We are often asked how we handled our finances and mail when cruising?
Tough answer, since what works for us may not work for your situation.
That said, we will attempt to provide some guidelines and food for thought.
|Who wants to be burdened with sorting out financial problems half-way
around the world?
It is time consuming, expensive and often when you think things
are taken care of - they aren't. Besides, you are out there to enjoy
the sunshine, snorkeling and meeting the people. You don't want to
spend time on this stateside stuff. Case in point: two years after we departed
on our cruise we had to change our mailing address We wrote
to the banks, credit card companies, securities, tax collectors and the
myriad of high tech organizations to notify them of the change. We
wrote and wrote - in some cases it took over a year for them to make the
change. We found that letters just do not get the action of a phone
call. Fortunately we had our financial affairs automated, so the
bills got paid. We found automatic payments for house payments, property
taxes, and insurance worked. Creditors like to do business this way
and rarely make mistakes. Same way with income deposited directly
to your account. Debit cards ie. Visa, Mastercard work world-wide, but
only in the cities. You won't find a bank much less an ATM in many
parts of the world. However, the good news- in these places you won't
be spending much, so no big deal. Its still a good idea to
carry a supply of traveler's checks and some cash stashed away onboard
- just in case. We found the American Express card to be especially helpful
as we could write a personal check up to $2,500 at any of their offices.
Also, The American Express offices will receive and hold mail for you.
You will most likely need to employ a mail service or make arrangements
with a family member or friend to handle this function. Make certain
that it is someone you trust. We have used both a family member and
mail service, There are advantages and disadvantages to both arrangements.
It is difficult using a mail service to get the personal service you need.
We did not want junk mail, catalogs (except West Marine) sent. Therefore,
it was necessary for the mail service to sort and make decisions as to
what was important to us. Not an easy job for someone who does not
know you. There are some small businesses that specialize in handling
mail and financial affairs for cruising sailors. Many of the sailing
magazines such as Latitude 38, 48 North, and Santana carry ads for
businesses providing these services. Our advice is to investigate
carefully and see if they will really meet your needs. Will they
sort mail, handle finances, track down and forward boat parts and generally
follow instructions? Do they have the necessary communications network
such as 24 hour message service, email and FAX? We were fortunate in having
a family member handle our mail. We had him open all business mail
and check for anything that might require his, or our, immediate
attention. It was a time consuming job and we owe him big time. We
usually planned ahead as to where we would receive our mail and had
it sent 3 weeks before our arrival. Usually to an American Express
Office. It is possible to receive mail at the Port Captain, a yacht club,
or general delivery at the post office. All of these methods can
be used, but be careful. General Delivery at the Post Office requires
that you be able to speak the language well enough to get your mail.
Many Port Captains and yacht clubs keep mail for yachts in transit.
However, the mail gets thumbed through many times a day and mail gets lost
or misplace. We have used these methods successfully, but reluctantly.
Having mail sent by FEDEX or DHL is expensive but traceable. It is
usually best to check with the local agents first to determine if there
will be problems with customs or other official headaches. I hope
this will give you some food for thought as you begin planning your voyage
and nailing down all the details that are so important once you cut the
dock lines. If you have any questions let us know and we will get
back to you.