How Much Does It Cost To Live on a Sailboat?

Group of different aged people having a party, dancing and drinking while sailing on sailboat.
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Have you ever dreamed about getting away from dry land and setting sail in search of a life full of adventure in the open water? Many people dream about living on a sailboat, but may be hesitant to actually turn their dreams into reality when faced with the price tag.

GOBankingRates spoke to several individuals who are embracing a sailing lifestyle to find out how much it costs to live on a sailboat.

Two People on a Full-Time Sailboat: $4,000 a Month

For the past four years, Ryan Ellison and Sophie Darsy have been living aboard their 40-foot boat full time. The duo make up Ryan and Sophie Sailing and are the hosts of a popular sailing YouTube channel where they’ve shared their lifestyle with over 7 million people.

Together, they have crossed the Atlantic Ocean three times and are currently planning for a North American loop. They have also sailed extensively throughout the Caribbean and Mediterranean, covering almost 25,000 nautical miles in total. 

The pair lives on $4,000 a month. They jokingly said BOAT stands for “break out another thousand.”

This is because things often break down on boats due to the salty, corrosive environment. Ellison and Darsy said boat maintenance typically costs around 10% of the boat value each year. Sails, which can travel for free on the power of the wind, do need to be replaced every eight to 10 years. 

“We have an engine we use when the wind is non-existent or when we are arriving or leaving an anchorage or marina. Because it’s usually only for short periods of time, we can make a $500 tank of fuel last several months,” Ellison and Darsy said. “However, the engine requires servicing, oil and filters which all need to be changed regularly. Then there is the cost of the fuel for the outboard motor on the dinghy, which is essentially your car when you travel via boat, which is probably another $30 a fortnight.”

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What about insurance? Ellison and Darsy said insurance varies based on the age and value of your boat, the experience you have as a skipper and the area of the world in which you are sailing. They use the example that if you allow around $1,000 a year for a smaller yacht and up to $5,000-$8,000 for a boat worth around $400,000-600,000, you should be covered.

At the beginning of their sailing adventure, Ellison and Darsy invested in equipment to make them self-sufficient. They also purchased a good dinghy to take them to shore. Doing so allows the pair to spend most of their time on anchor and skip the marina fees, which depend on the location and season. 

“Anchoring is free, and honestly, life on anchor is a lot more fun for us!” Ellison and Darsy said.

Family of Four on a Full-Time Sailboat: Around $1,300 a Month

Sara Rice, her husband and their two teenagers make up the Sailing Catalpa family. For the past five years, they have been living and cruising Southeast Asia aboard a 44-foot monohull. The family lives on $2,000 AUD a month, which currently converts to about $1,259 a month. 

Rice said they mostly anchor, so they don’t have any fees. “It is very rare to pay for anchoring in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand and we never go to marinas.”

Their overall expense breakdown is quite minimal. Food for the family costs approximately $1,000 AUD a month. The internet costs $100 AUD a month and fuel is $500 AUD a month. There is a yearly haul out for $2,500 AUD in Malaysia and $500 AUD a month going toward miscellaneous expenses including broken bits. While there are some months where nothing breaks, Rice said the months where there are broken bits can be more expensive. 

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“Living and sailing remote is cheap but mostly because you have to fix everything yourself,” Rice said.

One Person on a Full-Time Sailboat: $1,000 a Month

Brian Kearin grew up living on a sailboat. Kearin, who is the founder of BoatEasy, currently owns a 38-foot sailboat.

A major cost associated with living aboard is marina slip fees or mooring fees. Kearin said this will most likely be the single largest regular expense for someone who wants to live on a sailboat. 

“The cost of a boat slip varies by location but somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 per foot of boat length per month is average for many marinas in the United States,” Kearin said.

It is less expensive to pay for moorings which Kearin said can be as low as $10 per foot. There are also areas where individuals on sailboats can anchor for free and use a dinghy to reach a public dock. Keep in mind this comes with additional gas and maintenance costs.

Aside from slip fees, Kearin said there are a few other costs associated with living aboard, especially if you’re traveling with your sailboat as opposed to using it as a floating home. Regular bottom cleaning to remove marine growth, for example, will likely be needed once a month or every six weeks. It runs $2 to $3 per foot of boat length.

Those traveling from port to port should expect some costs associated with fuel for their boat’s engine and occasional maintenance for the rigging aboard. This could be $200 a month, or closer to $0 if you’re staying at anchor or in a slip and not sailing anywhere. Kearin recommends budgeting $200 for dinghy maintenance and fuel if you anchor out and use the dinghy to commute. If you’re not slipped at a marina and choose to anchor out, Kearin said you will incur costs associated with refilling water and pumping out your boat’s holding tank, usually around $30 a month.

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“All said, a budget of $1,000 a month should be reasonable assuming you’re not choosing a prime marina in a major metropolitan area,” Kearin said. “If you can do some of the service aboard and dive the hull to clean it yourself then you can cut some of those costs down too.”

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