29 Ways to Make Money When Living on Your Boat

making money living on a boat
Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Yes, 29 ways of making money on your boat and still counting. It’s amazing!

Making money when living on a boat is not as difficult as it sounds. In this article, I will talk about ways to make money on a boat and fund a very different lifestyle.

I’ve personally used many of these methods over many, many years of living aboard in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean, The Caribbean and South Pacific Islands.

Look on your approach as a portfolio strategy, with several different income streams. Work a bit, move on. Or stay where you are.

Obviously, if you can develop passive income streams then so much the better.

The boat

Do you have one? What do you fancy?

Could you afford what you fancy?

This is a major topic and is the subject of another article I’m currently writing, but if you don’t yet have a boat then read this article and think carefully about what appeals to you.

I have a special article on buying a boat coming up soon.

For now, be assured that there are plenty of ways to make money when living on a boat.

And read on!

Prepare yourself

Prepare yourself to make the transformation into a new life, whether you just want to live on a boat in your local harbour, or travel the world, maybe moving on every year or so.

Some of these methods – like writing or artwork can actually be done out at sea, others are more along the lines of jobs you can pick up when in harbour. And others can be done online when within range of communications using cellphone data connections as I’m doing right now, $60/month, and, soon to come – systems such as Starlink. At the moment, broadband through satellite is a millionaire’s game.

And some of these money making skills you may have to use anyway – on your own boat!

In later articles I’ll deal with some of the admin you will have to consider, like ‘home address’, taxes (yes, you’ll have to face it), how to find work, labour laws and visas.

Assess your financial needs as this will affect how you go about it. Do you want to become rich (doesn’t everyone – not necessarily) or just get by?

Tool up with your options

It’s a good idea to have several options available to you at any time.

So check your skills – what can you really do?

You could decide to acquire new skills – say welding, or fixing electronics.

Be realistic. If you can’t hit a nail in straight then concentrate on the more sporty or artistic options for making money on your boat.

You can choose from a wide range

1. Writing

This has been my main earner over the last 10 years. I am now a freelance writer, have written web content, marketing literature and sales proposals, project plans and ghosted books. I also write novels.

2. Computer programming online

Some people might think that the only way to do computer programming is from the office. But that’s not true! Here’s a new way to do it while escaping your 9-5. Learn the skill – there are plenty of online courses. This is a great option as you can do the course and acquire the skills when actually living on your boat. Web development is a great option, specialising say in Python, Java or WordPress.

If you have the right set-up it also possible to this offline, but it’s expert level work.

3. Marine carpentry

Marine carpentry is a skill that requires good hand-eye coordination, patience, and understanding of the physics of wood. If you are already a carpenter then you have a good start for working in boat building and boat repair. There is always demand, from cabinet work to larger scale projects.

4. Marine electronics specialist

If electronics is your thing then this could be for you. The marine electronics specialist is responsible for installing and maintaining navigational equipment on a vessel, from radar and GPS to multi-functional displays. Larger vessels have sophisticated entertainment systems, though this work is relatively harder to come by.

5. Marine electrician

A marine electrician is an electrical engineer who specializes in the shipboard installation and maintenance of electrical systems aboard vessels. Marine electricians are often called upon to repair or replace malfunctioning equipment, such as generators, motors and battery systems – and they must also be able to identify problems before they become major issues. There is tons of this work as things are always going wrong!

6. Marine engineer

This is more about fixing diesel engines and outboard motors, bBut also equipment such as winches. If you’re a grease monkey then this works well. I’ve done a fair bit over the years.

7. Become an Airbnb host on the boat

In a perfect world, we would all have the time, space and money to travel around the world and stay in five star hotels. However, for most of us, this is not a reality. So how about turning your boat into an Airbnb? With limited space and lots of privacy, your boat can work wonders as a guest house. I haven’t tried this but I know it work for some people but it tends to be the more expensive end of boating though.

8. Create and sell crafts or jewelry

This is quite a popular one too. Some sailors even have galleries on board the boat. Ideas include sea shells objects d’art, painting, scrimshaw (carving), decorative ropework.

9. Musician

If you are remotely musical you may well be able to pick up gigs in dockside bars. Besides the guitar, popular instruments include squeezeboxes and wind instruments. That’s no surprise for sailors!

10. Teaching

It’s often possible to pick up work teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s best to do a short course to get the certificate for this.

11. Stock, FX and Crypto trading

I’ve done some online stock trading and crypto too when I was writing ‘Blockchain Exploit’. Much of this depends on your strategy – you obviously need to have good broadband communications if you’re a day-trader. I broke even but it was all too hot for me back then.

12. Ebay trading

Besides eBay, there are other sites in most countries. For example, there’s no eBay in New Zealand, but TradeMe is big there. There are usually local Facebook groups too. This suits best if you are at a dock/town for a year or more. Things to consider include dealing with customer returns if you are trading physical goods.

13. Renovating marine equipment

I once met a guy in the Canary Islands who funded his lifestyle by renovating marine equipment that people had left by dumpsters. He fixed it up and sold it on. Big batteries could be kicked back into some sort of life, rubber dinghies could be patched and cleaned, electronics could be fixed. Even half tins of paint could be sold on!

14 Renovating boats

Yes, while you live on your boat, buy another neglected vessel and fix it up in the boatyard. You need to know what you’re doing when buying, but boat flipping can be a good earner. It obviously requires some capital to do it, and effort too, but $50 for a small dinghy can turn into $200 without too much work. And then you invest in something a little bigger!

13. Online Poker

Yes, people make a living playing poker online. It’s not gambling if you are good at it, it’s gaming. You’ll obviously need reliable broadband.

14. Poker in person

When I spent a couple of years in Grenada in the Caribbean (they have a great attitude to live-aboards down there), there was a weekly Texas Hold ‘Em table organised by yachties. It’s not something I’ve done myself, but if you’re good then why not?

15. Teaching scuba

If you’re a qualified scuba instructor then you can easily find work. There are plenty of schools, usually with at least 4 or 5 in any major harbour area. You could also find work as an underwater tour guide. And if you’re not qualified then think about it. See the ‘Photography’ option below – that can tie in very nicely with scuba.

16. Teaching sailing

Again, you’d need an instructor qualification to work for a sailing school (in most harbours) but there’s no harm in getting one anyway if you’re seriously planning to go sailing on your own boat.

17. Property

Many live-aboards have homes/property which they rent out when away on their boats, and if you’re smart you can build up your portfolio. I know people who have 1,2,3,4 or more properties rented, which funds a comfortable cruising lifestyle. Not for me that one. I sold my home and moved aboard permanently.

18. Photography

This can be a good semi-passive one. Load your pictures up to Pexels or iStock (there are plenty of companies). You’ll need an eye for a photo and good equipment. The companies then sell the image licences for you. You’re out on your boat, right? You see wildlife, snafus, nature and the wide world. Snap away and sell. Passive income, making money when on your boat. Here’s one from Maël BALLAND from Pexels:

Photo by Maël BALLAND from Pexels

Here’s one I took myself at Maragojipe in Brazil, with the moon rising over the River Paraguacu:

Image (c) James Marinero 2006

I have a couple of favourite creators whose images I use – one of them has 32,000 images uploaded. It works for video too and…

19. YouTube Channel

Record and edit videos about your life aboard the boat and start up a channel of your own. There are plenty of videos online about how to do this. You can also set up a no-face YouTube channel where you just teach people how to do stuff – say, like making jewellery from sea-shells, which you’re already doing anyway, right? Getting over the initial hump to get the channel monetized takes a bit of work and time.

20. Yacht delivery

If you’re more experienced then you can pick up work in this line. You’ll need qualifications if you don’t have a list of deliveries to show. I’ve met people who’ve moved $5m superyachts across the Atlantic, and others who’ve moved small yachts just 100 miles. Long range deliveries typically pay $1/mile plus expenses.

21. Barbering

Yes, you read that right. Sailors need haircuts and I’ve met several who have become experienced barbers, trimming hair on other people’s boats. Don’t laugh. The $/minute rates are great. This is a great one for ladies.

22. Reiki

Yes, foot massage. This is popular with the ladies in particular. Again, good $/minute rates.

23. Physiotherapy

Sailors get sprains, pulled muscles and stiff joints. I’ve met people on the dockside who offer this as a service. There are courses available. Make money rubbing people up the right way.

24. House sitting

I recently picked up some work house-sitting for people going on holiday. I’d met them on the dockside (they had a home nearby). Feed the cat, water the garden, do some weeding. Yes, use the pool and the spa too! Not great money, but a pleasant change and a big bed!

25. Communications expert

Or, how to help people get connected to the net. Many sailors will happily pay for expert advice on how to do this. I’ll deal with this in a separate article as it’ such an important topic.

26. Canvas work and sail repair

You’ll need a good quality commercial-grade sewing machine if you’re getting into this. I use a $100 sailmaker’s machine I bought on eBay. I’ve done sail repairs and canvas work for my own boat – and for others too. If you develop this skill then you can often find temporary wok in dockside sailmakers. I’ve used mine mid-ocean as well. You can also fix that hole in your pants.

27. Recording audiobooks

This is a growth market and if you have the voice then get the equipment (minimal cost). You’ll also need a soundproof booth to work in. That’s not straightforward on a boat if the wind is blowing and the waves lapping against the hull. It’s one I’m investigating right now so that I can record my own books.

28. Gaming, again

Yes, you’ll need an online connection. Swagbucks, Gamesville, Secondlife – there are many of them. But beyond that, if you are really good, you could become a video game coach or game tester.

29. Yacht tours

Way back in 2006 when I was in Brazil, I was offered money to take tourists round the islands in the Baia de Isla Grande when some English people wanted a good English-speaker to guide them. Without suitable insurance I didn’t follow that route, but it’s a good possibility for making money on your boat if you set yourself up for it. You’d need a commercial skipper licence and have the boat certified. With the Skipper’s licence you can do yacht deliveries too.

Well, I didn’t make it to 30 ways to make money on your boat, yet, but I’ll probably have another pop into my head when I’m in my bunk tonight!

Admin, Labour Laws, Visas and Insurance

There’s no getting away from this stuff in the modern world, even on a boat. If you’re a citizen of the US or a EU country then you have a lot more latitude in moving about and working within those respective regions. If you’re looking more internationally then the picture changes a little.

Generally, life is a little easier if you’re working online.

I’ll deal with these topics in a separate post, including stuff like health insurance.

How to find the work

Online is easier than offline, depending on what services you have available to offer, and when and where.

This is a separate topic for another article so be sure to sign up to my mail list and get the best of my worldwide experience in my occasional newsletters and receive all my articles about living on a boat as I publish them!

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