Life on board – How to make money living on a boat

And what do they live for? That is perhaps the most frequently asked question to anyone who watches ships in transit at a marina, and is also the least asked question (for lack of confidence) and the most uncomfortable answer for many people.

It is also the most important and difficult question to answer for the majority of people that the idea of ​​living and traveling on a boat arises: what will I live in the boat ?.

So, I will explain all the ways to earn money while living on a boat that I have known through me and other dock neighbors during the last years:

Write books or magazine articles: perhaps one of the ways to earn money from a boat better known, the examples of people who did it successfully are endless: Eduardo Rejduch, the Pardey, Bernard Moitessier, Eric Hiscock …
In the book El Navegante Capaz there is an article of more than 20 pages explaining in detail how to make a living as a writer and photographer on a boat, its authors have been doing it for over 40 years and have published more than 10 books and several DVDs, with They know what they are talking about.

Some of the important data in this article are:

For them to know, there are only 5 English speaking people / couples living and traveling by boat who earn their living exclusively by writing and / or selling photographs (they are one of those 5), instead there are hundreds or thousands of dollars Extra with it.
In the last 20 years, what magazines pay per article has fallen by about 65%, taking into account the increase in the real cost of living.
No one makes a living writing on boats over 10 meters in length, the money they can win is the same, but as their expenses are much higher the numbers do not come out.
A good sail book can sell 3000 copies in two years, while a good technical book on pleasure boats can sell 40,000 copies a year.
On average you can expect to earn about 6% of the cover price of a book.
In short, although in the long run it may be a way to have extra income, it is not realistic to pretend to live only from it, at least not during the first few years.
Answer Tarot queries by phone, email or messenger: something unusual, but being one of my sources of income could not stop commenting.
It makes sense if you already dedicate to it and you have your portfolio of clients well established, in such a way that you only have to take your practice to the ship and continue working as it has been, for example I had been in Tarot for 4 years when I bought boat.

The biggest drawback is that you have to maintain an authentic office aboard the ship, and that is much more expensive and complex than on land.

On the other hand, now (December 2011) due to the crisis is an activity in frank decline, I know a lot of people who make a living like that, and everyone has lowered their queries, has risen the default rate, Many have closed, others have lowered rates up to 40% …

At the moment I feel lucky, because compared to the people I know I have been affected by the crisis much less, but come on, I think it is not a favorable moment to try to earn a living with it in the sense of setting up your own office Of zero.

Luxury pensions: very obvious, but I had to mention it because it is by far the most usual, I calculate that in Europe about 80% of people who live and travel in a boat fall into this category:

They are simply people who are retired and have pensions of more than 2000 euros / month, often around 3000 euros / month, in a way that gives enough to maintain the boat, travel with him and enjoy life; Very often they are couples of the North of Europe that put together two retirements of luxury, with which they walk quite loose.

In any case, it is a way of making money that is already in decline, on the one hand because more and more are being reduced the existing pensions, and decreasing the amount and amount of which are granted each year, and on the other hand, These luxury retirees have children and grandchildren, and increasingly have to divert a larger part of their pension to support their family, who because of the crisis are losing their jobs and finding themselves in difficult situations that they can not afford economically.

In practice they travel less and closer to home, and in many marinas they start to miss them, where before they arrived 10 luxury retirees now arrive 3 or 4, and as they were the majority of their clients of transit begin To miss them in accounting.

So, unless you happen to be retired to luxury in the coming months, this option is not useful … read on 😉

Retired millionaires: also evident, but being the second most common case could not stop commenting, this is the group of people who feel very uncomfortable when you ask them that they live … almost never give a clear answer about it, But it is understood that first they managed to have a lot of money in some way and then they dedicated themselves to live and to travel in a ship by the world.
Rich couple aboard their brand new boat
So you can play the lottery every week to try to be a millionaire … but just in case you should look for an additional source of income … keep reading!

Living on incomes: it is something that I see from time to time, for example someone who has a home, buys a boat, moves to it and rents the house, so that with what he earns for the rent can cover the Less a part of his basic expenses, then with some other work here and there, he manages to make ends meet.

Obviously the more rented properties you have better … If you have many already enter the former category of “Retired Millionaires”.

Programmers: although in Spain teleworking seems never to have settled, in Eastern Europe it is different, I have already met several people from countries like Romania, Bulgaria or the Czech Republic who have been traveling the world while doing Schedules that are ordered by their respective companies.
That if, for the moment I did not know anybody in a boat, but traveling with the backpack in tow, in cheap flights and sleeping very cheaply in houses of other compatriots; When they have a moment they take out the laptop, they are a few days doing the programs that ask them, send them by email or ftp and at the end of the month they receive money in exchange for their work.

Apparently the biggest problem is that they earn little money and depend on a single payer, which aside I think he only pays when he orders some work … in other words, it is somewhat precarious, but still gives them to live and Travel for the cheap.

I met several people who have been traveling the world in this way, and perhaps what they all had in common is that they said it was not easy, but that the situation in their country is so fucked up that they prefer to be in any other Side of the world so that you can eat and know that no one is going to come and shoot you at any moment.

On a boat, I do not think I could afford to live on it, but it can be a complementary source of income, it all depends on how much you get the actual working hours.

Advertising on Websites: it is about having one or more web pages with a significant number of visits (more than 1000 a day), so that advertising revenue will mean a significant income and more or less stable at the end of the month.
The numbers vary a lot, but roughly for every 1000 page views you can expect to earn 2 or 3 euros, so that if you have 1000 visits daily and each visit sees 3 pages on average, that comes to give around 200 euros to Month, which is not much, but once the page works it’s a money you earn in exchange for doing practically nothing …

This with the now famous Google AdSense program, then there are other alternatives that are interesting according to which sectors, for example at the level of flight reservations and hotels, car rental, insurance contracting …

The drawbacks of making money through internet advertising are not small:

You have to know a lot about the Internet, to make web pages, search engine positioning … if you already have that knowledge, there is no problem, but learning them from scratch takes a lot of hours (hundreds or thousands).
The investment in time until the page works and has visits is monstrous, minimum 500 hours, and quietly several thousand; The good thing is that the investment in money is almost insignificant.
Internet changes very fast, so you never know what is going to happen tomorrow, you can close your advertising accounts, go from paying 30 cents per click to 3 cents in a matter of a day, move from the top Google positions to the last Without apparent explanation, may appear one or more competitors that take away part of your income …
So it is not appropriate to depend on this only to live, but it is always a source of complementary income and welcome because, once it works, it is money that comes to you without doing practically anything.
I see it as a kind of investment, first invested say 500 hours in making a web page, and it is estimated that thanks to it you will enter so many thousands of euros over 2 or 3 years.

It is not a very buoyant business, but it is a way to invest time to go get money in exchange for that time in a gradual way during the following years.

Making and maintaining web pages: Something that is getting worse and worse, but that adapts quite well to the nomadic life, I dedicated myself to making web pages for several years, and I still have the maintenance of most of them.
It is much more interesting to maintain than to make new pages, normally a fixed annual fee is charged for maintaining a website (including hosting, domain …), and if you know how to do things well, chances are you do not have to dedicate A lot of time at the end of the year, if you have to make any changes or extensions that is charged separately …

Looking to live in a boat can be a pretty clear choice if you already dedicate to it, it is a matter of accustoming your customers to not always in the same place, in practice this is easy if your page works every day And you fulfill your duties.

Health professionals: I knew several cases of dentists or nurses who lived and traveled with their ships earning a living to a greater or lesser extent with their work in the places where they arrived.
Nurse taking the helm of her boat
This requires walking around underdeveloped sites where most people do not have access to a proper health system, in those places something as simple as an antibiotic or removing a tooth with anesthesia are extremely valuable and difficult to find, such So if you arrive with your boat with the knowledge and means to do it and you have a minimum of people, it is easy to change that for things that are valuable to you: diesel, wood, food, stays in port, logistical support , Transportation, water …

It is not predictable that you can only live on that, because sooner or later you will need euros or dollars that you will have to take from somewhere else, but I suppose it can be a good way to have a material base on which to support you and also to know the places where You arrive

El Comercio: There are many things whose price fluctuates incredibly from one port to another, for example, a stainless steel screw that costs 6 cents in Gijón; in Madeira it can cost 35; 5 liters of olive oil good in Spain cost 30 euros, in England can cost a hundred or more … so that there are people who takes extra money by buying according to what things on the site where it is with the idea of ​​reselling them in The port to which it is directed.
The examples are infinite, from crafts to food, to wines, hams or tobacco, tools, fuel, electronics, books … even some I knew who took a motorcycle from the boat and sold it secondhand to someone who passed by .

Basically it is about having a commercial vision, knowing that things are cheap in relation to their real value, and finding a way to convert them into money to the place where you arrive.

You also have to be careful not to shit on a legal level, as there may be things that are legal in one place and not another, or you can have them on the boat but you can not sell them without paying tariffs, you have to know a little about how Things work in every place.

Again, it would not be logical to expect to live on this alone, but it could be an additional source of income.

Transport of boats: one of the most traditional ways of making a living that people who live on boats have used.
In general you do not have to look for it, from time to time someone comes to your boat to offer you the job of taking your boat from this port to another port, usually because they do not have the experience or the time to do it.

The problem with this is that the money paid for it has plummeted in recent years, so that apparently they pay too little for the risk and the work it entails.

According to people I know, about 10 or 20 years ago you could charge about 10,000 euros for bringing a ship from the Caribbean to Spain by the North Atlantic, a dangerous and hard work that can last at least 2 or 3 weeks. Now apparently there are people doing that same for 2000 euros, even those who do it almost free only “to catch experience” or “because they like the Sea”, the latter usually as crew for the first.

Then it can eventually be a way to earn extra money, especially if you manage to negotiate good economic conditions, but come on, do not make any illusions about it.

Maintenance and repairs of other ships: something that was also in the past a way of life for those who traveled with little money for the world, and that lately is in a downfall.
My experience after going through many ports in recent years is that it is unlikely that someone is willing to pay an acceptable price for a repair on board, which if I meet from time to time is people trying to do for 20 euros a job By which a professional would charge 100 or 200.

People who want a job well done and are willing to pay for it directly look for a professional with guarantees, and only in case they are stuck in a port where there are no professionals may want to pay you because they fix something, we , That if you are good DIY from time to time you can get money this way, but do not count on it in your forecasts.

A variant of this is to be specialized in some type of concrete repair, for example repairing sails, repairing marine electronics, welding metals … this works best, especially when they are things that you do well and that there is nobody in the port Where you are to make them, but of course, it is already supposed to keep some expensive tools just to earn some money from time to time.

As for caring boats whose owners had to leave alone a season to return to their country, sometimes also can give money, basically it is to clean the deck every week, to check the bilge, to ventilate, to adjust the moorings, the defenses, to start the motor…

The problem with this is that like so many other things is quite saturated, and rare is the marina where there is already someone who makes a living with it, so that it is likely that you will come later and not be especially welcome If you intend to make them the competition.

Rent your own boat to tourists with you by pattern: an idea that occurs to many people but is not as easy as it seems.
The problem is that in most of the ports there are already people who dedicate themselves to it, they pay their taxes and also they make the competition to each other, with which if you get to take them work they are most likely to report you to the day Next, it is more, many times they are the first to come by your boat to ask if you could rent it to go out one morning … so they are with the people who live and travel in boats.

Then, as advertising with a poster above the boom is not highly recommended, most people today is trying to search the Internet for people who pay a certain amount to sail with them for a few weeks, there are Even web pages like Find a Crew specialized in it, and some other people make their own website with the intention of finding those crew members who pay them for browsing with them, if you search the Internet you see that it is an idea that has occurred to you To many people, such as this couple.

To the guys on the previous page I do not know them, but other people I met who dedicated themselves to it my impression is that it is not an easy way to make a living, to begin with you need a big boat with a large maintenance costs, then Your customers are usually people with little sailing experience that are more of a problem than a help, we go, they give enough work, and indirectly also expenses, it is not unusual for you to break the toilet or anything else, to get dizzy and want to give half Return … in general the people that I knew dedicating to the charter had enough anecdotes of its clients …

Then after a few months of trying to live on the charter, the most normal thing is to make numbers and realize that they do not go as you would like, assuming you have customers, because many people who try to rent their boats find that it is not easy to find those crew Of payment.

Either way it does not cost much to make a small website or maintain a profile on websites like Find a Crew, so that from time to time you can get some extra money down that road.
Releasing mobiles: a very versatile and easy to do on a ship, perhaps the biggest drawback is that every 6 months you have to catch up on new programs and unlock techniques (people usually pay for releasing new phones).
You also have to do it carefully because according to which sites may not be completely legal, but come on, it is a rather discreet and with little competition in most sites not very large, while the number of mobile phones is overwhelming, even in Countries like Guinea-Bissau which is among the poorest in the world, of 1500000 inhabitants is estimated that more than the third party has a mobile phone.

And of course, you first have to learn how to do it, it’s not really difficult if you’re familiar with computers and computers.

NGOs and similar: it is surprising the number of sailing boats that I see that belong to some type of NGO or similar, there are for all tastes, from the friends of the whales, to NGOs of disabled people who are dedicated to carry disabled people on board For a few days to gain confidence in themselves, others that are dedicated to “reeducate” young people at risk of social exclusion, until the foundation of La Caixa has a sailing ship that is not very well known to that it is dedicated .. .
All have in common that they live on subsidies, either from the public administration or from private foundations, but many times behind all that scenario there is a person or a couple who lives on the ship and is traveling the world living from it, usually Have a fairly decent monthly salary, and all maintenance costs are borne by the NGO.

Obviously it is not the same as having a boat of your own and doing with it what you want, but it can be much better than having nothing.

If you already have the boat and some good contact, you can put imagination and try to create your own NGO to live in history, I guess it is a rather saturated sector and not the best time, but hey, it is an idea that maybe Worth analyzing.

International espionage (and narrow-gauge): this may sound a joke, but it is not, currently working as a spy is something of rabiosa current, although for obvious reasons is often not talked about.
In short, different public, private or clandestine organizations may be interested in someone who goes with an innocent pleasure boat from here to there to do according to what work or inquiries, take photos of depending on things, contact casually with whom. ..

Obviously it is not in the Sunday newspaper or the Inem office where you will find a job offer of this type, basically you need to get to it through some contact you already have, for example it is easy for someone who has worked in The State Security Forces or have some good contact in there.

And there are many types of spies, with very different remunerations, in general the less risk they run the less money they earn; Now for example it is very common to find third-party spies in anything like an incipient social movement, such as small political parties, trade unions, associations of anything … even it is not uncommon for private people to do things a little Worries send a spy from time to time to assess the situation from within.

This often works in a random way, in the sense that the spy is getting into all possible strokes knowing how many more people better, and everything he takes out only gets money for the really useful information he brings, from Such that it runs a virtually zero risk, can match it with your daily life, and in exchange from time to time you get extra money.

But come on, you’re unlikely to buy a boat for you to do as you live on it hippie plan and casually go to the Middle East to do as you take the sun while you’re actually spying on what the alleged enemies of Western democracy do.

Anyway, being more than a third spy is too dangerous, there are many cases of people on pleasure boats who end up behind bars accused of being spies, and probably most of the time they are not.

Make and sell handicrafts: something that is well-taken care of but needs a comfortable economic environment that can and wants to pay for your work, let’s work in places where there is money.
In general there are many things of crafts that require few and inexpensive tools, such as working the leather, I myself make leather crafts from time to time for the boat, myself or to give gifts to third parties.
Making leather crafts on board Xebec
The biggest problem with pretending to live on the craft is that the profitability per hour of work is usually very low, and the moment the economic situation of the place where you are deteriorates, you are the first to note.

It also has the good thing that it is something you can do at any time, even enjoying it and taking advantage of lost times that you have from time to time.

My conclusion to all this is that there is no clear way to make a living in a boat doing one thing, while if you combine a few things if you can give yourself to live worthily, then it is a question of seeing in which of those economic activities you see That you can fit better and try to do several at a time, hoping that together at the end of the year you get the numbers.
And it is also obvious that it is essential to have few expenses, all the money you do not need to spend is time that you can dedicate to enjoy life instead of working to earn money; For this, perhaps what helps most is to have a boat as small as possible with which you feel at ease, as as I commented here, the monthly cost of living in a boat increases exponentially with the length of it.

In other words, for most normal people it is not easy to earn a living on a boat, but for almost no one is impossible if one is willing to work hard.