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Hitting the high seas

Former GM worker set to sail to Panama for retirement

Panama sailor

Former GM worker Ace Pixley and his dog Marion are set to hit the high seas to make his way down to Panama, where he plans to retire. He says the upcoming adventure has been years in the making.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

When Ace Pixley hits the open water for Panama later this year, he isn’t coming back.

“I sold my house on Kijiji, paid off all my debt and I’m taking the boat and taking off,” Pixley said while talking with The Oshawa Express at the Whitby Marina, where he keeps his boat.

The decision to make the big move to Panama – Pixley says he plans on retiring there – has been decades in the making.

“I worked at General Motors for 30 years and I’d been researching Turks and Caicos, Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and all of the above of where to go and what kind of benefits they offer to retirees,” Pixley said, adding that Panama appears to offer the best options. “I wanted some place off the beaten path, not in the city, what for theft and everything else.”

While many people, if retiring to a tropical paradise, would pack their suitcases and hit up the airport or make a road trip out of it, Pixley chose to do things a bit differently.

The soon-to-be-former Canadian resident will be hitting the open water in Neptun IV, which he has invested thousands of dollars into making worthy of a 5,000-plus-kilometre trip.

“What haven’t I done,” Pixley replied after being asked what he had done to upgrade the ship. “Everything from upgrading electronics to an extra chart plotter, radar, new dinghy, new motor…forward-seeking sonar; you name it, it’s been done. Everything’s been checked, making sure it’s OK. I’m pretty mechanically inclined, so if something goes wrong, I should be able to repair it, and I’ll have extra money in case something really goes wrong.”

Pixely will be making the trip alone, having never been married or having children. He did, however, give a warning to his girlfriend when they first met a decade ago that he didn’t plan on sticking around Canada once he retired.

The move to sailing eight years ago was a big jump for Pixley, who was more used to the motorized variety of water transport.

“I’ve had powerboats all my life, but I can’t retire on a powerboat,” he said. “I figured, you know what, I’ve never sailed in my life. Just decided to go, do it, and I started doing it. Before you know it, I was out on the lake and learning that way.”

For the trip to his new home – Pixley will be making his new home in the villas at Red Frog, outside of Bocas del Toro – the future retiree says he plans on getting to New York City before putting up the masts, and then making his way down to Cuba before heading west to Panama.

The trip, Pixley says, will be taken at a leisurely pace.

“We’ll see where it goes. I’m retired, I’m in no hurry. I’ve got my medical (coverage) for 180 days,” he says.

Looking ahead for his trip, Pixley says there will be a few things he’ll miss about Canadian living.

“It’s like starting a new life. It’s a new chapter, but it’s a new life. It’s entirely different. I won’t have my friends and that,” he says. “I’m going to miss hockey. I played hockey for 50 years, but I’ll be taking my sticks and skates, although I probably won’t see much ice outside of a drink.”