Is Living Aboard the New Living Abroad?

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy wikimedia
Being a baby boomer means retirement is either imminent, or it’s fast approaching.  One of the decisions all us baby boomers have to make is where to retire.  While many of us will choose to stay put, some of us wish to relocate to other areas of the country or the world at large.  If you are thinking about living abroad, maybe you should also think about living aboard.  What I mean by that is if you are considering relocating to foreign shores, doing so in a boat can give you a chance to experience many places while giving you a chance to pull the plug if you don’t like what you see.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

The biggest problem with relocating is you have to take everything you own with you.  This means selling your current home, packing all your belongings up in a moving truck and hauling kit and kaboodle to the location you’ve got your heart set on seeing.  While this scenario works out fine for about half the people who do so, the other half find that once the bloom is off the rose, they (or their significant other) decide they have made a big mistake.  Take it from someone who’s been there and done that, as stressful as moving can be, it’s nothing compared to the hell on earth that moving back entails. 

Real Estate Risk – If you make the mistake of buying a home in a new locale only to find that you don’t like the area, odds are you will lose money when you sell.  Add to it you will once again need to pack up everything you own and pay to have it all moved back to where you started and you’re talking a significant hit to your wallet.  If the place you move to isn’t in the good old USA, you may also have to pay import and export taxes on everything from your belongings to your vehicle.  This can also cost you dearly

Image courtesy wikipedia
Buying a Boat on the other hand, allows you to see how the other half lives without putting your entire lifestyle at risk.  Whether you purchase a boat big enough to live aboard where you are moving to, or buy it here and sail it there, you will save yourself a lot of expense in relocating.  Depending on how much space you need to live, used 30 to 40-foot cruising sailboats can be had in the  $35,000-$100,000 range.  Previously owned houseboats and trawlers of the same size can be acquired for $50,000-$150,000. 

While boats of this size won’t have all the space of a 3-bedroom house, modern boats while compact don’t lack for creature comforts.  When you’re talking of cruisers, think Winnebago on the water.  Most come equipped with everything from a full galley (that’s kitchen to you landlubbers) and barbecue grille, to shower or tub, plasma TV and more.  Depending on the size, cruisers can also be equipped with an on-board generator and even a washer/dryer.  For those boats that don’t, the marina in which you’ll dock your boat will most assuredly have a laundromat on the premises or nearby.
One of the other advantages of living aboard if you go abroad is you can move your boat from town to town or country to country.  Instead of buying a car, you can either rent a car when you need it, use Uber, or invest in rail passes to take advantage of mass transit.  Bicycles can also be an inexpensive form of transportation that will save you money.

Another way to save a small fortune is to rent your current home instead of selling it while you sample foreign shores.  Especially if you rent your furnished home, not only will it save you a small fortune in moving and storage fees, but you’ll be able to get top dollar for your rental.  Better still, if you hire a property management company, you won’t even have to collect the rent or worry about tenants calling to complain about maintenance issues.  All you’ll have to do is get your property manager to mail you a check or do a direct deposit into your account every month while you enjoy all the amenities that your home away from home offers.

I personally have a friend who retired from IBM only to buy a sailboat and spend the next 20-years cruising the Caribbean.  Although he had little cruising experience and only a smattering of sailing experience, he spent six months in Daytona taking ASA sailing courses while getting his sea legs.  It wasn’t long before Max, his wife Diane and their Labrador Retriever JD were sailing down to the Bahamas and beyond.  You can also hire a skipper or advertise for experienced crew to accompany you on your first few blue water voyages. 

Work the Web to Sail the Sea
Image courtesy

There are tons of websites and videos online that can help make the learning curve less steep.  A quick web search is all it takes to tell you what you need to bring with you to what the cost of living is in any place you wish to sail to.  Links to boats for sale, marinas, nautical charts, customs, languages, guides, and more are but a mouse click away.  Best of all, there are links to blogs that can give you the ups and downs of living aboard.  Below are a few links you should check out before you even think of living on a boat:

      4.      So,You Want to Live on a Boat? 

Another good idea before you dive in and start shopping for a boat is to join a boat club to help you get your sea legs.  Not only will you be able to gain practical experience on the water, but you’ll be able to do so without having to make a substantial investment that buying a boat entails.  Plus, you’ll meet other more experienced boaters who can show you the ropes while telling you their cruising experiences.  Joining a boat club will also save you the hassles of having to maintain, dock and insure your vessel.

If you’re serious about living aboard a sailboat or powerboat, it also wouldn’t hurt to talk to your insurance agent about the costs and coverage associated with boat insurance.  Unlike your home, a boat can break its anchor, get stuck on a sandbar or reef or get sunk in a storm.  The last thing you want is for your cruising dreams to go down with the ship.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Living aboard sound good to some but not to other. Making sure your spouse is 100% with you on the idea is critical to your happiness and success. Always try things out by renting first and then if you both like it go for it.


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