Boat to Bus In Under Two Weeks By The HelmsMistress
“Let’s sell our boat in Panama,” he said… “Sure,” I said… “The logistics will be an uphill battle,” they said… “Why would we hit the easy button at this point in life?” we said – BRING IT!
So here we are back in the USA, with our new home – the big green land ship – waiting on a shipment of household items from Panama before we trek out west. It’s been 2 months of closing the door on one beloved nomadic lifestyle in foreign lands, while anticipating a foreign nomadic lifestyle back in our homeland – go figure – we must be nuts! Our Uber driver commented that we grow no moss and I’d have to agree. Even so, the last few months felt like we were all growing way too much moss…in spirit for sure.
Our repatriation happened in chapters as you might imagine.
Chapter 1 – Move off boat to hotel, wait on engine repairs, sell boat
This chapter was much longer than we anticipated as final engine repairs took longer than anticipated. With the boat officially under contract for sale, we needed to vacate, clean her up, and stop using the galley despite the ongoing engine woes. This was a challenge because we love to cook for ourselves & really enjoy saving some money. At some point though, we had to stop and be dependent upon the marina restaurant and the graciousness of friends who cooked up some superb meals – thanks S/V AraKai and S/V Boundless! We crammed ourselves and all our worldly possessions into a marina hotel room a few hundred yards from Tulum-V, and loaded items intended to ship home or donate into our storage shed.
Chapter 2 – Purge, pack, or pass-on
This was less of a chapter and more of a fluid theme throughout the process. We couldn’t take it all, so this question rose to the forefront of all decision making: What do you really need to not only survive, but also thrive? This plagued us as the cost to ship items was high and much of what we love happens to weigh a lot (books, electronics, tools etc.), so decisions needed to be made. We left the US 3 ½ years ago after living aboard for the prior year and half with a lot of STUFF and gained more STUFF along the way…needless to say, we had a lot of STUFF that needed to be sorted! We dredged through the triage process over several grueling weeks making lists and revisiting the same boxes week after week to whittle down our bounty. We had our moments: Voices were raised, arguments were made to prioritize our precious items, there were some passive aggressive tosses of items by yours truly into the dumpster, BUT we got it done. Thankfully, Shelter Bay Marina is full of cruisers this time of year so there were many willing recipients of cruising items we just couldn’t take with us. Furthermore, the local community had plenty of areas to donate our other goods. Thank you Mr. Ranger for helping us distribute our items!
Chapter 3 – Fly back, culture shock, retail redemption (or remorse)
We flew back with 8 bags bursting at the seams, one cat who had never flown nor set foot in the USA, and mixed emotions knowing we were departing Panama minus one very important four-legged crew member. Despite our excitement at landing in our homeland after 3 ½ years abroad, there was also trepidation as we knew that now the real “fun” would begin. We weren’t here to visit family and friends, but to secure a temporary mobile home, large enough for the 6 of us and all our loot to make it safely cross country. We had our work cut out for us.
We’ve been through the culture shock of returning home several times now, but some things still strike us every time: So many choices to make at the grocery store, traffic moves so fast, technology has advanced – it takes us a bit to get our bearings each time. We had a list of essential items to purchase, but once you cross the threshold of Target, Home Depot, Sprouts, etc. it’s amazing how many non-essential items magically appear in the cart! It’s equally beneficial and overwhelming to have so many options. But back to my question: What do you really need to survive and thrive? I’d say we’re constantly recalibrating!
Chapter 4 – The big green land ship
We flew into Tampa after researching skoolies (renovated, repurposed school buses) and finding one that seemed to suit our purposes for cross country travel (separate sleeping spaces for everyone, titled as a motorhome, in good condition etc.). We looked at the bus, got the all-important kids’ approval, had it inspected, settled on a price, got it insured and registered, and voila! We now own a renovated 84 passenger school bus! After getting some preventive maintenance completed, we drove her to the hotel lot to clean her up and get her stocked for some miles on the road. The huge parking lot proved to be a sufficient bus driver training ground for both of us, but after a few rounds, I was definitely turning over the helm to Chad.
Chapter 5 – Now, where to park her
Realizing that both dog and household items would arrive in Miami, we booked a site at an RV park south of Miami near the Everglades, and took off on our first official journey. Having navigated road construction, tolls, traffic, and thin shoulders along the way, we were relieved to have arrived at our first destination. Unfortunately, they didn’t appreciate our big green land ship and told us that despite our reservation we couldn’t stay. We’d heard about and anticipated some skoolie rejection from RV parks, but their rationale seemed a bit discriminatory. I’ll defer further comments.
It was late in the afternoon and we needed somewhere to stay for the night. We quickly searched the map for a large parking lot to spend our first memorable night in the big green land ship. This was definitely not the exciting beginning of this new chapter that I had envisioned for my family. After I deftly navigated us to a Walmart in south Miami that only had a parking garage (ooops…zoom in next time), I found a Home Depot and we parked in the back of their spacious lot. Chad went in and requested permission to stay for the night, which was graciously provided by Armando, the manager. We purchased some more items for the growing list of projects on the bus and settled in for the night. Exhausted and a bit defeated, we quickly searched for a new place to park the big green land ship for the week while awaiting dog and household items. We lucked out in finding the kind staff at the KOA in Davie who reserved us a pull through spot and assured us they had no problems with a skoolie – phew! All I could manage for dinner at this point was mac-n-cheese, which was a mistake because had we waited, we could have enjoyed the fine cuisine of the Peruvian food truck that pulled up next to us – bummer! As we sat up on the top deck of our bus watching the sun setting over the orange glow of the Home Depot sign while enjoying the steady rumble of the El Causa food truck’s generator, we toasted to our first safe voyage, the kindness of others, and to many new and unexpected journeys to come. It wasn’t quite the same as toasting to the sunset from the back of our boat in the Sea of Cortez, but an imagination goes a long way in these circumstances. Captain’s Log, Bus date one: We’re off to a stellar start.
Chapter 6 – Operation Quincy Repatriation
The Davie KOA was a dream come true after our first night’s debacle. Following our initial rejection, we were a bit gun shy and wondered how our classic beauty would be received at RV parks in the future. The KOA staff were incredibly welcoming and directed us to a huge lot we could wait in until our site was ready. Chad immediately went to the airport to rent a car for Operation Quincy Repatriation early the next morning and late in the afternoon we pulled into our site and figured out the hookups. Much of this process is like pulling our boat into the marina, we just had to get used to our new land ship with unfamiliar hookups.
Meanwhile back in Panama, Quincy was tendered by GoPetsGlobal in Panama City at 10pm that same evening. Chad had a 4:30 am wakeup call to meet her flight and shuffle through the customs clearance process. Shipping our Great Dane wasn’t something we took lightly, but it was the only way to get her back. There was a forklift and a large crate involved (think of the zoo shows when they transfer large animals), but she arrived home to us looking healthy and happy. The queen has returned – what a reunion! Oreo (la princesa) was of course not rolling out the red carpet initially, but after a day, these two were back to eating each other’s food and co-mingling in small spaces as they’ve always done.
So, there you have it, boat to bus in under 2 weeks. We’re pleasantly overwhelmed to be back in our homeland and look forward to new adventures as we explore the states in our big green land ship. I’m resigning my title of Helmsmistress and am happily turning over the wheel to Chad – we just work better this way. Standby for more adventures to come no doubt!