Living aboard a sailboat is a common dream, but people often assume that the cost of living on a sailboat precludes them from even considering it. Many people are surprised when they learn just how little it can actuall cost to live on a sailboat.
How much does it really cost to live on a sailboat? It can cost from as little as a few hundred dollars a month to as much as thousands of dollars a month to live on a sailboat, depending on how you do it. People who are willing to rough it a little bit often find that they can live on a sailboat very affordably.
If you’ve been wondering how much it really costs to live on a sailboat and whether this is something you can afford to consider, here is what you need to know.
Is Living on a Sailboat Expensive?
You may find the expenses of living on a sailboat significantly less than what you assumed. Of course, some people do spend vast amounts of money living aboard a sailboat. It is largely up to you and your lifestyle just how expensive it is for you to live on a sailboat. Here are some things to consider:
Marina or Anchored Out?
The most important element you should be considering as you try to decide whether living aboard a sailboat is a viable option for you is whether you will mostly anchor out or stay at a marina. Staying at a marina can be a very expensive way to sail.
Of course, if you live somewhere that has very high rent or housing expenses, you may find a marina to be a less expensive option. However, for the most part, choosing to stay at a marina will carry considerably greater costs than anchoring out.
Of course, anchoring out isn’t possible in all areas. Sailors often find it to be much more stressful to live aboard a sailboat when you are frequently anchored. Unlike at a marina, where there is a high degree of control over your environment, anchoring puts you at the mercy of the elements.
Many sailors consider anchoring out to be the ideal way to live aboard a sailboat and couldn’t imagine spending my time at a marina. Other sailors would say the same about anchoring out.
Here are some pros and cons worth considering as you make this essential decision about how to live on your sailboat:
|Sheltered from wind and waves but boat cannot shift in the wind, often making it much hotter||May need to re-anchor if winds or waves change, but typically get much better breeze|
|Easily plug into electricity, air conditioning, water, etc||Save money on paying for expenses as well as paying for the marina slip|
|Opportunity to socialize with other people and go into the local town||Increased privacy as opposed to a Marina, but greater isolation as well|
|Transport to land is effortless, just step off your boat||You will need to take a dinghy or pull up the anchor when you go off of the boat|
|Your boat is reasonably safe when you leave it locked up||There is always a possibility that your boat could be interfered with since there is no one watching when you leave|
Can You Live Off of The Land?
For many people, the most attractive thing about sailing is the possibility that you could live off of the land with minimum interference from the outside world. However, for many people, this is mostly a fantasy.
Many areas do not support enough life for you to live off of it effectively, or the local wildlife may be dangerous to eat. If you’ve never fished as a primary way of getting food, you may be surprised by how challenging it really is to catch enough.
No cruisers live entirely off of the land, but the degree to which you can substitute your pantry with food you gather yourself will save you a lot of money when you are living aboard a sailboat. This is especially true if you are cruising in places where it may be difficult for supplies to reach.
For instance, in the Caribbean islands you can expect to pay considerably more for supplies than you would in the continental US. Therefore, the ability to grow your own fresh greens, even if it just means sprouting beans and seeds, and the ability to hunt or fish can make a big difference to your experience living aboard a sailboat.
How Strict is Your Schedule?
One of the big advantages of a sailboat is that it can be powered for free with the force of the wind. However, the wind is not always in the mood to work with sailors.
If you are keepting to a strict schedule, you will need to operate your motor more often. Sailboats are not typically designed to make great time under motor and many can be fuel gobblers, especially when you are pushing to windward in inclement conditions, which is often when sailors are most apt to use their motors.
If you can take your time to work with the wind and sit tight during inclement weather when you may otherwise need to motor, you will save a lot of money compared to someone who needs to make strict deadlines.
How Well Can You Rough It?
Many aspects of living aboard a sailboat seem almost too luxurious to be real. Sailboats put you closer to nature and give you opportunities to see some truly beautiful things.
On the other hand, many people find living on a sailboat to be absolutely exhausting, not just because of the need to pay attention to the elements, but because it seems that every little thing is just so much more difficult. Everything from taking a shower to going for a walk suddenly becomes something that needs to be considered carefully.
You will often find that you are making compromises between what you would prefer and what you can afford. For instance, on a particularly hot night with still conditions, it would be more affordable for you to anchor out and take advantage of the calm.
However, this may also be just the night when you would most like to plug into an AC unit. Preparing your boat by investing in a generator or other source of energy, having an air conditioner on board, having a freezer or ice maker, and doing other things to make your boat more comfortable will help you to resist the lure of the marina.
People who are accustomed to more luxuries in their lifestyle may have a harder time tolerating life aboard a sailboat without a marina.
How to Reduce Costs When Sailing
Sailing can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month, depending on how you do it.
If you are worried that selling is prohibitively expensive, you may be relieved to learn that there are plenty of ways to significantly reduce your costs while sailing. Here are a few ways to do it most effectively:
Stock up on Cheap Food
Whether you are trying to live off of the land or not, stocking up on affordable food is a wise choice. You’d be amazed at the meal you can make with a freshly caught fish and what you can easily store for months in a pantry.
Potatoes, onions, and even eggs can all be stored for long periods and used to jazz up your dishes. Affordable staples such as pasta and rice can be incredibly satisfying, especially on a rainy day on the boat.
For many sailors, getting enough greens can be an important concern. This is especially a problem when you are sailing in areas where access to groceries and fresh produce may be challenging to find.
A superb solution is to keep dry beans and seeds and sprout them on your boat. It only requires a small amount of freshwater and a container to sprout many kinds of delicious greens.
Whether you make an entire salad from the greens or you use them as a side for pasta, rice, fish, etc, they will provide you with lots of the essential vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be lacking from the sailor’s diet.
Between dried stored goods and seeds and greens that you can sprout yourself, you can eat reasonably well, get plenty of nutrition, and save a lot of money, especially on overseas sailing trips.
Always Have an A, B, C, and D Plan
Expenses tend to add up more quickly when there is a change of plans or an emergency. On a sailboat, it sometimes seems that emergencies and changes of plans are the status quo. To avoid expensive solutions to inevitable problems, always have another plan.
- Did the inexpensive slip in the marina you had hoped to use fill up on a calm day? Know of a an anchorage that will be secure if not the most comfortable in still weather.
- Has bad weather kept you from fishing as you expected to to fill the pantry? Always have readily available affordable food so that you won’t be tempted to spend money that you don’t need to spend at a marina.
Planning and careful decision-making can make the difference between going over your budget and staying within it.
Sailing May be More Affordable Than You Expect
If you’ve always loved the thought of being a live-aboard sailor but you believed the costs to be too much to even imagine this possibility, do some research.
If you are willing to rough it and find out the most inexpensive techniques for living aboard a sailboat in your area, you may find that this hobby is not only not too expensive to imagine but even reasonably affordable. Some people can’t even save money living aboard a sailboat under the right circumstances.