I lived aboard my sailboat for several years and spent some of those years sailing in the Caribbean and along the coast Central America.
Some Ways To Make Money Living Aboard A Sailboat
As a former live aboard cruiser for three years in the Caribbean, I came across many people who were able to live the cruising dream even though they were not wealthy. Many worked for a few years, then took off and went sailing for a while, to then return to their jobs and repeat the cycle again while the boat was hauled out in a boat yard somewhere.
There are a few money - making things that you can do to make the "cruising kitty" go farther, especially if you don't mind working a bit. Here are some money making, live aboard sailor's part time jobs that I have come across.
If you have skills as a barber or hair stylist, there is always a chance to make a few dollars in an anchorage when the word gets out that you cut hair. All you need is a few basic hair cutting tools, clippers, scissors and combs and brushes.
I have gotten many decent haircuts aboard fellow cruisers boats, when I found out that they cut hair. You don't need a license if you just accept barter for your services. Just make sure you really know what you are doing before cutting someone's hair! (I've had some pretty bad cruiser - done haircuts as well.)
Yoga instruction, Pilates, and massage therapy services are also examples of good ways to make some extra income, and new friends as well.
Another skill that is always in demand in cruising destinations is that of a boat mechanic. If you have engine repair skills, fiberglass repair skills, boat electronics knowledge, etc., there is always money to be made in a faraway port where other cruiser's boats have developed problems. You will just need to keep on hand all of the tools of the trade, as well as a supply of smaller spare parts.
Sail repair is a popular way for people to earn a living on a sailboat, you just need an industrial sewing machine and enough power aboard your boat to run it. A 2000 watt pure sine inverter and a couple of T-104 batteries along with a wind generator and solar panels should provide enough power to run your sewing machine.
Painting and varnishing services are also something that is in demand in any port. This is one way that I have personally used to earn some extra money while I was sailing in Latin America. Picky boaters will often trust a fellow sailor, especially if they see that his or her own boat is well varnished.
Cleaning boat bottoms may not be everyone's idea of fun, but I personally enjoy putting on snorkeling or scuba gear and being underwater, and it is good upper body exercise. I used to charge a dollar per foot for cleaning a boat bottom, plus my air fill, but I suspect that the going rate has risen a bit over the years.
There are all kinds of ways that cruisers can make extra money living on a boat, including writing articles on sites such as Hub Pages. To earn from writing articles, all you will need is a laptop and an internet connection. I still keep in touch with lots of our old sailing friends and one of them who was most recently living aboard his 32' catamaran in Cruz Bay in the USVI is making money from his articles and YouTube videos. His articles, mostly about the Caribbean and sailing, are featured on different sites that share Google Adsense revenue or ones where can place his own Adsense code. He uses a high speed internet connection from a signal that he is picking up from a friend's house onshore. In many anchorages you can find an open wireless network from shore to connect to, however I caution against using them as you run the risk of hackers stealing your passwords, etc.
Earning Income By Sharing Your Sailing Journey On YouTube
Once you have met the required number of followers, you may add Adsense ads to your YouTube channel. You currently must have at least 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months and also have at least 1,000 subscribers to be able to place ads on your channel.
In addition to earning income from ads placed on your YouTube channel, you may also link to products that you use onboard your boat in the video description and earn Amazon Associates income if anyone purchases from that link. Amazon Associates is free to join and shares a percentage of the sale with members who place ads or links on their sites.
One German sailing couple that I met in the Exumas now has over 400,000 followers and they post at least one new video each week as they voyage. The key to success is making your videos interesting, quality filming and adding new content as often as you can. Start by searching YouTube and follow some of the successful sailing YouTubers to learn their techniques for amassing a large group of followers.
Another great way to earn some residual income while sailing is to upload stories and photos to your own blog, which you can monetize with Google Adsense. You can do this on Google Blogger or by joining a site that shares Adsense revenue such as Hubpages.
I have met cruising sailors who proofread kid's books, wrote romance novels, and even a licensed dentist who had a full dentist's chair and office aboard his 52' yacht. (As a patient you have to hope a speedboat's wake doesn't rock the boat when he is drilling your molar!) Your imagination is the only thing limiting you from earning money while you live aboard a sailboat.
If you are serious about staying on the water and extending the time you spend cruising, then it just may be possible to do so by performing part time work along the way, including jobs on shore.
I once spent three months in the U.S. Virgin Islands, helping build a municipal sewer plant. While I only made $8.00 per hour, my boat was anchored only 100 yards from the job site. As well as being an easy commute, having my boat next to my job was a visual reminder that my work was optional, and was making it possible to move on to new places when I saved enough money.
Good Luck and Fair Winds!
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 08, 2012:
I live on a boat myself and it's a fantastic lifestyle. Not always easy but it's hard to complain even on the worst days.
Koralee Phillips from Vancouver British Columbia Canada on May 06, 2012:
Great hub thanks! I have a friend who's going to be living on a boat this summer and could use your money making suggestions. Voted up, useful and shared.
JR Krishna from India on May 05, 2012:
The things you have described here are new to me.
Thanks for sharing:)
tpe on December 01, 2010:
Good hubs really interesting and some good ideas on how to make money.
carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on July 06, 2010:
I love your choice of life style. very cool indeed.
Dense from somewhere in a concrete jungle, hugging a green plastic tree, and wondering what happened on April 30, 2010:
Great hub on a subject I used to wonder about. ;)
health20010 on April 15, 2010:
good information about making money
Lee A Barton from New Mexico on March 19, 2010:
In addition to making sails, there's a market for canvas covers--especially in the Northwest!
Yogi Milsap on November 04, 2009:
Thank you for helping me figure out ways to become a liveaboard and make money.
Bruce Slaven on February 16, 2009:
I realy enjoy your wrighting as I am thinking of learning how to sail and live onboard