Out of Body Experience

Yep, after 6 years abroad we bit the bullet and returned to the US. Commuter cruisers have it a bit easier. They cruise for 6 months at a time. But 6 years. Whew.

After close to 24 hours in the air we landed in New York and were found by my nephew’s father in-law in a pack of cars. Truth be told: W/ had the greatest desire to visit family and friends. I’ve been of the opinion that they could visit us! That never seems to work out well. The only visitors we’ve had in 14 years of cruising have been one of my life long friends, Mike; and my mom. Both visited us twice! And Covid struck another friends list. Jim and Sue had tickets to Oz when the pandemic hit. Happily they didn’t lose any money and sadly they didn’t get to see Oz.

Anyway; after completing medical checks in Kuala Lumpur we made the two stop trip to NYC. Clearing in to the US was a non issue. We are after all US citizens. We left the plane and thankfully had wifi. I contacted my nephew. He was our ride. They were near and expected to arrive by the time we had exited with our luggage. Picked up our bags and attempted to contact my nephew again. Either the network was overloaded or the airport doesn’t have free wifi at the terminal entrance. We’re now in a pickle. A big one.

They knew what gate we were at; International arrivals. But the people. Whew! It was like we had been dropped in a can of living Sardines. We looked around hoping to see my nephew. We didn’t see him. W/ stayed with the gear while I looked for a phone card kiosk. Didn’t find one. Looked around for my nephew at the doors. Didn’t find him. I returned to W/ and told her I was going to do a sweep. I walked the length of the terminal inside then headed out to the pickup area. Wall to wall vehicles is all I saw. I wasn’t expecting to find them but maybe; maybe, he would see me wandering. As I made my way back to W/’s terminal exit weaving in and out of the cars, my nephews father in-law (FIL) starts yelling at me. Whew! He said he was looking for a tall guy and saw me wandering between the cars. Together we headed back to my nephew’s vehicle. Once located. Steve (FIL) and I headed back to the terminal; found W/ and hauled our gear to the truck. We have arrived. Tired and safe. Next I need to get a gun! We are after all in the US of A. Just kidding.

Back in the US of A

SIM cards tomorrow! At T-Mobile we pay $50 / month per phone. In Indonesia the cost was much less. And of course as we don’t expect to be dirt dwellers for long we are stuck with the pre paid plans. As far as internet for the computer and tablet, most every place we hang / friends families, AirBnB’s, or hotels have wifi.

The final order of business; was wheels. I researched while in Indonesia. There I narrowed it down to a Hyundai Tucson Limited with grey interior. There weren’t many around. I was scanning the Eastern US. Found one in Tennessee but lost it by a day. That set us back another few days. One was listed near by but then the dealership said it wasn’t certified and they would send it to auction. Found another in Western NY state. Bought that. Rented a car one way. Picked it up drove it back to our nephews. It has all the bells and whistles; meaning all the safety features I wanted. The learning curve is steep. After all, we will be doing another Eastern US circle.

Buying it was easy. Getting it registered and licensed and insured, that’s another issue. We have a lease on a place in Vermont so that is our new “temporary” abode. Back to Vermont twice to get the details taken care of. Finally with the Vermont license we discovered one more “Gotcha”. An inspection. After driving to Vermont the second time and getting the state paperwork completed, I needed an inspection. Damn! One more trip back this time. Maybe not. We will be returning here around the holidays for our families gathering. We can get it then.

Insurance: that was another thing. We’ve been traveling out of the US for 6 years straight. During that time we’ve owned two other vehicles. We bought one in NZ, insured, drove, no accidents and sold it. Same in Australia. But the US insurance market doesn’t care. If you don’t have continuous insurance they want to reach further into your pocket and get more gold. What can we do? With the crazy drivers in the US we need insurance. So I empty my pockets, bit the bullet and sign up.

And for those wondering where I’ve been with my blog; I’m not sharing the general life minutia in the states. I’m limiting the posts to how / what a cruiser could experience. Till then…

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Auto Costs Cruising

There are many ways to cruise. By private yacht isn’t the only way. Some people fly to various locales and stay at luxury resorts. Others, house sit their way around the world. Some are strictly land based and buy a motor home (called a caravan in NZ or Aust) for seeing the sites. Then there are those that mix it up. We fall into that latter group.

While it is wonderful seeing the harbors and experiencing different cultures from the water, land too has many 5 star views. With that in mind, in NZ we bought a car. It wasn’t a new car. No matter what some of my cruising friends like to say; we are not “high rollers”! 🙂 It was a good solid car, one with low km/miles, reliable, and for the most part comfortable. It was a Toyota Camry; ’99 model.

Driving on the wrong side of the road required some practice. Fortunately with this “not new” car curbs and small road side structures didn’t scare us off. The fenders already had some minor scratches and dents. We liked the 6 cylinder and that would easily handle the roads in the Southern Alps. It served us well for the 14 months we had it. But, Elysium is not large enough to stow the Camry until we reach the next port. So we sold it.

Most people want to know what it costs to cruise. Most cruisers will tell you what they spend and not where they spend it. If you want to see a wee bit more of the world than harbors and anchorages you will need to expand your horizons. There are land tours but for this horizon we wished for more freedom.

We purchased the car for $3800 NZ. Insurance costs in NZ are much much less than in the states due to the ACC which is their national fund to cover any accidents any tourist or resident has while in the country. Key word is accident. For 18 months of insurance we paid $337 NZ .

We had the car serviced twice. While we have all the gear for servicing the boat, being an auto mechanic was no longer in my job description. We got a recommendation of an honest / reliable shop from our Anytime Fitness center staff whose partner loved to refurbish/rebuild/restore autos. Before we left for the S. Island we wanted to ensure there would be no problems. The S. Island of NZ has some rather remote places. When we returned and about 6 months further down the road we had it serviced again hoping that the Camry would last till the end of our needed use. Servicing was $190 and $213 NZ.

We did have a couple of surprises. The windshield had a nick in it that was repaired by the previous owner. We weren’t informed of it nor was it visible. Somewhere during the countries 4 seasons in a day weather the repair popped out. I wasn’t worried…but then. Driving to a home stay in Ruakaka we had a good stretch of Highway that 100’s of logging trucks ran on daily. We were a wee bit to close to one and a few chunks of bark flew off and smacked the window, one of them right at the nick. Now we had a crack in the windshield. Generally insurance will cover one windshield a year from what I understand. But with our liability only car insurance we weren’t covered. Cost of Windshield $350 NZ.

And to keep insurance costs low and increase road safety NZ has a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). Since our car was pre year 2000 we needed a new Warrant every 6 months. Cost was about $50 NZ. There are cheaper places but this was an all above board / fair place. The first warrant passed without any issues. However; the second warrant noted the car for a frayed seat belt. If only I had thought. I ought to have taken the hair clippers to the belt and trimmed the fraying off but who knows if that would have worked. I tried to find a new seat belt on TradeMe; NZ’s answer to eBay but had no luck. We found an after market one for about $250 NZ. In this instance, I did the work and installed the new belt.

One last surprise arrived in the mail during our first house sit. A yearly registration. To transfer the car license and vehicle to us we paid a whopping $5. But two months later we got the bill for using it in NZ of approx $250 NZ. Compared to cost in the states for owning and licensing a vehicle this bill was very reasonable!

Of course; we used up quite a bit of fuel on the bigger 6. But each car is different so it is rather pointless to say how much we spent on gas. To be up front however fuel costs in NZ are higher than in the States. Currently a liter of fuel is $2 NZ and this includes their road taxes. Diesel is much cheaper but then you must purchase a road tax tag usage sticker. And from most companies you can reduce the cost a wee bit by getting one of their cards.  We often saved 10 cents / liter when filling up. Todays average for US gallon is $4.15 NZ, in NZ the same gasoline is roughly $9 NZ .

And finally, the cost to list and sell the car on TradeMe came to roughly $100 NZ. This gave us more exposure and included the final cost for the sale. I paid nothing to transfer the car from my name.

Now lets break it down to cost of ownership. And to compare there are small cars you can rent here from RAD; called Rent a Dent. They are quite nice and quite small and yes they may have some scratches and nicks but they are not junk yard cars. They rent / day at $30 NZ and if you wish insurance coverage you will add $20/ day to the price. They have longer term contracts but I don’t know how much the cost is reduced for them.

That said; our total up front cost was about $5290. We sold the car for $1700 leaving a cost to own (again not counting gas) of $3590 plus or minus. We owned the car for 14 months yielding a cost of about $256 NZ or $9 NZ / day.

Things we learned.. First practice driving in not so busy areas. Driving on the left side is quite disconcerting for US drivers. Many of the deadliest accidents here involve a US driver. They’re tired and end up in a head on collision because they are on the wrong side of the road. A couple of times I found myself on the wrong side. It was when no one was around or on a country road where one women shook her finger at me and smiled. I’m lucky, that was the worse case. And NZ has many “roundabouts”. Practice and learn the rules. Driving here is slower than in the states and there is little to no leeway on the speeds. Be cautious and practice out of the cities.

Second. We used NAC insurance; but while they were very reasonable they wouldn’t cover damage to the car. I would suggest getting a quote from the AA Insurance. (Not related to AAA in the states). They have a very good plan and some bonus’, one of which is a free eye exam from Spec Savers. Spec Savers provided us one of the best exams W/ and I have ever had. So at a least; compare. Other companies might have had a higher up front cost. By the time we paid for the windshield and the eye exams our method could have easily been higher.

Third, we knew that cars pre year 2000 required a WOF twice a year and this was a bit of an inconvenience. We almost received a ticket once when we didn’t notice our WOF was due and we were stopped for a breath test. They have drunk driving stops in various places and every car stops and they check all the drivers. They take safety very seriously here. Safety trumps rights.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long