Jun 27, 2013

Retirement Planning - a light bulb went off

"Things I think" category :-)    I've been doing the "things I capture" piece very good but thought I would start with a bit more discussion on what's going on in my life and the stuff I see around me.

Late last year I did a post ( http://canadianloon.blogspot.ca/2012/09/things-im-watching.html ) where I talked about retirement and Ecuador.   Looking back at it now I can see where I was trying to convince myself, as much as the readers, that this was the life for me.   Retire after 35 years, move to a place with perfect weather and live cheaply and very comfortably for the rest of my life.   I watched blogs (that are in my links on the side of this blog) and I continued to research, but there was a few little nagging things that over time became bigger and bigger issues.    The prime one being the language, do I really want to learn a new language?  I don't want to be a gringo who only speaks english, I get pissed when I see people who live in Canada for many years and make no effort to learn english for french, why would I go to another country and do the same? 

For me there are some issues with how animals are treated and little things like people pissing in the streets treated as normal.  Just my issues.   Now with the giving asylum to so called "whistle blowers" like Snowden and Assange  I just don't have the respect for the country.   A shame because it looks like a great place.   In the end I think I would still love it there, and it might not be completely off the table, but the light bulb went off the other day as to what I should be doing - boating!

When I lived in Bermuda I was first introduced to the boating lifestyle by my good friends Doug and Carolyn.  They had a lovely 27' Albin named Veebyes.   They have since put the boating life style on hold for the RV lifestyle traveling around the US and Canada.   Their adventures can be found here - Triangle Drifters    They would have myself and my ex-wife out onto their boat for day trips on a regular basis.  It was nice, sitting back for the day, relaxing and taking it easy, a nice BBQ for supper and they would put us ashore come dark.   A wonderful day.  I even looked at getting into it while we were on the island but it wasn't cost effective and we would only be there for under 3 years so it was quickly abandoned.

For the past 15 years that I have been living in the Ottawa region, I have spent much of that time paddling on the Rideau River.    I paddle and I look at the boats and the people who are cruising and they look so relaxed and having fun.   Particularly those who are out every night or  those just slowly cruising along at 5 knots.  I'd go out for a very early morning paddle and watch these people enjoying a quiet cup of coffee in the early mornings on the deck and I think "oh, now that's the life".    I don't like the cottage thing as you gotta drive hours to get to anything that we could afford in this region and then your stuck at one site for eternity.  You get a bad neighbour, your stuck.   With a boat, you just slip off from the lock station, or pull up the anchor and the problem is gone.  Most boats are much cheaper then a cottage and easy to have them located anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours from the house.

Just over two weeks ago, one of the guys who I work with (Rick) dropped by my office before leaving on a 1 year trial retirement.   He's taking a years leave without pay and they are going to try the boating lifestyle full time.   I believe the plan is for them to spend the summer in the Kingston region, then take the inner coastal waterway down to Florida and hop over to the Bahamas and then return next spring.   If they enjoy it and its cost effective, he'll pull the plug and be officially retired.   What a great plan.  His adventures can be found here - Living Life at 7 Knots (what a great blog name)

He and I talked for a couple of hours about his experiences with buying a boat, the Rideau Canal, the St Lawrence and the 1000 Island and Kingston and it really got me thinking about how much I enjoyed the bit of boating I've done, the potential cost effectiveness and how that might be a good retirement plan for myself.   So started the research.

One thing I learned very early on from Doug and again from Rick was to try and avoid gas engines at all costs and go diesel.   I knew it was a buyers market ever since the economic crash in the states a few years ago and I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap boats are.  The hitch?  They are all gas powered - DOH!   You can easily pick up a few year old SeaRay for under 40k.  But there are a ton of them for sale and the gas prices would be insane.   I got thinking, I really don't want a "go fast" boat.  I just wanna putt putt along and smell the roses, what about trawlers or tugs?  They are usually diesel.  Oh, not as many of those for sale and the prices are double that of the gas powered.   hmmmmmm...

So what do I need?  a 34 footer?  a 25?  trailer or not? diesel or gas?  resale value?  availability?   To many questions.   Back to starting from scratch.   I started to read blogs and watching discussion forums, what are people talking about?    Didn't take long to come across several interesting options - Nordics, Rangers, North Pacific's and Rosborough's.  All are either tugs or trawlers, some can be hauled around on trailers and all are considered economical and great cruisers.  They also retain their value, but that mean higher prices.   Right off the bat it jumped out at me that the prices on the the first 3 brands were going to be out of my range for quite a few years thanks to my ex-wife and her lawyer foolishness (that post is coming soon - I feel I can speak openly about it now and people should know about the crap people go through).   But then I came across this boat called the Rosborough RF-246 affectionately known as a "Rossi" by their zealous owners.

My planning thoughts are to get one of the smaller boats as I don't need to live on the thing.  I want something to spend weekends and a week or so at a time during the summer months.  Something good for the Rideau Canal system but ok for a run to Kingston through the 1000 island or out onto the Ottawa river.    Buy this boat and run it till retirement as a way to see if it's a lifestyle I want and if so, sell it at retirement and move up to a live aboard 34 footer - I really like the Nordic 34 :-) 

First look at it and it doesn't jump up at you with European speed lines or ultra modern designs.   You go WTF is that ugly thing?   That's a Nova Scotia fishing/work boat.   Yup, it kinda is.   As I looked at it more and more the more I loved the styling and the look.    I emailed the company for shits and giggles just to see the pricing, knowing all along that I'd be looking on the used market.  Here is the brochure, click the image for a bigger view.

Sure enough, I priced a new one up with all the options that I would like and way out of my price range.  It was funny when I got to a final price tag delivered, taxes, licensed and ready to go.   How the hell does anyone buy anything new when the used market is such a buyers market?    The company told me they are sold out of the 2013 line and the earliest I could get a new boat would be Sept and it would be a 2014 model line.  Someone out there has money.

I started looking at the used market and joined a yahoo group that discusses Rossi's.   What happened on the first day?  A guy from Ottawa lists a Rossi for sale that sits in the 1000 Island.  WTF?   It's a 2004, has all the options I would want and located exactly where I need it.   Price wasn't to bad either, less then half of what a new one would cost.

I had to take my fingers off the keyboard and stop looking at it.   I just can't afford it right now saddled with all the divorce debt, college education for my kids, child support and spousal but man what an opportunity.   But for the next 2 years I just have to back off and get back on my feet.  Right now I can't even afford a trip to Bermuda to see my best friends so  - NO BOAT!  :-)

Then spent some time learning the "real cost of owning a boat".   It's like owning a house, you gotta be prepared.   With a boat you have insurance, dockage fees, gas, winter storage, shrink wrapping, lock charges, licensing, maintenance, bottom paint, pumping charges etc etc.... the list goes on and on.   I worked out all the numbers and I gotta say, the Rossi is one of the most efficient and cost effective boats I can find.   No woodwork on the outside, which adds to it's ugly duckling look, but outside of cleaning fiberglass and cleats it's a lot less cleanup.    The inside is laid out like a small RV, with a kitchen, dinette, a head (no shower) and a V-birth for sleeping.    Views are good due to windows all around and sliding doors right beside the helm so you can quickly jump out for docking and other things.   A very well thought out boat.

You can get the boat in diesel but turns out this boat can be even more efficient running outboard gas engines.  Reports indicate less then 2 gallons per hour @ 7 knots.   That is amazing!   Even less at 5 knots and lower, which is my speed.  Most of the used boats I have looked at have either single or dual outboards or inboard diesels.  Each configuration works well for my needs.

Now I need to be patient.  I really can't afford this right now.  But working the numbers of after some debt payoff, end of child support and end of education costs, I'll be in the ballpark easily.

After retirement, even moving up to a live aboard becomes even more economical.  No mortgage (replaced with a boat payment) and living a simple lifestyle makes this as economical or less so then staying at home.   As long as you don't bomb up and down the waterways at Mach 2 burning gas like it's the 1970's it can be a very economical way to live and see the sites.   Many older folks run boats and as long as your health is good it's a very easy lifestyle.   I'll be retired at 55 and this is a good way for me to leave "the business" behind.   Come winters slowly head south on the boat and back up to the waterways I love so much in the summer.

Compared to Ecuador I have to say I feel a lot more comfortable with this idea but I'm always subject to change haha.  Jen laughs at me and thinks that I'm looking at this too soon since my retirement is 8 year away.  But my thoughts are that you can't start thinking about it too soon.  It comes fast, I have 27 years done already, and I need to be prepared.  I could keep working but if I have something to go to that I love, why would I?   One thing the divorce has taught me is "how much money do I need to be happy?"   Turns out, not much.   She gets most of my money that I work my ass off for and if I continue to work, she just continues to collect.  Once I'm eligible for retirement, why should I work when I have a passion to go towards?   I think Jen would like this lifestyle as well, but like me, she would need to live it as well and only time will tell.

For now, clean up the debts and continue to research and when the time is right and the opportunity of a good clean boat comes up, jump!

A great article on getting a Rossi - http://compactyachts.com/boats/the-rosborough-rf-246-i-cant-be-objective/

Jun 16, 2013

Nicholson's Locks and Merrickville

Two posts in one day, I'm on a roll!

Jen and I had planned to go canoeing yesterday but the winds were looking a bit high but it was just too nice of a day to waste.   We grabbed the cameras and headed out to the Nickolson's Locks and Merrickville for the day.   We were rewarded big time!!!   Can't wait to see Jen's work as she was playing with her macro lens, maybe she will give me a few pics to post???  hint hint :-)

Upper Nicholson's with the unique swing bridge in the middle of the lock.

Fast running water at the dam.

The Andrewsville Bridge was apparently saved from the wrecking ball!

Spotted an Osprey nest with a chick inside.  At the extreme end of my lens and cropped so apologies for the blurriness.  Someday when I'm rich and famous I need a BIG BIG BIG bird lens!  lol

My pretty partner!!!

I'm a sucker for the cranks haha

Someday I will have a boat on the Rideau!

We then moved down to Merrickville to the ruins.

Tardis Graveyard?

Merrickville Lock

Missinaibi Provincial Park Fishing Trip

I know, this post has been FOREVER in coming out.  You can thank the pouring rain and lack of signals on the ham bands to get me off my ass and editing photos and videos ;-)

The whole story started about 3 months ago when I hooked up with a couple of old friends from my military days who live down in Kingston - Mark and Graham (Gray).   They told me of a place that they had been fishing the past 3 years with great success and they asked if I'd like to come along.   Sure, it's been forever since I'd been out.   Tried to get a partner to go along with me but no luck.   But regardless it was decided that I'd go solo and hook up with them on this years trip.   The first step was to try and figure out where Missinaibi Provincial Park was as I had never heard of it.   Google didn't turn up much either besides a poor map or two.   Finally found a site online that had a map of the area and a few days later it showed up in the mail.  http://www.missinaibi.com/shop.html

Below is the trip in photos and video, be sure to click the images for bigger versions and select the HD video setting for the best resolution.

I left Ottawa early on Saturday morning and hooked up with Gray and Mark at the Pembroke Irving station for breakfast.   Had to make some comments about Gray's hair (left) and he picked on me for my weight!.   I hadn't seen Gray in over 5 years and Mark was probably 10 years.   The plan for the day was to drive to Halfway Lake Provincial Park on the first day and then do the hard part the next day when the body and eyes were a bit more fresh.   We pulled off the road from time to time for Timmies and gas :-)   The above advertisement brought to you by caffeine addicted Canadians.

That was the extent of the photos for Day 1.  North of Sudbury it began to rain and it was just a plain nasty day.  Stopped on the side of the road just before the park and had a plate of meat pie that Mark had brought along - yum!   Got into the park around 5pm.  It was hot and humid from the rain and it didn't take long for the bugs to find us.    Very nice facilities at the park - running water, washrooms, showers and even laundry.  The bugs were nasty and they didn't let up until it cooled down after 9pm.   Wasn't long before off to bed for the night.   Nice starry night so we were hoping that the forecast was wrong and the rain would miss us.

The rain hit around 3am and it didn't stop for the next 12+ hours.   Got up early in the morning and the bugs (blackflies and mosquitoes) were out in full force.   Got a coffee down our throats and packed up the wet tents and got the hell out of dodge.

The first stop was just 45 minutes up the road at the start of the Sultan Industrial Rd.  Got out of the truck at the stop and I swear the temp had dropped 10 degrees in just driving 45 minutes north.  Much cooler.   Got another coffee for the road and ensured the gas tank and jugs were full.  From here on no more gas until the return trip unless you want to pay crazy northern prices.   The Sultan Industrial Rd is a logging road that cuts over to the 129 just south of Chapleau.   This road cuts about 200km's off the paved road trip that takes you up past Timmins.   None of us had ever taken this route before so there was lots of anticipation.

Warning signs as you enter the road.

A short video of the Sultan Industrial Rd.   I thought it was bad in the wet with the mud but it was even worse on the return trip with the dust.  Shot with my GoPro

The Sultan is around 80km's long and we later learned on the return tip that the rocks can be unforgiving on tires.   I would never travel it again without ensuring I had a good spare and good quality tires.   We made it into Chapleau, the last town before the park, in the late morning.   Shocking how quiet this town is.  You can stand in the middle of main street and see almost no one.   Had a nice final breakfast before heading up into the park, another 80km's of dirt roads in the pouring rain.

At this point I was asked the question "So Scott, do bears shit in the woods?".   "Well dah" I said, "of course they do".   Apparently not in Missinaibi, the joke was on me.   The answer in Missinaibi is "Nope, bears don't shit in the woods, they shit on the road".   Sure enough, big piles of shit all over the roads!   Couldn't believe it.   Did see a few bears go running across the road but none stopped for pictures or video, very inconsiderate! Jesh, you gotta pose for the tourists you know.  The road wasn't the greatest with some areas very close to being washed out due to the rain and the lakes overflowing.

Made it up to the park in the early afternoon and were shocked to find all the prime sites that we wanted were full.  Tons of Americans were in the park, seems word has gotten out about the fishing up there.  Big RV's, pickups and boats.  How the heck they got those rigs up there is beyond me.  So we couldn't camp next to the dock so up and around the campsite we went till we found a nice location high and dry from all the rain.   Then it was time to wait out the rain for a few more hours.

A break in the rain and we slowly started to setup camp.  Getting all the wet tents and gear up to dry out.

My tent is buried under the tarp, I like to be dry.  You can see the mud on the trucks.

Down to the docks to check it out.  Our first hint that the water was out of whack, look to the right of the image and note the wooden path to the sign is underwater.   Turns out the water is almost 5 feet higher then normal!    Throughout the entire week it was really noticeable as you couldn't get to shore on the lake at all, the trees were right out in the water.  In the last day we did note the water dropped over a foot, must be a dam on the Missinaibi River somewhere that finally opened it's gates and let some water out.

On the left is the sign, to the right Mark and Gray checking out the boats and the lake.

Monday continued drizzly and just miserable weather wise but we made the best of it.  But as a result the boats stayed at the dock or on the top of my truck until Monday afternoon.  Once the weather broke in the late afternoon it didn't take too long for Gray and Mark to get the boat launched and the sneaked out to the point to drown a worm or two.   They came back a few hours later with stories of catching a few Walleye and Pike.   Looks like fishing will be good.   I had taken my 6 meter ham radio with me and put an antenna up in the trees to try and put a rare grid square on the air.  Outside of hearing 1 station out of Dallas Texas the week was bust for radio.

After Monday the days settled down into mostly sunny weather.  The nights were cold but fortunately my sleeping bag and tent kept me comfortable.  Mark suffered the worst but we all go through the nights.   The first few days were cool in the day but this was a blessing as it kept the blackflies at bay, we would pick up a few during the evenings but were mostly tolerable.

Gray and Mark were off in the power boat on Tuesday and I got the canoe out onto the water where I quickly discovered that Missinaibi is a terrible lake for a solo canoeist.   The winds were only 10-15 kph but it gets channeled down the lake terribly.   Combine that with fairly large lake waves and very squirrelly conditions it made for tough canoeing.   But I toughed it out for about 5 hours and paddled within a few km's of the dock so I wouldn't get caught to far away.  I dipped the line for awhile on the point that Gray and Mark had luck on and got nothing.  Oh no, Walleye is new fishing to me so I must be doing something wrong.

Mark and Gray made it back.  They had spent the day 13km's down lake at Whitefish Falls and had some success.  I joined them in the fish cleaning hut.

Later that evening the winds dipped down a bit and Mark indicated that he would like to try out my canoe, so out we went.   I also quizzed him on how to Walleye fish.   Turns out I was doing it right, just nothing biting while I was out there.   He and I quickly started getting into some Walleye as the sun was setting.   Above I was starting to get a bit hungry :-)

The next day I ditched the canoe and joined the guys in the powerboat.  I really didn't feel like fighting winds to go 13km's down to the falls.  Turns out it was a lovely day and it would have made a great paddle :-) but had a good time in the boat as well.

One thing that struck me about Missinaibi Lake (at least the piece that I seen) was how "un-northern" is is.  I was expecting huge continental shelf cliffs and coniferous forests.  It was the exact opposite.  Hardwood forests and low lying land, except for the above rock formations as we got close to Whitefish Falls.

Whitefish Falls is very powerful with major running water and current.  They tell me there is another falls on the bottom of this one but with how high the water was it was underwater!  Must be even more impressive when the water is lower.

Spent the day fishing so I lashed the GoPro to the flag mast and set it to take 1 picture every 10 secs.  I put it together into this little video.   An entire afternoon in just a few minutes :-)

Time to eat up some of these Walleye fillets.

A little breading with fish crisp - mmmmmmm beer while cooking.

Can you taste it?   Let me tell you, I sure did and it was good good GOOD!

The last day we decided that we'd had enough Walleye fishing, over 75 caught and most released.  It was time to look for some pike and trout.   No trout but Mark and Gray both picked up a pike or two.  I was skunked!   It got fairly warm that day and what happens in the warmth?  The blackflies hit and they were pissed off.   Mark showing off his pike and Gray showing off his stylish bug hat.   We spend that evening in the bug hats and jackets.

Gray catching a small pike.

A very nice final day on the water and a nice evening back in camp putting the final touches on the left over food, rye, pop, beer and anything else that wasn't hidden.   Tore down most of the camp so the morning would be coffee and final drop of the tents and on the road.

The entrance to the park as we were leaving.  Sun was out so could stop for photos unlike the trip up.

One of the many pretty lakes on the road up to Missinaibi.

A more northern look!

Couldn't get close but a calf moose on the road ahead.

Finally a bear!!!!   This little guy just sat on the side of the road and posed.  He had no intention of leaving just because we were there.   In fact he acted rather weird, almost like he was drugged.  I accused Gray and Mark of having called ahead to have the mechanical bear put out so I could get a photo :-)

Got to see a few more, one too close, on the way down the road to Chapleau but none would stick around long enough for photos.  I got a bit too cocky on the road and had my speed up when I came over a blind crest and found a big bear right in front of me.   I was hard on the brakes and sliding down the hill while he hurried his fat ass off the road giving me a dirty look.   I slowed down after that until we got into Chapleau.  To bad I didn't have the GoPro turned on.

A repeat of the trip up, nice breakfast in Chapleau and then down to the Sultan Road.   This time the road was a dust bowl and I had to back way off of Gray and Mark in their truck so that I could see and have some fresh air.   Wasn't long till we came across a stranded SUV with a cut tire.   The guy didn't look to impressed as he was swatting blackflies out of the air.   Just 10 km's after that poof, a tire on the boat trailer blows.   Fortunately Gray had a spare but the rest of the trip out was bothersome knowing that there were no more spares.

No stopping on the way down, I had planned to drive straight through to Ottawa and once the rain started around North Bay both Gray and Mark made the same decision to head for home.   We stopped in the middle of butt fuck nowhere and had supper at some little hole in the wall and parted paths in Pembroke.

Almost 14 and a half hours from the park back to Ottawa, including stops for gas, food and rests.  That's almost 30 hours round trip. Not an easy trip in one day when you consider almost 200km's of the 890km's is done on dirt roads.  Just shows you how big Ontario actually is.

The GPS track of Ottawa to Missinaibi Park

 The GPS track up @ the lake

My biggest Walleye of the trip!

It was an interesting experience and one of the most amazing fishing trips I have ever been on.   Knowing how hard it is to catch Walleye and then to have so many fish really spoils you for fishing elsewhere.  But it's a long long drive to get that kind of fishing.   Will we return?  Not sure as we are looking at the maps for something new that might be a bit closer.   Always want to explore new areas and find those amazing spots.  Even more fun when you got a great bunch of guys with ya!

Still waiting for Mark to send me along some of his pictures so hopefully will have more as we go along.