Saturday, August 4, 2012

Paying for Cruising By Writing

I enjoy writing.  It's why this blog exists.   It seems that many cruisers enjoy writing as well judging from all the cruising blogs, books, and magazines out there. 

Based on feedback I'd gotten from my high school teachers, I never thought I was a very good writer.  There was one, and only one exception.  My 11th grade teacher stopped me as I passed his office during regents test week and told me that my regents essay about UFOs was the best he'd ever read.   I didn't know what to make of actually getting positive feedback from a teacher and blew it off. 

The only other writing event that comes to mind was in 10th grade.  We were to read a book and make an oral book report on it.  I was afraid of speaking in public back then and so worked really, really hard on it.  I wrote draft after draft until I got something I was happy with, and practiced reading it in front of a mirror.  The day came when I made my report, and at the end there was silence from the teacher.  He stared at me long and hard, and then said "That was good.   That was too good.  You must have copied it from the book cover."    He gave me a D.

I didn't write anything for many years.  When Al Gore invented the internets, he also invented message boards.  I had posted something about what I learned from my first cruise to the Caribbean on the old Cruising World message board and I received an email from Herb McCormick, the editor at the time, asking if he could use it in an upcoming magazine.   Sure, go ahead.   They did, and I received a nice little check from it.  You can get paid for writing?   Who'd a thunk it.  I later went on to write articles for Cruising World, Latitudes & Attitudes, and Good Old Boat magazines and earned enough to buy a windlass and roller furling for my Hallberg Mistral.

I had my five minutes of fame in the cruising community and stopped writing.   I figured that because of my many drafts and rewrites, my hourly rate was less than minimum wage.  I went back to the message boards where I didn't have to worry about sentence structure, spelling, and composition.

A few more years went by and, as you know, Pam and I bought Drift Away and I started this blog.  Tom, an old message board acquaintance and a wonderful writer and photographer, reads it.  He writes for   They were looking for writers and Tom referred them to me.  The editor read my blog and suggested a few would be appropriate for his website.  I've written a couple of articles for them so far.

Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah distributes All At Sea Southeast magazine and the editor was looking for articles.  I wrote one for them about living aboard in Georgia, a state that only began allowing liveaboards in January.   If you're interested in reading it, click this link.

A fellow writer and blogger, Jan Irons, has actually written a book along with a fellow cruiser.  The Boat Galley Cookbook will be published in October 2012.  They talked the publisher into producing a "Sneak Peak" 28 page downloadable PDF for the book with 33 recipes from 9 chapters as well as some sample information from the Equipping a Galley chapter.   Here's a brief description from the authors, and the PDF should be available soon.

So can you pay for your cruising by writing?   No.  Sorry to disappoint.  Unless you're a Lin and Larry Pardy and write several cruising articles a month along with publishing a few dozen books and how-to videos and spend considerable time on the lecture circuit, no.  You'll have fun maybe, and have a sense of accomplishment, but no.  My All At Sea Southeast article, for example, paid $241.

Now photography is another story.  I just found out today that I sold another photo and earned another commission!  YAHOO!  That's 52 cents so far!


  1. LOL. Thanks for the update on the photography Income, Dave. Just last week, a friend asked me why I didn't sell some of my photos? (I do weekly photo shoots for our sailing club)
    etPage?PageId=Logs20120801 I told him, I used to be a professional, but now I'm not. For a reason.

    Your 52 Cent commission comment brought laughter and the reminder that if I were still shooting for a living, I probably still wouldn't have a boat.


    1. A boat? Heck Tim, if I was living on my photography income, I'd have enough for half a bottle of water. Nothing yet for the bread.

  2. I have a sister in law that's made a career of writing(mostly as a book and magazine editor in the larger publishing houses), and she's been freelancing for the last decade or so.

    She and many in her industry feel the internet has them working longer for less. That seems to make sense if you look at the paper publishing world. Many sailing mags have shrunk, have less content and support less writing while a few have bucked the trend and are doing well.

    Marine book publishers have shrunk to nothing. Those still writing are making smaller advances, if at all. In essence, they're financing their own books so you may as well self publish.

    Nobody knows for sure how it will all pan out though.

    For that reason, I figure I'll write for myself in subjects than interest me, at my own pace. It's challenging and fun and gives a sense of accomplishment. I like the self editing part. Most of what I write is useless and in editing, I get to see that(how many long rambling posts does anyone read?).

    But for making money, I realized long ago, I can't afford to write at my skill level.

    Someday Dave, we'll be discovered. :)