Living On a Sailboat – The Amazing Vagabond Life

Girls Who Travel | Living on a sailboat

Do you wonder what it’s like living on a sailboat? I met the man of my dreams in 2006 when I was vacationing on St. Thomas, USVI. He was living on a sailboat. We got married rather quickly, as he is American and I’m German and he wanted to live in the US, and I moved onto the boat. 

Living On a Sailboat – The Amazing Vagabond Life

We spent 2 years in Seattle, living on a sailboat, but eventually grew too restless, sailing to Mexico and made Puerto Vallarta our home base for 4 years. The restlessness once again set in and we bought a new, faster boat. Since my husband is a fisherman and only has limited time to go cruising, the faster boat opened up many more options. 

We bought her in San Francisco, sailing to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, through the Panama Canal and back to the US. We spent a summer in Newfoundland, the winter in Florida, sailing her back to Newfoundland the following summer and eventually continued on to Europe.

The Ups

Girls Who Travel | Living on a sailboat

Exploring the world by boat and living on a sailboat is a fantastic way to really experience every country. We mostly meet other boaters. A lot of these boaters are local, so we get a different insight into the country we are staying in. Speaking to locals about their culture, politics, and specifics of the country has taught me so much. It’s a different perspective to the one you get when staying in hotels. 

Traveling and living aboard a sailboat also allows us to explore places you don’t get to see when you are land based. We loved the fjords and outposts in Newfoundland, and the people there must be among the friendliest in the world. 

One year we sailed around Vancouver Island and stayed in some remote anchorages. We didn’t see people for days. The peace that sets in when withdrawing from society, the noise, the constant availability, is liberating.

We research places to go when passage planning, and if we get there and don’t like it we simply move on. If we don’t like our neighbors we can also move on. If we get to a place we love we can stay as long as we like (subject to visa limitations, of course).

It’s a bit like camping, only more comfortable. We have a full kitchen though it is small, a bathroom with shower and toilet and comfortable bunks to sleep in.

We have witnessed more amazing sunsets and sunrises than I can count, Mother Nature at her best. We’ve seen a million dolphins, whales, even a sunfish. 

The sailing community is fabulous. It’s easy to meet people, because essentially everyone is the same situation, away from home and friends and all that is known and comfortable and easy. We stick together in ways that I imagine are hard to find in other communities of strangers. 

Girls Who Travel | Living on a sailboat

The Downs

It’s not all sunshine and cocktails though, living aboard a sailboat. Not just because we don’t drink. Getting to new places sometimes sucks. Sailboats are slow (even ours, which is faster than most). You can’t necessarily anchor every night, so you sail on. Someone always has to be awake. There’s a lot of broken up sleep. Sometimes the weather is miserable and you don’t always get a hot meal or even a shower. I get seasick. When we crossed the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland in 2016 only one day was so calm that we didn’t risk injury when showering. Imagine what we smelled like when we got there after 9 days… And then the marina in Dingle didn’t have laundry, and we don’t have a washer on board, so our stuff smelled on. The joys of living on a sailboat!

My husband is gone for at least 6 months every year, during which I usually stay on the boat by myself. Every time I need to find new friends, figure out how things work in a new country, where everything is, now to occupy my time. Things break and I need to learn how to fix them. The dog almost dies and I have no shoulder to cry on. I feel very lonely at times, very fulfilled at other times when we are out and about on a new adventure.

The Next Adventure

Girls Who Travel | Living on a sailboat

As I am writing this I’m sitting at my mom’s kitchen table, waiting for the US Consulate to send back my passport so I can go live in the US. We are about to close on a house in Washington State so I can have a home base. We will keep the boat for more adventures in Newfoundland, maybe even Greenland. Maybe some day we sail somewhere else. Who knows. The possibilities are endless! First there’s an Atlantic crossing to be done though.


Sailor, adventurer, writer, editor, dog mom, off the beaten path lover.

1 thought on “Living On a Sailboat – The Amazing Vagabond Life”

  1. Last year I got to know Jenny in the Girls Who Travel group. We started to talk and it’s wonderful now to see her story her on the GWT-website. I wish Jenny and her husband a safe sailing back to the US. Keep us posted on your adventures!

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