we can withdrawal in local currency, or in the case of US dollars, we use Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange to virtually buy and deposit US currency into our US dollar chequing account (sorry, “checking” account as per the American way to write it). Just a note – not all US accounts are created equally. For what we are doing, we needed a “true” US account which allows us to withdraw US funds while we are physically in the States. Many US accounts set up in Canada only allow you to withdraw US funds in Canada.
How do we keep our OHIP coverage even though we are out of the country for more than 7 months? Simply, we don’t. While we are travelling through the US for the first 5 months of our journey (from New York to Florida), we will get travel health insurance. Once we leave for the Bahamas, our plan is to have expatriate insurance through Allianz Insurance. This insurance is expensive but will cover us in case of serious illness or health events. It will also get us back to Canada should we need long term care.
And, routine healthcare? We will go to local doctors and dentists. Although we do not have our own experience (yet) with healthcare in the islands, we have many friends who have gone to doctors and dentists in the Caribbean and can attest to the fact that the care is exceptional and far less costly than similar services in Canada.
How do we connect with family and friends back home? There are lots of ways to do this. Many sailors simply buy local SIM cards for their phones and call home over Zoom or Skype. Americans can make use of GoogleFi which allows you to call worldwide seamlessly (not available to Canadians yet). For us, we have patched together our own solution. We want to keep our current Canadian phone numbers to make things easy for family and friends, and we finally found our solution with Fongo, which is a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) like Skype. It is Canadian-made which makes it easy to port our phone numbers over to the service. Phone calls and texting are made over an internet connection so we will purchase local SIM cards to keep Fongo functional and also to connect locally, in whatever country we are in. We are hoping that this solution will meet most of our needs. If not, we will adjust and adapt.
What if there is an emergency and you are not in cell tower range? Our internet connections will come from both free wifi and from cell towers. Free wifi is very limited these days with most businesses locking down access. Even now, most of our internet connection comes from hotspotting our phones, which means that we need cell towers. Our experience is spotty with getting reception – sometimes it is great (like this morning in Beaurivage where I am literally looking at a cell tower in the nearby city of Gananoque) and other times it is non-existent or nearly non-existent. Most of our cell phone use is entertainment based but we also use our phones for weather and emergency calling. No cell service is serious at those times. Our back up is our Garmin InReach. It uses a satellite network so will be reliable. With this device we can get emails, texts, check weather and even send an SOS. The downside is that using it is pricey and slow, making it just for emergencies, but we are glad to have it.
What about football season? I know this question seems oddly out of place and trivial but if you know Mike and his love for the NFL, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it in this list 😉. For most of football season (September to January), we will be in the states so we hoped to find an unlimited data option in the US to stream games (when our travelling days allow this). The closest we could get is a 100GB option from MR. SIM Card but that should do the trick. Will football still be a priority when we are off exploring? We shall see! This could be the year that the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl and we would hate to miss it!
How long will we be gone? This is a big question and we are fortunate enough to not have to make that decision today. We don’t have jobs to come back to or a home to maintain. But, like most people, we will dearly miss our family and friends. We plan to travel back home every few years for in person visits and to make use of Zoom for all the days in between. No, our decision to keep going with this lifestyle will be only about joy. If we stop loving it, we will look to another adventure to inspire us. If, however, our experience just grows our wanderlust, well, Wild Horses will be our home for a long time 😊.
Do you have a question for us or advice for our travels? Send us an email! We would love to hear from you!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.