Because there's no better activity for summer than getting on a boat, I set out in search of the cheapest ways you can go about shedding your landlubber label. As it turns out, there are some amazing ways to head out and hit the open sea without dropping three months' salary.
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You can actually catch a lift on a friggin' cargo ship without having to pack yourself in a box with holes in it. Prices are relatively inexpensive, starting at around $90/day, which isn't bad considering that includes meals and most rooms have the same kinds of provisions you'd expect in a three star hotel. As for crowds? A typical freighter will have between two and 12 guests. Of course, a 125-day trip around the globe will still set you back a bit, but it can be done.
2. Charter your own private cruise ship
This is a hell of a lot more affordable than you think. Though it does stretch the word "cheap" a bit, you can get this exact boat for as little as $13,000 per week. That sounds like a lot at first, but when you realize that a) that includes a full crew and meals, b) it’s your own private yacht for a week, and c) you’re splitting the tab six ways with your pals, it costs more or less the same per week as a decent mega cruise line.
3. Rent a yacht for less than a hotel room
If you’re more the DIY type, you can get boats significantly cheaper if you’re willing to do your own captaining and cooking. The 40-foot sailboat shown here, for example, costs as little as $2,400 a week. It holds up to eight people, which means your daily cost per person is $42.85. Sail yourself and your friends around the Caribbean for a week, or sit in a resort hotel spending twice that amount on drinks. The choice is yours.
4. Become a sea-dwelling hitchhiker
Obviously, this is a little more involved than going out to the sea and sticking your thumb out, but if you talk to enough people at the docks you’ll eventually find a ship that's willing to take you on board for what amounts to the cost of food—by most accounts, it can take a week or longer.
If lurking around the docks isn’t really your thing, there are plentyofsites (yes, Desperate Sailors is real) that have Help Wanted ads for private yachts. They're not just for trained crew members, either, so now would be an excellent time to brush up on your cooking/cleaning/yoga instructing skills.
6. Join a boat club
There are numerous clubs out there that operate entire fleets of boats. If you’re a member, all you need to do is request the boat you want for the day(s) you want it, and that’s that.
7. Buy a cheap boat
If you absolutely have to buy yourself a boat instead of using someone else's, don't get one that's any bigger or more expensive than you actually need. The truth is a larger boat will limit your budget elsewhere, limit where you can take it, and potentially become a bigger burden than it’s worth.