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He Built an $8k Tiny House at 16 and Now He’s Rebuilding a $9k Sailboat in California

Do you remember when Matthew Ryan built himself a tiny house for just $8K when he was 16 years old? Well, now he’s a few years older, rents out his tiny home, and just moved to California as a travel nurse. Recently he became the proud owner of a sailboat which he’s in the process of renovating.

Enjoy some pictures of the in-progress sailboat and follow Matt on social media to see more updates. We’ll be sure to post the finished product when he’s done.

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He Bought This Boat for $9K

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 1

Images © Matthew Ryan

I’ve always liked projects and building things. I was interested in the Tiny house movement years ago because I wanted something affordable and that I could call mine and could move into after I graduated high school. So at 16 I started building my tiny house and moved in it alone at 17.

I simply hated the thought of paying rent in a place that isn’t even my own. I wanted to set my life up for success, financial freedom, and figured it would be a great option. Through building my last tiny house I was able to live a financially free life and have something that I could call my own. Not to mention it’s still paying off to this day! I’m renting it out to someone in Florida (I just moved to California for travel nurse opportunities) and I use it for my boat fees in California now.

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 2

Images © Matthew Ryan

I cannot begin to express how much money I saved, the lessons building it taught me, and the connections I have made through a simple idea. I now live in California on a 36ft sailboat that I’m renovating at the moment. I came up with this idea because housing in California is ridiculously high, and again I just wanted something that was my own that I could make money from in the long run. Not to mention Slip fees at marinas are very low compared to housing prices and I LOVE sailboats. I bought this boat (that needs a TON of work) but eventually when I sell it… I will at least double my money.

I’m currently living in a 36ft sailboat that I’m remodeling. I bought it in Northern California and sailed it all the way down to San Diego.

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 3

Images © Matthew Ryan

I came up with this idea because housing in California is ridiculously high, and again I just wanted something that was my own that I could make money from in the long run. Not to mention Slip fees at marinas are very low compared to housing prices and I LOVE sailboats. I bought this boat (that needs a TON of work) but eventually when I sell it… I will at least double my money. Plus since I am a travel nurse, I can move locations as jobs open up. Anywhere from San Diego to Washington state!

I’m still currently remodeling it. I’m posting clips on my Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok. I built my tiny hose solo and I’m continuing that tradition on my sailboat! I paid $9000 total for the sailboat (its a fixer-upper.)

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 5

Images © Matthew Ryan

However, they do surveys on boats. These surveys are very detailed. They inspect every inch of boats and give you the expected price of the boat if it were fully updated. The expected sell price for the boat is $30,000.

I had to find a slip for my boat in San Diego. I now have a travel nurse contract in San Diego so I plan on keeping it here for a while.

The sail down was an incredibly difficult trip. 5 days at sea in pretty rough conditions. engine troubles, my sails broke, batteries died on me. B.O.A.T Bring out another thousand. LOL! Unless you’re handy!

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 6

Images © Matthew Ryan

Despite that, the slip fees are cheap, the community and benefits at the marina are so nice. They have a private gym, free coffee bar, laundry mat, and plus its just cool to say that I live in a boat! haha.

If you ever want to do this, I would say just do your research on marinas before buying a boat to live in. Some are tricky! Also if you plan on buying a boat MAKE SURE that a thorough inspection has been done on it. That will tell you if the boat will even be worth the time and effort.

16YO THOW-Builder Is Converting a Sailboat 7

Images © Matthew Ryan

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 7 comments… add one }
  • jerry dycus
    March 17, 2023, 9:23 am

    Where to start. First he likely overpaid for a not great boat and likely won’t get $30k for it because dock rents are not only high, but hard to find in Cal. Admittedly less than other rents but that dioesn’t say much.
    Generally you can’t even sell a boat there if it doesn’t have a dock.
    Luckily the rest of the country things are much better and best if not working every day, is just anchor out for free I did 20 yrs and cruise.
    Next only living on a larger boat is worth it otherwise a hole in the water you pour money into. And you really need to learn how to keep it afloat or becomes very costly real fast. I build all my boats with many watertight compartments to limit any problem to a small space using the built in furniture, etc if a monhull and compartments in a cat or trimaran.
    But if you live on one can be a great low cost,low impact life done right. But find people who know and learn from them about taking care of boats.
    And everything in a boat costs by the length from dock, bottom paint, etc so you want one that is as short as you can so you own it, not it owns you. 36′ is on the high size range so it doesn’t own you.
    . Also get one that can fit on a trailer so you can live or storage cheaply on land when needed.

  • michael carman
    March 17, 2023, 1:35 pm

    i hate to say it but the commenter sounds right

    • James D.
      March 17, 2023, 6:42 pm

      To an extent, it’s sound general advice that would apply to most people in most situations but there are exceptions. Just a question of whether this will turn out to be one of those or not, it is possible to flip boats but it’s more complicated and harder to do than houses generally, but it’ll be at least a learning experience and he’s already finished the previous Tiny House for an amazing low price and has it for an AirBNB for a revenue source. So can afford to experiment, which he’s apparently doing as prior to this he also built a primitive bush craft type survival shelter and igloo tiny house. So is apparently up for the challenge and is still only 17… Imagine what he’ll be doing in his 20’s?

  • kathy m
    March 17, 2023, 9:50 pm

    regardless of the naysayers’ comments, i say “way to go, matthew!” following his dreams, learning, and growing are all wonderful ways to live life. good for him!

  • Matthew
    March 30, 2023, 12:54 am

    This comment section is funny. You guys act like I didn’t take anything into consideration. I understand and have thought through all of this. You’re not one step ahead of me and never have been. I’m 5 ahead of you no matter what. I’ll be retired when I’m 30. The naysayers in this comment section hate to see someone thinking their life more throughly then they have. Thank you for your comments and consideration. God bless.

  • Marsha Cowan
    July 29, 2023, 9:49 am

    Good for you, Matthew! You know yourself and your capabilities, and you obviously did your homework before starting this new adventure as you are in a great docking area with the amenities you like for a price you like doing a job you like. I feel you are far ahead of the game, and I can’t wait to see the finished boat. Be proud!

  • Allison
    July 30, 2023, 3:20 pm

    What you have done is awesome and such and inspiration!
    Thank you for the inspiration, Matthew!!! Best of everything and abundant blessings always!!!

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