How to afford a sailboat and become liveaboards


You have been dreaming about setting sail to remote destinations? To leave it all behind you and start living on a sailboat between dolphins and turtles? You would prefer waking up to the sounds of waves splashing against your sailboat instead of the sounds of cars and busses? No worries we got you covered on how to afford a sailboat and become liveaboards!

Many of you have been asking us, how we managed to start our life on a sailboat. How did we afford our sailboat? How did we leave behind land life and become liveaboards 🙂

We know we know, from outside it might look like we won the lottery, or have very rich parents, or just robbed a bank! But no nothing like that. Instead, we dreamed of it, worked for it, and did it!

sailing couple

In the beginning, the questions felt very overwhelming. When we decided to become liveaboards and start living on a sailboat we did not follow any predefined process. We just went step by step and we still do. But we took the time, looked back on our story and today we proudly present: 4 steps we took and everybody should take to become liveaboards!

Step 1 – Sailing license and experience

This might seem obvious, but sometimes we forget it’s the starting point of it all. A sailing license, but in specific sailing experience is very important of you want to be living on a sailboat.

You do not need to be an expert or have sailed an incredible amount of nautical miles, but you need to feel comfortable onboard. You should know how to behave on a sailboat, where to put your hands and feet. Feel comfortable sleeping, eating and moving around on board. You should feel prepared to handle all the different situations you will encounter when living on a sailboat.

This is why we think sailing experience is so much more important than a sailing license. While the sailing license gives you the basis to handle a boat and is necessary to get good insurance, sailing experience does give you the confidence to sail the boat, to dock it properly, to be able to react when situations get more tricky. And believe us you will encounter a lot of different situations while living on a sailboat.

Now we were no experts when we moved on for.tuna and still have a lot to learn, but we both had multiple weeks of sailing on our backs. Especially Michael who did the RYA sailing license also participated in Regattas to get a deeper understanding of sailboats and how to react in a difficult situation. Your life is depending on it, so take the time to get enough confidence on board to learn while you go.

How to get sailing experience?

Many of you have been asking us how to get sailing experience so here our best ideas so far:

  • Work as a crew on charter boats
  • take part in sailing regattas
  • book a day sail experience
  • book a sailing week
  • go sailing with friends who already have sailing licenses
  • charter a sailboat 

Personally, we especially treasure our charter experience. It was the first time Michael was the skipper of a boat and we both could get a real feeling of how it would be like to be living on a sailboat. And well it’s still the best way to spend your holidays in our opinion.

Step 2 – Get your finances straight to afford a sailboat

Yes, money does play a role to make this life shift. But remember money should never stop you! There are a lot of different ways to start living on a sailboat also on a small budget, you just have to get creative – our story is proof of it 🙂 

In order to buy a sailboat you have to take into account three different budgets

  1. Sailboat acquisition budget
    This will be your biggest budget and does depend on what kind of sailboat you are looking for (size, age…) and how much you are willing to refit.
  2. Sailboat extras budget
    This budget can vary a lot depending on what kind of sailboat you bought. However, you will always need 5-6.000€ for all the bureaucratic stuff and to adjust the sailboat slightly for liveaboard standards.
  3. Boatlife budget
    How much you spent while you live on the boat does vary obviously from your lifestyle, but also from the location and weather (will you be able to anchor or do you need to enter a marina) and from your sailing abilities (how much gets broken and needs to be fixed). However, this budget also needs to cover fixed costs like insurance, maintenance and food

If you would like to find out how much you should budget have a look at our Boatlife Finance Bundle were we share all our expenses of our first 3 years of Boatlife.

5 different ways to afford a sailboat

Still worried about money? Here 5 different ways of how to afford to buy a sailboat

  • work for it and save it up over time
  • ask for a loan
  • buy a cheap old boat and refit it
  • find a co-owner! (read here more about boat co-ownership)

Find a co-owner – this is what we did and what allowed us to buy a sailboat double our budget! The idea behind is pretty easy. A lot of sailboats are not used most of the year. In general, many boats are only being used some weeks during summer. So the idea is that your co-owner does get a defined amount of weeks in the year while you can be sailing on it during the rest of the year. It’s a great win-win situation for both, you get a boat double your budget and he does save up on marina costs and maintenance as you are taking care of it 90% of the time.

Step 3 – Buy a sailboat

Congrats you are almost there. You managed to get your finances straight and now are ready to hit the market. There are a lot of websites where you can search for sailboats, but don’t forget to also let your friends and social media friends now that you are looking for a boat. You never know what you might find, we for example found our sailboat on Instagram.

Once you defined which kind of sailboat you would like to buy and have found suitable options these are the following steps which await you

  1. Personal inspection of the boat
  2. Take it our for a sailing trail if possible
  3. Negotiate the price
  4. Sign a pre-purchase agreement
  5. lift our the boat and make a professional survey
  6. Reneogatioate the price if anything was detected during the survey
  7. buy your sailboat and new home

Find amore detailed description about the boat buying process here.

cover page boatlife finance

how much does it costs to live on a boat?

Step 4 – Move aboard and start your new life on a sailboat

Wow, you did it! You got your finances straight, found your sailboat and are ready to go! Now the exciting times begin. You will go through so many emotions, it will be overwhelming. Do not be too hard on you at the beginning, we all needed to learn a looot when we started this life, nothing will or can prepare you for it fully. Embrace every single step, take the time to enjoy it and do not rush. You are a liveaboard now! We do not have plans, but ideas, and we are never stressed because we have nowhere to be 🙂

We will write a second blog post which will go more into detail about sailboat buying, what you should look for when visiting the sailboat and what you can use to negotiate the price. Sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on it 🙂

Welcome to When Sailing 🙂
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how much does it costs to live on a boat?

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