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post #2 of Old 03-22-2004
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Is the Falling dollar changing your plans

c172guy (gosh, a first name would be nice...)

We''re probably a good testbed for ''cruising plans vs. the U.S. dollar''. While we were in the Caribbean, we watched 9/11''s effects (presaged by a softening economy the popped tech bubble) result in many cruisers heading home along with owners of bareboats being chartered who didn''t have customers. This was lesson #1: cruising funds don''t belong in leveraged or volatile investments; those funds will clearly be needed and used steadily over time, and so capital should be preserved. We saw some very painful stories...

As we began preparing WHOOSH for a crossing, the Eruo was at 87 U.S. cents (a figure I remember well). As we cruised the South Coast of England 10 months later, the Euro was at $1.25 USD (a growth of 47% against the USD) with the BPS (the ''Pound'') having strengthened about 20%. Things remain roughly at that level, altho'' the common wisdom is continued USD weakening for the next year or more (due to the Presidential race, a slow U.S. recovery promising continued low interest rates that dissuade buying U.S. debt instruments, a lousy fiscal future due to an increasing deficit, and so on).

This may all sound/look gloomy, but I don''t think this creates a fundamentally different circumstance than when we cruised in ''78-''79 or ''88-''89: there are always financial surprises (''out here'' or ''back home'' or with the boat), there''s inevitably more to do & see than the kitty allows for, and in truth even cruising sailors with tight kittys enjoy a standard of living several notches above ''basic'', with a myriad of small pleasures and an abundant overlying freedom to adjust and accommodate to one''s circusmtances.

The cost of a restaurant meal, a cab or a movie here in London has been breathtaking and beyond our reach...yet we''ve loved being here this winter. The museums and historical sites are almost always free, public transport is abundant and cheap (if you plan a day''s outing well), the nearby grocery store has items on sale each day, some boat improvements can wait for another day (and cheaper Holland), enjoying creative cooking aboard is a satisfying alternative, supplemented by a nearby outdoor internat''l marketplace that''s fascinating & 800 years old...and so forth. And like many others, we track every single penny (''pence'') we spend, lay it over a carefully constructed budget at each month''s end, and try to plan thoughtfully for the future...about the opposite of what most folks think ''rich yachties'' do when off cruising.

While exchange rates have changed in the wrong direction, some things haven''t. You''re only getting older, your health will only come under increased risk, your boat''s systems will only wear more, and the opportunity to see fascinating places and meet wonderful people - already a finite opportunity - will shrink further. You can change your intended itinerary, you can ratchet down your expectations and therefore your budget, you can increase the care with which you spend, you can dumb down the boat and give up on those ''must haves'' that really aren''t...but you can''t turn back the clock. So really the choice is the same that potential cruisers have always faced - do it at some substantial cost (career, savings, whatever) or just think about how things aren''t ''perfect'' and so it''s better to wait a bit longer. And that''s a choice that no one else can make.

But for the sake in part of those of us who are out here, be sure to think carefully about our collective future and arrange for absentee ballots before you leave, if you do. The one thing that has changed demonstrably is the collective view of our country by others; we are now often viewed as the petulant rich kid on the block who looks out for himself and only cares to be a world citizen on our own terms. That IS something we can change.

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