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Amanda319 13-01-2010 00:07

Sailing Business in Caribbean - Crazy?
First of all, I know I'm crazy (but I've read through these forums and feel comfortable knowing that I'm at least in good company).

I just want to know HOW crazy I am....

My husband and I are restless, 20-somethings Vancouverites. We've been toying with the idea of selling it all and starting a small sailing charter/ flyfishing company somewhere in the Caribbean/ Central America Atlantic Coast. I figure we'll have about $50K to start with.

Here's the thing. We have ZERO sailing experience. We are absolutely willing to take all the courses, do the free crewing, etc. (that is, if this dream takes flight to reality). Realistically - if we were to start today - how long would it take us to be ready to go out on our own??? We are both really fast learners and once we've made up our minds, we'll give it 110% of our time and effort (and money... this is sailing, after all). Even with all of the right experience, will there be serious legal and practical obstacles that we must consider in starting a chartering business?

So, what I want to know is, on a scale of 1 being "smart idea" and "totally doable"... and 10 being "freaken insane" and "impossible", where do we sit?

Feel free to make fun of me... I won't take offense. But some practical advise would also be very appreciated! Thanks ;).

Hampus 13-01-2010 00:30

Maybe 7? :devil: Your budget seems to be a bit low, especially since you would be dropping out of work and learn the ropes first. I'm a firm beleiver that nothing is impossible though.

Aside from learning enough to take responsibility for the maintenance and maybe sailing of th boat or boats, the largest problem I can see is the legal issues and fees involved in starting a business as a foreigner. I'm sure someone else can advise on this...

Hmmm... only $50k... I think I might be upgrading you to a strong 8 :whistling:

Good luck and I'll be :popcorn:


edsailing 13-01-2010 02:42

I have to agree with Hampus - you would be seriously under capitalised. I think I'd go to a 9 score

anjou 13-01-2010 03:05

I will give you a 1 for enthusiasm but as for the rest, the practicalities, I can only say life can make things so tough, even for the hard working enthusiastic types of us who realy do want to make a dream a reality.

There will be courses to do, qualifications to earn, licences to fund, and thats just to get on the start line. There will be competition too, but ive learned a few things.

An example - In the UK, if you thought of opening a store, traditional thinking tells us you look for an area where there is less visable competition, no near neighbours who are selling the same things.

Now go to Thailand and observe their aproach. When they see 10 stores in a row all selling the same things, the wisdom says if there is enough business to support 10 stores, then there is room for 11, and they pitch their store along side the 10.

Always room for one more, or theres always a way to get what you want from life.
Yes im sure it will be tough, specially with a limited budget but if you dont try, you dont know.
Do your homework.

Bon chance.

s/v Moondancer 13-01-2010 03:39

The crewed charter boats in the Caibbean are fairly large and exensive...All the people we know in the busines have boats that cost $200,000 plus. The owners are very experienced with tens of thousands of sea miles...the young people in the industry have been sailing since they were kids and many have advanced qualifications...all the deckhand jobs are performed by locals...

$50,000 might be enough to get you both trained...

Not an impossible dream but much harder than you think...8.5

Rubikoop 13-01-2010 08:43

Ditto Moodancer's comments and score but I do wish you well. Many times enthusiasm and hard work can prevail!!

With your limited budget maybe you could get started as crew/employees for someone already doing what it is you wish to do in Canada/USA and learn the ropes while being paid. You can't get a Capts license without time on the water.

Inkwell 13-01-2010 09:08

I vote for heading to the Islands. Find a job with a charter company doing whatever is needed. If you work hard and learn the sailing skills and get the time needed on water. You both will be OK. Someone can always work in the hospitality industry while the other is working on boats. Spent your money carefully and enjoy life. You both are young enough to do anything. Best wishes for success.

imagine2frolic 13-01-2010 09:31

Dreams are what start things in motion. Unfortunately for you. Your dream will be quite an obstacle to overcome at this point.

If I was you I would move to an area that sails all year long. Buy a daysailor, and sail the bottom paint off of her. Both keep working, and keep feeding the kitty, saving money. I bet in less than 5 years you will be ready. You will be what? In your early thirties with 40 years left to live your dream. Patience is truly a virtue, so don't throw away your money by jumping in feet first. Get a real plan that will support your dream. BEST WISHES, and enjoy the forum while you are here........i2f

jkleins 13-01-2010 09:46

I would think that experience in the hospitality industry is at least equal to, if not more, important then nautical skills in this area so learning to deal with customers and their expectations will go a long way to success. Good luck.


Caribsailors 13-01-2010 11:40

To Late for me But....
If I was you and in Vancouver, use your CDN dollar to get all the training you need and optain a ShipsMasters license, equivilant to a US Capt. license.

Check with Marco Land's End: Owner Operator
Tell him "Destiny's" owner recommended him. He'll know your best approach

Then contact the charter companies in the areas your interested in and market your services and sample itineraries as a crewed charter "team". A hint I was give was to include a 2 week menu plan for a charter.

We've met couples in the Caribbean from around the world that have done this and love it. From my inquires most if not all the companies will require shipmaster, yachtmaster, captains qualifications.

It's do-able, but my advice is to use someone else inventory first.

If I was 10 years younger!!!:thumb:

waverider 13-01-2010 13:07

Ok so lets see if I can help you out here. I have spent some time in the carribean sailing for Charter Company's. I also have the dream of doing it for myself and I have a limited budget.

I think your idea can work but it means you have to have a plan.

So here is my idea:

1) Get Sailing Lessons or Crew on a Charter Boat or on Deliveries (Free)
2) Get your PADI Dive Masters about $ 1000.00, this will give you employement
3) Get your Ocean Yacht Masters about $ 2000.00, this will give you employement
4) Deside on a up and coming destination that is still 3rd World or close to
5) Look for countries that allow alien work visa's easly
6) Save $ 45 000.00 of the 50 for your company and investment in a boat
7) Go work for a year at the distination you choose
8) Get in with a Hotel on the Beach
9) Do DaySails instead of week Charters out of that hotel, thus using smaller less expensive boat
10) Have fun and live life

If you have any questions on what I mean you can email me and I would be glad to help.

It is a limited budget but you can buy a nice 36 foot boat for under $ 20 000.00, you can open up an internet booking office for less then $ 1000.00. You can make a hotel conection for free, (befriend the Manager).

Good Luck!


jackdale 13-01-2010 13:29


Originally Posted by Caribsailors (Post 388010)
If I was you and in Vancouver, use your CDN dollar to get all the training you need and optain a ShipsMasters license, equivilant to a US Capt. license.

Check with Marco Land's End: Owner Operator
Tell him "Destiny's" owner recommended him. He'll know your best approach

Marco is a good guy to talk to.

Also check out the IYT program at BCIT.

Amanda319 13-01-2010 14:52

Wow! I'm absolutely blown away by the wealth of information that you guys have given me in such a short period of time! I really can't begin to thank you enough.

General consensus seems to be that we are out of our minds, but that there's nothing wrong with that... much appreciated. Looks like patience is going to be the main virtue here above all else... but that's so hard when I look out my window and all I see is GREY!!!

Keep the generic advice and personal opinions coming. I love it. But I think I'll throw out a few specific questions as well:

1) Part of the reason that that we were thinking that starting our own business was the best route is that it seems to be the easiest way to get a visa (i.e. creating jobs rather than stealing them). However, some of the advice given is telling us to seek employment down south. Is this actually doable?

2) Whether employed or self-employed, we were thinking of splitting our time between BC and the Caribbean. My husband is an avid flyfisherman (born with a rod in his hand) and would still like to guide up in BC during Fall. Our thinking that that since this coincides with hurricane season, this arrangement would be perfect. Right or wrong?

3) What's the difference between the IYT program and the ASA/CYA programs? Is it one-or-the-other or both? Or a little of each?

4) I have a BComm degree, majoring in Entrepreneurship. Is this something to actually brag about in seeking employment down south, or do I really just need to get certified in something fun, like diving, to add to my skill set? I love diving and have often thought of finishing off my Divemasters, so that's not a big deal... I guess I'm just trying to figure out if my degree has any value in the sailing industry.

I'm sure I will have more questions as this thread builds and the hubby and I further discuss. Thanks again!!!!!

jackdale 13-01-2010 15:40


Originally Posted by Amanda319 (Post 388097)
3) What's the difference between the IYT program and the ASA/CYA programs? Is it one-or-the-other or both? Or a little of each?

The IYT program is designed for professionals on red-flagged vessels, i.e. vessels registered in the Caymans, Bermuda, etc.. IYT is not recognized by Transport Canada as a commercial ticket. It is also not the same as the RYA Yachtmaster with commercial endorsement. Contact BCIT for more information. They work with a Vancouver charter company to provide the IYT program.

ASA / CYA / ISPA are organizations that certify recreational sailors.

barnakiel 13-01-2010 19:05

I do not quite get the part about taking the courses or something. You want to make money or spend money?

Anyway, my two cents:

- While you are still employed, learn all one can about making business, understanding markets, finding niches, business plan writing, budgeting, funding, accounting, legal matters, etc. There is PLENTY on it FREE on the net. Learning the basics should not take you more than one year, if you share the load.

- Talk to friends about your plans, some will help, others might show you ways or meet you with people who might help.

- Based on data available and on your newly acquired knowledge, make a list of businesses you could try with the budget you have and plus the funds you can raise. Make a list of the locations where such a business might fire up. (Or do it the other way round, but do it anyway).

- Book a holiday/charter in the location, get some rest from years' work and look around if the idea of business you have might work. Look carefully because maybe you will find a better business opportunity than the one you planned.

- If you are positive the business gonna work and you want to try and go for it, then go for it - after your holiday expires.

- Try to start with something you are damn good at already. Then go into terrain that is new to you. Start, develop, evolve. Do not start with something you are just emotional about, liking something is not good enough, unless you happen to like something that you are already very good at ;-)

- Have a plan B.


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