Work While Cruising Idea

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murph935

Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2024
Messages
6
Location
Ocean City, MD
With the youngest child graduating college and leaving the nest, the wife and I have decided to pull the trigger and set out on our dream. We are selling the house and buying a liveaboard to sail the Great Loop. (most likely a 40'-45' trawler.)

I am semi retired and she is self employed, I work in radio and will just do my show from the boat but she on the other hand is an upholsterer. While we won't exactly need the money from her upholstery gig to keep us financially afloat, we were thinking about taking her business on the trip with us.

Here is the thought....if we posted a schedule of sorts of our planned stops along the loop, I'm thinking she could line up cushion recovering's, dinghy cover repair etc. ahead of arriving in the port. We will be in no hurry as we travel so wherever she picks up work, we can stay until it's complete, then move on to the next port and hopefully line up jobs prior to our arrival. Naturally we'd setup a website where a fellow boater in need of upholstery work could pick the fabric they'd like, see samples of her work and our travel itinerary etc.

It would take some promotion and advertising in the right places but what do you think? Would this be a service fellow boaters could/would use? Again, we don't exactly need the money but she wants to contribute if she can while we travel. With the work she gets doing boat related upholstery in her land based business, we thought we might be able to take it on the trip with us.
Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks,

Murph 935
 
Do not sell the house until 6 months into the plan. Do not expect customers.
Then after 6 months re-evaluate.
 
I do some of my own upholstery so certainly can be done onboard. However I wouldn't expect a lot of business to come her way unless you build a reputation which would be challenging since you will be moving port to port. Some concerns you may need to address:
1) will marinas allow you to live aboard and run a business? Since you need to do some type of advance advertising it will be hard to keep this info away from the marina
2) a customer will expect some type if warranty so how would that work if you are out of the area?
3) Will you need business licenses?
I think there is a great need for affordable canvas work but under the circumstances you describe it might be tough to build any significant revenue stream.

Thegood news is you won't depend on the revenue so give it a try and hopefully it will work out!
 
Welcome aboard. I have used local canvas shops while cruising since I had left my commercial sewing machine at home. Has some panels blow out during a storm. The guy I used had a bread truck with a sewing shop set up inside. He did good work. How you would market it I am not sure but if you can figure that out it may be worthwhile.
 
Canvas work always has demand. But I don't think your marketing plan ("we'll be there June 15th.....") will result in much business, if any. Even the famous Barnum & Bailey circus had to run elephants down main street to sell tickets.

I sew my own canvas and have done a few projects while meandering down Mexico's Pacific Coast. I always get someone who asks if I can do some sort of work for them (I'm happy to do a small repair for someone I like but that's it). Beyond the fact that I'm retired, I'm not that good at it so I'm a bit slow. And professional canvas people have large tables and cutting areas - they're more than just a portable sewing machine and a box of thread. Watching the Sailrite videos makes me envious of all the cool stuff professionals have and how much easier it is to work when you have very large, square work surfaces - something I will never have on a boat unless I adapted a large Pontoon boat similar to how Comodave's acquaintance adapted a step van.

Bottom line for me would be that to be fair to a customer, I'd have to charge a fraction of the cost - I'd make $15 an hour.......maybe.

In the plus side, several marinas I found have multi purpose rooms where I could work easier than in the boat.

Another idea would be to limit your offering to semi-custom products such as sunshades. Foredeck shades, window awnings, dinghy chaps, and bug screens for entrance door (the type that close via magnets). This would greatly reduce the materials you need in inventory. And it's the type of stuff few people have when they start the Loop but lust after it once they get going. Imagine a large foredeck awning (see attached pic) emblazoned with "Sharon's Shade Solutions - ask me how." Equivalent of marching elephants down main street.....

Good luck. Be careful of what you wish for.....

Peter
 

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Thanks for the suggestions. We would definitely limit the type of work she would accept and decline anything taking more than a few days.

In the past, I've utilized multipurpose rooms in a marinas for various little projects while on the go. Sometimes for a fee, sometimes not. Always seemed to depend who I was dealing with and where at the time.

While she has a traditional workshop, she also runs a mobile service out of a van. We are just kicking around the thought of taking a scaled down version of the mobile service with us. We certainly wouldn't expect customers nor would we need the revenue stream. We just thought it could be a way to meet and maybe help some people out while making some friends along the way.

She also thought it could help keep her occupied on occasion. We've lived in a coastal town for almost 30 years and are not new to the boating the world. What's new is stepping up to a 40'-45' from our 32' and long range cruising. My personal thought is the learning curve will be enough to keep her busy but if she wants to try it, I'll go along.

Worst case scenario is it will be more trouble than it's worth and we'll toss the idea overboard and stick to cruising. I'll have no issue with that whatsoever.
 
How about just starting with fender covers? Few people have them as they are pricey. If she focused on the most common fender makes/sizes and could essentially make the sale on he spot with a small initial inventory. Offer them in any color, as long as it is black (Henry Ford). Stealing from Peter's response embroidere your advertising message on each.

I made them for my neighbor at material cost only using Sailrite "boat blanket" material. A bit pricey versus the more common thin stretchy fabric but very durable and adds a lot of class to the boat. I was making a set for my boat so already had the machine set up.

Another advantage is their size. Making large pieces such as tender covers would require patterning and a larger sewing area than found on most boats.

Chafe guards for lines would also be easy.
 
Speaking of Boat Blanket you can easily and quickly make covers for bimini frames. Just cut the BB to size and sew on the hook side of Velcro. The covers stop the eisenglass from getting chaffed on the bows and also from getting burned by the heat from the sun.
 
If you're going into foreign ports, many do not want transients taking away work from locals.
 
You'll pick up work in marinas popular with cruisers, just being part of the community.

My son is doing the same thing you are contemplating.
He bought a 45 Bennetau and is moving aboard with his wife and for a period of time their daughter who graduates High School next month.

He works remote and she is retiring from the USCG.
 
If you're going into foreign ports, many do not want transients taking away work from locals.
I hadn't thought about that but you are correct....we would most like limit this service to stops along the Great Loop but thanks for the heads up.
 
You'll pick up work in marinas popular with cruisers, just being part of the community.

My son is doing the same thing you are contemplating.
He bought a 45 Bennetau and is moving aboard with his wife and for a period of time their daughter who graduates High School next month.

He works remote and she is retiring from the USCG.
It sounds like your son and I are on the same page for sure. We can't wait to get started.
 
How about just starting with fender covers? Few people have them as they are pricey. If she focused on the most common fender makes/sizes and could essentially make the sale on he spot with a small initial inventory. Offer them in any color, as long as it is black (Henry Ford). Stealing from Peter's response embroidere your advertising message on each.

I made them for my neighbor at material cost only using Sailrite "boat blanket" material. A bit pricey versus the more common thin stretchy fabric but very durable and adds a lot of class to the boat. I was making a set for my boat so already had the machine set up.

Another advantage is their size. Making large pieces such as tender covers would require patterning and a larger sewing area than found on most boats.

Chafe guards for lines would also be easy.
Thanks for the suggestions...much appreciated!
 
Sounds like you will be a full time cruiser, not a liveaboard.
 
That sounds like an awesome plan! Bringing her upholstery business along for the journey could be a real game-changer. Offering services to fellow boaters is a smart move and a great way to stay connected with your passion while exploring. Wishing you both smooth sailing and lots of success!
 
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