Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Questions and Answers
Part 9

Question from:

I'm new both to computers and boats but plan to cruise as you did using the next 12 months to prepare in every way. I'm male, 57, and can retire at any moment-my partner is female, 51 with a little boating experience and a great sense of adventure.

Please place me on your E-mail list & or mailing list if it exists. We have moderate incomes and can afford a moderate initial investment. Our health is commensurate with our ages but not more!

Is it still possible for us? We would to visit or talk to someone in a similar position as ours to exchange ideas !

Thanks for the great articles and Q & A sessions. They've given me both encouragement and caution. Overall I'm still enthusiastic about the project though.

I'd be willing to swap my condo in Orlando (with car) for time on a boat anchored in the Caribbean. Any ideas about that?

Thanks a lot,



Maybe some of the rest of you would like to communicate with these folks. Anybody have any ideas on the condo swap?.

Question from:

I enjoyed your article on spare parts.

We are off to SE. Alaska this summer for 3 mos. and I would like to know of a source of rebuilt parts for our Perkins 4-108. could you send me that info?


Most people forget that the Perkins 4-108 is used in a lot of applications, not just marine. Of course your marine version does have some unique parts, but most of the parts are the same in all versions. Here in Cleveland the forklifts in the steel and auto engine plants are powered by the 4-108. As we all know, anything with the word “marine” on it costs at least twice as much as the same thing without that word. Therefore I would check with standard Diesel repair shops in you area for a source of rebuilt Perkins parts.

If you want a name here in Cleveland, try Wayne Hogan at Standard Welding, 216-579-1831.

Question from:

... Anyway, I have just gone the way of many old sailors and bought a trawler which leads me to my next question.

I am almost brain dead as far as engines are concerned. Maybe not that bad, but I have very little experience with diesels. I happen to have a Perkins 4-108 on my trawler (Prairie 29, about 7 knots). I have some Perkins manuals (Operators Manual for Marine Diesel Engines, Workshop Manual for Diesel Engines 4.108M 4.107M 4.99M, and Perkins Engines with North American Accessories 4.108M). I was wondering if you have any books to recommend for understanding the 4.108M engine and its principles. For example, one of the stop buttons does not work, but these manuals don't explain the principle of operation or where the relay or whatever it is connected to is. How do I turn off the engine if the other stop button stops working? Any recommendations for good reference material would be appreciated.


I do not have any specific recommendations on Diesel books, but there must be any number on theory of operation. Maybe someone else on the mailing list can help?

You might want to check with your local community and technical colleges for courses. I know the ones in Florida teach courses specifically on marine Diesels. I even seem to remember that there is one in the Jacksonville area that will let you bring in your own engine and rebuild it as part of the class.

As to your specific question. The only way to stop a running Diesel is to either shut off the fuel or shut off the air. Your stop buttons most likely use a solenoid to shut off the fuel at the injector pump. The two buttons may actually be connected to the same solenoid, so maybe the one that has stopped working is just a faulty pushbutton switch. To manually stop a 4-108 you can either turn off the fuel supply (assuming there is a valve to do that) or for sure you can remove the air cleaner and put something (your hand will work) over the air intake.

Question from:

My husband and I are slowly working towards our own sabbatical. We leave next week for six more weeks of work as merchant marines... and then we are calling it quits!

We have a piece of property with a dock in North Carolina, we plan to spend our summer getting our New Hampshire home ready for the market, then we will have a three bay garage built on the NC land so that we will have a place to store the things we will want to keep. Once the NH house has sold (I expect it will take at least a year)we will move our furniture and belongings to the NC garage, and buy a boat. We are thinking of a 41' Morgan OutIslander.

We will have about $24,000 of after tax income to spend on our sabbatical. We are hoping that will be enough... I was interested to read in some of your Q&A answers that there seems to be a need out there for someone who can repair Diesel engines and refrigerator! They are two of my husbands specialties! Maybe we can make a few bucks along the way.

I have one question that I do not seem to see that you have addressed as yet: How did you handle your finances? We will have income coming in from various different investment accounts. I can probably enlist my mother, the retired bookkeeper, as our agent to handle the accounts and pay the bills that come in, but I have concerns. If we use our credit cards extensively, and our agent pays the credit card bills... we may never know of any discrepancies. And I tend to be a bit compulsive about our finances... I keep track of everything on Quicken and would feel lost if I had no way of knowing the state of our finances on a fairly regular basis (say once a month).

Is there a reliable way to receive mail on a regular basis, so that our agent can forward the financial information we will need? How did you handle you money matters?

And how do you get cash? I assume you don't have a safe full of the stuff on board... Haw did you arrange to access your money?

I look forward to more of your articles and hope that you will give us some suggestions for keeping track of the finances. Thanks for your articles to date.


Believe me, your husband will be able to work as much as he wants on Diesel engines and refrigeration systems. So much so he will forget he is on a sabbatical! Remember that anywhere outside the US it is illegal to work without a work permit. You will not be able to get one but our experience was that the local authorities seemed to look the other way as long as you were working on other cruisers’ boats. Just be aware that you are breaking the law. Of course this does not apply to Puerto Rico and the USVI. We knew several people who used St. Thomas as their home base, got regular jobs as mechanics and lived on their boats.

You mention getting your mother to look after your accounts and pay your bills. Be aware that this is a big job. We did not realize how big it really is until we went on our sabbatical. Your mother will have to look at every piece of mail to determine if it is junk, something to be kept and sent to you or something she needs to deal with. Whereas you do this quickly every day, it will take her much longer because she is not familiar with your investments.

Try to minimize the incoming mail. If you have brokerage accounts see if your broker can stop some of the mail. You may need to authorize this in writing. If you have managed stock accounts see if you can get the trade notifications sent only quarterly instead of as they happen.

We had three people in as many years handling out mail. They each got fed up after a while.

I would strongly advise against using credit cards. You will be ripped off. You will be easy to spot as cruisers. A clerk will know that it will be weeks or more before you get your credit card bills and by then you will be many islands away. The temptation is just too great. My advice is to use cash. When we were on our sabbatical ATMs were not common in the Caribbean, but I suspect they are now. I just got back from Australia and my ATM card worked just fine there. Most of the islands are ex-British and therefore have a Barclays Bank. Find out which ATM network Barclays uses and get an ATM card from a US bank that uses the same. You can start by calling the bank that issued you current ATM card and asking them where you can use it in the Caribbean. They have directories that will tell.

In our case we would go to American Express offices and purchase a few thousand dollars worth of traveler’s checks. We would purchase the checks with a personal check guaranteed by our American Express gold card. This service still exists but the ATM would be easier. Then we would pay for everything with traveler’s checks or the cash they produced.

We also knew people who got cash advances on their credit cards at banks. At least here it’s a bank teller and not a store clerk who knows your card number. I would still be nervous, though.

The same warning about credit cards applies to telephone credit cards too. In those days you had to read your card number to an international operator in the country you were calling from. Everyone we knew who did this had illegal calls show up on their bill. Better to use AT&T USA Direct or a similar service from one of the other long distance carriers. Here you dial a toll free number and you are connected to AT&T in the US. You then key in the number you are calling and your card number just like in the States. No human operator.

Getting your mail is easy. When you get somewhere you are going to be for a few days you call home to whomever is collecting your mail. You have them send it to you via FedEx or International Express Mail. For FedEx you need an actual address (like a marina). For Express Mail you can have it sent to general delivery. Express Mail is also a good way to get spare parts. Here is a story of how fast it can be: We were in Trinidad. A friend in Miami mailed us parts on his way to work Monday morning. The parts arrived in Trinidad that night. We got a post card Tuesday morning at the marina saying the parts were in and we could pick them up at the main post office. We got them Tuesday afternoon.

Jim & Diane


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