How to Sail on a Budget

How to Sail on a Budget | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

October 1, 2020


You'll have to reconsider your stance if you've ever thought that sailing around the world is just for the rich and famous. You certainly do not have to spend every last penny to stay afloat and sail around the world. Here's how to sail on a budget.

Have you ever dreamt of ditching your rat race 9-5 job, casting it all in the wind, and sailing around the world? Well, if you love the freedom that being on the water brings and like the feeling of the wind brushing through your hair and the smell of salt on your face, then you've probably been thinking about how to sail cheaply.

If you're one of the lucky few who have deep pockets and millions of dollars, then you can easily buy your own yacht, hire a crew, and sail around the world sipping some of the most expensive bottles of champagnes with no worry in the world. But if you're like most of us, on a modest income, then the only way to achieve your wildest dream of sailing around the world is on a budget.

While many people still think that sailing is expensive, elitist, and exclusive, you certainly do not need to burn your pockets to set sail around the world. With a good boat that floats and some cash in your pocket, you'll be surprised at just how sailing can become an affordable game. So even if you do not have pockets that run deep, you can still sail on a budget.

All you have to do is consider food, boat maintenance, insurance, where to sail, the cost and type of your boat, cruising fees, mooring fees, fuel, communication, excursions, and a few other things. With just about $8,700 you can sail around the world for an entire year that's if you already have a boat!

In this captivating article, we'll highlight the most important tips on how to sail on a budget.


Table of contents for this article

Become a Sailor and Look for a Job as a Crewmember

One of the most important things that many people do forget when it comes to sailing on a budget is that they do not necessarily have to own a boat to sail around the world. With some sailing skills and experience you can take the adage; �Fake it till you make it' to a whole new level. The only problem is that you must have some skills or experience that can be helpful in the sailing world.

You can look for a job in a yacht as a hostess, maid, or steward and this can easily give you an opportunity to sail around the world on a budget. That being said, you may be at an advantage if you've ever worked in the service industry and have the experience of being a steward, maid, or hostess.

Similarly, having the skills and experience of sailing or boating can come in handy if you're looking to sail around the world on a budget while working above the deck. For example, your skills in driving small power boats can come in handy when transporting guests and crew members to and from anchored yachts. Add this to your skills of tying knots, handling lines, varnishing and re-varnishing on deck, general boat safety knowledge, and you might just sail around the world on a budget!

In essence, there are a lot of sailing lessons across the country that are sanctioned by the US Coast Guard. These sailing courses generally include boat safety skills and captain's licenses. With more qualifications, certifications, and experience, you'll be better placed to become a crew and sail around the world for close to nothing.

By becoming a crew member, you'll not only sail around the world for free or close to nothing but you'll also avoid the problems that come with owning a boat, and believe us; it can be quite hectic. In short, becoming a crew member is a lot cheaper, more versatile, and you can easily quit as soon as you get bored (which we doubt you'll ever be) or when you run out of funds.

While many crew members get their jobs through word of mouth, here's a great website where you can find a gig as a crewmember. The beauty of finding a job as a crewmember is that there will be no expenses as you sail around the world. Everything is usually taken care of and in some instances; you might get paid for your work as a crewmember.

Do Thorough Research

If you're looking to sail on a budget, one of the pitfalls that you must avoid is a lack of knowledge, or shall we say not knowing what's happening. So when it comes to sailing on a budget, you must do thorough research, get to know everything, and stay on top of things. By doing research, you'll stay organized and this is of great importance if you want to sail on a budget. You'll know the weather, the marinas, the type of food that you need while out there on the water, the spare parts that you must bring on board, the navigation devices, and everything else that is essential for smooth sailing, safety, and of course, to sail on a budget.

Buying a Boat

When we talk about how to sail on a budget, we're fully aware that many people lean towards how to sail on a budget on your own sailboat. Well, there's no problem with that, but as a boat owner, there are costs that will come with owning and using your sailboat. Of course, there is lots and lots of information about buying a boat on the internet, so we aren't going to delve much into that. However, you have to understand that the bigger the boat, the higher the costs. For example, the insurance, maintenance, and mooring costs of a bigger boat will be a lot higher than the costs of a smaller boat.

So the best thing to do when looking at how to sail on a budget is to go for a modest boat; something that's cheaper to maintain and insure. Generally speaking, you should consider going for a fiberglass boat as it comes with very few maintenance costs and can serve you quite well for decades. Well, fiberglass sailboats do not rot like sailboats made from wood and do not rust like metallic sailboats, and this is exactly why they're a lot easier to maintain. More importantly, fiberglass boats are tough and over-engineered, so you'll be good to go as far as breakdowns and repair costs are concerned.

Here are some tips on how to buy a great boat for sailing on a budget.

  • Do your research by reading up on boats and visiting boatyards. While there, you can talk to experts and get their opinions on various boats
  • Do not buy a boat that's too big and difficult to handle. Instead, start small and trade up gradually
  • Avoid buying a rare boat. You want a boat that can be easily repaired in case of any problem
  • Consider joining an owners association before purchasing a boat. You'll get the chance of speaking with other owners and getting their first-hand perspectives
  • Make sure that the boat is thoroughly surveyed by a professional boat surveyor

We have a few articles about boats that would be helpful here, such as the best liveaboard sailboats, and the best sailboats for beginners.

Look for Places Where you can Sail on a Budget

While many sailors often think about the Caribbean, it can be quite expensive to sail there. So instead of just concentrating in one area, you can look for places where it's reasonably inexpensive while still offering an experience of a lifetime.

With that in mind, here are some of the best places to sail cheaply and on a budget.

The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

You can charter your boat to the Adriatic Sea and get the chance to explore some of the best islands and little coves in Croatia. The best part of such a sailing voyage is that the cost of living, eating, and drinking is extraordinarily low, so you do not have to run your pockets dry.

Ionian Islands, Greece

The flights to Greece are generally very affordable from the United States so you can fly there and charter a boat to the Ionian Islands. These are a gorgeous cluster of islands with charter companies offering affordable prices for boats and other amenities.

Jakarta, Indonesia

This is one of the most exotic places to sail and will cost you close to nothing. In addition to cheap flights from the United States, you'll get to sample various cuisines that are very cheap and cheerful. You can also work on your tan on the gorgeous beaches or go surfing, snorkeling, or even fishing.

Cargo Boating in the Amazon River

One of the newest and most affordable ways of sailing on a budget is by going cargo sailing down in the Amazon River. It's not as glamorous as sailing on the open seas but you'll get a chance to offer supplies to the Amazon Rainforest village and even make some new friends down there. Well, it is exotic, trendy, hipster, cheerful, and very affordable!

Cartagena, Panama

You can enjoy an unforgettable adventure and explore the third largest coral reef in the world by exploring the many islands of Cartagena in Panama. Well, it's surprisingly very affordable.

The Actual Costs of Sailing on a Budget

As we noted earlier, you can spend just about $8,700 if you sail around the world for an entire year and on a budget. In your budget or your plan, you have to consider food and drinks, boat maintenance, insurance, mooring fees, visa costs, fuel, excursions, communication, and other miscellaneous expenses. Of course, these expenses may vary depending on where you want to sail to, what you plan to do, and the period you want to spend.

Food and Drinks

The costs of food and drinks vary largely from one area to another so it's difficult to know exactly how much they'll cost you. However, the rule of thumb is that you should spend 26% of your budget on food and drinks. So going by our budget of $8,700, the cost of food and drinks should be around $2,262 if you're planning to sail for an entire year.

Again, you should also consider preparing your meals onboard instead of buying ready-to-eat meals. This can also help in minimizing food waste and the overall cost. This can also make it a lot easier for you to track what should be used and how you've spent your money on food.

Some of the most important tips when it comes to food include:

  • Stocking up with good value food, clean drinking water, and other drinks
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Cooking meals aboard instead of eating out

Boat Maintenance

You can consider spending just about 19% of your budget on boat maintenance, which should be about $1,653 for the whole year. When it comes to sailing on a budget, the most important thing is to get a boat that is in very good condition. It should have new sails, new fridge, new electrical wiring and batteries, new rigging, and new solar panels. All these are essential if you want to lower the maintenance costs.

With that, your maintenance costs will only revolve around things such as engine spares and filters, gas alarm sensors, anchor chain re-galvanizing, water filters, and such things.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Ensure that the boat is small, simple, and well-maintained
  • Learn the DIY skills of fixing and maintaining your boat
  • Research before shopping around so that you don't get duped or overcharged for a particular spare or part of your boat


Boat insurance isn't that cheap and you should consider spending 17% of your budget on insurance. This will cost you about $1,479 for the entire year but should give you the peace of mind that you'll be compensated in case anything happens to your boat. This should also include your medical health insurance in all the countries that you're planning to sail to.

Go check out our article on the best insurance plans for sailboats.


Setting aside about 10% of your budget ($870) for your on-land excursion can be a great idea. Of course, you won't spend all your days on the boat. There are days when you'll feel like coming ashore and perhaps indulge in swimming, biking, or even hiking. So whatever activity you enjoy, it's essential to set some money aside for these activities.

Here is what you can do:

  • Consider linking up with other sailors and sharing the excursion costs
  • Indulge in activities that are generally free
  • Consider activities that you can enjoy from your boat
  • Choose affordable activities

 Cruising Fees, Permits, and Visas

Many countries will charge you for cruising fees, permits, and visas, so it's important to set aside some money for this. While these fees may vary from country to country or region to region, setting aside about 8% ($696) should be enough for these costs. You should, however, remember that there might be additional costs depending on the activities that you want to engage in. For instance, you may be charged if you want to go fishing in the Bahamas.

Here's what you can do to stay within your budget:

  • Avoid using an agent or broker to help you with the paperwork
  • Avoid sailing to expensive countries
  • Research ahead of time and know the costs

Mooring Fees

Generally, mooring your boat at a marina will cost you a lot and is not advisable when sailing on a budget. Instead, you can consider anchoring your boat but you'll have to keep a close eye on the weather patterns of the area. As such, setting aside about 6% ($522) of your budget can be enough to cover these fees.

You can:

  • Look for free anchorage areas
  • Avoid marinas
  • Have a good anchorage system

Take a look at our article on the best anchors for sailboats.


You can avoid the fuel costs altogether by choosing a sailboat that uses the winds as its main source of power. Nonetheless, you can set aside about 3% ($267) for cooking gas and utilize solar panels to charge your boat's batteries.

You can also:

  • Depend on the winds to run your boat
  • Install enough solar panels

 Here's a helpful article about the best solar panels for sailboats.


Whether you're looking to communicate with your loved ones and friends back home or browse the internet, you should set aside about 5% ($435) for communication. You should also have a satellite phone that has a good signal to make communication a lot easier.

Here is how to minimize these costs.

  • Avoid internet cafes
  • Share a mobile phone and use Wi-Fi whenever possible
  • Go for the most basic phone deals

Other Expenses

It's appropriate to set aside about 6% ($522) of your budget for miscellaneous expenses such as laundry, sunglasses, hiking shoes, antimalarial drugs, fishing gear, charts, and many more. It would be even better if you can bring with you these items from home.

To this end, we have to reiterate that sailing is one of the world's greatest freedoms and should not be just for the rich and famous. If anything sailing is an excellent way to see not just how lucky we are to be alive and kicking but also to show us just how little we need to explore the beautiful world.

So with the right plan, you can set sail and have an adventure of a lifetime even on a tight budget! It might not be as comfortable as it would be if you have deep pockets but the memories that you'll collect along the voyage are priceless.

How to Sail on a Budget

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