Live cheaply, teach English while living on a boat

Here’s my personal life hack: teach English while living on a boat. You can teach from anywhere with WIFI, an Xfinity dock cable , or Starlin roam. Teaching English online is a flexible job that gives you lots of freedom to be adventurous and really pocket some savings by living in a van or a boat and cutting down your expenses.

Here’s a walk-through of some cute liveaboard boats at my current marina.

Here’s a walk through of some cute liveaboard boats at my current marina. I’m on a 33 ft Carver teaching remotely now.

It’s actually a popular side job for sailors, and there are even NGOs like PeaceBoat that run entire English schools on boats, so you can definitely be a one-teacher floating ESL classroom on a boat. Don’t worry if you know nothing about being on the water. You can buy a motorboat to live on and you don’t need a license to drive it or anything. I did it with no experience whatsoever.

So, get out of your high cost of living city and take a breather in some cheaper locales. Or, alternatively, you can do what I did: stay in the HCOL city but downgrade your rent by living in a boat at a marina.

Can you teach English while living on a boat?

Yes, absolutely. The wifi is good enough. If you live at a marina, you can get hooked up through Comcast with an ethernet cable and all. You can even get Starlink for RVs (motorhomes) and it will work fine on a boat. Worst case scenario, you can try some mobile wifi hotspots, though their connection will be less than ideal and they end up being expensive.

Really Cheap Liveaboard Boats for Families

My experiences

My experiences with really cheap liveaboard boats started in Boston back in 2005 when I bought a 1986 Bayliner for $800. The boat was tiny but it had a little mini-fridge and a toilet and that was good enough for us. I lived on it with my partner and our baby for an entire year.

My daughter on our liveaboard Bayliner

So imagine how hard I laughed when the time came to buy a new, bigger boat and I Googled “Cheap liveaboard boats for families” and websites came up on Google offering boats for $50,000 at the very minimum and $100,000 as the average of a cheap liveaboard boat for families.


$50,000?!! That is a yacht, not a cheap liveaboard boat.

If you are trying to live on a boat to save money then you probably don’t have $50,000! That is ridiculous.

30″ Searay Cabin Cruiser model

This year (2020) I bought a $4,500 project boat to live on with my family. It is a 1988 30ft SeaRay and it seems practically luxurious and certainly expensive compared to the first boat we lived on.

Of course, my daughter isn’t a newborn anymore, so we needed her to have her own bed. You can’t see the bed from the photos, but there is a twin bed mattress hiding in a Harry-Potter-like nook under the floor of this Sea Ray model.

Now, the price of this boat is misleading because I will need to invest a few grand to get the electrical to code. Over time, I will spend 10K on the boat.

A few years ago, our neighbor at the marina was selling a $20,000 32″ Carver, which I still believe was the nicest, affordable liveaboard boat for a family that I have ever seen. I didn’t have twenty grand, or I would have bought it.

Teach English while living on a boat… a very tiny boat

Smaller Boat, Cheaper Rent

At a marina, you pay per foot of the length of the boat. A longer and bigger boat doesn’t just mean a more expensive sales price tag; it also means higher monthly rent. Each foot adds up.

I paid roughly $650 monthly to live on a 28″ Bayliner with my family. I am currently paying about $900 a month for a 30″ Sea Ray. You can see how the rent really jumps up per each foot you add to your vessel. Even as a classroom teacher, when I first moved onto a boat, I couldn’t afford rent over $1000 monthly.

So, I am only going to list boats that are under 34 feet to keep your rent low.

Best Really Cheap Liveaboard Boats for Families

Tips for Choosing a Cheap Liveaboard Boat

  1. Find one you can stand in
  2. Have a shower. Does your marina have a shower? If not, make sure your head has a shower
  3. Do a marine survey on your boat before you buy. Before you buy, ask your insurance company if you need a boat survey. Marinas require insurance. Insurance companies often require a boat survey if the boat is over 30″. A boat survey will set you back a few hundred dollars.
  4. Have an electrician come to check it. Similar to the example above, if you buy a project boat, I suggest having a marine electrician come and double-check that all the wiring is up to code. I learned this the hard way. My marina had a fire a few years ago. You don’t want your boat to catch on fire with you in it. That is terrifying. A boat electrician will charge you $100-200 to do a quick inspection. Do it. Your life is worth it.

HAHAHAAHA to this website

Life on a Cheap Liveaboard Boat

Life on a cheap liveaboard boat is not going to be like living on a yacht. It isn’t like living in your car either, though.

It can be as nice as living in a fancy RV, or as difficult as living in a van, depending on how you do it.

Teach English while living on a boat: Common Questions
How do you shower?

You can shower in your boat, but if you have a small one, it is probably unpleasant. Part of marina liveaboard fees covers the usage of marine showers. They are like fancy gym showers.

How do you wash your clothes?

You can use the marina washer and dryer services to wash your clothes.

How do you go to the bathroom?

The marina does a “pump out” on your boat. The boat has a holding tank and then the marina comes around with a little boat and pumps out your waste. No, it doesn’t smell inside the boat. If your boat head has an odor, you are definitely doing something wrong.

I had this problem at one point and had to “flush the lines” with special bacterial (like a probiotic) solutions that attached my hold to the holding tank. This only happened because I let someone live on my boat who did not sign up for the pump out regularly. The waste was sitting in the tubes and clogged the filters and overflowed. Disgusting.

But this won’t happen if you take regular care of your pump out. This isn’t a porta-potty. It isn’t a Greyhound bus. It is a real functioning toilet with mechanisms to keep the waste and smells far away from your living area- just be sure to have a regular pump out and you’ll be fine.

Is it cold living on a liveaboard in the winter?

In the winter, you keep your boat in the water and you wrap it in plastic. Hire someone from the marina to do this. They build a wooden frame and drape plastic across it. You can see it on my 305 SeaRay after the winter season (with the wrapping off) in this video. The plastic acts like a greenhouse and keeps your boat warm. You also winterize your engine. This means you pay someone to put antifreeze through your engine so it doesn’t freeze in the winter water. You get heaters to keep your boat warm and toasty inside. Check-in with your marina to confirm that you are using safe non-tip heaters and ask an electrician to come to check that your boat is electrically safe (marine grade wiring) before you run heaters in your boat.

We took our boat up and down the coast of Massachusetts to visit beaches while cooking onboard and having a blast.

You can buy a really cheap liveaboard boat for 1K to 5K if you are a single person. As a small family of two or three, you can buy a boat for 10-20K if you are willing to live very small. Sailboats are cheaper than motorboats, but motorboats have more room.

How do you get internet set up on a boat?

I called Comcast and they ran a cable right down the docks. The cable just gets brought into your boat any way you want. On my SeaRay, I drilled a hole and snaked it through. In my Carver, I just brought it through my window and taped up the remaining space around the cable. I also experimented with Starlink Roam, but I don’t recommend that if Xfinity covers your area.

Bottom Line: Teaching online really lets you downsize your living requirements and save aggressively for retirement or anything else you might want. Heck, join the FIRE movement! You don’t need to “work from house”, just work from home. So, be creative about your home and consider teaching English while living on a boat. The shorter the boat, the lower your rent. Enjoy the adventure.

As always, I really suggest going to Reddit to read some personal experiences from people who lived in their van while teaching English online.

If you want to be a little creative with your living while teaching online, you might be interested in these posts I wrote, too.

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Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.