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Old 09-14-2004
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Michelle Potter is on a distinguished road
Financing the Sailing Habit


Savvy sailors know how to keep their dreams of cruising afloat when the economy turns a little sour.
To some people, sailing is a hobby. To others, it's a lifestyle. Either way, all sailors have something in common, they've all had to find creative ways to finance their passion for sailing.

When you're young, life is relatively easy. You can sleep outside—on the deck, under the stars—and you never think once about the cold, damp morning dew, the hard sleeping surface, or that funny crick in your neck that comes from using a rolled-up jacket as a pillow. You are the perfect crewmember. You can work from sunrise to sunset without complaint. You have the flexibility to travel anywhere at any time. And you're always ready for a late-night social event or an early-morning start to a race.

Lucky you. If you're young enough to crew, good enough to teach sailing, or social enough to have friends with boats, you can let others subsidize your sailing habit. For the rest of us, those who want to own a boat so that we can reserve the right to sleep in the coziest berths, travel where we want to go, and sail when we want to sail, we're going to have to fund the sailing kitty ourselves. Here are some creative financial tips to get you started.


Finishing someone else's boat might be an alternative avenue to boat ownership for you. 

If you don't have the funds to buy your own boat, you can:

  • Advertise for a boat partner. You and your boat partner essentially have joint-custody of the boat. You share all expenses and schedule your time with the boat in advance.
  • Charter a boat. There are several well-known charter companies that can walk you through this process. Many of them have lease-to-own programs as well.
  • Finish someone else's boat. Read the ads in the backs of magazines or call boatyards in your area. Get the word out that you're looking for a hull or unfinished project and you'll soon have a surprising variety of offers. Some people may even give their projects to you for free. Inspect any prospective project thoroughly, and with a professional builder, if possible.
  • Start small. Do you remember your first apartment as a student? Did you ever think about how tiny it was? Buying a boat can work the same way. Start small and work your way up to something bigger, if you feel that's necessary. 

    You needn't start out with the boat of your dreams. Starting small can keep the budget manageable while helping you learn important lessons when  there's less at stake.
  • Start a boat building school. I know a woman who taught a class on “How to Build a Yurt.” When the class was finished, she moved into the yurt! If you have the space, the teaching skills, and the desire to run a small business, you may be able to arrange a similar situation for yourself except your class would build you a boat, not a yurt.
  • Build your own boat. OK, so I wrote in an earlier article that we didn't save any money by building our own boat. That's true, however, our expenses were spread out over a period of years, so we found it much easier to finance our boat rather than paying for it all at once.
  • If you have a boat and want to get started cruising, you can:
    Rent out your house while you travel. Interview perspective tenants carefully and make sure you have a trusted friend who can pick up the rent or arrange for routine maintenance on your home.
    "To pad the cruising kitty underway you can work as a nanny, be a personal chef, or opt for some boat delivery work. "
  • Work in a foreign country. This has to be arranged well in advance, but it can pay off for you as a cruiser. You can teach at an international school, work for a local division of a multinational corporation, contract for a short-term job, be a nanny, be a personal chef, or check-out a book on working overseas and find a job that fits your personality.
  • Deliver boats. Read articles by SailNet's own John Kretschmer to find out if this is the kind of work you'd enjoy.

    If you're already cruising, you can:
  •  earn to repair your boat yourself.
  • Travel off the beaten path. Follow the adventures of Pete and Annie Hill if you want some inspiring stories about how to live well away from civilization.
  • Use a debit card so you only get cash when you need it. ATMs are found throughout the world now, so you can get local currency at a good rate of exchange only when you need it. Keep track of your balance, though!

  • Cruising dreams are certainly still attainable, it's just a matter of keeping your approach current with the times.
    Use a credit card when you can. A trusted friend or relative will have to pay that credit card statement when it arrives, but a credit card will let your kitty earn interest at the bank for the month before the statement arrives.
  • Keep your money in a high-yield, interest-bearing account. Compare the interest that your money can earn at different banks and brokerage accounts. Find the place that will give you the highest interest with the least fees. Be aggressive in your search. Even a 1 percent difference can add up over time.
  • Write down all of your expenses. I don't know why this works, but it does. Writing down every dime you spend will make you much more thoughtful about how you're spending your money.
  • Use calling cards. Buy them in bulk at a wholesaler or ask for them as gifts. Most phone cards will work from pay phones or internationally. And, when you break down the cost, they'll save you money almost every time.
  • Ask your friends and family to stop sending you packages. This expense is particularly painful if you have a mail-forwarding service. Your kind friends think they've already paid the postage for the package, but you'll have to pay the postage a second time to have the package forwarded. Internationally, receiving packages can be a headache. You may spend days waiting for a particular package. When it finally arrives, you may pay more in taxes, tariffs, and bribes than your package is actually worth!

Make friends with everyone you meet along the way. In the Abacos, there's an active ‘cruiser's net' that meets every morning on VHF. Other cruisers will usually be able to give you tips on where to find the best service, groceries, anchorages, and so on. You can also reach out to meet the people who live in countries that you're visiting. You never know when you may be invited to eat dinner with the local customs officials or shop with a local resident who really knows how to find a bargain at the bazaar. 

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