Links, Resources, Helpful Hints & Logistical Clues For The Long Term Traveler
Sailing and Family Adventure Links and Resources
Sailing Totem is a great boat blog. It is really the mother of all family boat blogs. Behan, the mom, and author speaks with wisdom and experience.
Latitude 38 is our home sailing magazine. They have a downloadable version and write about all things sailing and the SF bay area. It is a great read month after month and a fabulous way to stay connected with people who sail out the gate.
Out the Gate Sailing is a wonderful podcast about sailing in the bay. Ben Shaw interviewed us in 2019 and has lots of interviews.
The Family Adventure Summit is an incredible way to meet like-minded families who love to travel part-time or full-time. We attended the first Summitt in 2017 and it was fabulous. We were the only sailing family. Most families traveled by non-nautical means, but we found lots to learn and love within this community.
The Family Adventure Podcast – not related to the summit – is a wonderful podcast with countless interviews of families who took epic adventures. We LOVED listening to these as we were preparing to cast off.
Oak Meadow School – We’ve recently enrolled the girls in Oak Meadow School. It has been wonderful and I can’t say enough great stuff about it. If you are interested to learn more about our experience, shoot me an email.
How do you get your mail when traveling? You either have a very good friend who likes to be your personal assistant for free, or you work with a company that specializes in scanning, emailing and forwarding mail. There are many companies out there who specialize in receiving mail. After researching, it was clear to me that this is an area that is growing and changing fast. There are some classic old standbys that the cruising community has been using for years. There are also tons of new pop-up businesses that are providing similar services. We decided to go with Traveling Mailbox for our mail. They receive all our mail, toss the junk, scan envelopes and email us that scan. We click “Shred and Delete”, “open and scan”, or “forward” or any number of other selections. We save the scans to our computers and if we need the hard copies, we can forward the mail anywhere. It’s a cinch and worth the money. It’s hard/impossible to have no address and it’s inconvenient for friends and family in the long run to use their address. Google “expat mail service” or “travel mail service” to find a wide selection of companies.
Digital Content and Entertainment
Since there is no streaming of Netflix on the high seas or anywhere unless you get close enough to the fancy marina and steal the wifi password (which is less and less available), we had relied on our own movies that we have purchased as DVDs. But DVD’s take up a bunch of space. Handbrake and VLC have been really helpful tools in getting that data onto small portable hard drives. Lifehacker has also been a great resource for my digital and electronic questions as we moved aboard. Most cruisers that we know have several very large hard drives with their documents, video content, photos, home videos, and music. It is so important to back all this data up so get a few large external hard drives that are empty for additional data you may accumulate.
We use the Anker NEBULA Capsule projector and an inexpensive projector screen. We love this projector as it is small (the size of a soda can), self-contained, has its own battery which lasts several hours, has a built in speaker, and has software which will run most streaming services if connected to the internet as well as play movies directly off a drive.
Books are a huge resource for us. I do LOVE having physical books and there are lots of leave-one-take-one libraries out there in marinas and cruiser hangouts. For school, I gather a large number of books once a year for required reading and history reinforcement. After we are done with them, we cycle them out to other cruising families. We also have the basic kindle e-ink. With its long battery life and no glare screen (easy to read even in the sunshine), it’s the best fit for us. Most libraries now have great options to lend to your kindle so no need to spend any money on Amazon if you plan ahead and get familiar with a good online library system.
Banking while Abroad
Banking and paying taxes has been probably the most challenging aspect of cruising just after schooling. After crossing the Pacific many fellow cruisers were not able to use their credit cards or get out cash in the Marquesas. We ended up loaning thousands of dollars to fellow cruisers who were left high and dry. So, the first tip is, get a PayPal or Venmo account and link it to your bank so you can easily loan and repay money to friends. The next thing to do is to make sure your bank’s ATM card will work in the areas you are heading. Watch the fees too, they can really bite you! As an aside, both people we loaned money to had checked with their bank to make sure they could get cash out in the Marquesas… but it didn’t work.
Also, make sure to have your bank’s app up and running on your phone so you can accept checks from friends and deposit them in your account via the app.
We use Charles Schwab where we keep an account with a smallish (6 months of cruising) amount of money in it – enough to draw from but if it was lost (aka someone stole our card number and drained the account) it wouldn’t break us. We ONLY get cash out of legitimate bank ATMs with our bank card. We never use the little stand-alone machines in the convenience store which have a reputation for stealing CC numbers. We also never use that bank card for online purchases. We never use a credit card to get cash, the fees and rates are exorbitant. Schwab’s deal is that you get reimbursed for any ATM fees for all banks around the world, so you are never paying $3 to pull out cash and you never have to worry about finding your specific bank.
As a backup to our personal bank, we use the First Republic Bank for business banking and to pay our taxes. They also have the same deal where they reimburse ATM fees from all other banks around the world, but we haven’t tested that internationally with First Republic yet. I have a personal banker there, she knows me, she knows my voice and she can do ANYTHING for me while I’m away. I can forward her a check from my mailing service and she can deposit it. She can write and mail a check for me or send a wire for me anywhere in the world with absolutely zero drama. This was NOT the case when I was driven to tears after weeks of trying to deal with Bank of the West, then Schwab, then Bank of the West again while trying to pay international taxes from Fakarava. My gal at First Republic is AMAZING and if you want her name, email me and I’ll hook you up.
In that same post about Working While Cruising, at the very end, I mention our workaround for having a cell phone. If you are running a business or working, it is really hard not to have a consistent phone number. It is also very expensive to maintain a normal US carrier while sailing around the world. At about $140/month, we were not about to keep our two T-Mobile lines while sailing through Oceana. Our plan was to use payphones and get local SIM cards. In the end, this was really cumbersome. While dealing with websites and large tech-based companies nowadays, people want to call you back, text digital verification codes and sometimes you just need a valid phone number to get from one part of a website into another. We found a great service through the Google Fi project. It works all over the world, it’s cheaper than the usual US carriers and it has been generally fairly good reception. The drawback is that we can’t use our iPhone, but the price is worth the inconvenience.
Cruising with Credit Cards
We use credit cards as much as possible in order to 1) hold onto our money a little longer, 2) track our spending 3) reduce our exposure if someone steals our card number or wallet. If someone steals from a credit card company it’s not your money, it’s the CC’s money, so they go to bat to deal with the fraud and you are never out of pocket… that is not the same deal with a bank card attached to your savings or checking account. Having a card with a chip is handy because many places internationally require this. In France, we noticed that some gas stations won’t accept credit cards with foreign banks. So, sometimes you are just stuck, and you should carry an emergency cash stash too.
You should have at least three cards on hand which will work where you are going. People DO steal credit cards or your credit card numbers. When this happens your card will be shut down. They will have to send you a new card via snail mail. If you are in Nuku Hiva with plans to sail through the islands at an unknown rate, this complicates matters… especially since you need to intercept that card before a certain time (usually three months) or else they will shut THAT one down and you start all over again. Backups are key. This happened to us and we were happy to have the backup.
Make sure they are good travel cards. We use Capital One No Hassle Miles and a Chase’s United Mileage Plus card with a few other random no-annual-fee, small limit cards for emergencies. Look for cards with NO annual fees but if there are fees, make sure the benefits are valuable to you. Certain bennies that I will pay for are: free luggage check with an airline I usually fly anyway and primary car rental insurance coverage – make sure that it’s “primary coverage” and provides reimbursement for the full value of the car if it is stolen or someone else damages it. Most cards don’t do this so check, and I don’t know of any that do it for Ireland and Italy. Anyway, the idea is that you should only pay an annual fee if it would have saved you money last year. It doesn’t matter how great the bennies are if you are not going to take advantage of them. Know the bennies and restrictions of your card, print out or save a file to your computer with the details because no one should be expected to remember this stuff.
A few last little things: 1) link your CC to your bank on Autopay so you aren’t fighting against time to pay your card. Wifi and phone service is limited out there. 2) Set up text or email alerts for all transactions on your card, this way instead of checking your statement monthly for issues, you know as soon as possible if there is an issue.
Land-based House Sitting
Sometimes you just need a vacation from the boat. Life is not all sunshine and easy breezes. Sometimes the rigors of cruising can get you down and you need a little space and time away. Usually, cruisers are living on a small budget so finding places to stay or ways to “vacation from your vacation” can feel financially stressful. House sitting is a great way to get away affordably and it’s a wonderful way to build connections in new communities. I wrote a whole post; The Ultimate Get Started Guide to House Sitting.
Emergency preparedness is everything when living far away from hospitals at times. Put together a shore kit before you go, so you are ready when your partner steps on that sea anemone or has an allergic reaction to something while walking on the pristine yet remote Mexican beach. I wrote a post about what is in our Shore Kit. Dinghy kits are great too and can include the addition of vinegar (for application to jellyfish stings), an emergency bottle of water or larger wound kits which are too big to throw into your backpack every day.
Essential Books on Board
There are lots of take-one-leave-one libraries in the cruising world and you can find some great reading that way. A Kindle is great obviously and we love ours, but we also treasure our reference books in the flesh. The books that we wouldn’t leave port without are as follows:
Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew by Lin and Larry Pardy. Fabulous, although dated, this book helps one wrap one’s head around food on board, storing and stocking up for long voyages. She has a few good gems in here but it is really more about the storage than the recipes.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois – bread on board is so fun and essential depending on who you are. This is the best and easiest bread book I’ve found. There are a few adaptions I’ve made for life on board but the essential idea is worth taking afloat.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer– It’s essential to have a book on board that has all the essentials in it. When Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around you need those recipes and there is no googling in some of those remote anchorages.
Pressure Cooker Perfection by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen – The best pressure cooker cookbook we’ve found. We love our pressure cooker on board; it saves time and fuel.
World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornel – The is the bible when it comes to where to go when so you are not going upwind.
The Cruisers Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot This book is amazing and if you plan on catching fish, have this along to help you identify and know how to prepare and preserve your catch.
The Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder. I think it’s pretty self-evident why you’d want this along. There has been many an anchorage where Cameron has his nose stuck into this book either for us or to help a neighbor. The book is covered in dirt and greasy fingerprints, this is definitely one to have a physical copy of.
The Self Sufficient Sailor – Lin and Larry Pardy. Same as above; a useful reference with lots of useful pieces of info while on board.
Marine Diesel Engines by Nigel Calder. Unless you have no engine (props), or an electric engine, this is an important resource. Prioritize Nigels other book above, but if you have room, this has come in handy.
Wilderness Medicine by Tom Schimelpfenig – It’s so important to have a medical kit, but even more important to know how to use it. This is a great guide for dealing with unexpected health emergencies when you are days away from a hospital.
East to Love Difficult to Discipline by Becky A Bailey, Ph. D. – My sister-in-law is a fabulous mother and this is the book that she gave to me when I had kids. It is the ultimate guide to self-growth and loving guidance. I have to re-read it annually. I even convinced Cameron to read it after a difficult afternoon . . .
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise – My homeschooling guidebook and resource. This book really is our road map.
Homeschool Teacher by Kate Laird Kate did a great job focusing on the challenges of boat schooling in this book. With the resources from the Well Trained Mind and the practical guidance from Homeschool Teacher, we felt empowered to charge ahead with school.
Guide to Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws – This book is amazing if you are interested in art and nature. I use it to teach the girls basic art principals and it has helped me go deeper into nature.
Voyaging with Kids – I don’t actually own this book because we left off before it was published, but I’ve flipped through it when I’ve seen it and it is a great starter guide and resource for cruising families written by some friends of ours. It is comprehensive and deals with so many of the questions that come up when kids and cruising go together. Anyone considering cruising with kids should own this book
Don’t Leave Port without it
This isn’t a comprehensive list of things you should bring with you. This is a list of the things that you might not think of or maybe you would pass over. These are the little luxuries that make life onboard easier or better
Turkish towels – or some other towel that is thin, absorbent and fast drying
good quality hiking sandals
a pressure cooker
light rain jackets
great sun hats
tons of tools and TONS of spare parts
the manual (or download of a manual) for EVERY electronic or mechanical thing on your boat
washable mesh bags, collapsible crates, fruit hammocks, canvas grocery bags and reusable bags for bulk food items and fruits and veg. These are all very handy for food purchasing (so you don’t bring a bunch of garbage home) and food storage while underway.
A good fillet knife
spare block and tackle (or 3)
small printer – we have the Canon iP110 Series and it is great, small and operates with a battery pack. We can turn it into a copier by using a scanner app on our phone.
lots of little line (~1/8″, 3mm). I bought 300 feet of thin line when Cameron sent me to the store at one point before we left cruising. He wasn’t amused… We’d evidently had a miscommunication about the total amount he wanted (30′). But, we used it all up within the first year because, on boats, little bits of line are indispensable.
extra set of snatch blocks
killer sewing kit. I’m not an accomplished seamstress. I never had or would have used a sewing kit on land, but the kit that was given to us by a close family friend has gotten TONS of use.
cobb grill – this is a favorite splurge. We can grill on the back of the boat or the deck of the boat (if the wind is blowing the other way) or on the beach! It’s easy to pack around and stows nicely away so it doesn’t corrode in the sea air or get in the way while sailing.
Solar Oven – we don’t have one… but if you have the room, this would be a great addition.
Health and Safety
TOOLS: Have an amazing medical kit on board. Emergency Kits are personal and should be tailored to you and your needs, abilities, and experiences. Have a health professional help you before you cast off. If you are leaving from Mexico, I’d advise purchasing meds there as they are easy to get and inexpensive. Also, if you don’t know how to use it, don’t prioritize it. Instead of a suture kit (which I don’t know how to use), I keep lots of steri-strips on hand as well as staples and staple removers. My favorite things in the kit are Tegaderm, vet wrap, gauze and a good set of tweezers.
MEDICINE CABINET: I’ve found that a well-stocked medicine cabinet gets far more use than an emergency kit. When you are far away from a hospital, you take little things seriously and nip them in the bud as fast as you can so they don’t develop into anything bigger. I keep everything in Tupperware boxes in the cabinet with labels on the outside: Tummies (includes seasickness meds), Cold/Flu/Pain (includes a thermometer), Hair/Nails (includes really great tweezers), Wound Care, Essential Oils, Eyes and Ears (I keep an otoscope on board and it’s super handy), Sunscreen, bug spray etc.
TRAINING: Unless you are a qualified health professional, I suggest taking an emergency medical course. I took a fabulous course through NOLS. It was no joke and I learned a TON which I will carry with me through life. I took the Wilderness First Responder course, perfectly tailored for dealing with emergencies in remote locations.
Use the locals! Doctors in the local areas can diagnose some things which are regionally prevalent far more easily than a doc in the States might. We stopped off at the local doctor in Tahiti when a little sore would not go away for one of the girls. He immediately recognized it and quickly and inexpensively had us on our way with an effective treatment. Most medical systems around the world are much easier to navigate than our system here in the States.
SAFETY: Traveling can be dangerous… so can our local schools sadly… We need to prepare so that these dangers don’t prevent us from getting the most out of our short lives. Here are some safety tips while traveling that we picked up along the way from other families.
SafeWord: We have a family safe word. If Cameron or I say this word to the kids, they know that we may be in a dangerous situation. They need to stay calm, alert and follow directions immediately with no sass because this is not a drill.
Have your own whistle: Our voices sometimes don’t travel very far, but a high pitch whistle can really penetrate. I learned this tip from our good friends the Suhr family. They had their own family whistle melody which had been in their family for generations! So cool… We created our own little jingle and the kids know it by heart. If they hear me whistle, they come running, or at least turn their head to me to see what’s up. They know that it is NOT to be ignored, largely because I never abuse it and typically use to it call them in when dinner is ready.
Meet-up points. Make sure your kids are clear on the plan if they get separated from you. We talk about these lots because we are often in crowded areas. We advocate staying where you are or returning to the last place they saw a family member if they feel confident they know where that was. If it takes a long time, find an official or employee who will help them.
Insurance for Health and Evacuation
Health insurance while traveling is complicated. There are no perfect options and you have to look at what works for you. We needed something that wasn’t “travel health insurance” for a short trip. We needed something that was more long term, but not crazy expensive. We ended up with IMG global. They have been very good and friends of ours who have made claims with them have been very happy. We have health coverage almost anywhere in the world as well as evacuation insurance to the nearest place that can competently handle our issues. We also have emergency care at home in the US if we are there less than 30 days a year. We don’t have insurance that will get us all the way back to the US… mainly because we don’t have great coverage in the US anyway. But, if you have good US coverage that you plan to keep, and you want the white glove service if you have an issue at sea, then I would chat with SkyMed. They have a great reputation and provide a comprehensive service that steps in and saves the day and brings you home if you have a major accident or health emergency. You still need good insurance inside the US if you choose this route.
MAYDAY and Emergency Communications
Not everyone on board may be familiar with MAYDAY or PANPAN procedures. If the person who knows is incapacitated, the others need a lil’ help. Writeup, laminate and post your procedures in a visible place close to your radio. The link below is a word file with our Mayday Procedures if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
If you have an emergency while on the high seas, having a sat phone is great, but knowing how to use it and who to call and what their number is, is essential. Since most of us only remember the phone number we had when we were in high school… put a list together. If all electronics fail (lightning) and you can’t access your contacts, you need to have a few numbers to call. I made up the following list before we left Mexico. Here it is in template form if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. These emergency numbers may change and depend on where you are going, it will affect the numbers you choose to keep. Ideally you program you sat phone to have these, but in case you didn’t get around to that… a print out is handy.
Connecting with other sailing families is really important, especially for the more social people on board. There are family cruiser hubs all over the world where families tend to converge and there are also lots of great online resources to connect with cruising families.
For the West Coasters, La Cruz Mexico is a major family hub. I wrote a post about how hard it was to leave that very special place here. Before we left to cross the Pacific, we also took advantage of many resources out there in the cruising community. You can read about that here.
The Family Adventure Summit was a really fun way to meet lots of traveling (non-sailing) families. This is a conference that is happening once a year in a different place around the world. We went to the first one and it was a blast. You can read about our experience here. There are tons of great resources shared on their site and through their community of friends.
Facebook is a huge resource for connecting with other families as well. You can join groups that center around kids and cruising. Kids4Sail is a great group to get started in and then branch out. WomenWhoSail is also a fabulous group where women can connect about things that matter to them as it relates to sailing. There are local groups as well. If you are a family in the Med you can find a group for that. Crossing the Atlantic this year? You can find a group for that. It is a great way to find other people in your area with kids.
If you are morally opposed to Facebook, there is a new alternative for traveling families called Global Families. We have used it a bit and it looks really great and a helpful resource in a more controlled and data-safe environment.
Farkwar is also a great way to see who is near you and keep track of friends. It’s a position reporting service for cruisers around the world.
Curious about another topic you don’t see? Shoot us an email using the envelope icon at the top of the page and we’ll add it to the list and email you with our reply.