Money needed
to buy and refit
a sailboat and
live on it.
         Please send any comments to me.       




How Long Can I Cruise ? section
How Much Money to Cruise Forever ? section
Earning Money While Cruising section
Social Security (USA) section
Frequently-Asked Questions section



"I spent most of my money on women and boats, the rest I wasted."



These calculations don't account for:
The interest rate is critical. Before I started cruising, I thought I could earn 5% on my money. Instead, I got -40% the second year ! Now I'm happy just to preserve capital (0%).

How long will you live ?
The Death Clock
The Longevity Game

How much do you need to save for retirement ?
The Ballpark Estimate
Choose to Save Calculators
CCH Financial Planning Toolkit - Financial Calculators
AnnuityFYI calculators
Broad Financial's "Retirement and 401k Calculators and Planning Resources"

AOL's "Extreme Early Retirement"






How Long Can I Cruise ?

Starting with a certain amount of money, calculate how long you can cruise. You draw down the principal in the bank until you have to stop cruising, get a job, win the lottery, etc.

To see the number of years change, change one of the first 7 numbers and then press Tab or click on another field:
Capital you have when you start (before purchase):
Boat price (purchase and refit):
Annual maintenance (percentage of boat price) you'll spend: %
Annual living expenses:
Annual investment interest rate you'll earn: %
Annual income tax rate you'll pay: %
You stop cruising when this much money is left:


Number of years you can cruise:




How Much Money to Cruise Forever ?

Calculate the amount of capital (money in the bank) needed to buy and refit the boat, and then pay for the annual maintenance and living with the interest only from the money left in the bank. This means living forever in this way; you don't draw down the principal in the bank.

To see the total change, change one of the first 5 numbers and then press Tab or click on another field:
Boat price (purchase and refit):
Annual maintenance (percentage of boat price) you'll spend: %
Annual living expenses:
Annual investment interest rate you'll earn: %
Annual income tax rate you'll pay: %


Total capital needed (before purchase), to live forever:




Earning Money While Cruising

"Verily, men earn their money like horses and spend it like asses."
-- Colonel C. R. Savage, 1869, circa building of Transcontinental Railroad.

Most countries lack enough jobs for their citizens; you may not be allowed to work.

SailNet - Doreen Gounard's "Working and Cruising"
Chris Caswell's "Tax Breaks for Boaters"
SailNet - Paul and Sheryl Shard's "Earning Your Living While Cruising"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Financing the Sailing Habit"
Greg Jorgensen's "How I work as a digital nomad"
Mark Roope's "How not to make money whilst sailing"

Likely ways of earning money while cruising:



From Pam on Workaboard mailing list:
Some (lots) of marinas have liability insurance requirements to work at their docks ... so it is best to be quiet about advertising ... your better bet might be to listen in at the local bars and suggest that you might be available to help in certain situations ... in an anchorage, this problem doesn't occur. Also many marinas don't have detailers readily available ... a word at the marina office might bring you business ... my 18 year old son has a good rep for cleaning hulls, fixing fouled props, rigging (climb the mast stuff) etc ... so the people around refer these jobs to him. Another surprising way to make $$$ is diving for lost articles ... often eyeglasses ... more later if anyone is interested ...

From Janet Hartman on Workaboard mailing list:
Re: Funding the dream

Tom and I have been living aboard just over a year at various places on the east coast. Although I am another one of those computer types, Tom is an electrician by trade. The last year before we sold the house, he changed from being a "land" electrician to being a "marine" electrician by working as a finishing electrician for Viking Yachts. He did that so he could legitimately claim marine experience after he went out on his own.

Beside picking up electrical work, he has also been paid to do rope splices, realign an engine, install bilge pumps, and help an owner replace the head hoses. He was also asked to help with a delivery but had to turn it down. He also subs for the dockmaster on occasion, and will be doing some work on the dockmaster's house. One of our liveaboard friends in another marina is also working in the dockmaster's office.

We had to stay in one place for a while in order for people to get to know Tom and start hiring him. It helps that the marina we are in now is populated mostly by live ashore weekend boaters who do not have the skills and/or the time to do the work themselves. It is also just a marina, not a working yard, so all work is done by contractors. Our previous marina had a lot of liveaboards who had the time and wanted to save $ by at least trying to do things themselves.

It can be awkward drawing the line between just helping out another boater for free or charging for your service. Tom follows Larry Pardey's saying: "Advice is free. If I have to get out my tools, I charge." Free advice gives people a chance to judge how knowledgeable you are. It may or may not surprise you to learn that many people who start out wanting to do things themselves end up deciding to just pay someone else once they find out how much is involved.

We also met and became friendly with some of the local contractors who work on boats in our marina. They have complementary skills and have begun referring work to each other.

From Christopher Bergeron on Workaboard mailing list:
...

Working For Others
A Telecommuting Reflection

A great way to keep the security of a regular paycheck while working aboard is to try your hand at telecommuting. Telecommuting can work wonders but if your employer, co-workers, or job specifics don't all fit just right the entire process can break down, but there's only one way to find out.

I thought that I had the perfect job for telecommuting. I'm your run of the mill computer geek, taking care of servers, solving problems, writing programs. And most importantly I never leave my desk. I decided that I needed to try my hand at this concept of telecommuting that had obsessed me for so long. After making arrangements at work to try two weeks of telecommuting as a trial I took the plunge. I loaded my laptop with all of the tools and toys I would need and went off for my adventure.

After the second day the emails stopped, no voicemails, no urgent requests for help like I usually get throughout the day. Perhaps things were just quiet. It happens. I went on with my routine work, the things I never have time for. As it turned out, I did not have a telecommuting-compatible job. What I had was an office that needed me there as quickly as possible. Those under me had simply gone to my counterparts for their problems, emergencies and questions. Or they had saved them up for my return. My counterparts and several staff members were resentful for what they saw as a free vacation. It was culture incompatibility. Although the technology was there, although I was able to perform every job function more efficiently, no one was willing to work with me.

If your idea of working aboard is one of telecommuting, try it. You may find yourself telecommuting much sooner than you thought, or looking for other options. If you can't telecommute from your house or apartment you're not going to be able to telecommute from your favorite anchorage.

...

From Chris Gregory on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
Re: Working while cruising in the Caribbean:

First, let's clear up a few myths.

1- Bartering.
This still works in undeveloped nations. In the US and British islands they will gladly barter. Your US dollar for their goods ... at prices rivaling New York or San Francisco. I naively calculated that costs in the islands would be roughly double those in my hometown in southwest Virginia. Triple was more like it.

2- Nurses are in high demand.
Nope, NA's are in high demand. Nurses are too expensive. The ONLY place where they hire nurses on a regular basis is the hellhole of a hospital on St. Thomas. The turnover is tremendous because the conditions suck. Nurses all have stories of buying rudimentary supplies out of their own pockets without hope of reimbursement. By the way, the college on St. Thomas more than meets the need for NA's. My partner went down (after an interview the year before) to take a job in the Government Clinic on St. John. When we arrived we learned that there was a hiring freeze due to the government being bankrupt and the doctors and nurses at the clinic were not being paid. Sherrie eventually found work as an Oncology nurse making $25 an hour on St. Thomas. She worked 2-5 hours a WEEK! Her commute was at her expense.

...

At home I'm a fairly well respected musician and bandleader. When we're not touring, I also work part time as an agent and producer as well as a studio musician. Down there I was offered the opportunity to "play for beer" until someone decided they could pay me. My best night was playing with Foxy and his band on Jost Van Dyke (for free). After that, I never pursued music. Musicians are a dime a dozen.

As a backup, I became a Master Diving Instructor - the highest professional rating. Oops! Overqualified again. The dive shops are looking for Divemasters (the lowest professional rating) who will work for tips.

Bottom line - the locals do not want your skills - they want your money. Come down, be a tourist, go home. Don't compete with the locals for the finite jobs they have on the island. Most of these people have money or at least land holdings. They occupy 100% of the bureaucratic positions which places them firmly in a position of control, and when your little white face shows up in the employment line they view you as a threat.

Skills which are in demand: You may have a chance if you're a computer repairman or LAN systems coordinator. Computers are still fairly new in the islands, although they're catching up.

Diesel mechanics. Boats are everywhere and they break on a regular basis.

The nurses I personally knew who were making a decent living were working as maids in the rental properties.

...
From David Romasco on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
I lived for ten years in the [US] Virgin Islands, both ashore and on a mooring, and Chris is pretty much on the mark with his comments. Obviously he was disappointed in what he found, but life in the Caribbean can be a rude shock. My wife and I were fortunate in that we both had secure and relatively lucrative jobs (me in shipping, her in construction management).

His take on the hospital was, if anything, an understatement. I lost two employees there under suspiciously poor care, and virtually everyone I knew had the intention of crawling on a jet to Miami if serious medical care was necessary. The clinic in Tortola, small as it is, has far better care than St. Thomas affords. It's certainly not the nurses, and perhaps not the doctors, but is certainly the fault of the administration. The last head of the department of health is, I believe, currently under indictment for embezzlement in the six-figure range ...

The islander point of view isn't hard to understand when you consider that their economy has imploded over the last decade. There just aren't that many jobs to go around for the people who spend their lives there, let alone for folks who are here today and gone tomorrow. Sorry, folks, but they'll go local even if it doesn't seem logical to a Continental. Remember, they see anybody on a boat as a rich yachtsman. From where they sit, are they that far off? ...

From Jim on The Live-Aboard List:
We had the same idea about selling handicrafts at gift shops and marinas. We created several handcrafted items and a gold ornament (see web page http://www.waterw.com/~weidner/lh-mem.htm ) We even took out color ads and paid for brochures and flyers, etc. They were featured as a gift item in a national boating magazine, but we still had trouble getting ship stores and gift shops to handle them. We had to give as much as a 60+% discount. We spent thousands of dollars in ads and promotions and give-aways. They were also featured in "Soundings" magazine and some others. At every marina we made the rounds of the local shops, left literature, business card, and a free sample. Lots of hard work. Tried E-bay and web site and direct mail. Net result = sales of 200 items, almost at cost. No profit. Loss of some $3000. Not worth the effort. Too many hobbyists doing the same thing for less than cost. That's probably why the "No solicitors" signs -- shops constantly being bothered by "amateurs" hawking their hobby wares. Can't compete and certainly can't make a living. Did get to write off some boat expenses on our taxes tho. :-)

We ended up giving them away to new folks we met at each transient stop. They were highly popular as free gifts to dock mates. Do it for fun -- nothing else works or is worth the time and effort.

From Paul Esterle on The Live-Aboard List:
[About making a "boating stories" TV program or video:]

I also do videos and CDs, mainly boating "How-To"s. I can tell you for a fact that you aren't going to get rich on this and will be lucky to break even. I did a "Guide to Columbia Sailing Yachts" CD with over 600 images on it. Still haven't recouped production expenses. I think it's probably a labor of love more than anything else.

For example, if you have a video and decide to sell it on Amazon.com, you'll need to give them a 55% discount, ship to them at your cost and pay an annual fee for the privilege. They pay two months after the sale and charge a transaction fee unless you opt for direct deposit.

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Alternative Income Sources:

Most people think of cruising as an all or nothing deal. We did for a long time and ended up bankrupt on Guam after about 15 weeks of beans and rice. That was back in the 80's when we were young, stupid, healthy and more employable. We ended up selling out and coming back to the states. Still, we had a fair run, 5 years.

Realistically, though, most mom and pop cruisers under 65 probably work off and on during their cruise. Chandleries are a good option because of the deep employee discounts, but only if you're doing a refit. Otherwise, they're torture because you'll be tempted to spend your cruising chips on doodads. But even 3-6 months dragging bread over a scanner in a 7-11 or night stocking supermarkets can keep you going the rest of the year. This scheme works well for those dragging the intracoastal or shuttling between the east coast and the islands every season.

If you're a US citizen leaving a longer wake, then Puerto Rico, the USVI, American Samoa, FSM, the Marshalls, CNMI, and Guam are places citizens can find work without the hassle of work permits. It's harder to get the 7-11 type jobs in these locations, but if you have skills -- computer, bookkeeping, mechanical, surveying, refrigeration, etc -- you'll probably do okay. If you're a British Commonwealth citizen there are opportunities all around the globe as well as, to a certain extent, if you're French or Dutch.

After the first few years a lot of people work because they want to, not because they have to.

From Fred Fraim on The Live-Aboard List:
I have a steady (but very limited) income. Here at my marina I've found several ways to increase it (by a small amount):

I boat-sit for owners who plan to be away for a period of time.

I take care of pets for these same people and for people who are working full-time.

I've done the odd bright-work job (why can't I get to my own ???).

I help out a mechanic when he needs an extra hand (and learn a few things in the process).

I've made several boat deliveries for people with limited free time.

I've crewed on Bay cruises with people who are not familiar with the area.

I frequently take the helm for a couple who have their own boat but are incapable of handling it themselves (husband is visually impaired, wife is afraid to take the helm by herself). "Payment" is usually a good dinner at places I could not otherwise afford.

These are not steady, high-paying endeavors, but they do help out. I have a list of references here and have developed a good reputation for being honest and reliable.

Not sure how this would work out while cruising. It would require being in one place for a while, and would not suffice as a sole source of income.

From Don Taylor on Low-Cost Voyaging mailing list:
Re: The financial aspects of cruising - cruising with a larger family

What follows is just my opinion, others may dispute it. What I have to say is not very optimistic.

Most long-term cruisers are either young or late middle age. I have met a few families that have gone cruising.

The younger cruisers, like the Hills, have no children and are prepared to live very cheaply. They can live without medical insurance or thoughts about a future retirement income. They can take any odd paying work that they can, which may involve physical labour or hardship. If they run low on funds then they can live off rice and beans. They can get by on a very small boat with basic facilities. I think this is a perfectly great way to spend a few years before the "deadlines and committments" stage arrives. I wish that I had done that.

The older cruisers have a grown-up family, have saved some money and have figured out when they can stop generating income and still survive for the rest of their lives. This is an equation that I am finding quite tricky to resolve. On the one hand, you can't leave it too long before old age and infirmity creeps up on you, on the other hand you do need to figure out how you are going to survive on your savings for the rest of your life.

The cruisers with families mostly seem to be quite well off, or they are being funded by their own parents. These folks are doubly fortunate, because not only do they not need to worry too much about money, but their kids get to grow up in a great environment. Without exception, I have never met a cruising kid that I have not wished was a child of mine. They have all been smart, responsible and respectful of others. None of them have been "Mall brats". They have their parent's attention 100% of the time, they are given serious adult responsibilities early in life and they see a lot more of the world and its peoples.

If you have a wife and four children, you cannot get by on a Contessa 26 and a sack of rice and beans. If you don't have an independent income already, then you are going to have to create one. This means finding a way to save many sackloads of cash. For ordinary folks, the only way that they can save is by not spending. This is very tough to do in a Western, consumer-oriented society. It means finding a really cheap place to live which will not be in the nicest part of town, or even in a town. Think trailer park. It means never borrowing money to buy anything, except maybe a house; even then you have to have a plan to pay it off quickly. It means driving a very old car, or no car at all. It means clothes from the GoodWill. It means no cable or satellite TV, absolutely no eating out, it means borrowing books and CDs from the public library instead of buying them, camping vacations, ... Even so it is going to take years. I am sorry to be a downer, but this is going to be real tough for you if you have four children to raise and they have needs that conflict with these constraints.

On a personal note, Sue and I were very fortunate to be able to cruise for 6 months and then get our jobs back again for the following six months. We did this for a couple of years. We were both software designers and in the late '90s it was easy to find work that paid really well. Then the bubble burst and we both got laid off. We were both out of work for 18 months before Sue found another job at 2/3 her previous salary. I have never been able to find another job. So, for a brief period in the late '90s it was possible to do what you would like to do. But no more. If you have a software job these days then you had better hang on to it as long you need the income because the gold rush definitely is over.

The most successful part-time cruiser I know is an MD whose wife is his medical secretary. Whenever he comes back to Canada he has to fight off the other MDs who want him to take over their practices for a few months. However, last time I saw them, their boat was up for sale because they had lost so much of their savings in the stock market crash. The lesson here is that once you have your stash you still have to be very, very careful about where you keep it.

From Jack Tyler on Cruiser Log Forums:
I agree that some kind of work is available in many places. What needs to be added is that you may well need to be astute and cautious both when accepting it and while 'employed'. With few exceptions, poorer countries and island nations are very protective of local work going to local labor (vs. e.g. "wealthy yachtie foreigners"). What this means for you is that local labor laws will prohibit or at least make it very difficult for you to obtain a work permit and be legally employed. Consequently, many yachties do work 'under the radar', keeping a low profile, OR they move on to look for less risky work.

However, WRT to the Caribbean specifically, let me post below a segment of cruising notes I wrote for the Central Caribbean. This is an island nation that is eager to have non-residents as legal labor and, being a First World entity, the pay scales are far better than you'll find in most of the Caribbean. Just one more data point to consider:

"Employment: We don't often read about employment opportunities (and hurdles) in cruising notes but some long-term cruisers do need to 'work as they go'. If that's you, give Grand Cayman a close look. When we visited in February, 2002 there were 600 job openings reported in the press despite a somewhat weak economy. The local chamber of commerce was holding a Job Fair, and many of the jobs – running dive operations, skippering boats for day charters, generally running the cruise ship and hotel tourists to the various sights to see, and trade work done by the yacht management/service businesses on the island – are especially suitable for cruising sailors. The banks and insurance companies also need employees who are computer-literate and can perform IT, accounting and clerical tasks. One place to begin your job search might be the Employment Services Center (see the phone book), as it claims to serve in part as a clearinghouse for jobs. The 'work permit' process reportedly takes about 6 weeks, is initiated by the employer, and shouldn't cost you a dime (farthing?). Both health insurance and an employee/employer contribution retirement plan are mandated by law, though you may need to encourage your employer to include you should s/he believe you are a short-term employee. (The retirement plan is portable after one year, which sounds like a long time but can go fast in this convenient location, and you can take with you the employer's portion as well as your own). And while some cruisers purchase 2nd-hand cars while working ashore here, don't forget that the island is small and the W end of Grand Cayman is covered by an extensive bus service. Visit the bus terminal area adjacent to the library for more information."

From Tony on Cruiser Log Forums:
I've lived in the BVI for 12 years now and I can tell you that Labour and Immigration depts are pretty much on top of people "under the radar" - and they don't like it!

Also, it's a completely different thing living and working in these places than "just visiting". Too many people fall in love with these pretty places and friendly natives when they are on holiday and then find that attitudes change, prejudices become noticeable, and often claustrophobia sets in, when they actually try to settle.

From "Get Smart":
99: "Oh, Max, sometimes I wish we just had normal lives, that you were just a businessman with a 9-5 job."
Max: "Well, 99, we are what we are. I'm a secret agent, trained to be cold, ruthless and savage. ... But not enough to be a businessman."

From Paul Brown's New York Times review of "The Ultimate Cheapskate" by Jeff Yeager (on Amazon):
He is an expert in cushion mining - fishing around for lost change in hotel lobby furniture. "Trust me", he says, "those things are like upholstered ATM's".

My thoughts about my own situation:
I don't want to work, and fortunately I don't have to.

I was a computer programmer for 20+ years. But I find much of my experience wouldn't really help me do paid computer work for cruisers; no one out here needs a program written for them. Tech-support skills would be much more useful than programming skills. And I'd have to be up-to-date on the newest versions of operating systems. And probably carry setup CD's and bootable repair CD's.

Some computer problems cruisers have had:

Lynn Pardey's tips for writing sailing-magazine articles, 2011:







Social Security (USA)

Get statement from Social Security.

Social Security Online - Benefits Planner.
Don't bother downloading and trying their benefits-computation program; it is impossible to figure out.

My understanding of Social Security and early retirement:

Fabulous book about the long-term health of the Social Security system:
"Social Security: A Non-Biblical Perspective" (2005) by Mark Shemtob (on Amazon).
He makes a couple of important points:





Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

I have no money, but I want to go cruising.
Save your money. Cancel the cable TV and cell-phone, stop going to bars and clubs and restaurants and coffee shops, drive your old car until it dies, stop buying clothes, take up cheaper hobbies (hiking, bicycling, running, etc), take no vacations or cheaper vacations, stop smoking, share a house/apartment, pay off the credit cards. Go to the library instead of buying newspapers/magazines/books/CDs or buying/renting/seeing movies. Eat a bag lunch (sandwiches, yogurt, soup, whatever) from home instead of buying lunch. Drink tea made from tea-bags, instead of coffee or soda. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. A very hard one: get rid of pets (food and veterinary bills). Cut expenses wherever possible. Keep a personal spending journal to see where the money goes.
Trent Hamm's "How to Live a Rich Modern Life Without Much Debt"
Trent Hamm's "100 Things to Do During a Money Free Weekend"

[There is a whole movement called "voluntary simplicity" that advocates this kind of lifestyle change. I have yet to find a really good web site about it, but try some web searching to find out more.]

Move to a sailing town. Hang around marinas and look for opportunities to help, learn, crew, sail.

Or move to where the best jobs are, work and save like crazy until you do have the money, then do it.

"In my youth, we would laugh about people with more money than brains. Now I aspire to it."











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