Cruisers Forum
 


Reply
  This discussion is proudly sponsored by:
Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about their products on Cruisers Forums. Advertise Here
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 03-12-2020, 17:02   #1
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 71
Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Considering the times, I'm lucky enough to have a pretty decent job. However, said job is in an office behind a desk and it's killing me. So I'm considering a career change. The wolf isn't at my door and I have the luxury of time and some money stashed away. And, with COVID, Im not doing this anytime soon.

I'm sick of sitting in a building behind a desk. I want to get back to working on actual interested physical things.

So my question is, how realistic is it that someone can get into a trades job that involves working on boats? FWIW, I was a residential/commercial general contractor for 10 years. I did all the demo and carpentry and managed all the other tradesmen around me. In my current gig, I'm a Head of Facilities and have overseen some decent size construction projects, risk management, event production and all other duties as assigned. I've always done maintenance on motorcycles and in the distant past was an "engineer" on a commercial fishing boat in AK.

I'm not great at diagnosing electrical or diesel issues. I'm the DIY guy that can narrow things down and replace and hope. In other words, I couldn't sell myself as a tech. Just being realistic. But I'm sure I could get there.

Vast majority of stuff that isn't super techie? Absolutely.

I don't have to make much money initially. I could have a nice long runway to get ramped up. I'm a quick-ish learner, a hard worker and pretty decent at marketing myself. I can definitely show up on time, be honest about what I can and can't do and communicate professionally.

So what are the chances that a guy like me can make the career change? And what would that path look like?

As always, thanks in advance for your insights.
fschaefer4 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-12-2020, 17:33   #2
Registered User

Join Date: Jan 2018
Boat: 50ft Custom Fast Catamaran
Posts: 4,288
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fschaefer4 View Post
Considering the times, I'm lucky enough to have a pretty decent job. However, said job is in an office behind a desk and it's killing me. So I'm considering a career change. The wolf isn't at my door and I have the luxury of time and some money stashed away. And, with COVID, Im not doing this anytime soon.

I'm sick of sitting in a building behind a desk. I want to get back to working on actual interested physical things.

So my question is, how realistic is it that someone can get into a trades job that involves working on boats? FWIW, I was a residential/commercial general contractor for 10 years. I did all the demo and carpentry and managed all the other tradesmen around me. In my current gig, I'm a Head of Facilities and have overseen some decent size construction projects, risk management, event production and all other duties as assigned. I've always done maintenance on motorcycles and in the distant past was an "engineer" on a commercial fishing boat in AK.

I'm not great at diagnosing electrical or diesel issues. I'm the DIY guy that can narrow things down and replace and hope. In other words, I couldn't sell myself as a tech. Just being realistic. But I'm sure I could get there.

Vast majority of stuff that isn't super techie? Absolutely.

I don't have to make much money initially. I could have a nice long runway to get ramped up. I'm a quick-ish learner, a hard worker and pretty decent at marketing myself. I can definitely show up on time, be honest about what I can and can't do and communicate professionally.

So what are the chances that a guy like me can make the career change? And what would that path look like?

As always, thanks in advance for your insights.
Wrong audience.

Fix power boats. Thatís where the money is.
Chotu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-12-2020, 17:53   #3
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Virgin Islands
Boat: 1999 Leopard 45, 45 foot cat, 1980 Hunter 33, 33 foot monohull
Posts: 1,169
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

There is an old saying that goes, "Sail for play, power for pay," reinforcing Chotu's post.
contrail is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-12-2020, 19:12   #4
Registered User
 
Orion Jim's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Noank, Ct. USA
Boat: Cape Dory 31
Posts: 2,168
Images: 8
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Orion Jim is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-12-2020, 20:58   #5
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Charleston, SC
Boat: Pearson 424
Posts: 147
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

I quit my job as a high school teacher 5 years ago.
Today I spent a couple hours working in the cockpit of a 53í Beneteau located at a private island surrounded by salt marsh. Yesterday I was meeting with the owner of a super maramu discussing a job for him.
Itís possible.
Spindrift NH is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 03:03   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: Ensenada
Boat: 1970 Willard 36 Trawler
Posts: 1,290
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Anything is possible, but you gotta hussle and hope for a lucky break or two. Sounds like you're bored which is understandable, but it takes passion to drive forward.

I was in a similar situation 20 years ago - boring job, living on a boat in San Francisco. I worked remote for a NJ based company that was in constant re-org so I had a lot of free time plus afternoons free due to time zone.

I got my 100T Master ticket, then started driving for a local dinner cruise company which was sort of fun but erratic. Concurrently, I taught close quarter handling classes aboard my Willard 36 Trawler on weekends - I remembered how terrifying it was to dock a boat and I figured there must be others in same shoes. Lot of fun, but also a lot of work - insurance company claimed majority of my profits. I also taught people in their boats which was also fun but it turns out there are a lot of boats that simply do not want to be docked (an under powered Dreadnought 32 comes to mind).

My lucky break came when I happened to meet two different people. One was meeting a guy who ran a series of weekend seminars for people considering cruising on a trawler. The other was a guy at West Marine corporate who was their head marketing guy. He was all over the world doing cool events - including TrawlerFest, the event the first guy was building. It was held 5 times per year at different venues across the US. It too was fun - four days that drew 300-500 people for seminars, dinners, and of course a small boat show of trawlers, highlight of which was some sort of in-water demo after lunchtime to bring people back to the docks . So I did MOB demos, docking demos, anything I could think of. This gave birth to "TrawlerFest University" with two instructors - myself for boat handling, and Bob Smith of Ford Lehman fame who did a 2-day diesel course where he'd tear down an engine in a large conference room, then wheel it into the parking lot on Day 2 and fire it up.

So I now had national exposure into people who had, for the most part, spent 40 years building a decent nest egg, were past point of saving for their kids college, and wanted to buy a boat. My pitch was being able to afford the lifestyle was the hard part. Actually doing it was relatively easy - just hire me!.

So i quit my job and stayed incredibly busy, and moved mostly into repositioning trawler yachts, mostly from SoCal to PNW, though some into Mexico, occasionally to Florida. It was a good gig and frankly, a decent living. I did it full time for about 5 years and logged over 1000 sea days in the process.

The the phone rang - an old colleague talked me into returning to corporate America. I thought I'd give it a try and if I didn't like it, I'd go back to delivering, but I didn't.

At any rate, long story that I hope you find helpful and inspiring. But I have to say, I was very passionate not just about being on the water, but teaching - working with people to transition from normal life to cruising. Desire to exit corporate life would not have taken me far. I believed very strongly that people needed someone like me.

And I also had some good luck. Had I not met those two guys (who introduced me to countless others, including the publisher of World Publishing Group who I wrote for), I don't know what would have happened.

My best advice is to find something to run toward - something you are passionate about. Running away from something may not be enough. Takes more "luck" that way.

Good luck

Peter
mvweebles is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 04:30   #7
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Little Compton, RI
Boat: Cape George 31
Posts: 1,552
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Here in RI, there's tons of tradesmen working full time on boats. Many never went to college--they just got a job grinding fiberglass in a boat shop. Those who could keep their drinking in check became shop managers or started their own businesses (lots of the work these days is done by subcontractors--that's how yards keep costs down and avoid laying off people when it gets slow). Plenty of lifers who just go from the grinder to the pub and back. Boatbuilding is easy to learn, and shops are always looking for cheap labor, skilled or not.
You could also work as crew on tourist schooners in the summer, build up sea time, and get a captain's ticket. Always work for captains around here.
Whatever marine trade you enter, you'll have to enter at the bottom and work up. It's not always pleasant and pays peanuts, but it is usually hands-on physical labor.
__________________
Ben
zartmancruising.com
Benz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 07:08   #8
Registered User
 
CaptTom's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Southern Maine
Boat: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
Posts: 2,074
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Around here there's always a shortage of free-lance diesel mechanics, canvas/vinyl installers and marine electronics installers. Fiberglass work is also in demand, but you have to be really talented for that one.

Even a general boat mechanic can do well; someone who can install a hydraulic autopilot, troubleshoot the 12V electrical system, or fix the head.

In all cases, the trick is to be punctual and reliable. Being good at running your own business is not the same as being good at working on boats.
CaptTom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 09:39   #9
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 71
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

@Chotu and Contrail- I'm not saying no to power boats, but along the lines of what Orion Jim said, I want to do something I love. I'm not trying to get rich, I'm aiming for better quality of life changes.

@mvweebles- I completely agree about luck. You make your own luck/when luck knocks, have all your ducks in a row/your reputation will bring the right people to your door. I couldn't agree more with "finding something to run towards" that running away from something. I think my passion lies in being on the water, working on beautiful machines (boats in general, not just pretty ones) and community. Teaching sounds like a great way to create community.

@CaptTom- Good points about being punctual and honest. For me, those are the first two rules of running your own company.

@Benz- luckily I'm not much of a drinker. A lot of people don't trust me because I don't drink much. Maybe I should change my group of friends. Hell, someone has to drive them home ; )

Thanks for the responses guys. It's a ways off, but damnit these zoom meetings are killing me and I need something to look forward to.
fschaefer4 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 10:07   #10
Registered User
 
redhead's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: PNW 48.59'45N 122.45'50W
Boat: Ian Ross design ketch 63'
Posts: 1,323
Images: 9
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Consider refrigeration.

Every boat, sail or power. OK almost every boat.
Every area of the world. Hemisphere, salt or fresh water - doesn't matter.
Every climate.

Food preservation matters to the richest and poorest of us. We find the money to fix or install refrigeration, it's right up there with engine repair.

OK, maybe not so vital in places where they drink their beer warm...
__________________
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts...
redhead is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 10:12   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 124
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Develop a talent for either sailmaking (have your own canvas sewing machine), get skilled at fiberglass repair, or like the others said diesel engine mechanics and you will find jobs in most marinas around the world.
jim King is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 10:24   #12
Marine Service Provider
 
boatpoker's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Port Credit, Ontario or Bahamas
Boat: Benford 38 Fantail Cruiser
Posts: 4,490
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

After getting out of hospital due to collapsed lung and duodenal ulcer caused by stress and overwork, my wife threw all my suits in the garbage and told me to find a new way of making a living. She was an incredible woman and going to work every day for the last 30yrs. in this business has been a joy.

Port Credit Marine Surveys

Show up when you say you will
Do what you say you'll do
Charge what you said you'd charge.

In short order you will rule the market.
__________________
it's not that I'm set in my ways but it's taken me 69 years to get it right and I'm not changin' now !
boatpoker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 10:29   #13
Registered User

Join Date: Nov 2018
Posts: 81
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

And you say you want to grind fiberglass in a boatyard for a living??
keyway is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 10:43   #14
Registered User

Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Naples FL
Boat: Cheer Men PT41
Posts: 46
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Always seems to be a dearth of good ac techs wherever I go.
mickand is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-12-2020, 11:12   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: Currently cruising PNW
Boat: Nauticat 43 ketch
Posts: 431
Images: 5
Re: Reality of switching to making a living as a tradesman on sailboats?

Great dream that I think has great promise.

Skilled tradespeople that work on boats are in high demand everywhere, are usually very busy, and there's always room for more.

From a standing start, someone who is handy working on their own boat can always find boat owners with less skills or less time/desire/tools to do the jobs that you have done on your boat. This is the "handyman" approach and it works great as long as you're honest about what you can and can't do and don't take on jobs that are outside your knowledge/skills.

Another approach is to specialize. From a marketing standpoint it's easier to become known as "the boat window guy" than a generalist. Also means less tools and parts to carry around!

The need and demand is there, and a bit of marketing to reach boat owners who need you is not hard, even if you cruise from place to place. For example-
- Walking docks always works, and it's fun to talk with fellow boat owners about their boat. Remember to ask for referrals if they are not a prospect for your services.

- Make friends with harbor masters and their staff and chandleries and ask for referrals and ideas how to reach local boat owners.

- Post flyers at marina bulletin boards

- Ask local boat owners about the local yacht clubs, online forums and Facebook pages, sailing clubs and schools, etc, that you might network with.
Live your dream and have a blast! Remember, there is ALWAYS a way to make it (whatever "it" is) work.
SV__Grace is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
boat, sail, sailboat, trade

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to somethin AndDavRos Provisioning: Food & Drink 36 01-12-2016 06:34
Tradesman Introduction tradesman Meets & Greets 1 06-04-2015 08:08
Making Our Dream A Reality Janice Meets & Greets 5 02-05-2008 05:31

Advertise Here


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 05:50.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.