How much does it cost to live on a boat?

In ports all of the world, you will find people doing it on next to nothing: Young couples on tiny Wharram catamarans, old men in gaffers held together with string…

If you don’t believe me, consider Shane Acton, who sailed round the world in the 1970s in a boat just 18ft long. At one point, he was so short of money he sold all his clothes except for a pair of black oilskin trousers (in Panama, nobody wanted those). However, he did cut such a romantic figure that he gained himself a girlfriend who accompanied him the rest of the way.

All the same, there is no doubt that having a bit of money behind you helps. It’s safer for one thing – you need to keep your vessel seaworthy. Also, imagine not be able to stand your round in the waterfront bar?

Most importantly, the money must keep coming in, no matter what happens to the world economy, the stock market, house prices or anything else.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have several different sources of income – and the less time and effort you have to put into them, the better.

This is where my money comes from:

I have two newspaper pensions but remember I retired at the age of 45 after less than 20 years’ service. So they’re not as generous as you might expect – and the UK state pension is famously the lowest in the developed world.

My secret weapon is a pension-type income which I didn’t have to pay into. Instead, I invested a bit of time and effort – and I still contribute to it when the opportunity arises. I’ve written a separate explanation about that here:

Then there is this blog. You may have noticed the “Good Health” page where I recommend a food supplement. Every time somebody places an order, the company sends me £5. It’s not much but, people order a monthly supply, so it all adds up…

Next, if you look at the “Books” tab, you will see I have a couple for sale on Amazon – again, they don’t bring in much by themselves but, added to everything else…

The other side of finance afloat involves embracing the philosophy of living cheaply: Never pay for mooring if you can anchor for nothing. Always fix things yourself if you possibly can. Be generous with any expertise or tools you may have – what goes around comes around.

Most importantly, sail a small and simple boat. The less there is to go wrong, the less you have to spend fixing it – less hassle, too. Here’s an example: I don’t have a fridge. Apart from being something else to go wrong, it would require extra charging capacity. Instead, for those days when I have surplus electricity, I have a tiny 12V cooler – the sort of thing you plug into the cigarette lighter in your car. Because it doesn’t get used all the time, a cold beer is a real treat.

And don’t waste money. I have a rule never to buy anything the first time I think of it – the opposite of the reefing rule. Exchange rates can ruin you, too. Get a Wise card and use it for all transactions outside your own currency. You get a better exchange rate and minimal costs. Also, they have an affiliate program so if you get a card too, once you start using it, I will get a little thank-you. Use my link:

You never know where a bit of extra cash might come from: When I contacted the man who made my charcoal heater, he said he wanted to sell the company and offered me a percentage if I could find him a buyer!

Once you have taken the plunge and started to live on your wits, it’s remarkable how good you become at seeing opportunities.

If you’re thinking of living aboard and sailing the world, don’t wait for enough money or you’ll wait forever. 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