The Expensive Winos*

Michael Robertson laments that cheap beer seems to be a thing of the past now that the Del Viento crew is cruising in Canada.

January 4, 2013

Del Viento- gingerbread

Thankfully, the Walmart gingerbread houses did not taste good enough for the girls to eat, so they became fish food. Michael Robertson

I have a drinking problem. Hell, Windy and I both have a drinking problem. There’s no denying it.

It wasn’t with us in Mexico. In the peak summer heat and humidity, I could put down four or five ice-cold Tecates in a day, each refreshingly teased with lime and salt. Total cost? About 58 cents a pop. When the weather cooled, a fair bottle of red wine could be had for three to five bucks.

In the U.S., our drinking problem began, but it wasn’t a surprise; we’d lived there, after all. And remembering we’d have to pay $11.99 for a 12-pack of beer was tempered by the fact that it was much better beer. Thanks to Trader Joes, our wine cost remained stable.


We arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, with beer and wine stores aboard that lasted into our third month. Then it was time to replenish.

The Strath is the closest liquor store to the marina and it’s pretty fancy. I opened the black French doors and stepped in from the cold. The magnitude of my drinking problem was evident right away. There wasn’t a 12-pack of beer for sale under $25 Canadian. I didn’t see a bottle of wine priced in the single digits. Then I caught my breath: I was still in the heart of the tourist shopping zone, of course these prices are absurd, this isn’t where the locals buy alcohol.

Five blocks away and out of tourist-landia, I found it. Swans Liquor Store on Pandora. The floors were linoleum and beer and wine were displayed simply, stacked in the boxes they were shipped in. Handwritten sale signs were everywhere. I ventured in to find a bargain.


But there were no bargains. The prices were barely a tick below The Strath. I pulled out my credit card anyway.

We brought our last bottle of wine to a friend’s boat for Christmas. I’d consider stopping drinking, but not until the kids are older—could I possibly cope with the demands of parenting without the promise of a glass of wine in the evening?

People told us we were crazy to head north for the winter. They warned us of the cold and the rain. But nobody prepared us for the high cost of beer and wine. And we expect our drinking problem to continue through this coming fall, with little hope of price decreases as we sail north. If you visit us, please bring a bottle.



  • A nod to Keith Richard’s band by this name. I just finished Richard’s fascinating autobiography, Life.

I__n our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at


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