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OttawaSouth 08-04-2013 09:29

Starting research from Canada
My partner and I will be leaving Canada middle of 2014 for a Caribbean sailing adventure. We plan to live aboard for 2 years. We are both sailors on the small waters of Lake Ontario, and most recently on the Ottawa river, so we think we're able to sort out the boat/equipment side of things.

We are currently looking for information about the soft side of the sailing life. Expat medical insurance, buying a boat in Florida, best/ easiest banking for international travel etc. Challenges about living with no fixed address etc.

Thank you.

Mike OReilly 08-04-2013 09:51

Re: Starting research from Canada
Hi OttawaSouth, welcome to CF. I'm an old Ottawa boy myself (Glebe). My spouse and I are also heading out on our extended cruise in the Spring of 2014. We're starting up stream from you, in Lake Superior, and plan to sail down out the St. Lawrence.

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of answers for you. We're still answering some of the same ones ourselves. Banking? So far I'm leaning towards HSBC or Nova Scotia. Insurance? We're probably going with liability-only. We're going to maintain a Canadian address via my sister in Ottawa.

Anyway, good luck with the research, and the pending journey. Perhaps we'll see you down there.

Tomi 08-04-2013 10:04

Re: Starting research from Canada
Welcome aboard! 2 more years for me, then down the Erie canal......

roetter 08-04-2013 10:16

Re: Starting research from Canada
Hi OttawaSouth
Your approach of posting here is a great way to to solve all the little problems. Finding a good partner to discuss things with also makes it much more fun. We took delivery a new boat in France last year and teamed up with a couple from Europe doing the same thing. Together we were able to discuss all challenges and come up with great solutions.
We spent almost a year travelling together. We are currently taking a break and are back in Victoria, BC.

This is what we did:
- I had no extra insurance. I spent less for hospital and doctor fees as an insurance would have cost. My biggest cost was falling into the engine room and hurting my back really badly. About $600 for emergency treatment at a private clinic in Spain. On the other hand I paid about 40 Euros for taxis to go to a hospital twice and have a mole removed. The procedure itself cost 5 Euros.
- My wife purchased insurance for emergency procedures and fly-outs for about $1000. She had some medical tests done underway, but the insurance did not pay, as they were not emergency ones.

We found a friend to whom we redirected our mail to and opened a bank account for him with enough money to cover all the running expenses.
Otherwise, we kept our regular accounts and did some online banking transfers as needed. Local currency was always obtained from ATMs. We informed the credit card company of our travel plans.

Maybe you want to take a trip down to George Town, Bahamas, Exumas. We just spent some time there. About 1/3 of the sail boats (about 200) anchored there are from Canada. Stay at one of the resorts and take the water taxi (or rent a Boston Whaler) over to "Chat and Chill" or "Hamburger beach" and ask those guys. Some have been doing it for decades. The season is ending soon, so you want to do it soon.

Another great Place to stay is Kevalli House Kevalli House which is really close to Chat and Chill. Bob is a great guy.


skipmac 08-04-2013 12:09

Re: Starting research from Canada
Hello and welcome to the forum. I'm from the US so some of my answers may not be too specific for Canadians but should apply in general.

Medical. I heard a rumor that Canadians have free universal health care, at least at home so maybe one option is to get a medical evacuation policy for serious matters. DAN (Divers Alert Network) has a good policy that is not just for diving accidents. I assume they would cover Canadians but check it out.

Banking. Bank of Nova Scotia seems to be pretty well covered in the Caribbean but I haven't had a problem getting cash overseas with my ATM card from my local credit union in FL.

FL is a good source for well priced used boats. Maybe more boats for sale here than any other spot in the US. There are a couple of potential tax issues but easy to address. If you get to that you can search the archives on the forum for several previous, in-depth discussions on this issue or if you can't find the information post a question and I'll be happy to post a link to the right spot.

Address. In the US there are a number of mail forwarding companies that you can use for a mailing address. They will get your mail, open if you ask them to, toss the ads, forward the important stuff or even scan and email the letters to you. St Brendan's Isle in FL is one of the oldest and best known in the cruising world.

bgallinger 08-04-2013 13:02

Re: Starting research from Canada
Hi. You will find lots of good advice from Canadians here on CF. I'm from Ottawa too (Glebe). as a suggestion, try medical evacuation insurance. Lots of boats to choose from in Florida. Just be sure to have a good survey done.
Have a blast!

SkiprJohn 16-04-2013 19:55

Re: Starting research from Canada
Aloha and welcome aboard!
Good to have you here. Sorry I don't have any answers for you.
kind regards,

GordMay 17-04-2013 05:37

Re: Starting research from Canada
Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, OttawaSouth.

Lodesman 17-04-2013 06:18

Re: Starting research from Canada
If you've lived in Ontario for 5 years, you can apply to get extended OHIP coverage that will cover you for 2 years. This is fairly new and not well known even at the OHIP office. Of course that only covers you to what they will pay in Ontario, so might want to complement that with private insurance, especially in the US. We went with SevenCorners.

Banking can all be done online or over the phone.

Start getting rid of all your crap now - yard sales, donate it, etc. Start learning to live simply, so that when you go, all your worldly possessions fit in the car.

If you are getting or renewing your passport, pay the extra $10 for the expanded 48-page version.

Good luck and bon voyage.

KrazySailing 17-04-2013 07:39

Re: Starting research from Canada
I'm on my third US purchased boat (Boston, Buffalo and Indiantown, Florida) and I found these two sites useful while I was looking or a sailboat.
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Interesting Sailboats - SailNet Community

Favourite Search Sites
Craigslist > Cities
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Used Sailboats in central Canada - list of Canadian brokers sites and reviews
Yachts for sale, used yachts, new sailing yacht sales, free photo ads - Apollo Duck
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For a view of a cruiser's life
WOMEN AND CRUISING - Advice, Resources and Inspiration for Women Cruisers
The Frugal Mariner: Home Page
The Mother of All Maritime Links: Contents
The Monkey's Fist: Collecting Cruisers' Perspectives
RCC Pilotage Foundation
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Zero To Cruising | Fun-loving couple sailing the Caribbean on their catamaran
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NahanniV 17-04-2013 08:58

Re: Starting research from Canada

Originally Posted by OttawaSouth (Post 1205562)
We are currently looking for information about the soft side of the sailing life. Expat medical insurance, buying a boat in Florida, best/ easiest banking for international travel etc. Challenges about living with no fixed address etc.

Thank you.

I think the US (and Canada if not Canadian) is the only place where you would need medical insurance. Most other places have good medical care at reasonable prices. Many people don't feel comfortable with foreign medical care, but our experiences, and that of other cruisers we know have all been good.

Have you thought about buying a boat closer to home ? Not as many to choose from but good ones are available, and tend to be in generally better condition due to our short season, fresh water and pallid sunshine.

If you are looking to sail, you may also want to re-consider your starting point. Florida puts you generally down wind of the Caribbean. If you are looking for a sailing adventure, think about Atlantic Canada to Bermuda and then on to the Leeward islands of the Caribbean. Another option would be to start on the East Coast somewhere well north of Florida then head to the Caribbean either directly or via Bermuda depending on how far north.

Internet/telephone banking is easy. We made a point of getting to know someone at our local bank branch and also registered a family member to have access to one of our accounts.

Have a fixed address. If possible, Change your address to a Trusted family member or friends, have them cull your mail and deal with or forward important stuff. Keep in touch by e-mail. We rented our house to a trusted friend who collected the mail and a family member picked it up and dealt with it. Try not to let your drivers licence expire. We had a hassle with car insurance after not being insured for 4 years.


luckytroll 07-11-2013 11:10

Re: Starting research from Canada
Expat medical insurance, buying a boat in Florida, best/ easiest banking for international travel etc. Challenges about living with no fixed address etc.

Hey guys. We did a similar thing starting in 2010-2011, so I will add a few notes on what we learned.

- A really good anchor and shallow draft will save you a lot of money in marinas. We spent a lot on a few stops, when in hindsight could have done as well by anchoring nearby and taking the dinghy.
- We purchased a term plan through a cerdit card affiliated insurance plan for travellers. It might not have been the best price, but the discounts at the time were compelling.
- Most places are affordable for medical, except the USA. If you plan on going there, the policy is going to go waaaay up. As an alternative, split it into terms, and have the term you will be in the states defined tightly so as to limit this part of the premiums to when you will really need it.
- Lots of boats in FL, but if you plan on cruising the caribbean, perhaps shop a bit farther afield. Every mile East of FL is a slog upwind, or a motor into waves. We bought in St. Martin, and sailed downwind the first 2 years which had its own challenges, but was easier on us and the boat than beating.
- If you will go from W to E, it goes without saying you must read and throughly understand Gentlemans Guide to Passages South by Van Sant.
- Banking was surprisingly simple. Except the time a bank machine swallowed my card on the day we were going to check out of St. Martin, delaying our departure by a weekend. Having both a visa and mastercard can sometimes help. Internet banking is great, but avoid doing it over open wifi, or from a net cafe.
- Having a friend allow us to "Move in" and use his shoebox as our address while we were gone was a good idea, but pick a reliable friend. It is surprising how much receiving another persons junkmail can stress some folks out. Perhaps we just lucked out. For snowbirds who want to go for winters and come back, this might be overkill. There are also some good mail forwarding firms around, but we didn't find any in Ottawa in time for our cruise.

Be very careful when buying remote before cruising. We lost quite a bit of time working on the boat when we started our cruise, getting to know her and fixing things the way we liked them. This happens on new and old boats. The process is made harder if you are unfamilar with the services and culture of the terra-firma on which your new boat stands before she launches. In the caribbean getting more than 2 things done in a day is an achievment, and when you have a dozen things before launch, you have lost 3 weeks or more.

avb3 07-11-2013 12:04


Originally Posted by luckytroll (Post 1385142)

- Banking was surprisingly simple. Except the time a bank machine swallowed my card on the day we were going to check out of St. Martin, delaying our departure by a weekend. Having both a visa and mastercard can sometimes help. Internet banking is great, but avoid doing it over open wifi, or from a net cafe.
- ........

Some good tips, however, as far as banking is concerned, how do internet bank without going through wifi?

luckytroll 07-11-2013 20:31

Re: Starting research from Canada
Secured Wifi if possible, or if not then try and get a VPN. SSL is a bit less secure now, but it takes a pretty sophisticated attacker to spoof a bank really well.

A bigger challenge I found was keeping the credit card companies appriased of my travels, so that the card did not get locked out, and yet also did not become a target. Make sure your CC company knows your itinerary and possible emergency stops. It can suck having to call in and reactivate it when you need to deal with fees and other landfall business.

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