Going cruising is, and always will be, one of the highlights of boat ownership. But there are different flavors of cruising, and your preparations will vary widely. Taking off for a week or two in the summer is one thing. Your mail can pile up, the lawn can go unmowed and you can’t really go far enough to lose touch. No big deal. Going cruising for six months (or six years), on the other hand, requires you to plan carefully beforehand. Here are three tips.
In a world of plastic, the credit card is king. More than a few cruisers have been surprised to find that the vendors at a street market in Fiji or a vegetable seller on a Greek quay are more than happy with payment via your credit card.
Before you cast off, alert your credit card company of your plans, because it may put a hold on your account if your card suddenly starts being used in unusual locations.
Since Visa, MasterCard and American Express started offering cash withdrawals, the use of travelers checks has dwindled. Before your trip, compare plans for the credit cards — you may decide to upgrade to a higher level for larger or more frequent cash withdrawals. An American Express Platinum card, for example, allows $10,000 every 30 days.
Get a copy of pertinent records from your doctor and your dentist: You’ll know which health issues might crop up while you’re away and which require a knowledge of your medical history.
Get a full set of contact phone numbers as well as direct (not office) e-mail addresses for your medical professionals. If you have a crisis far from home, being able to contact your doctors directly may save your life. If it seems pertinent, you might pay the few dollars to get duplicates of X-rays or scans that would be of use to a foreign facility in evaluating your health.
Last, give some thought to medical evacuation insurance, which can fly you stateside to your family physician in an emergency. Shop the various policies not just for cost, but also for their coverage in the areas you plan to cruise.
As recently as 20 years ago, cruisers would have their mail sent to a forwarding service, which would then ship it care of general delivery to their next port of call, often taking weeks in transit.
Today, however, the computer has virtually eliminated mail problems. It’s straightforward to pay most bills electronically, and you may already have that handled. It’s the unusual bills, such as your annual property tax or, more important, your boat registration, that come via snail mail. But even that is easily solved.
St. Brendan’s Isle Mail Forwarding Service will gladly forward your mail to you via snail mail, but it also offers a high-tech alternative with its Mail Scan Pro system. Wherever you are, you can log in to the system via computer to view a picture of each piece of mail. You can then decide to hold, forward, shred or scan the contents of each. If you choose the last, St. Brendan’s Isle will open the mail and send you a scan of the letter.
This system allows you to toss junk mail, but read any important correspondence or bills that need to be handled, all within hours of its arriving at St. Brendan’s door. The service is popular with cruisers, who can stay current with their bills and correspondence, as well as RVers on the road.
As a final double-check on your cruising logistics, walk through every possibility and see how you have it covered. Who pays your property tax bill, and how? How will you contact your friends from each port and while under way? Who is mowing the lawn, and how is it being paid? How do you send a graduation gift to a grandkid?
It just takes some pre-cruise logistics preparation, but it can all be handled from anywhere in the world. Really.