Category Archives: Living Small

My Shocking Electric Bill

When I lived in Fort Lauderdale my electric bill normally ran around a hundred to a hundred and twenty five bucks a month. Granted, I had the air conditioner running most of the time. It’s about the only way you can survive there for three-quarters of the year. The other three months you need to have the a/c turned to the heat function.

When I was first researching the possibility of retiring to Panama, I read a lot of different blogs and paid special attention to posts about the “cost of living.” People often wrote that one of their largest expenses was for electric service and that the cost per kilowatt hour was higher than it was in the States. Well, you’d probably expect that you’d be needing to run your air conditioning 31 (that’s 24/7) in a country that’s only eight degrees north of the equator. It wasn’t unusual to see people saying that they had monthly bills in Panama similar to what I was paying in Lauderdale.

When I finally made the move it was to a house in Potrerillos Arriba, Chiriqui Province in western Panama. The house didn’t have air conditioning, but at 2,600 feet above sea level it wasn’t necessary. In fact I spent a great deal of the time wearing a sweat shirt to stay comfortable. My electric bill there generally ran about $25 a month. Certainly a bargain compared to what I was used to in Florida and a fraction of what I’d been lead to believe I’d have to pay according to the blogs I’d read.

Boquerón, where I currently live, is 2,000 feet lower than Potrerillos Arriba. The house I rent does have air conditioning, but I rarely use it. The house is small and with the front and back doors open there is generally a nice breeze flowing through. I’m usually comfortable if I’m in shade with a breeze, and when there is no natural breeze one of the two pedestal fans I have works just as well. There are three reasons I turn on the air conditioning. 1) On the first of each month I turn the upstairs unit on for an hour just to make sure it’s functioning. 2) When a neighbor down the street decides to crank up the music and it forces me to close the doors and windows to block out the bass. 3) When I’m using the oven and it heats the downstairs to an uncomfortable level. When the food’s done I shut it off. At night, if I’m not cooking, there are only two lights on and they are the kind conservatives in the U.S. condemn as part of a nefarious socialist plot against their individual freedom to use incandescent lighting. My monthly bill here is pretty much the same as it was in Potrerillos…around $20/month or a bit less.

Last Friday I received my most recent Union Fenosa bill for October’s service. It was shocking! The electric company wants me to pay them $9.87!!! Just so you don’t think I’m pulling your leg, here’s a pic of the bill.

While I came to accept hundred dollar electric bills as normal while living in Florida I also had exceptionally low electric bills when I was living on my shanty boat in Louisiana where it’s every bit as hot and humid in August and September as it is in Lauderdale.

As you can see, I had a window-banger a/c unit but I never used it. Each slip at the marina had its own electric meter. My bill was usually just the minimum necessary to have electric service. It was $7 a month.

One month when I went to pay the bill I stood in line and watched people paying three, four and five hundred dollars just to keep from having their service cut off. The only thing I could think of that would warrant such bills is that they kept their a/c going day and night keeping the temperature of their homes at a level where they could store meat just by leaving it on the kitchen counter.

When I made it up to the window I told the woman, “I’m almost embarrassed to give this to you.”

She looked at the bill and said, “well, you don’t live there.”

“I do,” I told her. “The thing is, when I’m not home the only thing drawing electricity is the refrigerator. If I’m home during the day you can add the television or the stereo. At night you can add a single light bulb.”

The lady took my seven-dollar payment and I left.

One morning, a few days later I was lying on my sofa reading a book (I’d been laid-off at the time). I heard a vehicle crunching down the shell road along the docks. It came to a stop nearby and I heard two doors open and close. Curious, I raised s slat on the blinds and saw two men from the electric company with an instrument testing my meter. The lady at the counter had pimped me out, unable to believe that anyone could exist on seven dollars worth of electricity a month.

The following month I went back to the electric company and paid my monthly seven dollar bill.

 

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Filed under Boqueron Panama, Expatriate Living, Living Abroad, Living in Panama, Living Small, Panama Cost of Living, Retire in Panama, Retirement, Retirement Abroad

The Ultimate Slacker’s Boat!!!

Murray Stevens instantly became my hero when he designed and built this –

Once again, another fine find from reading:

http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/11/reports/nov/index.htm

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Filed under adventure, Boat building, boats, Floating Homes, Houseboat, Living off the grid, Living Small, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Shanty boat, Shantyboat Living, Small boat cruising, Tiny Homes, tiny houses

PDR Ocean Explorer Weekender

You all know I have a soft spot for the PDR (Puddle Duck Racer). Eleven months ago I wrote a post about how a Finn, Perttu Korhonen, modified the standard 8′X4′ PDR into a cool, but tiny, weekender. http://houseboatshantyboatbuilders.wordpress.com/2010/10/ In today’s issue of Duckworks (if you haven’t bookmarked this great blog, do it now) there was this video of Perttu taking a cruise on Lake Konnevesi. The lake is located in the middle of the country and the whole area seems to be covered with lakes. http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=62.613562,26.559448&spn=0.721399,1.774292&z=9&vpsrc=6&output=embed
View Larger Map

I love the Ocean Explorer but I’m not sure I’d want to have one in Finland. I understand that summers are great there. They had it on a Thursday last year. Take a ride with Perttu in this YouTube video…

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Filed under adventure, Boat building, cruising, Living Small, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, PDR Racer, Puddle Duck Racer, sailboats, sailing, Small Sailboats

A Couple In A Contessa

Thanks to Greg Joder and his blog Back To Earth for finding this video. It’s a Norwegian couple on a long sail (not yet a circumnavigation) in a Contessa 26. The Contessa is an excellent small boat for the task and is what Tania Abbe chose for her circumnavigation. This boat reminds me so much of my long-lost Nancy Dawson. Both 26 feet long. Both beautiful red hulls. No inboard engine. Windvane self-steering, though my outboard motor mount was on the port side of the transom.

SIGH!

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Filed under adventure, boats, cruising, Living Small, sailing, Small boat cruising