Monday, July 16, 2018

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How our family has cruised for 3 years on a budget




Over the past few years we have posted our costs associated with sailing here. The secret to maintaining a low budget is no secret at all really, it boils down to mindset. Some families, after years of preparation and anticipation of setting sail, reach their first destination and go into vacation mode, justifying expensive dinners, drinks and costly attractions (we're guilty). It's important to quickly find the OFF button to the vacation mode if you intend to sail on a tight budget. 

Learn the art of saying, "no". Kids ask for everything. It became clear to our family after the first few months of sailing that this was a lifestyle we thoroughly enjoyed and wanted to maintain for as long as financially possible. Explaining to our girls the correlation between our finances and our ability to cruise helped them to better identify wants versus needs. 




Cruising on a budget means there's been times we've had to exclude ourselves from going out to dinner with friends or take a rain check when others were going on costly excursions. I assure you, however, if you look through this blog you'll see proof that by making small sacrifices we've still enjoyed ourselves. 

We were extremely fortunate in purchasing Terrapin. Yes, our Cost to Cruise posts include all maintenance costs, a question we repeatedly get asked. We invested well in DIY books and tools before setting sail to help with any repairs along the way which turned out to be one of our best investments. The rule of thumb is to expect to pay 10% of your boats purchase price each year in repair costs. We maybe have spent 10% over the past 4 years, but we did invest 30K before setting sail...so there's that.



Creating our own homeschool curriculum saved us a ton of money. We easily found full textbooks in a PDF format online which we then put onto a hard drive. I spent months finding textbooks (the same books they would have had access to if they were in public school) to cover us from grades 4th-10th for each subject. We would transfer school books from our hard drive to their Kindle Fires as needed for school....freeing up lots of storage space for books, workbooks, papers, etc. I spent less than $500 for years worth of homeschool supplies including a few online classes they took on Acellus. 

For years we discussed ways in which we could ditch suburbia. You name it, we thought of it. We decided to buy a boat and set sail not because we knew how to sail (we really didn't) but because wind is free. You can see from our older cost to cruise posts how much we spent on diesel (disgusting amounts). This was in part because we were shitty, impatient sailors and because the Pacific side of Mexico isn't known for great wind. 



The greatest ally in attempting to cruise while on a budget is hanging with other like minded cruisers. It's tough to hang with cruisers who treat every meal out like a mothers day brunch. If you have visitors coming, explain your budget restrains before they arrive. It's near impossible to keep up financially with people on vacation! 

We averaged $2425 per month over 27 months. This average includes extras not necessarily related to cruising like our plane trip to Guatemala or living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico while Terrapin was hauled out for the summer, etc. 




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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Terrapin's Rough Guide to surviving Savusavu, Fiji




While most boats spent cyclone season in New Zealand we opted to stay in Savusavu, Fiji. We chose to stay in Fiji for a multitude of reasons, Fiji is much less expensive than New Zealand, the passage between Fiji and New Zealand can be extremely rough, and we were wanting to learn more about Fiji's culture.  We've been in Fiji for a total of 8 months, most of which were spent in Savusavu during cyclone season. This rough guide is based upon our experiences and hopes to be a good reference for those wishing to stay in Fiji for an extended period of time.


MARINAS

There are 3 marinas in Savusavu: Savusavu Marina at the farthest end in the bay, Copra Shed in the middle and Waitui Marina at the mouth of the bay. If you intend to leave your boat on a mooring ball for cyclone season, Savusavu marina is your best bet, although there was theft reported from the boats in the back of the bay. Savusavu marina has low budget facilities and isn't close to anything in town except a gas station.


Copra Shed has the nicest facilities by far (there's no real competition) but their mooring balls fared the worst during Cyclone Winston. Waitui Marina has disgusting facilities (unless you're in to kicking coach roaches and spiders out of your shower) and if there's a breeze from the west, their dock rips apart and blows away. We opted to spend most of our time at the anchorage in front of Cousteau and when coming into town we moored on a Copra Shed ball. In the event of a cyclone we moved to a sturdier mooring ball at Waitui.  


Waitui Marina
The only constant among the Savusavu Marinas is their rotating marina managers. For all we know, Waitui Marina has a decent dock and has cut down on the roaches in the shower. Maybe the Copra Shed facilities have gone to hell. Our guess is that the Savusavu Marina manager Robin has finally moved his bed from off the front porch of the marina...we hope anyway, an old man in his skivvies living on the front porch for the world to see was not a welcome sight. 

RUGBY 

There's no escaping it, especially after Fiji won gold in rugby during the 2016 Olympics, rugby is everywhere. You'll know when a match is being played as the entire town gets loud with people screaming, cheering, yelling and taxi cab drivers honking obnoxiously. The Copra Shed marina will almost always be playing every match and if you fancy standing on the street watching a game on an old school TV, mosey through town and watch at a grocery store.
Even the grocers in town will pull out TV's for the Fiji 7's games. 

CYCLONE ALERTS

Staying in Fiji during cyclone season means staying alert. In addition to scanning Windy you'll want to arm yourself with weather bulletins. Email Port Denarau Marina and ask that you be added to their weather alert emails. We found these emails (which depending upon how threatening the weather is may be sent several times a day) to be very useful. Also subscribe to Bob McDavitt's weather gram which is sent out every Sunday night. This weather gram update is by far the most in depth weather bulletin. Curly runs a morning net on VHF 16 every day but Sunday and gives a marine weather forecast. Basically, he just reads the Fiji Met forecast verbatim. He's a good resource if you're looking for mechanics, parts, services and or any type of local help. You can read the Fiji Met forecasts for yourself, here.

RESTAURANTS

PROTIP; do not go out to eat in Savusavu while already hungry, you're liable to starve while waiting for your food to be delivered. Everyone runs on Fiji Time.

INDIAN food- Arun's Hidden Paradise. Located past Waitui marina towards to the Planter's Club on the left hand side. Ask anyone in town, and they'll point you in the right direction. For good curry and a great place to people watch head to Decked Out Cafe.

HAPPY HOUR- There's no good happy hour in Savusavu. If your cocktails include tonic or ginger ale, don't be surprised that you'll have to pay for both the liquor and the mixer..which gets expensive. Share a mixer with someone and make your drink affordable. Two gin n tonics at Planter's Club was $7 USD.

       
Planters Club deck

CHEAP EATS- Waitui Marina is a great place for low budget good food. Fish n Chips for $3 USD is their staple. Order their Blue Seas Mega burger....so good!!

CHINESE food- Hong Kong. Located near Arun's Hidden Paradise also on the left hand side of the street while walking towards Planter's Club.

"FINE DINNING"- Unless you want to shell out some serious cash and eat at a resort, your only option for a meal worthy of wearing your finest cruising outfit, is at Surf N Turf Restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner, all of their menu items are delicious.

PIZZA- Let's just say, people don't come to Fiji for their pizza. Copra Shed has the best pizza in town.



ICE CREAM- One of the keys to surviving Savusavu during cyclone season is ice cream. Honestly, the best ice cream in town is from Grace Kitchen. Unfortunately, you'd have to sell a kidney to be able to afford ice cream from Grace Kitchen every day, and that's how often you'll be wanting to enjoy something cold to eat. At the far end of town, near the post office, across the street from Surf n Turf is LIA's. Their ice cream is .50 cents US for a huge scoop of really good ice cream!


ACTIVITIES TO KEEP SANE

Junior Sailing Club
Although at first glance, Savusavu doesn't appear that it can offer much to keep kids entertained, there's plenty to do. There's a junior sailing club that operates along the waterfront next door to the Copra Shed, with open free sailing on Saturdays.

THRIFT STORES- The plethora of second hand shops in Savusavu might not sound like a huge bonus, unless you find yourself living in Savusavu during cyclone season with two daughters.
Second hand clothes in Fiji are cheap! About every two weeks each second store receives a new shipment of clothes (and other items) typically from Australia. Some of the stores will offer to text you when the new shipment arrives, expect to pay more for newly arrived items and expect the clothes to be priced a half step above free when a store needs to make room for new merchandise. In preparation for moving to somewhere cold in China we were able to find a North Face down jacket for $8 USD.

ART CLASSES- We were fortunate to have found the best art teacher in Savusavu. Katrina Brown is an experienced art teacher who helped our daughters create amazing artwork. To contact Katrina, email her at  savukat@gmail.com    Please tell Kat our girls send big hugs!
Art exhibit for Katrina's students

During their time in art classes, our girls created this amazing piece of art that they gave to Animals Fiji for their new clinic location.

Our girls artwork hanging in Animals Fiji 



VOLUNTEERING WITH ANIMALS FIJI- While our daughters were able to volunteer with Animals Fiji extensively and perform pre and post operational procedures, I can not vouch that you will be able to do the same. Animals Fiji provides the only veterinary care in Savusavu and can always use a helping hand. Find them online or on Facebook, introduce yourself to Brenda (their office manager) and see how you can help make a difference. 





SQUASH- There is a squash court at the Planter's Club that always open. Games typically cost $1 USD
Taking ridiculous photos of yourself  while "playing" squash is optional


HOT SPRINGS AT THE MEDICAL CENTER- The medical center directly next to Animals Fiji offers mineral water hot tubs. For about $15 USD, you can rent up to 3 cement hot tubs. The mineral water is piped in directly from the local hot springs. You can achieve the perfect water temperature by mixing cooled mineral water into the tub. We would make an entire day out of our visit by bringing lunch, music and few cold beverages. 


FULL MOON PARTIES- Each full moon, cruisers and expats gather at the Savusavu marina for a pot luck style party complete with live music and sometimes homemade ice cream. These parties are a great way to meet expat friends in town who don't live on boats and are often looking for house sitters. 

Savusavu marina full moon party


FREE LIVE MUSIC- Every Sunday night at the Copra Shed is a live band that starts around 5pm.




OUT OF TOWN PLACES

ANCHORAGE CLOSE TO TOWN- Staying on a mooring ball for weeks on end during cyclone season gets old...real quick! We spent lots of time anchored out past Cousteau Resort. 
Way points 16 48.904S     179 16.886E   Lesiaceva Point


Anchorage Spot past Cousteau Resort

A quick 40 minute sail out of Savusavu and "our spot" provided crystal clear water, an abundance of turtles, minke whales, a constant breeze and a direct line to the cell tower.
Minke Whale

WATERFALLS- Waterfalls are plentiful around Savusavu, most a quick cab or bus ride away. Most are free of charge although some require payment to the local village. Ask any local and they'll tell you how to get to a waterfall. 


SUVA- Located on the Viti Levu island, Suva makes for a great trip to explore. Suva or as we call it, "The Big City" has a movie theater (you won't find one in Savusavu), malls, restaurants, great provisioning (check out Cost U Less), museums and a gorgeous University of the South Pacific campus. If you intend to take the ferry, do yourself a favor and book a first class ticket as with a "regular" ticket you won't be given a seat leaving you attempting to stake your claim to a small space on the dirty floor.
USP campus
LABASA- The best part of Labasa is the drive from Savusavu. The two hour drive goes through lush rain forest, through mountains, across dry landscape and weaves through tall pines. Don't expect much from Labasa and you'll still be disappointed. Labasa's only redeeming quality is their large Vinod Patel hardware store.

KORO SUN RESORT- A quick taxi cab ride from town, Koro Sun Resort is a great place to cool off for the day. They don't mind if you borrow their pool so long as you buy a drink or grab lunch.