#04 RV Selection ~ Coast to Coast

New RV

Two days after Tate and I arrived back in the USA we purchased an RV for the trip! We decided on the 2002 Itasca Sunova and were able to talk the owner, Marty, down to only $10k!
Marty

Right away the vehicle needed new tires ($2,000), a brake inspection, a thorough cleaning and ozoning (bye bye cat smell).

Check out our new Vlog with all the details!

Details of the BIG CHANGE

Since we have been a sailboat/sailing blog for nearly 6 years now I imagine it has come as quite a shock that we have completely shifted gears and are now primarily a Vlog about, not sailing but Rving. I’ve been meaning to go into more detail about this radical change but honestly haven’t had the time. We have been incredibly busy for the past month (we arrived back to the US on January 15th and in two weeks have purchased a vehicle and are almost done outfitting it for the road) and >just< today have I found the window to write some of my thoughts out. It's a good thing too because they are already starting to fade in intensity.

When did we decide to go Rving?

We actually made the decision to put Sundowner up in storage during our flight back from New Orleans to Panama City, Panama on January 1st 2016. The original plan was to come back and buy all new batteries (the starting and 4 house bank batteries are DEAD~$600) and reprovision the boat while it was easy in Panama City before paying the $120 dollars for a taxi back to Panamarina where we were staying. Since hauling new batteries and all that stuff back to Sundowner was a serious commitment we needed to decide right away whether we were going to travel the next year in an RV or continue our plans of crossing the Pacific.

We had had our eyes on El Nino since June of 2015 and instead of getting better it actually got worse. So bad in fact that Nasa released a finding at the end of 2015 that it was equal to or worse than the conditions during the El Nino of 1997, one of the worst ever recorded.

During our time sailing the Western Caribbean we had met a few people who had sailed across the Pacific in years past during a severe El Nino event and they were not encouraging at all. We’d heard stories of crossings taking twice as long as normal and being exponentially harder. While there are also many stories of normal or even good crossings during this time Tate and I really just didn’t want to chance a bad Pacific crossing. I mean why force it? We allotted 5 years for this trip and we are only down one year so why not spend it doing something we KNOW will be awesome?

We could have easily spent a year in the San Blas Islands…I mean that place is paradise, BUT Tate I spent a solid 3.5 months there in the most incredible spearfishing environment we could imagine and with the windy season now in effect getting to the outside reef to fish isn’t possible often and I really believe San Blas is a waterworld. If you don’t do water activities there really isn’t much else to do, except drink I suppose, but you know…

We could have also sailed to the Eastern Carribean islands but to be perfectly honest, everything we’ve heard from everyone we’ve met hasn’t really made us want to go there. In a very general sense we’ve heard that the islands are expensive, the locals aren’t friendly, there are way more boats, way more people including cruise ships and also right smack in the hurricane zone. Since Tate and I seem to have a 3 month internal clock (we don’t feel “satisfied” with a place until we’ve been there about 3 months) we didn’t feel like BEATING against the Trade Winds to go to these islands for just 5 months or so before we have to hide out for hurricane season.

We could have also sailed up to Guatemala and did our inland exploration thing there, but that would mean we’d have to leave the boat anyways in a marina while we did overland travel and upon returning to Sundowner we would then have to BEAT our way around the dreaded tip of Honduras and back down where we have already been. We really didn’t want to backtrack the boat all the way up there to just come right back down. All of this puts wear and tear on the boat, increases the fuel costs and refit costs.

Another option would have been to go through the Canal and spend our time on the west Coast of Central America. Again from the TONS of people we’ve met who have sailed this route we weren’t encouraged. The west side of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala doesn’t seem to be set up for cruisers. The Pacific ocean is a different Animal with wild ranging tides than the Caribbean.

The Sea of Cortez in Mexico was a place we would have LOVED to travel to but that is a HELLAVA beat up there from Panama and is right in a hurricane zone so our time there would have been limited before we would have to head back down to Panama. A strong El Nino reduces hurricanes in the Atlantic and INCREASES by a ton the hurricanes (and strength) in the Pacific. So this was out.

We even seriously considered sailing instead to South Africa and doing an East about circumnavigation but we really want to go West to be with the winds mostly.

In truth we probably wouldn’t have decided to go RVing in 2016 if gas prices weren’t ridiculously low. Just the other day we saw five truck stops near Lafayette Louisiana with gas at $1.40 a gallon! These low prices and the prediction that gas will continue to fall and stay low through 2016 just added fuel to our fire.

Panamarina near Portobello National Park on Panama’s Caribbean coast is also a GREAT place to leave Sundowner. It hasn’t been often that we have run across a place on our trip where we thought, yeah we could leave the boat here and feel ok. It’s out of the Hurricane Zone and the Cost is only $300/month to have our precious boat securely stored in a locked yard and monitored daily with monthly mold product refreshing. They also take care of renewing our cruising permit for us and have a full boatyard that we can use to do some minor refit (bottom job and rig check) before heading into the Pacific in 2017. It’s a great landing point close to the Panama Canal.

Tocumen International Airport in Panama City is only a $17 bus ride from Panamarina and the flights are the most reasonable we’ve found since Cancun with flights going home to New Orleans only costing $320 round trip and $200 one way.

This RV trip has been a long time coming. I’ve barely traveled in the US (Unlike Tate who motorcycled over 100k miles coast to coast on his motorcycle in the PreDani era) and even during the days of refitting Sundowner Tate and I discussed taking off on a cross country trip sometime later in life either on motorcycles (Motoventuring inspired us, check out their You Tube videos), or a van, or whatever and possibly heading down to Central America where we could have a hella good time.

All of these circumstances above just prompted us to follow the apparent river of life and spend the next year traveling over land.

How much will it COST?

People like to hear about cost, actual hard numbers. In fact our Cost Page and posts are the #1 thing visited on our blog everyday. I completely understand as real costs help in planning and make these mysterious adventurous lifestyles more attainable for others preparing to do the same. We’ve never been shy about sharing our info and we certainly won’t change that now that we are RVing. I will say that everybody’s budget and lifestyle threshold is different, to each their own.

When we started our sailing trip in January 2015 we had around $140k saved from working the previous 5 years to use for our five year trip. During 2015 we spent roughly $22k. This left us with around $118k left.

These are our estimated costs to RV for 2016:

$15,000 Vehicle ready to go
$12,000 Monthly budget of $1,000 for food and fees
$ 4,687 Gas cost for 15k miles (8mph $2.5/gallon)
$ 3,600 Boat storage in Panama
$ 850 Full coverage Vehicle insurance with high medical
$ 500 Plane tickets home and taxi

$36,637 total cost for RVing 2016.

This would leave us with $81,363 left in our trip fund. Plenty to cross the Pacific in 2017 and sail for another 3 years. This doesn’t factor in selling the RV at the end of our trip. If we do then even more money will go back in the cruising kitty. This is an increased cost yes but not all together overwhelming. Bottom line is we would much rather spend our hard earned money on something we are really passionate about rather than forcing our sailing lifestyle to places we weren’t.

We plan to do as much “boondocking” or “dry camping” as possible during this year. This is where you stay outside of RV parks with no hookups and also minimal fees. Just like our boat, our RV will be relatively self sufficient and able to spend many weeks away from facilities. We are actually really excited about the change in weather and scenery.

We are fortuante

A huge help in coming back to land to start this RV trip has been the help of our family. They have been nothing but supportive and ever so helpful in giving us cars and phones to borrow and beds to sleep in while we found our new home. Without them this whole venture would have been so much more difficult. Thanks guys, we LOVE you to no end. (P.S. you can use the RV ANYTIME)

Not only our family but our friends and Internet friends have reached out to help us. We LOVE to hear from readers, watchers, followers, stalkers etc (ok maybe not stalkers) so if you see us heading your way and want to meet up PLEASE EMAIL US (sundownersailsagain@gmail.com)! Internet is still spotty here as we don’t have phones or a data plan yet so we will try to respond as possible.

Will you write in the Blog or only produce Vlogs?

We are trying our hands at video blogging, or Vlogging and so far it’s been a fun change. We started a series of Vlogs called “Coast to Coast” which will detail our experience moving from the sailing life to the RV life over the next year. I think the Blog will be kind of a hybrid between Vlogs on our You Tube Channel and Blog posts. It’s hard to put all the detail in Vlogs so I imagine naturally the Vlogs will tell a fun story in 5 to 15 minutes while the blog will be reserved for more detail heavy topics, like this one.

Videos however are much are time consuming and also require a lot more data for uploading. Data plans are quite expensive here in the US so we are toying around with the idea of starting a Patreon account for followers who want to contribute to our adventure which will help us post videos more regularly. This is of course if our video skills get good enough and people actually WANT to watch them, lol. Not really sure about this yet though…We haven’t asked for money on the blog ever and we are battling internally whether it’s the right thing to do, it might upset our Chi.

What do you think?

Are you giving up on Sailing?

No. Nope. Definitely not. Never. This trip is in no way an indication of us not liking or changing our plans about sailing. We very careful packed away and stowed Sundowner so she will be in good shape when we head back to Panama next year. We still fully intend to cross the Pacific in spring of 2017, maybe videoing this time!

This is just Tate’s brilliant plan which I wouldn’t have thought about. He has a GREAT way of bringing to light the most unlikely idea and making it the most amazing experience…Like how could we NOT have done X, Y, or Z. Take his idea for our sailing trip as an example, I didn’t even know people did such a thing.

I’ve never met anyone who thought so far out of the box as Tate. Often he brings up ideas that are so foreign to me I have to question his competency, but I learned early on to trust him and I follow him as his trusty sidekick in his wild plans. Over the 7 years we’ve now been together he’s never lead me astray and instead has lead me to some of the most beautiful places on earth. I am a lucky girl!

Check our first three videos (I promise our editing skills are improving):



#03 RV Hunters ~ Coast to Coast

We wasted no time searching for our new RV! Check out what we narrowed down our choices to in our new Vlog.

#02 Preparing the Boat ~ Coast to Coast

In episode 2, we prepare the boat for being put on the hard for an entire year.