Trial Camping – Sleeping with Animals in Nature

New Purchases for My Car-Camping Trip: 2003 Grand Marquis and Marmot Limelight 2P Tent

(January 15 – 17, 2019) For the first time I am car-camping alone. I picked Dupuis Campground in Florida, two hours’ drive from my home. This was to see (1) if I am capable of camping alone, (2) if I like it, and (3) what I must carry. About 80% of my friends didn’t understand my new adventure and/or showed some negativity on my plan. I know that I am happiest when I am in the middle of nature. So, I focused on listening to those who actually have gone camping before. Besides, I prefer sleeping in my own place (my tent) to motels when I am traveling. This camping trip is also to find out if I can or want to do an RV trip in a few years.

While staying at the campsite on the first night, my concern was safety from people and animals. This campsite is gated. When I booked for two nights, I received an email confirmation with a lock code to open/close the gate. As soon as I arrived, I introduced myself to the campground hosts, a very nice couple “Dick and Ruth”. There was a pond about 100 yards from my tent. I saw an alligator sun-bathing on a small man-made island in the pond. There were three other tents nearby my site. I spoke to each group and got myself familiarized with my surroundings.

My new tent “Marmot Limelight 2P” was a great purchase: easy to setup and well designed. At night, I had four layers of shirts and two layers of pants in my sleeping bag. In addition, I have three layers of pads and two blankets. The temperature dropped to 45f (7c). Even though other campers told me that alligators don’t bother you, I couldn’t sleep well worrying about animal attack and because of the cold. I was relieved the next day when the sun came out. Freshly made coffee immediately warmed and cheered me up.

There are amazing hiking trails around this campsite. Living in South Florida, we don’t really know the natural beauty of Florida. On the second day, I met a new neighbor, Johnny Molloy (http://www.JohnnyMolloy.com) who is the author of a camping trip book “Best Tent Camping Florida” that I purchased from Barns and Nobles a couple of months ago. He gave me lots of tips and encouraged my upcoming camping trips. He is a well-known outdoor writer and has written 65 books so far. He has slept over 5,000 nights in his tent in wild. This trip is his 23rd visit to Florida. It is to backpack hike 65 miles on the “Ocean to Lake Trail” in Florida.

I awoke the next day well rested this time, and I saw that my neighbor, Johnny, was counting a pack of flat-bread while boiling water for his morning coffee. He told that his backpack weight is a maximum of 15% of his body weight. He carries everything he needs in wildlife for four nights. He was been sometimes called a “Food Nazi” for rationing food while hiking. Back when we were sailing, we did a similar thing; we had to limit carrying only a certain amount of food supply and boat parts. There are no food stores neither in the wilderness nor at sea.

This trial-run camping was successful. It is time to revisit my checklist for my upcoming long camping trip. My goal is go all the way to Joshua Tree National Park in California. I really want to see many National Parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches). If possible, Glacier Park in Montana also. I have TIME but it is limited considering the fact of the weather window.

Family Campground Entrance, Dupuis Management Area, Florida, USA
Pond View from My Campsite, Dupuis Management Area, Florida, USA
Cypress Trees, Dupuis Management Area, Florida, USA
Picture with the Author (http://www.JohnnyMolloy.com) of my Book “Best Tent Camping Florida”, He stayed at this campground for a night while waiting for his friend to do backpack hiking 65 mile “Ocean to Lake Trail”. Dupuis Management Area, Florida, USA

Can I improve US Health Care System?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead (Anthropologist)”

Smart shopping is finding a reasonably priced quality item that fits my budget. I have a limited income so I have to budget my lifestyle accordingly most of the time.

As I have been sailing outside of the USA, I didn’t have to carry a US health insurance for three years. In 2018, I planned to stay in the US for several months and I decided to have US health insurance. I am now using health insurance for the first time in four years. I made an effort to find out what the cost of a doctor’s visit, prescription medication, and additional tests are. I found smart shopping wasn’t easy when dealing with health insurance. Most of the health care personnel cannot tell me what my co-payment would be for a special service or a test. I tried to look for a better deal.

For some prescription drugs, I found that using GoodRX.com was much better deal than my insurance co-payment. Some of the pharmacies also offer inexpensive drugs without insurance. It takes a lot of time to research. Before I see my doctor, I search for drugs on GoodRX.com. When I see my doctor, I ask for a paper prescription so I can select a pharmacy offering the best price without using my health insurance. I didn’t use my insurance for prescription drugs at all in 2018.

My insurance co-payment for seeing my primary care physician is $35/visit. I asked them how much it would cost by cash (walk-in). They told me it is $70 for a walk-in visit. It means that I am saving $35 with insurance. However, the invoice from my health insurance company says differently. It says that I saved $220 with insurance. The invoice shows as “Total Bill: $255, Member Discount Price: $158.36, Payment by Insurance Company: $61.64, and My Payment: $35”. Based on this bill, my doctor’s office received a total of $96.64 ($61.64+$35) instead of $70 walk-in price. I can understand that they have overhead cost dealing with insurance paper work. What I don’t understand is what made my insurance company price my doctor’s visit as $255 instead of $70 walk-in price?

When it comes for time for additional tests, I visited different labs and called my insurance company to find out my co-payment. It wasn’t easy. I had a “Diagnostic Mammogram and Ultrasound Test” in November. One month prior, when I visited in the imaging facility, they displayed a list of special (October) discount price without insurance. It showed $245 for “Diagnostic Mammogram/Ultrasound Breast/DEXA/” on the discount list. My cost with insurance for a similar (or less) test in November, shows a Total Bill Amount $1,449, Member Discount $978.99, My Insurance Paid $349.04, and My Payment $120.97. It says I saved $1,328.03. How do they come up with these numbers?

I am an educated person and always try to learn. It is time-consuming and stressful to figure out the invoices from my health insurance company. Do we really need this complicated paper work? I believe simplifying the invoice so that everyone can understand, will improve our health care system. Simply show us realistic total cost with or without insurance before the service, excluding an emergency situation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this whole insurance thing is a mass of illusions and lies.

This show that I saved $1,328.03.

October Special Discount Price List by Imaging Center; My exam is about $245 Walk-In Price.

95 Express Bus and Public Transportation in South Florida

Metromover, a Free Automated Train, Downtown Miami, Florida, USA

Traffic is heavy and driving is stressful in South Florida; yet is not easy to live without a car here. Many people would like to use Public Transportation but prefer to drive because of the added time as the schedules and locations are not really convenient.

Starting year 2019, the sales tax will be increased from 6% to 7% in Broward County, Florida. People voted for it to improve the Public Transportation System. I am anxious to see the result of the tax increase. We know most taxes go only one direction (UP) and hardly ever down, even during the best economic times. I do not think Governments practice saving money for rainy days.

For the last four years, I have been sailing overseas. As I had gotten rid of my car, whenever I visited my home in Fort Lauderdale, I often used Public Transportation. For long distance, I used Tri-Rail, Miami Metro, Brightline Fast Train, and 95 Express Bus. I didn’t take buses in Broward County because the route doesn’t work well at my location. Instead, I rode my bike a lot. When I had to, I rented a car. The problem with renting a car is the rental car insurance. It is too expensive. Renting a car only with a credit card insurance, I didn’t feel comfortable.

Hanging Plants, PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami), Downtown Miami, Florida, USA

Recently, I noticed there are more people using Tri-Rails. One day, the train was very crowded during a rush hour. I barely squeezed my bike in a designated space in a Tri-Rail. It is good to see more people using Public Transportation though. When more people using the system, I am sure it will be more convenient.

Among all, I think the best deal is “95 Express Bus”. (http://95express.com/express-bus/) It cost $2.65 from Fort Lauderdale (Broward Blvd/I-95) to Downtown Miami. It took 40 minutes in the morning leaving 7:15 am. The return trip around 3:50 pm, took 1 hour from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. There is an ample parking space (free) at the Broward Bus Stop.

Freedom Tower, Downtown Miami, Florida, USA


New Condo Buildings near PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami), Downtown Miami, Florida, USA

With Sisters in Korea and Traveling Japan

(09/21 to 10/28/2018) I flew from Curacao to Florida in August. My original plan was to take three or four months off from the boat and enjoy life on land. John’s new plan is to take on a lot of boat projects in Colombia, so now I will be on land for a year.

I wanted to have some family time with my sisters in Korea. We are in our 50’s and their children are grown up. It has made my sisters less obligated to their families and we decided to travel together for the first time in our lives. A flight to Fukuoka, Japan from Korea, took one and a half hours. We took a package tour of Kyushu Island. We liked it because all was taken care of.

Our tour guide was a third generation Korean who was born in Japan. Unlike the US, both Japan and Korea don’t grant citizenship by birth in a country.

A Hot Spring in Kyushu Island, Japan

There are four main islands in Japan. We visited the south part of Japan where many hot springs and active volcanos are.

The first thing I noticed in Japan is that it is common seeing many retirees happily working again. At the airport, every worker we saw looked like they were in their 60’s or 70’s. They just seem to enjoying working again, or maybe they never stopped?

Second thing I noticed was about 95% of cars, we saw in Japan, are Japanese made. All three of us, didn’t see any single Korean made car during our stay in Japan. We saw one Ford and some BMWs. Most Japanese also drive a very small car, like 660cc. It might be different in big cities. I was impressed.

The past relationship (history) between Korea and Japan was very painful for Koreans. Leaving things behind, I respected the inner strength built in the Japanese People. Their happiness definitely doesn’t come from overspending nor showing off.

Inwangsan Mountain Nearby Korean Presidential House (Blue House). My family used to live nearby Inwangsan Mountain. Seoul, Korea

Where is my home? My childhood house used to be where it shows all the apartment buildings are. Seoul, Korea

Seoul View from Inwangsan Mountain (Kangbook, North Part of River in Seoul), Korea

There are two parts of Seoul. Kangnam (Meaning South Part of River) and Kangbook (North Part or River). In the center of Seoul, there is a tower called Namsan Tower. This is Seoul View from Kangnam Express Bus Terminal. Seoul, Korea

Inwangsan Mountain Trail Entrance, Seoul, Korea


Inwangsan Trail, Seoul, Korea

Cat Café Entrance, Kyushu Island, Japan

Drawing of Two Cats on a Rock, Kyushu Island, Japan

Cat Drawing on Rocks, Kyushu Island, Japan

A Bridge in Kyushu Island. We were told the people in two towns saved money to build this bridge in order to bring more tourists. Japan

Individual Family Hot Spring Bath Huts, Kyushu Island, Japan

Lanterns (Veneer Wood) in Train Waiting Room, Kyushu Island, Japan

Menu of Sushi Plates in a Restaurant, Kyushu Island, Japan (Appx. Currency Rate: USD 1 = 110 Yen)

With My Sisters, I am the tallest one. Kyushu Island, Japan

Prepaid Internet SIM Card – Bonaire and Curacao

My Experience with a Prepaid UTS Chippie Simcard in Bonaire and Curacao

(June – August 2018) The UTS Chippie store is easy to find in Kralendijk, Bonaire. There are many options for data and/or calling plans. I purchased a Chippie SIM Card (USD 7) and a 6GB data plan (USD 52), good for 30 Days. The SIM Card came with a balance of USD 5. I deposited additional money for calling. The setup was done by a store person. When my data balance ran out, I renewed by depositing additional money in the store in Bonaire. After we sailed to Curacao, I continuously and seamlessly used my SIM Card in Curacao. The connection speed was good both Bonaire and Curacao.

***Helpful Notes***

  • Requires a Valid Photo ID
  • APN (Access Point Name) Setup: premium (*all lower case)
  • To Check Data Balance: Send the SMS “surf val” (*no quotation marks) to 3434
  • To Check Money Balance: Dial #191#
  • Call Cost per Minute: 35 Cents
  • Text Cost per Message: 14 Cents

Curacao – Bug Free, Spanish Water Anchorage

My Current Collection on the Boat, Fighting Against Mosquitos, Sand Fleas, and etc.

(July – August 2018) Meditation at sunrise on the deck is for me one of the most valuable experiences of living on a sailboat. Doing meditation in Curacao, it is nice not to worry about bug bites. Feeling the morning calmness surrounded by water, I clear my mind and embrace a new day with dreams. It always promises me a good start.

The wind blows strong in Spanish Water Anchorage in Curacao anywhere between 15 to 30 knots most of the time. So far, I haven’t seen any mosquitoes or no-see-ums (sand fleas) on the boat. Thus, I removed the mosquito net setup from my cabin. We have been sailing mostly in the tropical areas. Some areas, even though it is hot and humid, I wear long sleeve shirts and long pants and spray bug repellent around my ankles when I get up. I prefer sweating to itching from bug bites. At night when I am ready for bed, I setup my mosquito net and spray insect spray inside. Despite this effort, I have uncountable scars caused by scratching the bug bites during my sailing life. When I look at the small scars, I console myself it is better to wear than to rust.

I have tried most of the anti-itching medication from a lot of countries but none has worked fully. The other day, I found an electronic mosquito destroyer (120 volts) in a pharmacy in Curacao. Previously, my sister brought this device (220 volts) from Korea but she took it back because we run 120 volts electricity on the boat. There is no need to use this new bug protection in Curacao but I feel more protected from mosquitoes wherever we go next.

Swing Bridge and Buildings in Willemstad, Curacao

Imported Plants and Clay Pots from Venezuela, Willemstad, Curacao

View from Top of Christoffel National Park, Curacao

Plastic Recycled Art on the Dive Shop Wall, Jan Thiel, Curacao

Three Hammocks in Papagayo Beach Hotel, Jan Thiel Resort, Curacao

Wooden Pallet Bridge. Jan Thiel Preserve Mountain Bike and Hiking Trail, Curacao

Flamingo Birds on the Salt Pond, Jan Thiel Preserve, Curacao

Soon to be a Houseboat! We saw this boat three years ago without wooden frames. Fishing Dock, Spanish Water Bay, Curacao

Internet SIM Card in Trinidad – Digicel Prepaid

My Experience with Digicel Simcard in Trinidad

(February – May 2018) In Chaguaramas, Trinidad, I took a Maxi Taxi (Bus) to buy a SIM Card from the Digicel store at the West Moorings Shopping Mall. A SIM Card costs 44 Trinidadian Dollars (about USD 7) when you add 3GB data (for 30 days) with 200 local call minutes the cost rises to 289 Trinidadian Dollars (about USD 44) including tax. I paid it by Trinidadian Dollars as they didn’t accept US Dollars. The store person set up my phone. There was no waiting line in the store. The connection speed was good.

We stayed at Peakes Marine in Chaguaramas. As the marina Wi-Fi connection speed was good, I didn’t renew the data plan and just used my phone number for calling and texting. We stayed there three months. When we ran out of 200 minutes, we went to a grocery store and added more money to my number to call or send messages.

***Helpful Notes***

  • Require a Valid Photo ID
  • APN (Access Point Name) Setup: web.digiceltt.com (*all lower case), No username or password is needed
  • Caribbean Roaming Plan: Extra cost. I decided not to buy this roaming plan as I planned to sail to various islands.
  • Data Balance Check Code: *120*4# or *120*83# and then press “talk” or “send”
  • Money Balance Check Code: *120# and then press “talk” or “send”

Bonaire in Summer

View from Montaya Hiking Trail, Bonaire

Bonaire was a brown island a month ago (late June) when we arrived here. Since then, it has rained often. It surprised me how much rain we have had in July. It washed down a lot of yellow dust from the boat. Brown mountains have changed to green mountains with fresh trees and bushes. Animals (goats and donkeys) seem to be content with a plenty of fresh leaves (food). Consequently, more birds are singing at dawn.

Park your car and SCUBA dive! Bonaire is a great place for SCUBA diving and snorkeling. Most dive sites are within walking distance from shore. We didn’t do many water sports this time because we got stung by sea lice. Instead, we enjoyed hiking. Trail maps are available at the Tourist Office in town. The view from top of the highest mountain (about 750 feet =250 meters) is unforgettable.

Pink Trail Mark; Locals often paint with Coral Pink Color as Flamingo Birds are symbol in Bonaire.

Trail maps show scenic driving routes and mountain bike trails. Driving on an unpaved scenic route was a little nervous. It is less touristic but worth it to experience the island of Bonaire. Mountain bike trails look nice but I didn’t try any.

There is a cruise ship that arrives here weekly (Itinerary: Panama-Colombia-Aruba-Curacao-Bonaire-Panama), 7 AM to 6 PM. When a cruise ship arrives on Tuesdays, Bonaire gets more active and vibrant.

PS: We learned it is simple and inexpensive to ship a pallet from Miami, USA to Bonaire or Curacao. There is no import tax for any “Yacht-In-Transit” items. John has been ordering boat materials and parts in the USA, to be delivered to a cargo company in Miami. When all orders are ready, a cargo company in Miami will put them on a pallet and ship it to Curacao.

Enjoying Last Sunset at Mooring Field, Kralendijk, Bonaire. We left for Curacao next day.

Aqua Bicycles in front of our boat. We were tied up to a mooring ball in front of the Venezuelan Consular Building (Blue Roof) in Kralendijk (Capital of Bonaire).

Creative Mailbox, Kralendijk, Bonaire

Our favorite grocery store in Bonaire. We enjoyed using WiFi in the cafeteria inside (air-conditioned) before shopping. Kralendijk, Bonaire

Wild Dunkey Approaching for an Apple near Boca Onima, Bonaire

Feeding Apple to Iguana, Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

View behind of Boulders, Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Rocky Montana Trail, Bonaire

Flamingo Birds near Boca Slagbaai (Slaughter Bay), Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Seru Grandi (Big Hill), Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire. “The 58m (190feet) high terrace mainly consists of limestone containing fossil remnants of coral reefs lifted out of the sea over millennia.”

Dead Wood and Cacti, Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Blow Hole in Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

Bonaire, Out of the Hurricane Zone

View from an Ice Cream Shop in Kralendijk in Bonaire

Escaping from hurricane season 2018 (June to November), we have chosen to stay in Bonaire, Curacao, and Colombia. This is our second time cruising in this area. It works with our scheduled goal which is “Crossing the Panama Canal in February 2019”.

People have often asked me what island is my most favorite. Each island has something which I like and dislike. In order to make a simple answer; I just say “Bonaire”. Visiting here for the second time, I realized why; it is yachting friendly, Customs and Immigration clearance is easy and simple, the mooring field is well-organized, it is peaceful and hassle free, nature is great, sea breeze is awesome, and ocean water is so beautiful. Bonaire is like a jewel except three things: loud motorcycle sounds (seldom), yellow dust (often), and the high price of mostly imported fruits.

Boardwalk in Kralendijk, Capital City of Bonaire Island

The other day, I met an American woman in a grocery story. She moved to Bonaire from New York about six months ago. Prior to that, she had visited here only for a week. At that time, without blinking, she chose Bonaire for her retirement place. There must be many reasons that she kept smiling the whole time we spoke to each other. By the way, US Citizens can easily apply for residency here.

Salt Farm in Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands


Beach in Klein Bonaire (Small Bonaire Island), the Caribbean Netherlands


Salt Pier Dive Site: One of the Dive Sites in Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands


A Dive Boat in Klein Bonaire (Small Bonaire Island), the Caribbean Netherlands


SCUBA Air Tanks in a Dive Shop in Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands


Cactus Plants in Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands


Iguana on the Rock, Klein Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands


Center of Kralendijk, Bonaire, the Caribbean Netherlands

Hiking in St. John, USVI

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

View from Hiking Trail, Leinster Bay, Saint John, US Virgin Island

(June 12 to 17, 2018) Visiting St. John Island, was not on our original plan.

We believed that shipping from Florida to St. Croix, would take about two weeks. Seeing an “In-Transit Status” for days, we went to the US Post Office in St. Croix to inquire about the delivery status. We were told it would take up to 8 weeks and there is no way to track the packages when they are in transit at sea. Now, what… Most of the cruisers are out of the hurricane zone this time of the year; and the US Virgin Islands are in the Hurricane Zone. Being here during the Hurricane Season, it is nice to have the whole anchorage by ourselves but we were still concerned. Thinking about alternatives, we concluded it is best to wait here until we get all the deliveries by the USPS.

Saint John, US Virgin Island

While waiting for the packages, we decided to sail to St. John Island from St. Croix, about 35 miles, 5-6 hours sailing. Three years ago, when we sailed to St. John, we didn’t explore the island because there were too many charter boats in the winter. Since we were here in the summer this time, we were the sole boat at most of the mooring fields. Most of St. John Island is a US National Park. Hiking trails are easy to access and beaches are picture perfect beautiful. Hiking in the Tropics in summer though, is like being in a steam bath or a sauna. I kept reminding myself that I love a sauna. There must be a reason for everything. I was glad that the US Postal Service took so long, so that we had an opportunity to hike all over St. John Island.

PS: Not having the Internet access on the boat (No SIM Card), I have been inactive updating my blogs and responding to emails. I wasn’t able to connect via US T-Mobile in St. Croix, US Virgin Island.

Sargasso seaweed in Brown Bay, Saint John, US Virgin Island


A Mailbox in Saint John, US Virgin Island


National Park Visitor Center, Saint John, US Virgin Island

Old Windmill, Saint John National Park, US Virgin Island

Old Sugar Cane Boiling Pots, Saint John National Park, US Virgin Island

Dead Trees and New Green after Hurricane Irma, September 2017, Saint John, US Virgin Island


Trail Sign, Saint John National Park, US Virgin Island

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