The Sailboat Nomad

August 12, 2022/5 minutes reading

Digital nomad lifestyle is becoming more and more popular these days. If you're looking for an alternative way to live your location-free, independent lifestyle and want to discover the world from a unique perspective - consider becoming a digital nomad by living on a sailboat! This lifestyle definitely takes some getting used to, but you'll learn to do just about anything - and you'll get to travel the world along the way!

A beautiful harbor filled with boats

Living Full Time on a Boat

As you can imagine, living on a boat may be a difficult pill to swallow, especially when you're not used to it and you have no idea what to expect. However, there are a lot of pros to being a digital nomad and living on a sailboat:

  1. Cost - sailing is free compared to paying for housing in expensive cities, so you can save money by being able to live on your own boat.

  2. Environmental impact - pollution from factories and cars is what causes most health problems in the world today, so avoiding these pollutants is definitely a good thing.

  3. You get to sail to new locations - when you sail to a new destination you don't have to deal with the stress of finding a new place to live. If you're staying in port for a few days you can set up your home wherever you want, maybe even a beach office!

  4. You'll have time to explore new places - being on the water gives you the opportunity to explore new areas that aren't accessible by car or other modes of transportation.

Ryan Ellison aboard the 40 foot long Polar Seal

Ryan Ellison aboard the 40 foot long Polar Seal

“The first two years we owned our boat, we kept it in Stockholm. We were still working our jobs and that gave us time to figure out our boat and figure out what we were doing… because we really didn’t know. I’m glad we did that.” - Ryan Ellison and Sophie Darsy

One of the key things is to make sure you are really passionate about it and able to live a nomadic life. Although it may feel like work when you first get started, you'll quickly learn how to really enjoy your time on the sailboat. Not only that, you'll likely meet some great people and be on a constant adventure - what could be better than that?

Picking the Right Location (Weather Factor)

The destinations that get 4 seasons can end up getting pretty challenging for a sailboat nomad. If you’re sailing from North America and heading South don't get stuck in an area of huge wind storms like the Gulf Stream or the Sea of Cortez. In the East you can go to any location that has a few months of summer weather. In the West if you stay out of the main shipping lanes and you stay off the Islands then you can have endless summers and very mild winters. In the North you have to be very careful about bad weather especially ice with very limited opportunities for summer weather at all.

The best advice is to find a location that you are passionate about and then look at the weather patterns for that area. For example, if you love Florida but think the weather isn't so great for you, take a look at the East Coast where they have great summers and lots of rain in the winters. If that is where you want to be then it can be a great way to make your dream nomadic lifestyle a reality.

A boat in rugged waters

Photo by Ryan Ellison and Sophie Darsy

Maintenance

Boats need a lot of maintenance and you must be prepared by having the tools necessary for fixing your boat. You need the ability to self-repair when something goes wrong. There are a lot of tasks that go into maintaining a sailboat and being location-free, and eventually you’ll have to do some work yourself. Luckily there are people that can help you with repairs and maintenance, and you will be able to learn from them as you go. Who knows, over time you may even pick up a new side hustle?

The most important thing you need when living on a boat is constant access to clean water, food storage supplies, and fuel for the boat. These are probably the three fundamental items you will need, this will help you save time and let you concentrate on other activities. If you have these important issues figured out then you can live on your boat in any location and be ready for anything.

Budget

You need to make sure you are aware of the budget and how you will live your boat life. This means that you need to have a stable income coming in so that you can make all of your payments on the boat and stay somewhere safe and secure. You also need to be prepared for repairs and maintenance on the boat. You will need to make sure that you are able to pay for all of these things so that you don't put yourself in financial jeopardy while you discover the world.

A general list of necessary gear:

  1. A boat that you can call seaworthy without a dock or mooring can be had for as little as $10,000. You can find a boat that fits your needs by searching online or by looking in your local newspaper. There are also boat shows where you can find a good bargain on a boat for your needs.

  2. Offshore-cruising equipment: such as VHF radios, GPS navigation equipment, binoculars, instruments to monitor the hull or engine condition, flares, spare anchor, spare lines, fire extinguishers and first aid kits are all important to have. For electrical charging you'll need solar panels, solar controllers and wind generators for charging batteries.

  3. Sailing Equipment: A jury rigged sailboat typically needs one mainsail, one headsail (or jib), a spinnaker or staysail, an anchor, a mooring line and a crew station, all depending on how you plan on using it. A complete set of sailing gear can cost anywhere from $500-$3,000 depending on the quality and durability of the gear.

  4. Fuel: Diesel, gasoline or kerosene. Must be stored in jerry cans to comply with maritime laws.

  5. Food Storage Supplies: Flour, sugar, salt, rice, dehydrated/canned fruits and vegetables, pasta and cooking oil are all good choices

  6. Water Purification Gear: Reverse Osmosis filters, carbon water filters and chemical treatment tablets are all viable options.

  7. Life jackets, ropes, life rings etc. These are required for safety on board any vessel.

A man working on the deck of his sailboat

Loneliness

The boat life comes with a lot of lonely time especially when you are going from one destination to another. You'll need to find ways to keep yourself entertained so that you don't get cabin fever while you search for your next beach office. The best way to avoid this is to get involved with a local sailing club or other community organization where you can meet new people and make connections while learning about the sea.

The Catch

Some professions might not be a good fit just because you will not be able to access the internet all the time, but similar to other nomad lifestyles, living on a boat comes with unique challenges in exchange for beautiful destinations and daily dose of ocean views. Hopefully these points can help you get a better perspective on Sailboat life!

If you’re still interested in reading more head over to Ryan Ellison and Sophie Darsy’s article on Success or follow their journey on Instagram