Coping: The Cruising Prepper’s Barter Practice

image(Near 19’.30” N 89’.23” W @ 18.4 Knots)

Our cruising adventure pulled up anchor for the last time on Wednesday evening as we wrapped up a visit to Trujillo, Honduras on what the cruise brochures call “The Banana Coast.” Next stop: Houston early Saturday.

After going ashore for a tour of Trujillo, Elaine and I returned to our balcony for a leisurely snooze (or, in her case snoozette) while the crew put away the tenders that were used to ferry adventurers to shore.

Turns out, there’s an interesting tale of “battling cruise lines” in here:  The Norwegian line didn’t get one of the early (prime) slots at the island of Roatan, so they opted for a mainland stop.

Good call.

We like contrast in life.  The offshore islands are mostly flat and Trujillo has these marvelous mountains as a backdrop.  The reach over 2,000’ feet vertically and we were assured they could be scaled up to a radio tower location in a shade over four hours.

My cardiologist might disagree.  However, since the ship wasn’t going to be here a week, that hike came off the table. 

Despite a mighty police presence, the Honduran woods are not where sane gringos would be hiking, but then again, we don’t know many sane people,just sayin…

imageThe city of Trujillo has a small but very nicely-developed Port district, and since the town is fairly compact along the base of the mountains, when the cruise ship comes to town, it’s a very big civic deal.

The shops spring up along the walkways and all kinds of goods are for sale.

Although we’d rationalized to ourselves we didn’t need anything, there was this turquoise necklace that caught Elaine’s eye that was very inexpensive  ($10). and I thought “Aha!  All this prepper talk about bargaining/trading might be put to good use here…”

The dickering was set to begin….

Before making my offer, a lot of thought went into the process:  Where to draw “my line”?

I wanted to just practice, not insult the fellow on the other side of the table from me.  He was somewhere north of 6’ feet tall and as muscular as I was rotund.  Strategy call:  Insulting low offer, or just guess his markup and go from there.

It’s an article of faith that in the post apocalyptic world bartering will be a critical skill.

Settling on an opening offer of $8-bucks, which the shopkeeper immediately snapped up.  I reminded myself that next time I’m in Trujillo (very low probability event) that I’d open with a 30% off or 40% off and assume the idea of an “insultingly low offer” is something barter book writers made up.  Maybe they don’t get out and practice; can’t say.

Better off taking the Harvey MacKay (Swim with the Sharks) approach:  I should have opened at zero and worked my way up from there.  A fine lesson of American capitalism is this:  If you have the money, eventually someone will buy the insult.  Look around you.

So much for Mr. Hard Bargain Driver.

Remembering the “old days” of the Caribbean from living on Grand Cayman for a couple of years in the mid 1980’s when Zero Halliburton brief cases of cash proceeds from bankrupting apartment complexes was landing there in the Texas S&L scandal days, the next logical place to visit was the duty-free liquor dispensary.

There, the spread in booze price was explored a bit:  Bottle of a so-so name brand rum that would be $17 at the discount liquor store in the next county up from us was going for $11.

Bottom line here:  If you’re looking to save a lot of money on booze by spending a couple of grand on a Western Caribbean cruise, you really ought to instead invest in remedial math classes at the local junior college.  The money would be better spent.

Saving of $6 a bottle didn’t seem like much of a deal.  Once upon a time,; maybe, back in my wilder sailing youth perhaps, but in the “since airplane’s again” mode, fitness and clear-headed trumps everything. 

One of Elaine’s boys has a wee-one:  I think Charli-Jane is about 2 1/2 now, and since her reading is starting early, we got an autographed kids book ($10) that met Elaine’s tough standards. 

E has a bee in her bonnet about idiotic kids books (Grimm’s Fairytales) that serve to do little more than take perfectly good children and install the “fear fonts” in them (to borrow the font module idea from 1980’s coming…yes, we’re that old…).  I still check under bridges for trolls.

With a cut of the dough going to a local school, I didn’t try to dicker on this purchase…just wouldn’t have been right.  Still, it might have been a good idea, since it might be considered practice for running for public office where it seems an equal opportunity to screw everyone, even the nice people, is a necessary prerequisite.

imageWalking and shopping resumed, but by now, I was getting a little warm (it was 91, or so) about the time Elaine (with a twinkle in her eye)  suggested I go sit on a railing which separated the recently-built shops from the beach.

She was busy issuing unintelligible instructions inb my general direction as several groups of tourists wandered by:

I called out to the tourists and asked them if they could smell my burning butt over on the walkway…and somehow that resulted in a good laugh and a picture being snapped.  Locals don’t sit on these railings which is why birth rates are still high here, if you follow.

There’s only one ship per week through this burgh, at the moment, although a local bar owner (who was kind enough to lend me a black marking pen, allowed me to do some “point of purchase advertising (this column may drive you to drink now and then)  on the counter of the Bahia Bar at the top of the tender dock where the tourists flood in and out, like a sea of humanity.  Or fleas.

imageThe bar owner didn’t flinch when we asked for something good – and local – to drink.

He hauled out some native Nicaraguan rum that would make a fine brand for a novel about the tropics and poured us shots about twice the size (and half the price) of drinks on the ship.

This was for a dark golden rum aged in what I swear were old bourbon barrels…as they had that distinctive smoky-corn flavor but none of the corn “nose” to them’

Figuring science was my middle name, the discussion followed quickly as to whether there was a clear version…which there was…and since it didn’t lay down in casks for an hour (or whatever), it didn’t have that corn kind of taste.

You might be able to duplicate the taste of the aged rum with a bit of Makers Mark, a bit of Everclear, distilled water and maybe a dash of Kitchen Bouquet to adjust color.  Maybe a damp spoon of liquid smoke…but not worth the effort.

The bartender runs a place an hour or two drive up the coast where he has a restaurant and bar which keeps him busy because with the cruise ships coming in one day a week (it will go to two ships a week in October) aren’t enough to really keep a business going…yet.

If all American foreign aid could be administered this way (haggling with locals on the price of goods and drinking Central American rum) I think US foreign policy would be a lot better off.

Back on this ship, we had snacks and rehydrated about 2 PM and waited for dinner time to roll around. 

Elaine struck up a co0nversation with one of the wait staff from the Philippines.  Asked about why she decided to work on a cruise ship, her answer was pretty interesting:

In the Philippines, with a BA in Restaurant and Hotel Management, she was only able to make about $10 a day.  On the ship, she makes several times that.

The best part, however, is that she has plans when she finally ends her cruising days and dreams are what drive people…all people.

Before you rush down to sign up to work on a ship, though, the reality of work should be considered first:

  • Crew work 8-9 months
  • They work 10-hours per day
  • No days off
  • Time in port (when you get it) is about 3-6 hours, depending on port)
  • Crew have a hard time getting cabs to internet cafes
  • They make a bee-line for them on shore because crew has to pay high connection charges on ship.  (That’s because the cost is a pass-through to everyone who uses it)
  • This limits relations to email a couple of times a week
  • Phone calls to home are done with cheap international calling cards.  Which one is a kind of verbal tradition/initiation when joining crew
  • And Houston has a Seamen’s Center nearby when berthed in Houston. 

Seamen’s centers have played a major role in the writing lives of many writers…thinking back to how Louis L’ Amour described them.  In the days before the Internet, the Seamen’s Centers were where those little books of the Everyman’s Library were passed around, dog-eared and worn, and aspiring writers and poets would read from them  in the forecastle, when there was time at sea…

Last night’s dinner was the Brazilian themed restaurant.  This is quite a meal, if you go there:  You do the salad bar (great seafood chowder and fresh French bread and Brie somehow ended up on my plate).  Then the staff comes along and slices off whatever meats you want. 

There we were offered sausages and lamb cuts (pass) and several kinds of steak (filet mignon, thanks, a small bit) and both marinated chicken  legs and bacon-wrapped spiced chicken  (hell yeah).

The end of the rather perfect evening involved Elaine walking into the casino on Deck 6 where she turned her $20 stake into $89 – how she does this is the 9th wonder of the world.  My $20 stake was turned into a $10 stake, so apparently my luck didn’t make the tender ride back to the ship.

I’ll be sure and check tonight on whether it has caught up yet, or not.

Email for the Calendar Impaired

One of our readers excitedly sent me what I call an “email for the Calendar Impaired:

Interesting FEBRUARY.

This year !
This February cannot come in your life time again.

Because This year February has  4 sundays,  4 mondays, 4 tuesdays, 4 wednesdays,  4 thursdays,  4 fridays & 4 saturdays.

This Happens once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So send to at least 5 people or 5 Group’s and money will arrive within 4 days. Based on Chinese Feng Shui. Send within 11 mins of reading.

Since brushing up on my math skilled (try wading through Wolfram’s Mathematica, right?) I got to thinking “Hold it:  7*4 is 28 and so EVERY February has four of each…”

I was going to send the reader a note that February of 2009 also started on a Sunday.

Oh, wait:  Maybe this is a government trick to do a social map of America and see how stupid we really are.

Bet they won’t be disappointed.

Time to go wait for the Consumer Prices report from the Labor Department and watch the waves go by.

Write when you break-even…

George    george@ure.net

Comments

Coping: The Cruising Prepper’s Barter Practice — 7 Comments

  1. Was the rum you had at the Honduras bar Flor de Cana? One of my favorites is the 7 year old. In the US the alcohol content is 40% but in Nicaragua it is 35%. Probably does not matter that much after a couple of shots! Rum; Sabroso hasta la ultima gota o buchito! A useful and endearing phrase for gingos who are learning Spanish. (Delicious until the last drop or little taste)

  2. Ha! Well said. Actually, I like it when you are wordy – it helps delay the onset of my boring workday.

  3. George,

    When it is over, I would be very interested to see what the total cost of your cruise actually is. The advertised price is just the teaser. There are taxes, fees, mandatory tips, extras for alcohol, gambling, etc. Then, there are the little trinkets, meals, and transportation costs on shore. Accurate numbers aren’t necessary as “your mileage may vary.” A reasonable accounting and a bottom line $XXX per day would allow your readers to see exactly how inexpensive cruises are.

    • that was just a figure of expression about that beautiful slender lady , in fact i love the nsa that have provided you with a safe trip and of course they produce the greatest whistle blower – oh my the place is still covered in SNOW and its tracking into my DEN from all those trips to the wood pile, but its nice and warm and cozy and most of all safe because of our nsa

  4. “Hold it: 7*4 is 28 and so EVERY February has four of each…”
    – Not so fast Mr Ure. You forget about leap years! Each leap year has FIVE of one day. Feb 2012, for example, had 5 Wednesdays.

    • I was only addressing the 800 year part…not the leap year exception – I failed to mention it because I was trying not to be wordy. Hmmm…that ship sailed, huh?