Monday, July 9, 2018

small "g" gypsies

Blowin’ In The Wind settled onto the mooring ball next over from Kintala. Depending on which way the current is running we can sit in our cockpit and call over to Grand Kids sitting on her bow. There is pretty constant Ding traffic back and forth, and we usually end up spending a large part of each day on shore playing in the park with the kids, exploring the Library, and enjoying Beaufort. Sooner or later we will have to get back to concentrating on boat projects. Blowin’ In The Wind sat for a long time before being pressed into full time cruiser status, hiccups were to be expected. Kintala has a short list of things that broke as we came around the Keys, also to be expected.

The new city day dock, the Downtown Marina, and the mooring field in the background

Two family boats traveling together, one filled with kids, tend to draw some attention. To the curious, I have taken to describing our little band as a modern day gypsy family. We wander along with our overall plan (if you can call it that) driven by weather and the ease, or lack thereof, of living in the places we stop. We take odd jobs here and there, live off savings, generate a bit of coin from “internet income." Not a life of luxury, but one that suits us.

The Ladies Island Swing Bridge framing a full moon rise

(Should solar power and batteries ever improve to the point of carrying air conditioning suitable for a small boat, the “luxury” part will see a huge improvement!)

The label “gypsy” (small “g”) is often associated with “wanderer,” is mostly inoffensive and, in our case anyway, utterly appropriate.

For the most part people, as individuals, are curious and friendly. There is a bit of wistfulness attached to the idea of gypsies, a romanticism of being unencumbered. People like the idea of living that way in our increasingly frantic society. So, particularly with brief encounters, they tend to like people who have deliberately chosen a different path. That we are usually accompanied by three or four of the cutest grand kids on the planet (okay, just my opinion) likely doesn’t hurt.

Historically Gypsy (capital “G”) is a label not so well regarded nor inoffensive. The term is actually associated with the descendants of a single group of people who migrated from northwestern India about 1,500 years ago. Once they started to wander they never stopped. They called themselves, their culture, and their language “Romani”. To this day they are a persecuted minority in most nations, the ultimate “other” in a world where borders are the most important determiner of “who” and (sadly) “what” a person is. For some reason Italy has started an anti-Romani campaign, to the point where the government is breaking up families and taking children away from their parents.

Once in a while we bump into a little of the capital “G” attitude. Though we have heard of other cruisers getting harassed on a personal basis by an individual land dweller, our bumps come in the more impersonal form of official dictates about anchoring or shore access. (Think Miami and much of the central east coast of Florida.) At the moment about 3000 of us who use St. Brendan's Isle as our domicile, are facing a bump by the name of Chris Chambless. Mr. Chambless is a Florida Election official who is aiming to remove our voting rights because he does not approve of our lifestyle. It is possible he will succeed while being heralded by some as "protecting democracy." That this argument could eventually be expanded to deny millions of Americans currently not living inside US borders the right to vote is likely part of the plan. Will the courts, particularly this Supreme Court, go along with such a plan? If it ever gets that far I suspect they will.

Fortunately, there are so many other places like Beaufort, Oriental, Annapolis, or Fishing Bay that we can brush off the Miamis of the world with little ado. I also suspect a lot of us will figure out a way to vote in spite of Mr. Chambless and those like him. For myself, I will look for a way to continue to vote as a Floridian. I spend the better part of every year in that state, enough time that Florida law requires that both Kintala and the Ding be registered there. Because of the Electoral College votes count more in Florida than they do in some other states; at least when it comes to Presidential elections. In addition Florida politicians are often proponents of an agenda I enjoy voting against. Add those two things together and I love exercising my right to vote by voting in Florida.

All while I go about my small “g” gypsy way.

Note: here is a link to one of many articles about the Romani;

Here are two links to the articles about the St. Brendan's Isle issue:


Robert Sapp said...

I'm curious what indication you have that Chris Chambless gives a flying hoot about your "lifestyle?" Has he said something negative about people who cruise or RV full time? Since you follow this closer than I do maybe there's something more there that I'm not aware of, but it seems to me that he's asking a pretty reasonable question for a Supervisor of Elections to ask, which is "why do we have 3,000 people registered to vote in Clay County that have no residential,commercial or historical ties to the county?" We owned a home and paid county property taxes in Escambia County FL for 17 years, and we still have to complete a form annually that justifies us maintaining Escambia County voters registration now that we live on a boat and use SBI for our mailing address. How many years have you (or those other 3,000 people) paid property taxes in FL? We do like to make a joke of it, when asked for our address, we say "this is our address, but we've never actually been there." SBI is a service provider that you do business with. I buy stuff from Defender all the time, but I can't claim Connecticut residency as a result, not that I'd ever in a million years want to.

Besides, as a professed progressive with socialist leanings, wouldn't it be more intellectually consistent for you to maintain your residency and voters registration in MO so that you can keep paying MO state income taxes? Changing your residency to FL isn't a requirement to use SBI, and it would seem intellectually inconsistent if you've done it as a tax avoidance strategy.

And don't tell me about your boat registration. I have a boat too, and I know that the cost of registering a boat in FL is negligible. And it's basically a user's fee for access to the waterways, draw bridges, dredging channels, SAR services, etc. You get your money's worth in exchange for that fee.

TJ said...

Hi Robert. We have been on the road for the last few days, visiting family in St. Louis. I'm currently surrounded by 6 grandkids so my reply might be a little less thoughtful than I would like, but I'll give it a try.

First off, I do have a tie to Clay County. I pay a local business to keep my mailing address there, an address that is required by numerous state, federal, and independent agencies. It is a purely business arrangement, sure, but so what? The address is required. I have one. It is in Clay County. My Florida Driver's license carries that address, and my voter registration. It has never been a problem in the past but, suddenly, Mr. Chambliss has an issue? To me he is either just another piss ant politician trying to get a few headlines, or he is serving someone who has a vested interest in disenfranchising voters. Either way he can kiss my ass.

In addition I don't do any damage in Clay County, and I'll bet you a large cup of the best coffee in the land that can't be said for all of those who have residential, commercial, or historical ties to the place. (Not to mention the politicians who rule there.) I am not hurting Clay County in any way. When did it become an American custom to insult or assult people who are doing no harm?

My boat is registered in FL because FL law required it. I interpret that to mean that FL has determined that I live in FL, particularly since I live on the boat full time.I have no problem with that and agree that I am, indeed, a FL resident. I have spent the better part of the last two years in the state, more time than I spent as a resident of AZ. Since I am why would I not be allowed to vote for the people who run for state office. it shouldn't really matter which County I live it when voting for state wide offices, should it? Nor should it matter which Country I live in when voting on state wide referendums, the office of POTUS or Florida Senators.

I would consider an argument that congressional representation is an issue, since those districts are "local". But, so long as gerrymandering to swing a district to one party or the other with little concern for local issues is the norm, it isn't an argument I would take too seriously.

As I understand it Mr. Chambliss aims to keep me, and others like me, from voting at all. I am clearly a resident of FL as well as a citizen of the US, yet because I don't happen to claim a piece of land as my own nor spend most of my days hanging out in the same place I was the day before,I am not to be allowed to vote?

And that's what I meant by Mr. Chambliss not approving of my life style. I don't own (or rent) a house. In fact I don't own or rent anything on any bit of land anywhere. So what? What has that to do with my civil rights? I have paid taxes all my life. And I pay all the taxes Fl expects of me, just like you do.

I fear I missed entirely what being a progressive with socialist leanings has to do with MO. I spend far more days in FL than I do in MO. I spent most of the last two years working in FL. Indeed, my progressive and socialist leanings lead me to thinking that protecting the rights of all citizens to participate in elections is one of the most important things any political organizations should be doing. My intellectual consistency would lean toward jail time for anyone who attempts to restrict that participation.

Robert Sapp said...

I wouldn't bring attention to the fact that your driver's license has your SBI address on it, because that's in violation of state law. Florida prohibits the use of mailing services, PO boxes, FedEx store "suite" numbers or other such fictional addresses as valid for either drivers licenses or voter's registration. Live aboard boaters without a fixed marina address actually fall into the same category as the homeless or people who live in their cars. The address on your license should be your boat documentation number (or for automobiles, the vehicle registration number). And the address on my voter's registration is the county courthouse, the same as someone living under an overpass on I-10. A PO box (which is what SBI is) can be listed as your mailing address, but not your physical address for voter's registration or a driver's license. I actually wrote a fairly humorous article about this several years ago for Southwinds Magazine. So I guess maybe I see the problem now. SBI has apparently been violating state law by pretending that their virtual addresses are actual physical addresses. If Clay county has been using this for voter's registration and driver's licenses, then they're not following the law. And now there's someone who's saying "what the hell is going on here?" It has nothing to do with your "lifestyle" or some conspiracy to disenfranchise anyone. Florida actually has pretty solid processes for enabling the homeless to vote and obtain licenses.

I've had some experiences applying for credit cards (part of our financial preparations for leaving the country for extended periods) where my SBI address was rejected, because you also cannot use a mailing service or PO box for a physical address when applying for credit cards. It's part of the Federal Real ID requirements to prevent terrorists from establishing fake identities. But they had no problem with my actual address, which is my boat documentation number.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because from my understanding of the law, SBI is completely in the wrong on this one. You can still register to vote and receive a drivers license. You just have to register at the courthouse like someone who lives on the street, and use your boat documentation number as your address for your license. Then you'll be legal.

TJ said...

Interesting Robert, thanks. Any way I can get to a copy of that article?

I'm a bit curious though, why make having a fixed physical address such a big deal? Does it really matter if my "address" is a country courthouse or a boat registration number? If SBI is making it easier for people like me to comply with state regulations, why harass them, or me? What possible difference does it make is my address is SBI in Clay country or the Clay Country Courthouse?

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Unknown said...

Interesting discussion.

When I built my airplane I had a PO Box, but I could not register it or get an airworthiness certificate without a street address. I live on a farm not in any town nor did my 1/2 mile driveway have a name.

So I named my driveway, gave myself a street address and came up with a town name, called local 911 and told them. That allowed me to complete my aircraft documentation.

But I had to provide a map from the airport to my house. And if I move, I have 30 days to inform the FAA of my new address, but they do not care where I keep my airplane, I do not have to inform them of its location at all. Note: My mail box is a mile from my house, over two mountain ridges away and on a public road, Post Office will not deliver to a private road, so they tell me.

I wonder if I do a circumnavigation of lets say two to five years, what do I tell the FAA about my living address? What about boat documentation?

I suppose one could just buy a square yard of land somewhere, put a rural mailbox on it, and call that home?

Robert Sapp said...


I can't remember what issue of Southwinds my article appeared in, but it was based on this post on our blog:

And to speak to Panama Red's questions, a SBI address is fine for USCG boat documentation, but your physical address will have to become your boat documentation number, and the city and state that you consider your homeport. If that meets the requirements under Real ID, I can't imagine that the FAA won't accept that. Then again, this is the government we're talking about, so I guess I shouldn't assume too much...