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Old 30-07-2008, 17:46   #1
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Financial survival at sea.

Say you are 64 years old in good health and have spent the past 10 years building your "retirement boat" which will be ready to sail south next Spring with the intent of island hopping until you are to old to crank a winch. (My apologies to fans of the web site but lack of motivation and time have left it chronically neglected.) You have only had to finance the spars and first set of sails. Your Social Security check will cover the note, boat insurance, Medicare supplemental and evacuation insurance with a little left over. Some investments and consulting work brings in another $1,500 or so a month.

I can see surviving on that but the entertainment budget would be pretty sparse. Now say in the process of building you have accumulated skills in refrigeration and have an HVAC license, electrical and electronics systems and even gotten pretty good at canvas work. You have also accumulated all the tools. Is it conceivable to supplement your income as an itinerant floating repair shop around the Caribbean? I am thinking more cruiser to cruiser than a real land based 9 to 5 job.
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Old 30-07-2008, 19:13   #2
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Is it conceivable to supplement your income as an itinerant floating repair shop around the Caribbean? I am thinking more cruiser to cruiser than a real land based 9 to 5 job.
It's catch as catch can. Unless you are working for cash you are working ilegal outside the US. cash is still ilegal but paying cash means they want to be under the radar too. Step on a local job and they will turn you in because it's the money they would have made. It's easier being an ilegal in the US than any place else.

That leaves cruisers with cash as the primary customer. They all break down and some can't fix things themselves.
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Old 30-07-2008, 19:51   #3
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I'd be your best customer.

I suspect that there are more than a few people like myself who tend to lead with the cheque book. We're not all blue water, bullet-proof, build a new boat from the dropping of seagulls types.
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Old 30-07-2008, 20:02   #4
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I can see surviving on that but the entertainment budget would be pretty sparse. Now say in the process of building you have accumulated skills in refrigeration and have an HVAC license, electrical and electronics systems and even gotten pretty good at canvas work. You have also accumulated all the tools. Is it conceivable to supplement your income as an itinerant floating repair shop around the Caribbean? I am thinking more cruiser to cruiser than a real land based 9 to 5 job.[/quote]

We retired early with a similar budget from a pension. Money was very tight, but we always anchored out and our entertainment was limited. We still had a great time and enjoyed "sundowners" with fellow cruisers much more than dining out or drinking "umbrella drinks" at dockside bars. When our son announced his marriage plans we decided to head back home for a while and checked into a marina on Fl west coat. Marina fees and "dirt dwelling" weren't in the budget so we put a sign on the bow of our boat and started a canvas business. I had done my own canvas for years and had the machine and basic tools so it seemed like a good fit. We were surprised at how much business we generated and it paid the bills. Since we needed some boat maintenance and upgrades we decided to work the canvas business during hurricane season and go sailing in the winter. We did this schedule for four years and business got better each year so we were able to pay our living expenses and upgrade the boat at the same time.

We have a cruiser friend who started a successful diesel repair business as he cruised around in his trawler. He also gave classes in diesel repair. My favorite story is how he got his students to change HIS oil as part of their training! (Maybe I will start a class on head repair so I can get someone to pay me before he/she rebuilds my head.)

Whether this lifestyle will work for you depends a lot on your attitude and where you intend to work. You need to check the work rules in Caribbean countries where you want to work to see if they have restrictions on "non-resident" businesses. It's possible you could pick up some work from listening to cruiser nets and working out informal business deals, but I would check out each place individually before advertizing my services. You surely don't want to get crosswise with local officials. You obviously have many excellent skills since you built your own boat so you should be able to earn enough to support your "boat habit." Good Luck.
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Old 01-08-2008, 05:30   #5
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Gashmore,

I think you'd have a better chance than most of making it. The two skills you mentioned are not all that common amongst cruisers. You'd need to spend time where most of them hang out, though, to get enough work. You'd have to build up your cruising kitty in the crowded locations if you want to spend time in the out-of-the-way cruising spots.
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Old 09-08-2008, 16:52   #6
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Gashmore,
I agree with Hud3 that you would probably stand a better chance than most to make it, but Pblais is right on. Remember that you would most likely be violating your host countries work/VISA laws. I would think that a better way to do it would be to minimize and cruise on your $1500 a month. I know several people that do it for way less. I think you might find yourself happier in the long run.
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Old 09-08-2008, 18:12   #7
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I'd say go for it. I've kept pretty good records after nine years of cruising, and after having all the "land stuff" paid for, the boat paid, etc. etc., the actual day to day costs of being "out there" on the boat, on AVERAGE (cuz some months are awful, some are great) was something like, $500 per month per person on the boat, plus $500 per month for the boat. We never denied ourselves anything on this budget. To be fair, we had a decent cushion if things didn't work out, but after 9 years the cushion hasn't yet been touched. Maybe I'd rather be lucky than smart!
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Old 09-08-2008, 20:14   #8
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I was not thinking of working for cash other than parts/material I have on hand. You wouldn't believe the amount of spares you build up when a case of something from a distributor cost the same as just one from West Marine. 'Course I will be sailing a little stern low for the first year or two.
More along the lines of:
Fixing a leak and recharge the refrigerator should be good for a Lobster diner & 3 or 4 Red Stripes. Diagnosing a balky water maker/auto pilot/alternator/etc, instructing what parts to order and replacing them when they arrive should be good for a week of happy hours at least.

I can live on a lot less than $1,500/month. It is surprising how little you can live on when a good part of your pay check goes to that thing in the back yard and the rest goes to getting your kids through college. But I like a fine meal every now and then and when I know there is a great restaurant on shore it is very tempting to bust the budget.
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Old 10-08-2008, 09:17   #9
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My husband is an electrician, hvac mechanic, and diesel mechanic. While we were cruising, he found that it was against his nature to charge his fellow cruisers. If someone needed help, we help, kind of a karma thing. We rebuild the kitty by working in the states.
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