Photo credit: Tomas Salas
Don’t own a boat? Want to go sailing? Here are 10 ways to get your sailing fix for under $100 a month
The high costs of boat ownership are a BIG reason why there aren’t many young sailors. There’s an assumption that sailing is only attainable in retirement once you’ve racked up a hefty 401(k). Robin and I have been asked on several occasions how we afford it. Were we “trust fund babies or tech millionaires”? The answer to both is of course no. Until we started traveling we worked normal 9-5 jobs, saved where we could, and found a way to go sailing. We’ve managed to do this on the cheap over the years: from racing on other people’s boats to owning an inexpensive trailerable boat. There are many great options for getting out on the water for cheap and I’ve listed our favourites below. Do you have other ideas? Be sure to leave it in the comment box below.
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1. Hop in a crew pool – FREE. If you’re into competitive sports then racing is a great way to start sailing. Most sailing communities have one or two race nights every week in the spring, summer, and fall and often race boats are short a crew member or two.The sponsoring Yacht Club will have a designated area on the dock for crew pool, where people who want to crew can stand and be picked up by the captain of boat. If the idea of school-yard pick gives you the sweats, Yacht Clubs sometimes run crew pools online. You don’t have to be a Yacht Club member to stand in a crew pool but it’s a good idea to call ahead and let the dock master know you’d like to crew.
2. Go to a sailing meetup – BY DONATION. Many cities are home to dozens of sailing meetups where you can get out on the water with like-minded individuals. Check out www.meetup.com to find meetups in your area. In some cases you may find that people ask for a donation to help cover fuel or that you bring snacks.
3. Join a sailing co-op – ~$30 PER MONTH. Sailing cooperatives seem to be cropping up all over North America. The low cost memberships (as little as $350 a year for a family membership) give you access to several maintained boats and a built-in sailing community. I’ve never been a part of a sailing coop up but groups like The Barnet Sailing Co-op in Vancouver seem to make a ton of sense.
4. Volunteer at a yacht club – VOLUNTEER HOURS. With aging members, many Yacht Clubs are enthusiastically pursuing young sailors to join up. Yacht Clubs initiation fees can range from $50 to $30,000. Fortunately, many Yacht Clubs are now offering volunteer programs to sailors under 40 where they will wave a significant portion or all of the initiation fee in exchange for completing a certain number of volunteer hours. Call around your local clubs to find out more
5. Take a class on seamanship – $165 PER MONTH. So, I’m cheating a bit here. While I couldn’t find any on-the-water learn-to-sail programs available for under $100, there are some fantastic classroom courses you can take. Robin and I took a Seamanship class with Power Squadrons which gave us ton of confidence on the water. Power Squadrons offers volunteer instructed classroom courses and is highly respected as one of the top boating educators. We paid $165 for a night class that ran for 5 weeks (10 hours of instruction)! That is a screaming deal. You’ll learn best practices from very seasoned sailors – well worth the investment! You’ll also meet like-minded people, most of whom have boats.
6. Boat share – $100+ PER MONTH – Boat sharing is when boat costs (moorage, maintenance, etc.) are shared amongst 2 or more people. Most boats spend 95% of their lives sitting parked in a dock, which is why many owners are happy to see the boat being used as well as share the costs. If you can find the right partner, boat sharing is a fantastic way to go. We have a friend who paid $300 a month (50% of the moorage) for a beautiful 32 footer plus gas. He had that sweet little boat every second weekend all season long.
7. Charter via a boat marketplace – $100+. There are now several boat-airbnb sites! Boatsetter offers affordable charter options around the world. While we’ve never chartered through one of these sites ourselves, it seems like it could be a good way to go weekend cruising in some exotic location with a few friends. While their listings generally cost less than commercial charters they do average $100-$500 per day depending on the boat size. Splitting the cost of a two day charter with a few friends might be a good option. If you don’t have any sailing experience, bring someone along who does and always carefully inspect any boat before taking off. Nothing ruins a weekend cruise like the sound of a gasping engine.
8. Buy a trailerable boat – ~$100 PER MONTH. Many new boat owners are surprised to learn that the most expensive part of owning a boat is moorage! However, if you’ve got a driveway (or your parent’s do!) you can keep a boat for next to nothing. Our first boat was a trailerable CS22 which we bought for $3K while living in Toronto. It was a very simple boat (no gps, depthsounder, or other goodies) and we’d take it out overnight on the weekends for mini-cruises. It became our sanctuary, our little cabin in the city! We spent less than $200 a year on maintaining and later sold it for $2K. Meaning that excluding moorage it cost only $100 a month to own our very own boat (see below). 9. Live on your boat – VARIES If you live in your boat, one might argue that going sailing is practically free! Robin and I lived aboard for 2 years in Vancouver on our 35 foot boat. Instead of paying $1200 a month for a cramped one bedroom apartment, we paid $600 in moorage to live in our cramped boat – but hey, it was waterfront! One way to look at that is that we saved $600 for every month we lived aboard. After two years that added up to savings of $14,400. Of course we had to buy a boat for $9,000 and we put in another $5,000 in upgrade and maintenance, still at the end of it all our rent savings had more than paid for our boat and maintenance. So if you like the idea of living on a boat, it is a great way of financing your sailing habit.
10. Join an online crewing websites – $10. Want to sail to Tahiti, Cabo San Lucas, The Azores, or pretty much anywhere in the world? Pay $10 to sign up for a membership with Ocean Crew Link and get connected with captains that are looking for crew. For people with experience, captains will sometimes even pay your air fare to get you down to the boat. As you can see there are lots of ways to get out on the water. Can you think of any other cheap ways to go sailing? Leave us a comment below.
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.