Money doesn’t grow on yachts

M/Y Madame Gu around Monaco, 2013 (Photo credit: Lee Maxwell)

When I worked as yacht crew, I truly believed that financial success started at the stern and ended at the bow.

Yachting — you see — had this seductive way of making me believe I was earning an absolute killing, that I would go home rich and buy a house cash and upgrade my car without much effort. Equally, I believed I was bound to have money at the end; simply on the basis that I earned lots of it at the time. How wrong I was.

Truth be told, I saved not a single penny from my time in the industry.

When I worked, money was aplenty. I saved on accommodation, food, travel, life. But when I didn’t work, the money quickly dried up. I wouldn’t say I was reckless with my cash: I travelled a fair amount, I did a few courses, I took off a month here and there, I bought nice things.

You don’t make money working on board. You make money from what you do with your money working on board.

To be fair, I only worked on board for three seasons over three years with no big tipping charter boats or zero zero zero Christmas bonuses but it was enough to teach me a very hard lesson in yachting finance: you don’t make money working on board. You make money from what you do with your money working on board.

We’re all to blame for these ridiculous, cash-making spins on the yachting game when really, yachting is a career. And ‘career’ means you start at the bottom rungs of the ladder earning not too much, doing all the really kak jobs and working your arse off; until year-after-year, you climb to the top, sacrifice blood, sweat and tears, and finally you ‘make it’.

Deck scrub days. Hard work for your money.
My deck scrub days: Hard work for my money.

But yachting as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme is a farce. The sooner new crew understand this, the better. Yachting doesn’t make you an instant money rock star; far from it. Financial freedom in this industry takes time and shitloads of hard work; it takes clever investing and decision-making, frugal saving and planning.

These days, I have moved ashore and started a business in France, and I am a lot more considered about my Euros and cents. The money is less but the value of money is so much more.

If anything, yachting taught me a few hard lessons about personal finance, lessons I am happy to have learned and shared sooner rather than later. Yachting taught me how to work hard and make money yes, but sadly I never learned what to do with it.

Now for a second chance, a chance to make money and invest it wisely. Bring on 2016.