Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Off the Grid?

One of the things that most cruisers dream about is being off the grid. Being non-conformist types and former hippies for the most part, the idea that one can buy a boat and take off into the sunset over turquoise waters is a powerful one. The reality, while not unpleasant, is just a bit different. We are, these days, technology based humans whether we like it or not. Certainly technology has some drawbacks like the stifling quantity of reality shows that sweep every creative thought from your brain, and the plethora of news shows that fill you with fear and doom, but for the sailor technology is a welcome addition to safety. GPS, weather faxes, Gribs, cruising guides, and electronic charts have all added tremendously to our ability to succeed as cruisers. All this without even beginning the list of personal technology in the form of email and the ubiquitous sailing blogs <ahem> that proliferate the web. Unfortunately they all use power and a good many of them demand internet connections.

Before we left we had plans to install solar panels, a wind generator, and a wifi extender, but the loss of our jobs meant that some things had to be left undone, and since we were the proud owners of a new Honda 2000i companion model generator to fill our power needs, we decided to take off and go cruising and leave the wind and solar to follow when the house sells finally. Little by little we're finding ways of making it work. It turns out that the Abacos have a fairly strong wifi system which we'll be able to take advantage of when we're near the bigger islands, but between Old Bahama Bay where we are now, and the next available wifi may be some time. All of this leads up to the most obnoxious and impossible land anchor to rid yourself of: taxes. You see, the government of the good ol' USA doesn't give a rat's behind whether you're off in the Abacos trying to learn how to live with a light footprint. They want your money, and they want it by April 15, 2014. For me, the tax chore has been made much easier by H&R Block's Best of Both program online. I've used it for years quite successfully, but was a little concerned about the complexity of our situation this year. So today, while planning our next leg, I realized that I probably ought to at least take an initial stab at it since we had really strong wifi. So today I took my laptop to the beach and did taxes. I guess if you have to do them, then doing them with this view at least makes the job somewhat palatable. So f you're dreaming of cruising, do your best to disentangle yourselves from all the things that tie you down unnecessarily, but on the tax front I'm afraid I have bad news for you. Uncle Sam knows where the Bahamas are.

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