When we're at sea, it's sometimes hard to remember all the little things that tie us to land. I'm not talking about the big land anchors like houses and mortgages. I'm talking about all those niggly little items that must be renewed yearly or bi-annually, or every five years or once a decade. Hard to remember them without putting them on a list … and even then I sometimes forget. It's necessary to consult the list once in awhile and I don't remember unless I've put “consult the list” on another list. I enter renewal dates on a calendar at the beginning of the year, so memberships and services don't expire accidentally.
- Annual Service Renewals. Three services we regularly use, Sail Mail ($250/year), SailBlogs ($35/year) and Buoy Weather($79.95/yr), all renew annually, but of course, at different times. SailMail is easy. Renewal is at the end of the calendar year and they start sending reminders a couple of months in advance to both land and sea email addresses. SailBlogs posts renewal notices on their site, but we don't always see them unless we actually get on the site. BuoyWeather, our preferred virtual weather forecasting service, does an auto-renew which we dislike since many times we're not at sea for months and prefer not to pay for services we don't need until we need them. I need to remember to cancel when we plan to be ashore for a long while and then reinstate when we get back to sea. We don't have a SatPhone or other such services, but they would all fall into this category.
- Boat Insurance. There's no question that our insurance company will remind us yearly when it's time to renew. However, if you want time to shop around for competitive bids, it takes time, so you need to start early. We have also found ourselves at sea several times when our renewal in May is due which means it would lapse during our passage. Keeping track of the renewal time and getting things handled in advance eliminates one source of angst during the voyage.
- Sailing Club/Yacht Club Renewals. Our Seven Seas Cruising Assn. ($55/year) membership must be renewed yearly. SSCA sends reminders and has an optional auto-renew service which is convenient. Our yacht club membership at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town, is an annual renewal in June. Reminders are numerous, but only to our land e-mail.
- There's the annual U.S. Coast Guard registration/documentation which used to be free, but now costs $26/year. They're working on making it renewable on-line, but so far, the site is inoperable. They promise to send a renewal notice 30 days in advance of renewal, but of course, since it's not working, in the meantime we have to remember. This official document must be presented every time we check in and out of a foreign port. After completing a renewal application (and now paying the fee), the hard copy usually arrives some time in March of each year and Lin scans and sends it to us for printing.
- Voter registration updates are required to make sure we get our absentee ballots. We don't usually vote in the local elections, mostly because we're not around and have no idea what's going on locally. We do try to vote in the state and national elections, however, and insuring that the Registrar has our current address to send the absentee ballots on time is sometimes a challenge. Our absentee ballots that were requested to be sent to Australia one year, were sent to Austria.
- Driver's Licenses. Driver's licenses in Nevada must be renewed every 5 years, but since we don't own a car and we drive so infrequently, it's sometimes easy to forget when it's time to renew. It's an item on the renewal list. Luckily, most renewals can be done on-line now, but it's important to put it on a list because there are no reminders.
- U.S. Passports need renewal every 10 years. No one reminds you. There must be at least six months left on your passport before it expires in order to clear into most countries and it takes at 4-6 weeks to renew your passport in the States (unless we want to pay a premium to expedite it), not counting the time to complete the form, have new pix taken and get it mailed. We've found that it's easier and cheaper to have passports renewed in US Embassies abroad than doing it in the States. It really depends where we are and how much time we have, but it would be a bummer to have them expire outside the USA. David just renewed his … $110 plus $14 for photos (ouch!) and $5.75 postal charges. We have to remember to hold on to our expired passports as passport numbers change when we renew and we're sometimes required to prove (by supplying our old and new passport numbers) that we've left Nine of Cups in a foreign marina and are back to claim her.
- HAM and Radio Licenses. HAM licenses (free) must be renewed every 10 years … or they expire and you have to start all over again with the certification process. Ouch! A HAM license allows us to participate in cruising nets on certain frequencies at sea and use the HF radio for contacting worldwide HAM operators. If you wish to use WinLink, the free at-sea HF e-mail service, you need to be a HAM.The Ship's Radio License (free) is the license required to have and operate a VHF aboard and provides us with our boat call sign. It is also renewable every 10 years. There are no reminders and it's easy to forget.
- EPIRB Registration. EPIRB Registration (Emergency position-indicating radio beacon) is due for renewal every two years. No sense having an EPIRB aboard if it's not registered. If we activated the EPIRB while in distress at sea, it would alert the USCG to our location and hopefully help would be on the way. Each country has its own Beacon Registration renewal process. It's not difficult; it just requires attention. We now receive email reminders that renewal is required. Once renewed, they send a little sticker to put on the EPIRB itself as a reminder for renewal.And while we're talking about EPIRBS, it's necessary to replace the batteries every five years and this can only be accomplished by a factory-authorized service center. Read that “Expensive, inconvenient and slow.” Plan ahead.
- Life Raft Re-certification. Our new Great Circle lift raft requires an inspection and re-certification every three years, an expensive event which requires lots of pre-planning. No one reminds us … it goes on the “list” because it's too important to ignore.
- Credit/Debit Cards. Credit cards and debit cards have random renewals, but automatically renew through your bank or credit card companies and then the new cards are sent to your billing address. They usually require activation. Getting them to where you happen to be before the old ones expire can be a challenge. Each time we go home, I check expiration dates on all our cards to see if renewal is imminent. If it's within 6 months or so, I call the bank or credit card company, explain the issue and ask for the cards to be renewed/issued earlier.
This list does not include on-board checks of fire extinguishers, etc. Those items are on another annual safety checklist and can be handled at our leisure without outside involvement. The key to renewal in all cases is to plan ahead. If we're somewhere with internet access, we might be able to renew some things, but certainly not all. If we're at sea, unless we want to enlist the help of shore-based relatives, there are not many renewal options. It makes sense to have a list, whether hard copy or on your computer, of expiration dates of all critical items with enough lead time to be able to renew
So … what did I forget to mention?