Preparing Your Finances To Go Cruising Part 3

Part 3

Increase Income

Another way you can build your cruising kitty is increase your income. The less money you have going out and the more money you have coming in is always better. Keep working your job, because if you’re planning on changing your life and going cruising, you’ll need every penny you can make. You will want to work right up until you cast off the dock lines. If you have time for a second job, get one now. If the family, or your spouse is as excited about this as you are, then they should get a second jobs too. Cruising is all about teamwork. If they are not on board with the idea of going cruising, then you should rethink your dream. Seriously. Many would be cruisers have found that you often have to choose between your loved ones and cruising. More on that later in Preparing Yourself to Go Cruising.

Some creative ways that we personally use to increase our income are by working a second job, working longer hours at the same job (this only holds true if you’re paid by the hour), selling our cars, and selling our stuff (garage sales and ebay are awesome). This is your first taste of working to live, not living to work, and it will be the way you view your moneymaking ventures from now on if you choose to live the cruising dream for years to come.


Preparing Your Finances To Go Cruising: Part 2

pile of cashPart 2

Reduce and Eliminate Debt

The first thing you need to do to begin building your cruising kitty is to reduce and eliminate your debt.  Debt is the money you owe.  Let’s go over the different types of debt.  Real Estate loans constitute the largest form of debt for most people.  Real Estate loans are money making investments and you need to take into consideration your future cruising needs when deciding the best course of action in regards to these.  For example, if you are only planning to try cruising for a year, you may not want to sell your home, but instead choose to rent it out while you are gone.  Many people cruise for years on the rental income they receive from more than one property.  Still others simply sell their home, pay off their debts, and sail into the sunset with fewer responsibilities.  If you are unsure of which option is best for you, you should consult your accountant or a financial advisor to help you decide how best to use your real estate equity to help you achieve your cruising dream.
Another kind of debt is student loans.  Student loans are often a hefty percentage of many people’s debt load and it might be unrealistic to try to pay the whole amount off before you go cruising.  Paying back student loans is important, and you can continue to do this while you cruise by leaving a set amount in your bank account and arranging for automatic payment through a bank draft.  Make sure you leave enough in the account to make payments for the entire length of your planned cruising sabbatical.  Make sure if you are trying to arrange a minimum payment amount that you are paying a significant amount, enough that your principal is steadily reducing and you are not paying mostly interest, as this will get you nowhere except longer in debt.
If you have an automobile loan, pay it off as soon as possible, even if you have to sell your vehicle to do it.  If you want to be a cruiser, you can’t be the typical American that uses their vehicle as a form of self expression or an extension of their personality.  As a cruiser, you need to forget all the material facades and understand that the purpose of a vehicle is a practical one.  Your car transports you from place to place, in reality, it has no other purpose.  You can find a reliable, used vehicle for next to nothing, we usually pay no more than $1000.00 for a car, and maybe $2500.00 for a truck.  Then we sell them when we go long-term cruising again.  Credit card debt,  personal loans, back taxes, and all other debt needs to be reduced as much as possible before you take off because your financial responsibilities will be the one of the main factors in determining how long you can cruise.
Any debt that you still have within a year will have to be paid by cash reserves that you will leave in your bank account for that purpose and for the purpose of paying any monthly bills like insurance, a cellular phone, or storage units.  The less debt you have, the longer your cruising kitty will sustain your new cruising lifestyle.   Don’t forget as you focus on paying off your debt to pay yourself first by setting aside ten to thirty percent of your income and investing it in your savings.  A lot of the financial advice here is very basic, simple stuff.  Feel free to consult with your financial advisor to help you decide the best way to organize your finances while you prepare to go cruising.  In any case, simplification is an essential part of going cruising.  Paying off your debt and building your savings and money making investments will contribute heavily to your cruising success.

Preparing Your Finances To Go Cruising: Part 1

Part 1

The Cruising Kitty

A kitty as defined by Webster’s dictionary: money pooled for some purpose.  The keys to a healthy cruising kitty and your financial tools for cruising responsibly include a checking account with a debit card, a money market fund, and any other investments you have that provide cash flow, such as stocks or real estate.  If you don’t own any stocks or real estate, that’s okay.  All you need to go cruising is a checking account with a debit card and a money market fund to serve as your savings account.
A regular savings account is fine for a place for money to sit, but a money market fund will pay a better interest rate and is still liquid.  Please note, a money market account with your bank is not a money market fund, it is a glorified savings account.  A money market fund would be through an investment brokerage firm like Vanguard or T. Rowe Price, and they pay much better interest rates.  You can keep the bulk of your savings in a money market fund and transfer the proper amount to your checking account to cover your monthly expenses while you’re gone as needed.  That way your money is making money for you as it sits in your savings.  You can arrange these transfers to your checking account to occur quarterly.
You should know before you go cruising exactly what bills are due each month, then be able to set up an automatic bill payment plan through your checking account.  As long as you make the transfers from your savings to cover these bills plus living expenses, you won’t have to worry about not being able to pay your bills.  Debit cards with a VISA or Mastercard logo are accepted all over the world and most cruisers agree they are the most convenient choice for cash withdrawals and financial transactions to cover daily living expenses.

Check Back For Part 2 Reducing Debt

Sailing Offshore

dsc_3304Images of sailing offshore bring about many different thought for people. Some people visualize a scary image of being surrounded by a desert of water with huge waves attempting to sink their boat. They feel more fear of what they think it would be like than they are able to see all the details of what a typical day on the ocean would be like. Their inability to visualize the details is due to a lack of experience on the water, or it might be caused by a single bad experience on the water, or if like a majority of people it is influenced from knowledge gained from television and movies that emphasize on the dramatic negative stories that hold the viewer like any bad car wreck that stops traffic with people staring at the wreckage. Then you have the people, mostly men who visualize sailing offshore as an escape from the cities or their daily lives with everyday ending with a perfect sunset and cocktails. Unfortunately both types of people are both right and wrong. Anyone who spends enough time on the ocean will have experiences that will scare them and bring them to the realization that no matter how well prepared you are, once you are offshore you are at the mercy of mother nature. The key to this is learned from mariners who have spent countless days offshore and who rightfully so respect the weather. The same can be said about the wonderful, magical times one will experience by spending time on the ocean. There will definitely be the times when you will feel so incredibly lucky to experience the gifts of nature on the open sea. A pod of dolphin swimming alongside, a moonless night where the stars a so thick you think of the romans who looked at those same stars and created the constellations and stories about their characters and the companionship those same stars gave them every night. There will be the sunset cocktails, the rainbows, the amazing phosphorescents trailing behind your vessel on a night passage, the sense of accomplishment upon making landfall in a foreign port, the welcoming transition to dawn with a cup of coffee as you watch the night fade away and the sun rise over the open ocean, feeling the boat find it’s rhythm with the swells as she surfs up and down the waves as you clip along in a perfect 15 knot breeze just aft of the beam, and so many other sensations that will stay with your every living moments that you will either love it or not.
One of my most memorable experiences happened on our 17 day passage from Beaufort NC to St. John in the USVI. The first part of the trip was far from ideal. We struggled to make our easting needed to achieve before entering the trade winds and progress was slow. On about the fifth day out we were only a few hundred miles off the east coast with a track on the chart looking like a lightning bolt from all the tacking we were doing as we waited for a front to push through and give us a more favorable wind. When the front did finally pass through the winds clocked around to the north west and began to howl around 40-45 knots. The next two days we sailed and surfed our 32 foot sailboat farther than in the previous five days combined. Our track straightened out and even though the ride was intense in the high winds and 15 foot seas it was a good feeling to be making some good distance. On the night of the second day the winds began to lighten and then were gone completely. I still only had up a tripled reefed mainsail and a storm jib up when it happened which left us rolling on the giant swells with no stabilization from our sails. It was a long night as we fired up the engine in an effort to gain some forward direction as we listened to the sails slap at the air. When daybreak finally came I was rewarded with one of the most magical sight I have ever witnessed. We were riding along on an ocean as slick as oil with swells big enough to swallow our boat completely. In the troughs we were surrounded by walls of water as calm a lake on a summer morning and as we rode up to the crest of one of the swells the view out across of breathtaking. The ocean was alive! It was as if we were riding with a herd of elephants all running in the same direction. On the crest of the swells all you could see was the rounded tops of all the other waves moving up and down and they raced along to the southeast. The speed that they traveled was astonishing as they approached from behind and we rode up and over swell after swell. I have seen the ocean in many different moods, so many times its character is a direct influence from the wind and as the wind changes so does the ocean in direct proportion. This was such a different experience because the ocean was alive long after the winds effect. It was a memorable morning riding the smooth swells, watching the sunrise and morning turn to day. It was a peaceful feeling witnessing something I had never seen before and have not experienced since.
And now as I sit here riding in mar car on a boat (riding a ferry off Ocracoke island where we live) writing this I once again have this peaceful feeling. Memories like this are what life is all about. Being able to recall times that touched the soul, that made me stop and give thanks for the experience, loving life and always looking forward to the next magical experience. For me and for many others these experiences just so happen to happen more often on the ocean, this is our “Ocean Medicine”.

Sacrificing the Cruising Season

Sometimes it is neccessary for us to, (horror of horrors), skip a cruising season!  We usually work seasonal jobs June through November and then cruise the islands December through May.  However, if we do not make the neccessary amount of money for the cruising kitty, we cannot go for the whole time or at all in some cases.  This year, we lost our diesel engine.  It finally died for good.  The replacement will set us back about $10,000.00.  It looks like we will need to keep working in order to pay that off and save enough to go cruising next year.  We choose to cruise debt free.   We have been debt free for as long as we’ve been cruising and do not want the burdens or risks of debt holding us back or pulling us under.  It is easier and more carefree cruising for us that way.  There is also the possibilty that we could make enough money between now and  the usual departure date.  I could sell the book I’ve been working on, or maybe 1,000 copies of my ebook, “Preparing Your Finances to Go Cruising” (for sale on my website, OR maybe we’ll have one of our business ideas take off in the next couple of months for a remote income from a website based business. . . If you want to keep cruising you have to have all sorts of money sources, we are working on more than a few.  But, for now, it’s mainly good old fashioned rat race style working that is feeding our hungery cruising kitty.  I work in a realty office and my husband, Brian, does remodels for existing homes.  I still harbor the hope that we will make enought to pay for a new engine and go cruising in December – anything is possible, right?  If it doesn’t happen, we will be madly planning a fabulous cruising season for December ’09!

Passage Notes from Marathon to Angelfish Creek – Florida

Passage from Marathon to Angelfish Cay

After spending three months living and working in Marathon, Florida our time had come to move on. We had been living on a mooring in Boot Key Harbor on our 32’ Bayfield “Puff”. The facility provided by the town of Marathon at its City Marina caters to liveaboard cruisers. For a very reasonable monthly fee ($260 for our 32’ sailboat) they provided a dingy dock, showers, laundry facility, book exchange, and bike racks. The marina also strictly enforces no overboard discharge and provides weekly pumpouts from a pumpout boat that makes its rounds throughout the week. We feel a lot of other marinas could learn a thing or two in this respect by making pumpout stations more available.
On our trip down to Marathon we had taken the bay side route and enjoyed the shelter of the many small cays. Wanting to get the full experience we planned an ocean side return north. On our itinerary were stops at Molasses Reef and the dive at the Christ of the Abyss. Our first leg of the trip took us from Marathon up to Rodriguez Cay just off Key Largo. We planned our departure according to the weather and as the wind was shifting to the southeast we set sail The water inside the reef was crystal clear turquoise and as we approached the greater depths of the open sea it darkened into the cobalt blue of the deep. Their are two options for cruising the ocean side of the keys, the open sea beyond the reef or the marked channel through the inside of the reef. We chose the open ocean passage in hopes of catching dinner as we trolled the ledges of the abyss. Our only luck was a single bonito (too bloody for our taste).
As we approached Rodriguez Cay the wind had died and we ended up motoring the last few hours to a beautiful anchorage. Our view of the open ocean had a bit of excitement that went along with the beauty of it. Excitement in it because there is always the possibility of the wind shifting onshore and putting you on a lee shore in the middle of the night. The forecast held and there was only light winds shifting to the southwest and a brilliant red sunset to end the day.
The next morning we awoke to a glass calm anchorage and billowing cumulus clouds out over the gulfstream. The day was already warm and had that wonderful tropical feel as the birds on Rodriguez Cay serenading us to another glorious day. Molasses Reef lay only seven miles from the anchorage where we arrived around 9:30am. We grabbed our fins and masks and were over the side exploring the remains of a spanish galleon’s anchor, a beautiful swim through, and some of the most dramatic coral formations we have seen. After nearly two hours of diving we were satisfied with our visit Molasses reef and set sail to the Christ of the Abyss eight miles northeast.
On the sail we enjoyed a quick lunch and rest as we got ready for the second dive. Our expectations of this dive were only to see the statue and continue on to Angelfish Cay. As we picked up a mooring and jumped overboard we found ourselves in a fabulous coral garden. The formations came from 25 feet to within 5 feet of the surface with huge hogfish and groupers swimming throughout. The Christ of the Abyss statue was placed within these formations obviously to protect it from currents and surge while creating a glorious backdrop. It was truly a magnificent area to explore and well worth the effort.
It was now 4pm and time to make for Angelfish Cay before the wind clocked around to the north like forecasted. The wind was piping up out of the west with the approach of the front and clouds that were rolling in. Within 5 miles a dark cloud passed over giving us a light shower and bringing the north winds on its backside. The cool dry air told us that was the front and the engine came on to motor us the remaining way. The approach to Angelfish Cay and Angelfish Creek that brings you bay side was very straightforward with clear channel markers and good depth throughout. We opted to anchor in one of the many small channels off Angelfish Creek to wait out the strong northeast winds that followed with the high pressure behind the front.
Our splash back into truly cruising again after a short stint of work in Marathon was fabulous. We choose a good weather window for what we wanted to do and got some great sailing and diving as a result. We are looking forward to the rest of our voyage back north, sailing, fishing, diving, and exploring as we go.

Stuart, Florida: The Best of Both Waterworlds

Stuart, Florida is a nice stop for cruisers for many reasons. First and foremost is it’s prime location on Florida’s Treasure Coast with ocean access through St. Lucie Inlet and more than one comfortable anchorages right off the ICW. If you’re a water person, you’ll find no end to the activities available in Stuart. You can anchor in one of the two anchorages in Manatee Pocket, which is a hurricane hole at Port Salerno in Stuart.  There are plenty of marinas to offer fuel and water. Within walking distance, less than a mile, there is a West Marine, a Winn Dixie, coin laundry, canvas maker, fantastic produce stand, incredible marine consignment shop and flea market, not to mention the numerous waterside restaurants, boatyards, and fishing docks. There is a huge warehouse right on the water in the southern anchorage of Manatee Pocket that has been made into a coffee shop and artist’s co-op with free WIFI and fabulous original pottery, tile, painting, and stained glass.  And here is a little gem of cruiserly local wisdom, a 5 minute walk from the dingy dock will reveal a 24-hour ice machine that dispenses 10 or 20 lb.  bags of ice, or loose ice into your ice chest, for $2.00!

There are two public parks to dingy to, this is especially nice if you have a dog. The parks are beautiful and full of birds, squirrels, palms and pines. The landside amenities for the cruiser are endless. And here’s another secretto look for while you’re here, there are colonies of wild, green parrots living  in large nests in the tops of the palms. They are quite vocal and scold you if you get to close. They are great fun to observe.

In the harbour, you can expect to see bottlenose dolphins hunting their breakfast every morning. Since we’ve been here I’ve seen a baby dolphin spyhopping, (that’s popping his head out of the water and looking around), and an adult dolphin tossing a large mullet into the air over and over, like a dog playing with a toy. There are herons, sandhill cranes, gulls, and lots of pelicans. We’ve seen several spotted eagle rays gliding gracefully below the surface, leaping out of the water every now and then. The Spring is a wonderful time to be here because all of the wildlife is very active this time of year.

If you want to have some fun, take the dingy or kayak up one of the numerous creeks and see if you can spot an alligator or a manatee. Or, pack a picnic, and dingy out to one of the lovely deserted islands between the ICW and the inlet. We did this and had a blast. These little islands have clean beaches with sandy shoals that you can walk out onto at low tide and watch tiny crabs and minnows hide in their nurseries of marsh grass and shallows. Big Causaurina pines provide plenty of shade, and the water is cool and refreshing.

You can also go all the way out to the inlet in your dingy and fish around the rock jetties. We spoke to someone who dove the jetties and spotted a huge spiny lobster there. People are catching mostly mackerel, pompano, kingfish, snook, and catfish. Offshore, not for the dingy motorist, there are an abundance of sailfish, after all, Stuart is the Sailfish Capitol of the World! Stuart can also boast a six square mile reef, which is considered the northernmost of tropical coral reefs. The reef is accessible by dingy on the outside of the inlet, or if you dingy to Peck Lake, part of St. Lucie state park.  Or take the big boat and anchor there as it provides a nice anchorage, and beaches on both the ICW side and ocean side.

There are all sorts of hidden surprises for fun and relaxing in the area of Manatee Pocket. We’ve yet to discover everything. During a sunset cruise last night in our dingy, we met a couple on a trawler from Maryland. They told us about the Bathtub Beach, (where shallow pools of ocean water are warmed by the sun), and the surfing beach, ( where local surfers maintain a tough front and build surf shacks at their favorite break). Guess we’ll just have to do some more exploring…