Against the Current: Starting a Marine Business Despite the Challenges
Updated: Sep 1
Social media recently reminded me that we started Spirit Marine Services 6 years ago. Wow, it’s crazy how time flies. Our business emerged from one of the hardest times of our lives. We had been working for a guy doing boat maintenance, he realized he wasn’t profiting enough for himself & suddenly laid both of us off at the same time, in the dead of winter. Well, heck what now? We were blindsided by this sudden change & as we were living paycheck to paycheck we knew we had to devise a gameplan pretty fast.
To make ends meet, we drove down the road to the Trader Joe’s just blocks from our marina & picked up job applications. We were lucky enough to each get part-time jobs, working the 4pm-midnight shift 4 days a week. Of course, 2 PT jobs at minimum wage were not enough to pay our SF Bay expenses so we hustled to find boat work gigs through craigslist. Beggars can’t be choosers, we accepted any jobs we could get - disecting 30 year old sanitation systems & cleaning boats with entire ecosystems growing on their decks. It was tough going to bed past midnight most nights after our TJ’s shift & then going to boat clients in the morning.
This went on for 6 months before I was able to get a job at the local chandlery. It was a pay bump & better schedule, making it possible for Jack to focus on boat work full-time. From there we started doing monthly washdowns, we finally bought a buffer to wax boats more efficiently & started expanding our services.
We didn’t call ourselves boat technicians, but we did know a lot more than we realized - just from tackling projects on our own boat & Jack’s mechanical training. The first year was a huge learning curve, losing money on jobs for under quoting, sitting in traffic & working insane hours. A friend built us a website for our budding business, making us feel official.
As a wise fellow marine contractor told us once, “you can only dream to be successful enough to be able to fire your worst clients.” As time went on we were able to be more selective, delegate more & eventually hire someone to do the monthly washdowns. We have learned an immense amount just by doing, especially in the marine industry, you can’t learn everything in a class or a book. These days, we’ve assumed the title of "Marine Technicians", feeling we’ve truly earned it through years of experience in the field.
It’s amazing to reflect on where we started, 6 years ago. It was not an easy process & it has taken countless hours of experience, research, learning & perseverance to get to where we are today. The best part about the marine industry & sailing is that you are always learning - it’s not a finite journey.
So now that we're cruising full-time, what's next for Spirit Marine Services?
We’ve evolved to focus on boat systems, cruising upgrades & marine consulting, since that is really what we are most passionate about. We are excited to be doing more consulting, helping others gain confidence in boat ownership, tackle their own boat projects & design complex system upgrades that they can feel capable of tackling with our guidance.
If you are boat shopping & need extra eyes on a listing, need guidance on your next DIY project or help with designing a wiring diagram, reach out - we would love to work with you!
Click the button below for a 45 min “Ask Us Anything” consult, if you just need to clear up questions or want to pick our brains on something.
Thanks for sticking with us as we continually grow & evolve while pursuing the things we are most passionate about - boats!