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Sailing Around the World And Getting By Without Cash | The Billfold

Sixty-five mangos, 12 coconuts, and three rubber-banded baggies of coffee slide across the deck in two large plastic bins. There’s a broad-built man in a little boat called COUNTRY staring at me. I have no money and it’s 600 miles to the nearest ATM.

For four years, I’ve been traveling the high seas, alone aboard my sailboat BOBBIE long enough to know that being cashless doesn’t have to be a problem. For centuries, explorers have ploughed all corners of our watery world, armed with little more than improvised currencies. From the Portuguese pursuits of exotic spices in the Moluccas, to the movement of molasses across the West Indies, the sea has always remained the most flexible of marketplaces.

And so, in much the same way, today on this tiny island in the middle of the Java Sea, we shall improvise. I duck inside, grab a half-full bottle of rum and toss it to Romy, my new bounty-bearing friend. It’s a solid deal: I don’t drink at sea, and he hasn’t seen commercial grade liquor in the better part of a decade.

I’ve traded all kinds of things like that out here: a clunky machete from Costa Rica for some custom-welded bolts I needed in Indonesia, old eyeglasses for avocados in Samoa, spare hooks and line for a bucket of shrimp in El Salvador. Even when I do have cash, often locals don’t want it. Maybe we’re on a tiny atoll days away from the nearest urban center. If I’ve got a thing they want, the whole transaction is just way easier. Cash? That’s just some clunky middleman.

There are faded rock band t-shirts, stray DVDs of cheesy action movies, old issues of National Geographic — these are the things that are as good as gold out here.

But then, of course, there’s gold to be had as well. In New Guinea, where I found myself marooned for the better part of a year, I literally stopped counting the times passersby would try to hawk me bricks they’d dug up in their bush gardens — apparently leftover remnants of a war and occupiers that had long since up and gone.

I never bought any — it all just seemed too weird, and probably illegal — but I loved the mystique, the excitement, the idea that I every time I sailed away I was on my way towards the next great discovery.

And yet, there is actual money to be made out here, as well. Even today, the savvy sailor can cash in on the basic principles of supply and demand: buy the stuff that’s cheap in one place, haul it somewhere down the road where it’s harder to come by.

Take Easter Island, for example. It’s a tiny spit of land, 1,100 miles off the coast of Chile. For some inexplicable reason, bottles of Johnny Walker are insanely cheap at just over five bucks a liter. The savvy sailor could easily snug a pallet or two in the bilge and unload them in landfalls further west, where the brand fetches a price nearly ten times that. And I’ve met countless dudes doing just that, shirtless and leathery, blissed out on the same kind of rum runs that have existed for ages. Paradise is not only real for them, it’s also lucrative.

But that’s never really been my style. I much favor the exchanges that are simpler, that get to the core of what huckstering misses entirely: it’s not about who comes out ahead. Once, in this little jungle outpost called Pomio, villagers caught wind of that fact that I had solar panels on board. Before I knew it there was a steady queue of outrigger canoes dropping me their mobile phones. I was happy to oblige, it was no sweat off my back to put a little charge in their gear, but it’s what happened when they came back that got me: the old women would bring fresh coconuts to drink together, the young men would swing heaping sacks of sweet potatoes on board. It was a simple system that had nothing to do with wealth or status. It was a system of camaraderie and kindness, that approached life like it was a big pot and everyone was only expected to toss in whatever they had. And I loved it, you know? This way of living that systematically acknowledges that we’re all in this together – a currency I can really get behind.
 

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That Drunk Guy
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That girl has a bunch of videos on Vimeo.com. I forget what they are called. I think they might be under her name - Emily Richmond. If anyone is interested.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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We 'met' Emily over the radio going between the Galapagos and Easter. For quite a few days it looked like she might lose her boat. A long story but we ended up going a fair distance (~100 miles) below our rhumb line, initially to take her extra fuel because she had had to jury-rig her mast and could only sail very slowly and could not get high enough to get to Easter. To make easting she needed to motor.

We had a net going on the SSB discussing how she could jury rig. The steel cap at the top of her wooden mainmast had lost its top and become a sleeve and the cap had pulled down several inches meaning that her forestay, triatic, and cap shrouds were loose. I thought we might be there to take her off the boat but she was very determined to carry on. Then she started to take on quite a bit of water any time she ran the engine (partly broken flexible coupling in turned out). She figured out that the boat did not leak with the engine off by moving an 8D battery out of the way (she is not a big person). Without the option of motoring she did not want us to keep going toward her and there was another boat coming a couple of hundred miles behind us.

We headed to Easter and were there for a week or so. The boat behind us, caught up to Bobbie and floated over a couple of jerry cans of water as she was running out (it was a very slow trip). The wind switched so she could lay Easter and was finally towed in the last 50 miles or so by the Chilean Navy. Before she arrived we had left so we never actually met. Apparently she also had a very tough time in the anchorage at Easter with swells coming through of 10-12 feet. People, and especially the Navy, were very helpful and they helped her get everything repaired and she carried on. Last we heard she was in New Guinea. That had been her goal to go there and make a film about a latter-day Margaret Mead.
 

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Master Mariner
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Somehow, I don't believe the customs officer I cleared into Grenada with yesterday, is going to accept a bottle of liquor in lieu of the ec$94.00 he must write me a receipt for.
I've bartered and traded for a lot of things on my sailing adventures, from 30# boxes of Banana Prawns for a pint of Scotch in Oz, to some sail repairs for a couple of tools in French Polynesia, but to actually try to sail without any money at all just isn't possible these days, IMO.
 

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I think the reality comes out in Killarney and CaptA's posts.

To achieve these things by bludging on the sailing and local communities whilst not maintaining, nor having the capacity to maintain, the boat is not an emulatable method, imho.

Is it sustainable to trade a $20 T Shirt for a few fish someone has caught for free? Even if the T Shirt is old you then need to, after a few trades, get more T Shirts... Unless the idea is to live naked.

I don't know about New Guinea but the Pacific I went to knows the value of having dollar notes. Chances are they will prefer the money than your $10 worth of hooks they can buy in their own store for $2.

In the far flung reaches of the world like PNG or Easter Island there are very few cruisers and few facilities. If you give someone a gallon of diesel or a shackle you may well be giving away something that you need for your own safety.

Cruisers are a very generous bunch of folk. They will give the shirt off their back to help a cruiser in need, but where that boat is in constant need of handouts the word travels quickly.

Though I am an advocate of "Go Now" there are certain cases where prudence lies in staying at home at work till one builds a cruising kitty that will sustain you in times of need.
 

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Somehow, I don't believe the customs officer I cleared into Grenada with yesterday, is going to accept a bottle of liquor in lieu of the ec$94.00 he must write me a receipt for.
I've bartered and traded for a lot of things on my sailing adventures, from 30# boxes of Banana Prawns for a pint of Scotch in Oz, to some sail repairs for a couple of tools in French Polynesia, but to actually try to sail without any money at all just isn't possible these days, IMO.
Hence, the PayPal DONATE button on her blog...

:))

THANK YOU?S! | BOBBIE ROUNDS THE WORLD
 

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Captain Obvious
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Man I would have tried to trade for some of those gold bricks. Or maybe she did and just isn't saying......... :-0
 

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Old soul
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Hence, the PayPal DONATE button on her blog...
Yes, I had a good chuckle over this as well :).

I liked her article, but I don't take the lesson as a an either/or situation. I think the take-away point of the article is that money is not the only way to mediate an economic transaction. Barter in goods or labour are viable in some circumstances. As Westerners, most of us have little experience with using barter, or indeed any alternative economic models. But it certainly is possible to use barter in some transactions.
 

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Administrator
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I have a "Donate" button on my website. It doesnt mean anyone uses it.


:rolleyes:


I can sing and dance....?? Puleeezzze. :eek:


Truth is: no one gives away money. You gotta earn it.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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I like her suggestion to fill the bilge with a few pallets of scotch and then cross a boarder. It's a sure way to get several months/years of free room and board. :D

MedSailor
 

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I like her suggestion to fill the bilge with a few pallets of scotch and then cross a boarder. It's a sure way to get several months/years of free room and board. :D

MedSailor

Disagree. Whats the price of a bottle of Scotch? $30?
Whats the amount of scotch a New Guniea native with a bone in his nose going drink before you realise you are screwing over a culture?
What will Customs say when you start distributing Ship Stores as money? They will hit you with duty?
Or bribing Customs... How much jail time is bribing an official in your country?
Suez Canal transit cost us 2x$10 bribes. You would have had to give 2x Scotch bottles = $60

The romantic notions of South Seas 1950s movies and reality just don't check out in real life.

Finally... Go back to all those threads where people show their budgets. Whats the SMALLEST cost in the budgets? FOOD. Hooks, scotch and old Tshirts will not buy you Yamaha 2 Stroke oil, shackles, Dynema, Rip Stop tape or Boat Cable!


:)
 
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Closet Powerboater
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Disagree. Whats the price of a bottle of Scotch? $30?
Whats the amount of scotch a New Guniea native with a bone in his nose going drink before you realise you are screwing over a culture?
What will Customs say when you start distributing Ship Stores as money? They will hit you with duty?
Or bribing Customs... How much jail time is bribing an official in your country?
Suez Canal transit cost us 2x$10 bribes. You would have had to give 2x Scotch bottles = $60

The romantic notions of South Seas 1950s movies and reality just don't check out in real life.

Finally... Go back to all those threads where people show their budgets. Whats the SMALLEST cost in the budgets? FOOD. Hooks, scotch and old Tshirts will not buy you Yamaha 2 Stroke oil, shackles, Dynema, Rip Stop tape or Boat Cable!


:)

Jail time. That's what I meant by "free room and board."

MedSailor
 

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That Drunk Guy
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Some may call this sexiest, but I bet people (especially men) are more willing to help or trade with an attractive young lady than they would a rough and scruffy sailor. So it probably wouldn't work out for me. :(
Sexist maybe, but true non the less. Remember the German girl fixing up the sh*tty aluminum boat in Panama? She also has a donate button, and I'll bet you anything she pulls in more than MarkofSeaLife. (no offense Mark...but we've never seen you in a bikini). It's not to say that her videos are not well done. But I'm pretty sure she is not getting all those hits, and donations based entirely on her video production skills. It's a weird dynamic that men are more willing to 'donate' to attractive young women.
 

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Singlehander by Default
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Never heard about those free range chicks although I am kind of interested in one of those battered ones--I've been eating them plain for so long now, I don't know if I could make the switch now!
 

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Sexist maybe, but true non the less. Remember the German girl fixing up the sh*tty aluminum boat in Panama? She also has a donate button, and I'll bet you anything she pulls in more than MarkofSeaLife. (no offense Mark...but we've never seen you in a bikini). It's not to say that her videos are not well done. But I'm pretty sure she is not getting all those hits, and donations based entirely on her video production skills. It's a weird dynamic that men are more willing to 'donate' to attractive young women.

I've heard of Sugar Daddies but, first time I've heard of Sugar Sailors!:D
 
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