Don’t miss PART 1 of this series: Earning to Sail, Sailing to Earn
Earning a modest living while cruising the world has never been easier or more fun. The Internet has truly freed us. What is geo-location anymore? For many of us, it is a joke. “Anyone who still has to actually be somewhere has missed the whole concept of cyberspace,” one shipboard cyber artist recently told me. “And having a physical address is so yesterday!”
It is true.
I do commercial writing for folks who have no idea I’m rolling around naked on a small boat in the Roaring Forties. I have a friend who codes computer games in his aft cabin, another who is the most respected actuarial (insurance life-span) number cruncher in London. (Well, not in London but they don’t know he hangs in Musket Cove, Fiji.)
Teachers and tutors and coaches are all in demand. I write these words from Clarkes Court Bay in Grenada. Within a short dinghy drive are exercise, yoga, cooking, and Tai Chi classes all organized by for-profit, live-aboard instructors.
One woman aboard an American yacht is booking a dozen taxi tours a week all for a fee, of course. (She advertises daily, without costs, on the 7:30 VHF net on Channel 66.)
Want to join a ‘friendly’ poker game? Wanna make it more interesting? (Watch your wallet!)
Yachties love to learn stuff and who knows this better than their fellow yachties? Have you always wanted to know how to take good quality underwater photos? Or how to play steel pans? How to cook the local dishes? Which roadside spice is which?
There’s a yachtie in Grenada who is willing to help for a small no receipt fee.
Why, there’s even a boring writer who will teach others how to write boring prose for an exciting number of freedom chips.
My favorite “sailing professional” was a balloon-twister from Australia who dressed like a clown, twisted balloons, and was making money hand-over-fist!
Many yachties have TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificates all the better to teach hardworking Asians, many of whom are desperate to learn English.
With the number of live-aboard children growing each year so does the demand for sailing tutors. Many former teachers have morphed into sailing tutors laboring to keep the sailing Calvert kids on-track. (Tutors, of course, free up the parents as well.)
Yes, teachers have a lot of competition in LA, NYC, and Chicago but in Chagos or the Tuamotus, not-so-much.
The Nimble Navigator teaches just that we saw him grabbing handfuls of cash in both the Canaries and Sint Maarten this year. (He anchors his boat just in front of the local sailor’s bar and word spreads fast that he’s in town.)
I was amused to discover the yacht Shoe String was owned by a former cobbler who was now sailing on the money he earns from lacing kid glove leather to wheels, making custom turnbuckle covers, and creating other fancy rope-and-leather work aboard.
The number of professions that can be engaged in aboard is almost limitless. Barbi Devine (she is divine!) refused to stop teaching piano when her hubby lured her aboard their Whitby 42 which now has a state-of-the-art Roland piano built right in.
Ann Miller, the famous marine watercolorist, made her living off her art for many years akeeping the husband and three children busy wrapping and shipping her delicate work all over the world.
Floating jewelers abound. When I manufactured jewelry aboard Corina in the late 1960s I couldn’t make it fast enough. So, if you wanted to buy an original Goodlander piece, you had to not only pay but help make it! (At first, I thought my customers would balk not so! They wanted to be a part of the coolest, silliest scene in Saugatuck, Michigan and they were.)
We know a very well-known Caribbean sailor who is also a (less well-known) professional transvestite who is constantly moaning about how difficult is to keep his gowns nice. (He shock-cords them while on passage, so they don’t chafe.)
A lot of boaters earn in unusual ways. For instance, I just sold my Hughes 38 to a male stripper who offered a jock-strap of hundreds in payment.
There’s a ton of other, more traditional yachtie jobs: I often survey boats for people especially if they want a thumbs down! Yacht delivery jobs are often hired on a “who’s around” basis (often with horrible results).
Larry Pardey, of course, has worked as a “have saw & caulking mallet; will travel” shipwright to finance his voyages. (Lin wields the pen, not the adze!)
Many copy editors, prose editors, and proofreaders are going mobile. One of the publications that I’ve worked with for many years doesn’t really exist anywhere specific anymore. The editor is sailing in one country, the graphic designer is windsurfing in another, and the proofreader is kayaking in a third. No, the land-locked person mailing out the subscriptions has never met anyone they work for and never will.
If large flourishing businesses don’t need a physical address why do you?
Lots of yachties play music for food, drinks, or cash money. Some work as buskers when broke especially in New Zealand, where Kiwis like street musicians so much that they have an annual festival for them.
We know a number of sailing divers who supplement their cruising by collecting and selling tropical fish the real secret here isn’t catching the fish, it’s logistically getting them to their buyer alive. (“I spend more time in airports than in the water,” lamented our friend.)
Much of Asia hasn’t gotten the memo there’s a world-wide recession and are currently expanding their exports like crazy. This often means they need translators and proofreaders and copy editors to produce their manuals and they also need American-style models (for ads, videos, etc).
Often, Asian advertising companies seek Western models in marinas which makes sense. We know two couples (handsome, mid-30s) who are refilling the cruising kitty in Hong Kong and Singapore by being both hardworking and photogenic.
We are also friends with a French dentist who travels to the more remote Pacific islands aboard his yacht and gives high quality dental care five days a week to those who can afford it, and accepts fish and coconuts on the weekends for those who can’t.
There’s nothing on the electrical side of a marine generator that you can’t learn in a day or two. (The diesel engine is, of course, another matter.)
A growing number of floating repairmen specialize: one services a specific watermaker, another interfaces a certain type of NEMA instrument line, yet a third specializes in windlass rebuilds.
We’ve only run into one RIB (rigid inflatable boat) rebuilder in our travels but he was booked until the Second Coming.
My British sailing buddy Peter Thurlow of Antares fixes outboards as he wanders the Atlantic basin. I always thought that might be complicated and require a lot of tools and parts but he disagrees. “Mostly, I drain the water out of carburetors,” he says. “Occasionally, something is really wrong but 98% of the time, it is water in the carb!”
I used to swing compasses (with the WWII Astrocompass my father passed on to me) and adjust sextants neither of which will make you rich today.
Right now, the hottest “handy man” on the waterfront is the “marine refrigeration dude” even if he’s only been on a boat once or twice. Ditto, gel-coat toucher-uppers. (And for the record, one of the most popular refrigeration repairmen is a she!)
If you’re handy with tools and want no competition, you can emulate my buddy Robin, the famous “Head Hunter” of Florida who reports his marine job stinks, even though he’s #1 in a #2 business!
Doing transom lettering isn’t such a stretch for many graphic artists nor is hair-cutting.
One yacht-addled “hair stylist” in Opua, New Zealand, used to see a dozen customers a day behind the marina office and make a fortune from the ladies. (Yes, good patter and a sympathetic ear are important.)
In essence, the ability to earn money while sailing around the world is only limited by one’s imagination, grit, and sweat.
Some people, of course, bristle at the above. They think only professional people who have amassed sizable fortunes should be able circumnavigate not the money-grubbing workers.
I respectfully disagree.
Yes, I’ve led a varied life. And, yes, I’ve done things I’m ashamed of but working my way around the world isn’t one of them.
Editor’s note: Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander are enjoying their new Perkins M92B diesel, which, they assure me, is paid for!
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 52 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now. Visit: