How much does it cost to live on a boat?

Look around any harbour, and you will find young couples on tiny Wharram catamarans, old men on gaffers held together with string – and, of course, those gleaming 50footers weighed down with watermakers, air conditioning and all the latest electronics.

But whether you consider yourself well-off or just getting by, you must have some money coming in.

Some people chronicle their lives on YouTube – but for every one who is given a free boat, there are thousands who never cover the cost of the GoPro.

Others stop periodically and get a job: Three months of hard work will fund a year of economy-class cruising.

If you have read my story, you will see that my first attempt at the cruising life was back in 1994, funded by journalism – a column for the London Daily Telegraph, another for Yachting World – bits and pieces here and there…

I wrote a column; I got paid – and if I wanted to get paid again, I had to write another column. It went on for years. I thought I was a success. I was living the dream!

Now, I realise I was just lucky it kept going as long as it did. I was working for what is called a linear income: You work once, and you get paid once. If you stop work, you don’t get paid.

Worse than that, I was beholden to my boss. If the boss decided he preferred someone else’s column, I would be out of a job. Even if he liked mine, but the magazine started losing money, he would be sorry but would have to let me go…

And that is how most people earn a living – going from month to month and trusting that it will just keep going.

It was not until 2005 that I discovered there was another way.

By this time, Tamsin and I had realised that life on a small boat with two small boys was just too much like hard work. We got off and moved into a house. Within a few years, the journalism dried up, the savings were gone. I was obliged to start looking for a job – any job.

At 55, they don’t give you another job.

But that was when I got properly lucky. Someone gave me a leaflet about something called Residual Income.

Residual income is when you do the work once, but you get paid over and over again, every month, forever.

It sounded like a scam – one of those dodgy schemes they warn you about. But remember, I was desperate. I would look at anything.

I looked at this. I checked the company’s stock exchange performance, researched the chairman’s track record. I crawled all over that opportunity as if it was a goldmine I had stumbled into. Best of all, not only was there the prospect of the residual income down the line, but there was money up front as well. In fact now it’s really good money – as much as most people earn from a full-time job.

Also, I didn’t have to sell anything – I just showed people how to pay less for what they were buying already. I grasped it with both hands. I went at it as if my life depended on it – which, in a sense, it did.

And the work I did then is still paying me today.

If I never do another stroke, never write another word – if I fall off the boat and drown, the money from that work will still come in every month for Tamsin – and it will be enough for her to live in comfort for the rest of her life. In due course, it will form part of her estate and go to the children…

So tell me, which is best: A linear income or a residual income?

If you have a UK address and would like to sail full-time on a residual income – or do anything else with it, come to that – have a look at a five-minute video presentation at (today’s equivalent of the leaflet I was given in 2005). If you like what you see, contact my friend Ashil at +44 (0) 7903 851823 or

I’ll be delighted to hear how you get on – although I’m too often away from a mobile signal to be relied on for regular help – but Ashil will see to that.

Most important of all, remember that when Eric and Susan Hiscock set off on their first circumnavigation in 1952, on the bulkhead of Wanderer III were carved the wise words of Arthur Ransome: Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.



2 Responses to Money

  • Hi John, I stumbled on your site via WordPress and would like to congratulate you on successfully distracting me from working on my own budding blog. This is a great read and, seeing as you certainly have much more experience than me and my partner, I’ll be keeping an eye on your posts! I wish you fair winds sir! – Beth

  • Inspirational…I will read your whole site when I get home x
    Lorraine and Justin