How to leave the rat race behind and live on a boat

Your ticket to freedom

Some people just dream about sailing away all their lives. Others just do it. We did it at the age of 55, with a great deal of preparation. I wish we had done it much sooner. 

Stop buying stuff

  • All that stuff weighs you down. The more you have, the more stuck you get.
  • One exception: buy a small boat to get comfortable with sailing and learn what you really want in a boat to live aboard before you head off.

Save money

  • If you stop buying stuff, you’ll stop getting in debt and be able to save money.
  • Work with a financial manager to figure out how much you’ll need to live on and how soon you can get there. 

Prepare Yourself 

  • Make sure you have all the licenses and documents you will need if sailing to foreign countries: up-to-date passport, VHF station and operator's license (required in many countries outside of US), HAM license (required for SSB radios in many countries), Yachtmaster or ICC in Europe and Captain's or Master's license in US (required by many insurers), yacht and medical insurance for cruising, etc. Also vaccinations and prescription medicines stockpiled to last you for however long you need. 
  • Take courses to familiarize yourself with important safety issues: advanced navigation, MOB techniques, safety at sea, COLREGs, storm tactics, anchoring, etc.

Get rid of everything you already own

  • Sell it, give it away, or toss it out. You’ll be amazed how cathartic purging can be.
  • You won’t need much to live on a boat. Save a few t-shirts, shorts and flip flops (unless of course you head to the high latitudes).

Buy a boat

  • Figure out the type of sailing you want to do – crossing oceans, Arctic exploration, ICW, coastal passage making, or just pottering about – and look for a boat that fits your budget: power or sail?
  • The bigger the boat and the more gadgets it has, the more expensive it will be to run.

Quit your job

  • If you like the folks you work with, tell them you’re moving to paradise.
  • Smile serenely when you leave and see their stunned expressions.

Move aboard

  • Set a date and move aboard. You will never be completely ready.
  • It will take a little time to settle in so don’t plan to sail off too far the first day.

Margarita time

  • You’re now officially on island time.
  • Pour a cocktail and raise a toast to your first sunset in freedom.

From the editors of, the Boater’s Resource for Places to Go and Things to Know.


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