SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Financing the Dream

December 10, 2012

We are often asked what we would recommend for those who want to sail away but are not independently wealthy and who want to leave before they retire. Financing the dream along the way can be part of the fun of cruising. I have often written about the changes that happen when you work in an area. You become an instant local, no longer a tourist. The benefits of going sooner rather than later are obvious, but the question remains, how to earn the money to support your sailing habit.

Some sailors are lucky enough to have the training and experience that other sailors lack. If you are a trained diesel mechanic, for example, you will never lack work around cruisers. Similarly, some of the best paid people who work on boats are the "systems guys." Refrigeration, as one of our cruising friends says, is the root of all boat problems. So if you have experience working with marine refrigeration you will find work in nearly any port. Electricians, plumbers, anyone who is trained in boat systems will find that modern cruisers are not nearly as self-reliant as their ancestors, and their talent will easily put food on the table.


My last bartending gig

The problem comes for the rest of us who are not so lucky. Dave has worked on boats for decades, but when we left I had to find a more transient career than teaching high school. Instead, I became a bartender and for nearly a decade, in various areas, I have followed the idea that where there's water there are bars. It rarely let me down. Outside the service industry, there are many other options.

We have known many professionals who have taken their talents on the road, er, water. Doctors without Borders and their counterpart Engineers without Borders are options, though we have no personal experience with them. Another organization matches traveling nurses with locations they are interested in traveling to. Let them know when you'll be sailing into which port, and they can often find work for you upon your arrival. We also met a shipwright who sails wherever he wants, then, when the money gets low, he looks for jobs refitting ships. He is a welder and his qualifications are such that companies often fly him to wherever a ship is dry-docked. He works crazy hours for several weeks, makes enough to add a year's cruising to the kitty, and flies back to wherever his boat may be.

Some of us can work from anywhere. I have stumbled into an educational writing gig that follows me wherever we may sail. But these jobs are certainly not easy to come by or to keep. And, freelance as they are, it's feast or famine.


A forecabin Dave designed and built (and is still varnishing)

One couple we met lived two lives. In the summer, when hurricanes make traveling and staying in the Caribbean uncomfortable, if not dangerous, they tuck their boat away in a safe spot and fly back to L.A. Before they had left to go cruising they were year-round coffee vendors. Once they bought a boat and sailed away, they kept those vending locations and events that were only during hurricane season. In 6 months they made enough money to fund their cruising dreams for another 6 months. As long as your seasonal business is viable during the season you don't plan to be cruising anyway, it's a good option.

One way of funding the lifestyle is often thought of as a way to keep a safety net back home, too. Often (though certainly not always) it is the female half of a couple who is unwilling to sell the family home. As a compromise, the couple decides to rent the house until they are sure that they will enjoy the cruising lifestyle, or as long as they need to to finance their sailing. One couple we know did not need the extra income, but they were not willing to sell the house, "just in case." So instead of selling their beautiful home (whose market value could keep us sailing for the next 30 years or more), they rented it. She was a realtor and had many connections, so they assumed that only appropriate people would be allowed to live in their family home. A year or so into their sailing lives, their renters moved out and the realtor who was watching the house for them went to check on it before renting it again. What she found was the remains and residual damage from a full-blown meth lab. Their house was ruined. Better to have sold it outright and pocketed the money, than to allow someone else to destroy your investment and home.

So how would we answer the question, what is the best way? In our opinion, the easiest way to finance your sailing adventures is to be so frugal and sail so simply that you don't have to worry about it much. So far, it has worked for us.

With the approaching holidays, MONDAY we'll share our pressure cooker holiday meal idea. It's amazing what you can cook in four minutes.

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