Sailing full-time

Vans, campers, and tiny homes are often what we picture when we think of nomadic living, but what about sailboats? If your goal is to see new places, meet new people, and save money, why should you be limited by roads? My spouse’s early retirement dream is to buy a sailboat and cruise around the Great Lakes. So I’ve done quite a bit of research on sailboats and the logistics of traveling around on one. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of nomadic, seafaring lifestyles. 

Getting Sailing Experience Can Be Costly

Before you can live in a sailboat, you need to know how to drive it, unless you want to be stuck in the dock. If you didn’t grow up sailing, you’ll need to learn. There are certified sailing centers around the country offering classes every month or so, but the expert training you’ll need is pricey.

My spouse expects learning to sail to take a year or two and cost around ten thousand dollars. Depending on where you’re located, you may also have to travel to take the classes you want, so don’t forget to factor that into the price.  

How to Find The Right Boat For You

Once you know how to sail, you’ll need to acquire a boat. The right sailboat for you depends on your preferences, goals, and the size of your family. Are you going solo or are you a family of four? As a single person, a 30-foot boat may be enough. But a bigger family may need a 50-foot boat to have sufficient sleeping space.

Where you want to sail will also affect which boat you buy. Boats designed for the ocean have different features than lake sailboats. You can actually destroy a sailboat meant for lake cruising by putting it in corrosive, salty ocean waters. So you’ll need to decide where you’re going to choose the right vessel for your needs. 

If you’re on a budget, you can usually find used boats in sailworthy condition for between $10,000 and $30,000. You may get lucky and find a good deal, especially if you’re willing to do some repair work. A new, more luxurious sailboat can cost you upwards of $100,000, about the same price as an RV. 

How Much Traveling On a Sailboat Costs

One of the things that’s most appealing about traveling on a boat is how inexpensive it is. Although learning to sail and buying a boat can be costly, once you’re set up, boat life can be pretty cheap. I’ve heard of people spending $1,000 per month by being thrifty. 

Unless docked, boats are inherently off-grid, which lowers your utility costs. It’s common to put solar panels on deck, which can supply all of your power needs. You’ll still have to pay for groceries, but you can supplement your diet with fishing. 

However, if you’re planning to sail internationally, some countries will charge you a cruising fee. These can cost several hundred dollars each, which can add up and increase your cost of living. 

Travel Logistics

If you’re not far from land, you can stop and anchor your boat whenever you need to. But if you’re on a larger trip, say to Hawaii or across the Atlantic, someone will need to be driving at all times. This may mean you and your traveling partner get little sleep or have opposite sleep schedules. You can get self-steering devices or autopilot equipment, but they can be expensive, break, and still require checking every two to four hours. 

Storms can also be an issue while traveling. With some planning you can avoid hurricane season, but you’ll probably end up caught in a few storms no matter what. Sailing through storms on a long trip is not my idea of fun, so my spouse and I will likely stick to the Great Lakes if we decide to travel via sailboat.

Even when you’re anchored or docked, you’ll still have to contend with the rolling water kicking your home to and fro. So if you suffer from motion sickness, the sailing lifestyle may not be right for you.

Wrapping Up

When you imagine life on a sailboat, you probably picture yourself relaxing on a hammock surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. Although sailing provides unique experiences and memories, there are also downsides to the lifestyle, such as tight quarters and cruising fees. So keep that in mind before you take the plunge!

Would you ever travel the world on a sailboat? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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