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Old 23-02-2009, 07:24   #1
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Making a Living on My Boat - Elk Farmer

As my wife and I watch the value of our home go below what we still owe on it and, our stock portfolio lost another 125k this year we are getting increasingly concerned.

We have said, lets do this live aboard thing right. Buy good equipment, a late model cat, have as many comforts as possible...In short, wait till its perfect.

I ... not the wife, is at the point where I say screw it. Buy a 180k cat, large enough to to a one week speciality charter a month period. Sell the house, take the hit and move on board.

I own a fitness/weight loss detox business that I believe I could do on board. Hell, if my customers will come from around the world to Indiana, Ill guess they will come to the islands.

But what if that business does not fly I ask? What else can we do to earn a living? Boat will be paid for, We will have a couple hundred in the bank....But, with one more child to put through school, we would like to earn $1000.00 a month as we live out our live aboard dream and not completely destroy our savings.

Wife does massage & teaches of all things pole dancing.
I'm a commercial pilot on the side but most companies want a commitment and not a guy that wants to work 1- 2 weeks a month...

I'm a former commercial diver, but I'll assume that divers are everywhere....I have heaps of off shore time, just on barges, rigs etc..

I'm tired of waiting for this to be just right, I'd like to move on this now...seeking info to sell the wife. Oh yea...I raise elk too, but I doubt I can buy a boat large enough to store the feed for them.

Elk man
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Old 23-02-2009, 07:36   #2
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I've been cruising these boards for a few weeks gleaning information and tips and am about to make a similar posting to yours so I'll look forward to reading any replies you get too. Good luck they seem to be a very helpful lot on here.
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Old 23-02-2009, 07:54   #3
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Elk Man,

Making a living on a boat is no different than on shore. In your home country it's just an address. You just have a small home office. A retail business with stock would be difficult. If you are in a foreign port you have several issues you won't have in your own country working against you. You need a work Visa to work in a foreign country. If you sell anything you have customs problems. The "you're not from around here" problem is one you can't fix. Local labor will work for far less than you would work for. Doing unskilled trades in a country where people don't get paid much puts you at a real disadvantage. If you get too good they turn you into Immigration (or worse) and if you are just good enough and under the radar you don't make much money.

Making a few bucks selling services for cash seems a good a way to pick up a few bucks if you have something locals or cruisers need. This won't be a big business but more like something to do. The easy things you might do to make money at the level you require are all illegal. Once you go in that direction risks and rewards tend toward the extreme and probably not the best retirement job.
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Old 23-02-2009, 08:05   #4
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Elkman,
I have been out about 5 years now, and always managed to find work. I find that I need to work about 4 months a year, thats an average, this year has been more as I needed to repower. There is a lot of work out there at the levels you are talking about. It is much better to base yerself somewhere for that time than try an make a living and voyage.
Lots of marine based businessess are willing to hire cruisers as long as they will commit to a season. Once you have done a couple of seasons you will find that the connections grow. In the US, West Marine is actually not a bad choice for cruisers. I have a number of friends who work for them in season, In the Carib, Budget marine is always hiring, even if the jobs are not posted on their website. Marinas and boatyards hire people with good skills sets, Do not depend on getting work from other cruisers. or by doing deliveries, if you do its a bonus not a steady income, unless you have a very specific skill such as sail/ canvas/ mechanic/ refrigeration.
A friend of mine has a mobile welding shop on his 40 footer.
People who have not been out are always worried about finding work, but its amazing how much hunger and the need to purchase an expensive part can drive you to a source of readies. It sounds like you are being realistic in how much you expect to earn, so you are half way there already.
And just FWIW I find that on a 38 foot boat I need to earn about 7K USD a year
Hope this helps and fair winds
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Old 23-02-2009, 08:12   #5
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Thumbs up Different worlds, but the same...

We're in different worlds, but still the same.

I owned and operated a development company and ran the construction management and sales side of the business. I been self employed so long, I can't remember the last time I worked for someone else. We went bust in 2008 and decided to 'go to zero' and rebuild living on our 33' 1979 CSY cutter sailboat with our 16 month old daughter. With the economy the way it is- it seemed the best of all possibilities. We been living onboard full time since before Christmas.

I have a lot of varied skills. Sales, construction, project planning and management, cabinetry, anything to do with home repair, good computer skills, and design capabilities.

I'm also a pilot (private), and of course a sailor.

Things are tight out there. I just picked up some work pouring 2 yards of concrete for a friend, but otherwise most folks are holding onto their greenbacks pretty tight.

Working online is tough- it's still a trade of time for money, with the rate not being too high. If you are cruising, the traveling days you are incommunicado and stay pretty busy on the boat.

We're trying to figure out how long we need to stay in one place to pick up some work. Our guess right now is a minimum of 3 months to make it worth it.

We are also trying the creative arts, but time is still a factor. Not having an infant child on board would make a world of difference, but hey- that's the main reason we're living on a boat. So we can spend as much time together as a family.

All that being said, I'm glad we did move aboard. I don't think I would trade being broke on a boat for a 100k job in a landlocked city. My wife concurs- because she would never see me and we'd be forced to raise our daughter in an environment we don't really like.

Time becomes your greatest asset. We're healthy and strong now, we may not be in the future. It does take a certain laissez-faire attitude to let the unknown roll itself out and present itself. But it gets easier every day.

As a side note, we've both lost weight living on the boat just from the physical lifestyle.
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Old 23-02-2009, 08:22   #6
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Elkman, I am afraid there is no easy answer. You may indeed find some who have successfully done what it is you wish to you, but they are few and fair between and they rarely make much more than poverty level living. I understand the "dream", have been out here living it for 3 yrs and love life, but that dream is skewing your logic.

You propose to sell the real assets and property you have and depart whatever enterprise makes for a good life for you and your family. You will then tie up what looks to be half your liquid assets in a platform that will then continue to incur a tremendous amount of daily and monthly expenses for you that will further erode your remaining cash. And you will do this in a recession during which time credit is tight, cash is tight, you will be underwater in selling your largest existing asset right now. An economic downturn that would mean that customers might be tight for any future business and should you need to bail on this whole deal, due to lack of money, there will be fewer people lined up to buy the one asset you will have (boat) and they will pay far far less for it than you did.

I apologize if the above seems harsh, it is not mean to be. I get paid very well for making these kinds of analysis and you are getting this for free.

Making money doing charters? Sure, you and every other person that has a boat in the carib. In addition to the huge, high end and low end charter biz's that put ads in the glossy mags.

Make money captaining boats. Sure. It can be fun and it gets you out on the water. Out on the water for long long hours, herding tourists who could care less about safety, long hours fixing engines and then when you return, maintaining those engines. Hope you like oil changes, you will do a lot of them.

Make money teaching sailing. Sure. If you have years of experience, a captain's license and instructor level certification from ASA or USS at a cost of hundreds), there are a tiny number of sailing schools in FL that may hire you for $31k/yr. No benefits. You will work 6-7 days a week and many do liveaboard instruction, thus you will be gone from your family for 6-7 days straight, back for one day and then out again. You will work every weekend and every holiday. No vacations. But hey, you love it, right?

Make money diving. Sure. You can get $1.5-2/ft scraping barnacles off hulls. Why on earth would you trade the nice life you have to compete with all the billions of other guys doing this?

All the above said, your idea of a fat farm biz aboard a luxury cat is a good one. It is different enough so as to be able to distinguish itself from the billions of other starving charter operators out there. Maybe that will work...but....have you done the market research, business plan and cash flow analysis to take this kind of risk? Charter insurance could be 5% of the value of the boat a year, so there is $9k for you right there. A slip in a place that your customers will come to, $1000 a month. What about health insurance for your family? $350-600/mo. Cell phones, internet access, web page for your business etc etc. I am not sure that your $1000/mo income require above would cover all that.

How experienced a captain are you? What level license do you have? How are you gonig to cover your liability as a captain and owner of this enterprise? Unfortunately today, liability and costs mean that to begin a charter business, you are investing hundreds of thousands up front to make hundreds in profit all while incuring millions of dollars in liability.

Again, I apologize if the above seems harsh, but from where you are, it would be difficult to know of these realities. And again, it can be done, however the chance of success is probably lower than any other new business and the risks are quite high. If you have nothing to lose, not a problem. You have a lot to lose.

Another idea: find a business that you can gain a little income from while not having to be there all the time. Buy a much less expensive boat, liquidate your assets and invest wisely in securities, commodities and some bonds (whould be about $300k, which even at 5% would give you $15k income, more than half of what you will need). Make a very strict budget that allows you to live on a variable income. Use cash for the first year of cruising and then income for the remaining. If you like, try having a couple of people come for your fat farm biz aboard your boat (after you get a capt lic and liability insurance) and see how that works. You can always ratchet up from there. If all this does not work out, you have much less of your money tied up in a boat that may take 1-2 yrs to sell.

Simple and lower risk.

And again, this is not to be harsh, it is to help. The above is more than $250 worth of advice.

Best

John
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Old 23-02-2009, 08:24   #7
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jcmcdowell - that is great advice. Going with a less expensive boat gives you the luxury of time. If you are a capable person, as you obviously are, you will find a way. But it takes time. Going with a less expensive plan means that you do not have to generate as much income and that then makes being successful in this lifestyle much easier. That is called, "building success in", a Demming idea. A smart way to go.

Best

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Old 23-02-2009, 08:30   #8
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I have worked in many coutries that in theory require a work permit. If somebody wants to hire you, for whatever reason, they will find a way to employ you. I have worked in Turkey, Greece, ( before they were part of the EU) middle east, and otrher places. You do have to get used to working for local rates, but even in third world countries skilled labour runs about GBP 5 an hour ( about 8 USD), living on the hook thats defin. worthwhile for a cruiser.
One last thing; always leave yourself a nice reserve for arrival, the best jobs come to you when you have time to check things out at your own pace, I find having a 1500 reserve means I can pick and choose, in effect this means allowing 6 months in any one place. As for times being tough, thats just the way it is, there is Always work, and yes it is at " poverty level" in the west. Check out Living On a Small Income, by Pete and Annie Hill. I know Pete quite well, and he is still out there living on about 5k a year, loving life
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Old 23-02-2009, 09:30   #9
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1. Don't buy a $180k boat. Buy a $50k monohull at the most.

Go buy a copy of "A cruising Life", read it twice, and then re-evaluate your plan. I think you are headed in the right direction, but you need to shed the ways of land if you want to succeed on the water.

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Old 23-02-2009, 11:02   #10
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Wow: Thanks for the advice...from all of you. Ill re read these several times. On one note I did not make clear, my business here is losing money every month. And has been for sometime. Its high time to unload.

One of my real estate investments here, 1.4 mil is perhaps realistically worth 500k. Ill be happy to take 300K just so I get something this land based crumbling empire I built.

I spent a few months in Thailand (twice) last years /two in a one bedroom bungalow..200 sq feet tops, no TV, nothing but a toilet and a bed. I had nothing material, wore the same clothes daily. Loved every moment of it.

I have had a couple people tell me the 50 K boat is the way to go. John Drake made some very on the mark comments. I've gotta do this right the first and only time so I'm not saying oh **** later. Thank you for your clear and direct well thought out advice.

About my sailing exp....Its a joke, I was the guy with the beer that helped the guy with the boat a few times. I figured I'd do the crew thing this winter/spring, learn what I can. My idea is not a world tour, Its between islands in the Caribbean. I have about 300 days off shore, but not on a sail boat.
Our friends will say we are crazy...but both working 70/75 hours a week, (wife) driving two hours a day to say I own a ranch and living the Western dream...I say this life that I own now is crazy.

We- wife & I can lay tile, do wall board, general labor/constructon and we are not afraid of hard work. We would just prefer to do as some of you do....work a few months, live the life for a few more.

Again,
Thank you for your advice and your support

Dave/Elk man
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Old 23-02-2009, 12:47   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elkman View Post
...seeking info to sell the wife.
I would have given mine away!
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Old 23-02-2009, 14:57   #12
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To be honest, with your (and yer wife's) varied CV I think you will find yer way at whatever you choose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elkman View Post
Buy a 180k cat, large enough to to a one week speciality charter a month period. Sell the house, take the hit and move on board.
Not here to tell you what to do (Hell, I am tied to the dock - but have wandered around the world a bit, albeit sans boat)....but I would suggest at least thinking about buying so you are not financially tied to the boat to keep your future options as flexible as possible.

Buying cheaper (a Mono ) may mean more likely that you don't "have" to base your life onboard but can instead fly off for work to where you know / where your skills are valued well in $$$, whether that be for a few months several times every year or a 6 month stint every 2 years.......or you simply fancy 6 months in Thailand, but no desire to sail there - and in the meantime your boat is not crippling you financially.

Quote:
Wife does massage & teaches of all things pole dancing.
Although I don't think the money will be great, if yer can get yer Missus down to Thailand I would appreciate you teaching the folk down there some variation to the usual "Buffalo shuffle" They do however seem to have the massage stuff (therapeutic ) already cracked
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Old 23-02-2009, 18:31   #13
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Thanks old jersey:

Ok...All of ya all have me sold on a 50-60k mono hull. There are heaps of them...38-42 foot is my goal....unless you guys are gonna poop on this.

I know airplanes....What I do not know is boats. Are there three or four brandnames I should stick with for island coastal cruising...no world wide stuff.

I went on line looking at charter pilot jobs....looks like I could land..pardon the pun, a flying gig in a pinch. Schlepping tourists to the islands.

I'm afraid a real job will interfere with cocktail hour tho'. Agreed on the buffalo dance. But Thailand women are special.

If the wife was 20 years younger, financing this adventure would be easier. I suppose the mast is not much different than a stripper pole...time will tell.

Any pointers on a boat brand would be helpful, I am accoustomed to pre buy agreements, innspections etc on aircraft, cant be much different.

Such is life......
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Old 24-02-2009, 01:07   #14
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I know airplanes....What I do not know is boats. Are there three or four brandnames I should stick with for island coastal cruising...no world wide stuff.
I am not big on the North American brands - but Beneteau is pretty universal. I will leave others to chip in some other brands.

Given your starting point, I would be tempted to do my research online and then head down in person to look at a dozen or so boats and locations - even if that involved a bit of island hopping.....my thinking is that apart from a buying trip would be a good way of building up your learning curve of the areas you are intending to cruise, seeing what boats folk go for, chatting with a few owners (maybe a couple of sails in exchange for beer?.....would work for me ) and on the boat front by looking at the good, the bad and the ugly you will soon learn what is at least good enuf to get Surveyed.

Plus being on the spot with cash and capable of making a quick decision may well be attractive - especially to an absentee Vendor, whether or not they have financial "issues".
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Old 24-02-2009, 12:03   #15
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One minor point

*Paid* real assets are real. I know of a couple of full-time cruisers who dumped most everything to pay off the mortgage and the boat, and rent the house(s). For one, the house is still mortgaged, but the renters just pay that bill so they're still paying the taxes/insurance - which is pretty small potatoes for having someone else building up your equity. But they fly back twice a year to check on things, have maintenance done, etc. (see grandbabies, relatives, cronies, stock up on gear for the boat, make a pittance doing lectures...)

As for boats - I like some of the names from the 80s that are old-fashioned and slowish (by modern design standards): Cape Dory, *old* Tartans, Hinckley, Swan... Representatives of all of those are available for under 300k, and of the first two you can get in at 50k and less.
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