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Old 17-04-2010, 10:20   #1
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Boat Size & Business

The subject always comes up as to what size boat needed for what type of cruising...
And as many know we've decided to take our canvas/sail repair business on the move, to do so and to offer what it is we make money on, we'll be carring a fair amount of equeptment and materials on-board..
If you are planning on doing a business, I would think the consideration of the size of the boat would have to do with the type of business you plan on opperating..
For us, we would be up a creek so to speak if we set off on a 32 foot boat instead of a 42... as it is, we have 6 different machines and will be hauling about 5 or 6 rolls of fabric of 50 to 60 yards each along with all the little extras..
Now understand, we have a good amount of money in savings but both the wife and I enjoy working and fabric repair and creation is a good way to make money while traveling..
By the way, while at the boat show over in Oakland this last couple of days, we picked up another couple jobs to do. so once we leave the shop and head south, we have a months worth of work befor we get to Mexico...
If anyone is interested in taking up fabric repair give me a shot and I'll go over how we're opperating the business afloat......
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Old 17-04-2010, 11:02   #2
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I'd like to hear more about your canvas business. Like what types of machines you'll carry and why, how you solicit for business, how you've dealt with arranging the space required to work, etc.. You know, just everything!
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Old 17-04-2010, 11:13   #3
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Where do you get the patterns for the sails? I presume the manufacturers don't publish them online and the old sails will be torn or out of shape.

Some sails seem very complex with lots of panels making them up.
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Old 17-04-2010, 13:57   #4
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Originally Posted by pwratch View Post
I'd like to hear more about your canvas business. Like what types of machines you'll carry and why, how you solicit for business, how you've dealt with arranging the space required to work, etc.. You know, just everything!
We started doing business a few years ago when we first left to go cruising, with a sailrite "Sailmaker" and the wifes Singer Quantum XL-100..
The subject always comes with the cost of cruising and what do we do to suplement the cost along with our savings.. we just mention that we do repairs and fabrication.. Mosty all of the time we're asked as to what a project would cost as theres always something you can think of to have made, from bags to covers..
We started doing zipper replacement and replacing snaps, which lead to doing "Top Stitch" where you re-stitch the fabric already on the boat.. from that to small projects and replacement of window material but always thinking repairs..
Just over a year ago we stopped in a marina in the California Delta.. Did a couple small repairs and one thing lead to another and we were renting a shop in the marina complex and working full time.. Something we had no intention of doing..
We've now added a few more machines to the mix for sewing...
The wife, Ramona, is the seamstress with over 40 years in the business making anything for wedding dresses to childrens clothing and alterations..
So her first addition was a Husqvarna surger for doing lite-weight work and for doing curtans and drapes in the boats.. shortly after we added a upper end Embroidery machine. thinking it would add flair to our work and ability to do boat names on towels or other items.. that lead to doing custom embroidery on fender covers and helm covers..
For doing small work and portable work, we added a Singer 221 featherweight.. and for lite-weight sails, we purchased a singer quilter and then for the heavy weight work, we purchased a "Juki" with a walking foot..
Even thou, we could have probably done most of the work with the sailmaker, it makes it much easier to have a machine to do the work intended..
We've always had the idea to "Thro It All Up In The Air" and see what comes down with a dollar attached.. and it seems to work.. we dont do just one thing but a range of different things..
And what brings us the business is word of mouth and we do our work the way we would like to have it done on our boat.. to the highest quality.
Put out a High quality product at a reasonable price, and you'll find you have more work than you can handle..
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Old 17-04-2010, 14:03   #5
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Where do you get the patterns for the sails? I presume the manufacturers don't publish them online and the old sails will be torn or out of shape.

Some sails seem very complex with lots of panels making them up.
Most all sails these days are computer generated and computer cut.. and most any sail loft will sell you the sail in pieces ready to sew the panels together. your part as a sailmaker is to fabricate the reinforcement for the clews and to stitch the sail together.. Its pretty hard to build a sail in your boat so we've often been able to use the floor in a local Yacht Club or a building somewhere to build sails..
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Old 17-04-2010, 14:15   #6
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Most all sails these days are computer generated and computer cut.. and most any sail loft will sell you the sail in pieces ready to sew the panels together.
Ah! So you do not have lay out and cut cloth yourself? I imagine that a finished sail costs considerably more than the sum of the pieces and that is were you earn your fee. The sailmaker has to be paid for....

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your part as a sailmaker is to fabricate the reinforcement for the clews and to stitch the sail together.. Its pretty hard to build a sail in your boat so we've often been able to use the floor in a local Yacht Club or a building somewhere to build sails..
I see what you mean. I did some I.T. work for a well known sportswear company and they showed me the cutting tables. They were huge and these guys were only making sports shirts.
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Old 28-04-2010, 12:33   #7
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I have done sail repair and canvas work for 15+ years and some on my sailboat for the last half dozen years. To do sailmaking and/or repair in any volume necessary to earn money you need at least 2 or more 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood forming a flat table with the machine recessed to table level. This is so that the material can be sewed flat without putting curving or puckering into the material by trying to sew up and down "hills". So only minor sail repairs can be done on a boat as it gets to be a major challenge of how to fold, coil, wrap and manage hundreds of square feet of dacron.
- - Canvas work is however, quite different. The product is not hundreds of square feet of "flat'" material but instead has many curves, corners and bows so it can contain or fit over various parts of the boat. This work can be done moderately well on board a "large" sailing boat. Most canvas work is "covers" for this and that with occasional bimini repairs or replacements.
- - But then you get to the materials and where to store them and where to cut them. I have a large sailing vessel and my V-berth is half filled with 60" and 80" long rolls of Sunbrella and other fabrics and vinyl. A major part of the boat is given over to "warehousing" materials. Then there is the really big problem - re-supply! Eventually you need more Sunbrella, acrylic thread, needles, parts, motors, belts, fittings, cringles, eyelets, zippers, and so forth. These materials are not easily available or available at all on many island countries. They must be shipped in at astronomical costs and custom's duties. Local canvas shops are not about to sell you their precious stocks of materials as they have the same problems with getting re-supplies. So once you have exhausted your original supply your costs escalate to match the local shops and there goes your advantage. Add in that if you get too much stuff shipped in, the local workers start wondering where your work permit is for doing this kind of work.
- - So such endeavors can be personally rewarding as you help other cruisers continue on their way after a blown out sail and you can make a little "beer/rum" money but that is about all.
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Old 29-04-2010, 10:30   #8
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- - So such endeavors can be personally rewarding as you help other cruisers continue on their way after a blown out sail and you can make a little "beer/rum" money but that is about all.
For us its been a little different story, as we have a really hard time moving on as there is to much work..
But we've only been traveling between Alaska and Mexico.. things might change once we leave the states, if it does, we have other trades we can fall back on..
We've always felt that you have to be very deverse to travel as we do, and what you see us doing this week might not be what we're doing next week..
Hell, I'm a welder by trade, and a building inspector, and a number of other things, today, I'm working behind the sewing machine...
And once we're out again, think I'm going to try a little writting..
By the way, Our New Site is UP.. www.SailingOnR3.com
still needs some work, but its comming along,
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Old 29-04-2010, 12:39   #9
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I think you would need a larger boat if you plan on bringing your sail/canvas supplies with you. Purchasing these items even in Mexico would be challenging and I imagine the further south you travel the more difficult it would become to obtain supplies.
I also can see osirissails point. It seems to me there are a awful lot of people out here trying to fund there cruising kitty by selling items or services to other cruises...the problem with this is cruisers are extremely cheap by nature and tend to do it themselves if they can't get someone to do it for the price of a beer. After all when most of these want to be cruisers were back in the US they still were making money so it made sense to pay someone to do these things for them but once they cut the dock lines the philosophy on spending money changes.
Being diversified will help you quite a bit no doubt. There does seem to be quite a few Americans/Canadians making a living here in Mexico on cruisers but they do not seem to be as much cruising as setting up shop in a particular city (Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta come to mind) and by word of mouth selling there services to cruisers that are passing through.
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Old 29-04-2010, 17:04   #10
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Working on board while in your home country is rarely a problem. The only real problem is the one mentioned by Randyonr3 mentions - your get too much business and have a difficult time "moving on."
- - However, planning to "work" on board or otherwise anywhere outside your home country takes on a whole new layer of complexity and danger. If you only do minor little jobs for other cruisers that are beyond the local talent's abilities then you rarely are noticed. But if you start doing more than an occasional "job" for cruisers and are receiving money then the locals start to get envious and jealous. If you are good then one cruiser will tell another while drinking in a local tavern or tiki hut. Locals will become interested and next thing you know the officials are paying a visit wanting to see your "work permit."
- - You can invest in the time and money to get a "work permit" and then pay the necessary "taxes" official or under the table to stay in business. But I have seen cruisers get indignant about such things especially when there is no real local talent qualified for the work. Then if the cruiser is lucky he is told to leave quickly (the old get out of Dodge by sundown). If the cruiser has a bad attitude then more likely they will be arrested and "deported." That is definitely not something you want stamped in your passport -Deported for illegal activities - because now your international cruising life is over as no other country will allow you in when they see that stamp in your passport.
- - So bottom line, working while cruising is very complicated and rarely pays enough to be of any real good unless you are willing to "settle" in the country "permanently." In which case the officials welcome you with open arms as you will be employing/training locals and paying the officials for the privilege. I would hazard that a huge percentage of the cruiser orientated business along the various cruising routes are all former cruisers who settled on the island/country and add considerable positive contribution to the local economy.
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