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 the 1990s, 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 – I wrote another column, I got paid again. It went on for years. I thought I was a success. I was living the dream!

Now, I realise I was just lucky that 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. Hardly anybody thinks about what life would be like if the money came in every month without them having to work for it – what is called a Residual lncome. This is what you get from investments or property. Pop stars and best-selling authors have residual incomes from the work they did in the past. 

It was not until 2005 that I discovered there was another way of getting hold of a residual income – even without having a lot of money or a remarkable talent.

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, with nothing unusual to write about anymore, the journalism dried up. My 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 building up a residual income in a small amount of spare time. 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, there was not only the prospect of the residual income down the line, but there was money up front as well. In fact, these days, it’s really good money, as much as most people earn from a full-time job – and having more than one income is rapidly becoming the norm. There are now 20million people in the UK with multiple incomes.

Another good thing was that 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.

Of course, people starting now have it easier. Instead of leaflets and sitting down with people, we have online videos and remote presentations. I can sit on my boat in the Caribbean and earn my money on WhatsApp.

Maybe this would suit you too: If you have a UK address and a smartphone, you can earn a residual income too (and, of course, the money up front). Have a look at

Meet some of the people involved at

As you can see, if I never do another stroke, never write another word – if I fall off the boat and drown, the money from the work I did in the past 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 think the answer is the latter, drop me an email at and I’ll help you get one too.

But whatever you decide, 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