Here’s how to live on a boat without going broke

Personal Finance


If you’re ready to commit to a boat, watch your expenses. Both the Thomases and Giffords used older boats for their trips: Saturnalia was built in 1973 and Totem in 1982.

“You’ll have your boat goal and your provisions goal,” said Ryan Dignum, a financial planner with Dignum Financial Partners in Fort Worth. “You always have to build in cushions in case it’s a little more expensive.”

Expect to spend time and money maintaining your vessel – and know that you’ll have to do a good deal of work yourself.

“After taking the boat around the world, it requires quite a bit of maintenance,” said Behan Gifford. “You have to replace the wiring and the rig to know it’s good and strong.”

Plumbing and sewage were the most burdensome maintenance items for the Thomases.

Those are just two items on a long list of boat care responsibilities, including caring for your sails, preventing corrosion of metal equipment and more.

Don’t forget the financial side of boat care: Even if you only sail on the weekends, you need to insure your vessel. If you’re living aboard, however, you’ll need to notify your insurer and add coverage.

Safety also matters: Liz Clark, who has been living aboard Swell, a Cal 40, since 2005, sails in the Pacific — but avoids hot spots known for pirate activity.

“The island people of the Pacific are so warm and welcoming, and I don’t feel I’m in danger there,” she said. “Things get riskier in southeast Asia.”

Behan Gifford also makes a point of steering clear of areas in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. “It’s not safe to go into the northwest Indian Ocean,” she said. “We’re very conservative and risk averse.”



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