Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Paying for Daily Life Aboard and Abroad

Currency is a big deal when cruising, how much, how to get it, where to get it, how to avoid fees and most importantly making sure you have it when you need it.   First and foremost, for those wondering and for those making a list of boats to rob we don't carry much cash in any form  At most we have a few hundred or dollars on board or on us when not on board in whatever currency is the local currency and as for US dollars except for some change in Grace's piggy bank there's rarely any to be found.

To some that may sound crazy especially since I've heard stories from other cruisers who carry thousands of dollars in US dollars and keep it stashed on board.  Some say it is in case of emergency, others say it is to save them on transaction fees or what have you.  I say why take the risk?  Cash can be stolen, lost, destroyed, or even "accidentally" spent.  As for an emergency, we've yet to come across a fuel dock that would not take Visa or Master card and just about any civilized port has an ATM machine and even in the uncivilized ones we've been able to secure cash via a credit card terminal in a store or with another local merchant.  So what else do you need money for on a boat?  At an initial glance to some this may sound expensive, ATM fees, credit card transaction fees, etc. all add up but we are also going to share how we've managed to avoid those.

So what are we doing you might ask?  Before we started out we opened up a new bank account and a new credit card.  We'll start with the credit card, it is the Venture card by Capital One, it has a wide variety of features which you can read all about on their website but our three favorite features are the zero international transaction fee, the 1.5% cash back on purchases and the custom image on the front.  So when and where we can; we pay with this awesome card that sports a picture of our boat on the front, offers us zero fees for transactions in any currency in the world, and gives us some cash back to boot!

Accompanying this card is our standard checking and savings account which is also from Capital One.  It is a Capital One 360 account which is formerly some flavor of ING Direct.  This account fits in with the credit card perfectly for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost there are no monthly fees, no minimum balances, no direct deposit necessary, quite literally we pay nothing for this account no matter what.  The second bonus is that they do not charge any transaction fee for using any ATM foreign or domestic, now the one down side is we do still have to typically pay the foreign ATM a fee but in Mexico we've found that it can get as cheap as $1 and in Europe we have not had to pay any fee no matter the ATM.  And finally the ATM card is also a debit master card which comes with the same wonderful feature as our credit card which is no foreign transaction fees for purchases.  And finally since the account is linked to our credit card we also have it setup so that our credit card gets paid in full every month automatically and on time no matter where in the world we are.  The account also has other great features such as free bill pay and other misc things.

So we live entirely off of plastic money hitting ATMs only when we need a small amount of cash. Looking back at our transactions over the past six months or so this has only cost us about $20 in bank fees, all of which were for using Mexican ATMs.  Had we searched around town harder we could have even found in network ATMs in Mexico which would have cost us nothing.  I know I've heard some of you out there are paying as much as $15 PER transaction.

The other plus to doing business this way is that you always get the wholesale bank rate for currency exchange.  Those of you flashing around thousands of dollars in US cash and converting it at the local grocery, or currency exchange are losing 10-20% of your money.

As for those of you worried about the security of using plastic.  We have yet to have a problem, but it is always wise to keep your eyes opened for tampered card machines or just shady places.  Use the ATM card only at the big known banks and you shouldn't have any problems, as for the credit card follow the same but remember that credit card transactions are fairly easy to dispute if something goes wrong and you don't have to pay the balance until things are worked out.

Well that's about it really, though I do have one request with this post.  We put a lot of research and time into this and have even field tested it so if you found this helpful and are now running off to do just like us we would love it if you followed this link: https://r.capitalone360.com/yKg4dXpLRr to do so.

New Photos Page

For those who have been wanting to see more photos we've updated our photos page and tried our best to organize them into some usable fashion. So if you want to see where we've been or what we've been doing head on over this way: http://www.sailreprieve.com/p/blog-page.html . We promise to upload more new photos soon!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

La Cruz, PV, Banderas Bay

This post is long over due but I'm sure following cruisers and non-cruisers alike are wondering what the famous tourist mecca of Puerto Vallarta is like from a boating perspective.  After all it is marketed as the end all be all tourist destination in Mexico and a sail boat sure looks like a nice place to be from a white sand beach while sipping down a margarita.
This area ended up being a long stop over for us, in total we spent about a month there.  We needed to fix and upgrade a few systems which required a trip back to the US for parts and so we stayed for the convenience really and we made some good friends with other cruisers while we were there.  For most our time there we anchored out in front of the Marina at La Cruz, met up with a couple of other kid boats including Let it Be and Bliss, had fun on the beach and worked on getting our plans together for welcoming our new crew member Eden.
Overall this was one of our least favorite stops so far.  People, even cruisers raved about La Cruz as being a great destination.  We hated it.  We couldn't figure out what the cruisers love affair with this place was.  For starters the anchorage is crap, there is little protection from wind or swells and as a result the afternoons generally generated so much chop in the anchorage that it was a challenge to get on or off the boat even with our new sugar scoop and steps on the stern, this made for miserable afternoons on the boat and very wet rides to or from shore.
In addition to the poor anchorage the charges 50 pesos per day for dinghy dockage for which they provide no services other than a place to tie up, no water, no wifi, no restrooms, not even showers for purchase, and apparently according to others they don't even claim to really watch or secure your dinghy, and you are not supposed to even dump trash.  Fortunately the town is very safe and we had zero trouble leaving our dinghy on the beach for the days we went into town bypassing their 50 pesos per day cost.  

We also spent one day in the marina which did not leave us very impressed, while they charge a very high premium for their space they were not very friendly or eager to accommodate us and in fact our initial email to them was completely ignored. Did I mention the docks are not maintained and rotting? There were several cleats I saw that I wouldn't trust to tie my dinghy to let alone a boat, if they don't take care of this place soon a small hurricane and this marina will be one of those front page newspaper photos with all the boats piled up in one corner.
The town of La Cruz itself is pretty nice and is a 30 minute bus ride to the tourist mecca of Puerto Vallarta.  There are plenty of services for cruisers including Philo's bar, a weekly veggie market, a well stocked sailing supply store, stainless welding and pretty much anything else you could need. This IS one of the few places in mexico where nearly everything is easily obtainable.