Sailfeed
March 19th
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What does it cost to cruise? What's a reasonable amount to budget for a sail around the world? Is X amount enough to live comfortably on a sailboat? It doesn't matter how you word this question, we've heard them all a hundred times.

Well before Ali and I ever started cruising we kept track of our expenses. Closely. We have always been the type of people who would notice when there was a new ninety-nine cent charge on the electricity bill and then call to complain about it. Nothing irks us like getting pinched for a buck or two or five without our consent. And hey, knowing where your money goes should be the number one financial goal of everybody out there anyway. When people ask us how we afford to live the life we do our answer is rarely about how we make our money, and instead centers on knowing exactly how we spend our money. Making money is the easy part—most of us have been doing that since we were tweens—it's the spending money that causes problems.

 

 

Our “fiscal responsibility” mentality has always been with us, so when we decided to go cruising it was only natural for us to keep track of every dime. Literally. Every dime. We published the numbers each and every month, and not with all the disclaimers that most bloggers throw in there like:

 

“We only spent $1,147 this month!” **

 

** Does not include the new laptop we had to buy to replace our old one, the new charts we had to have for this cruising area, and the flights back to the States for our friend's wedding next month.”

 

Who amongst us would think to figure into our budgets $2 per day for cameras?

 

People tend to think that those sort of one-off expenses are just that—one-off. They aren't. In fact, those sorts of expenses add up to a very substantial portion of any circumnavigators total expenses. They are not unique to any one cruiser—we all have them. Hell, we lost three cameras to the ocean, and another to a thief in under four years. That alone added about $60 per month to the overall cost of our trip (Remember this is a few years ago when a digital camera cost real money, especially in far-off countries). Who amongst us would think to figure into our budgets $2 per day for cameras?

 

Ali and I had an engine overheat to the point that it couldn't be rebuilt. We dropped $5,000 on a new one. One-off? Well, the guy in the slip right next to me as I type this is having his engine rebuilt for the fourth time in a year. Unique? A guy in the next dock over just had a new 50hp Yanmar dropped in. Did any of us see that coming? Not a single one. But why not? Let's face it, engine issues are not uncommon. In fact they are so common that you'd be remiss not to include at least a little something in your budget for major repairs.

 

Of course there are one-off expenses. Things that others couldn't reasonably be expected to incur. We had a one-year-old catamaran that had been surveyed by the biggest name in the catamaran industry at the time. Yet six months after we set off we found that our hulls were completely—and I do mean completely—delaminated. As if the fiberglass and the core had never been bonded together at all. $33,000 in repairs and repainting. That doozy we kept out of the monthly expenses, but included in full in its own sidebar.

 

In preparing your budget for a sail around the world be hyperaware of the tendency we all have to underestimate. Even the guy who is eternally pessimistic in everyday life suddenly becomes a raging optimist when it comes to estimating expenses for the journey of a lifetime.

 

And hey, to be perfectly honest, I can respect that. It means he wants to get out there so badly that he is willing to say, “F#*@ it, we've got enough dough in the bank, let's just go now.” In the back of his mind he knows he's pushing it, but pushing it is what life is all about, so for that I say good on him. Because, as one of my favorite sayings goes, "You can always make more money, you can never make more time."

 

People take what they want from our numbers. Combined with our website's stories we provide a pretty clear picture of how we cruised. Some might say they won't eat out as much as us and therefore are going to lower the food estimates, while others know that they will stay in marinas more often than we did and will adjust the numbers accordingly for that. The possible tweaks are endless, but having a basic guide to start from can be a huge help.

 

Without further ado here are the numbers:

 

watermaker including install

7,634

 

 

 

ssb radio/modem including install

6,550

 

 

 

rigging

4,042

 

 

 

misc. boat bits

6,412

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sept 2003

oct 2003

nov 2003

dec 2003

communication

76.91

164.02

576.78

44.00

food

355.04

545.94

680.10

552.42

diesel

39.00

231.68

37.40

170.50

marina/mooring

1,229.82

1,489.75

584.09

495.50

boat supplies

included above

included above

568.99

2,044.85

other

551.17

939.31

390.75

607.88

 

2,251.94

3,370.70

2,838.11

3,915.15

 

Note: November includes annual Sailmail fee $200 and one-time FCC callsign registration

Note: December includes new house batteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan 2004

feb 2004

mar 2004

apr 2004

communication

8.00

50.00

73.97

60.73

groceries

285.59

181.15

281.70

564.67

restaurants/bars

459.47

444.14

544.92

294.10

diesel

132.36

68.10

123.00

219.50

marina/mooring

270.00

30.00

0

86.50

boat supplies

123.10

82.35

323.04

2,466.34

other

452.66

177.45

564.45

1,599.42

 

1,731.18

1,033.19

1,911.08

5,291.26

 

Note: April includes Panama Canal transit fees $600, haul-out and bottom painting in Panama

 

 

 

 

 

 

may 2004

jun 2004

jul 2004

aug 2004

communication

44.11

37.05

63.11

92.45

groceries

57.46

298.09

350.77

186.28

restaurants/bars

219.09

238.56

395.01

600.60

diesel

100.51

43.00

299.20

44.10

marina/mooring

5.00

0

0

0

boat supplies

203.84

243.83

103.05

461.30

other

609.62

3,586.91

420.05

731.01

 

1,239.63

4,447.44

1,631.19

2,115.74

 

Note: May includes surprise stop in Colombia refuel and custom fees

Note: June "other" includes Galapagos tour $2786

 

 

 

 

 

 

sep 2004

oct 2004

nov 2004

dec 2004

communication

82.53

60.43

278.35

33.72

groceries

324.72

267.68

255.19

0

restaurants/bars

441.00

380.15

728.11

662.81

diesel

98.02

203.57

0

0

marina/mooring

193.07

37.05

0

0

boat supplies

210.33

133.07

1,787.66

446.09

other

3,960.46

1,295.37

3,559.27

3,038.43

 

5,310.13

2,377.32

6,608.58

4,181.05

 

Note: September "other" includes flights home for the holidays $3339

Note: October includes New Zealand car purchase

Note: November includes new window/seat coverings $1130 and annual Sailmail fee $250

Note: December back home to the States for the holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan 2005

feb 2005

mar 2005

apr 2005

communication

64.89

57.96

117.57

28.58

groceries

104.39

116.28

590.10

305.75

restaurants/bars

465.56

623.48

309.45

162.22

diesel

0

0

131.40

113.05

marina/mooring

0

217.51

307.77

72.42

boat supplies

316.46

367.06

1,265.35

63.50

other

2,251.57

3,241.12

1,918.75

411.12

 

3,202.87

4,623.41

4,640.39

6400.64

 

Note: January includes NZ road trips $901 and Volvo mechanic (saildrives, maintenance) $660

Note: February includes NZ south island road trip $2113; does NOT include Boat Repair Costs.

Note: March "boat" includes new watermaker pump and "other" includes replacement camera

Note: April includes new Volvo engine $5244

 

 

 

 

 

 

may 2005

jun 2005

jul 2005

aug 2005

communication

93.48

74.31

86.64

99.60

groceries

374.32

276.31

416.37

473.86

restaurants/bars

771.04

247.13

329.35

244.53

diesel

320.76

0

214.55

300.31

marina/mooring

91.20

289.60

253.08

114.57

boat supplies

96.60

135.40

1,140.29

909.99

other

2,546.34

659.54

1,024.98

640.66

 

4,293.74

1,682.29

3,465.26

2,783.52

 

Note: May "other" includes road trip $944 and new surfboard

Note: July includes starboard engine part/mechanic $916

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 2005

oct 2005

nov 2005

dec 2005

communication

82.73

33.69

276.35

57.89

groceries

662.04

268.77

151.81

102.77

restaurants/bars

749.63

236.97

369.65

378.07

diesel

0

192.01

387.74

0

marina/mooring

598.35

233.27

237.36

159.36

boat supplies

930.13

.99

200.85

279.56

other

2,115.96

933.18

995.79

1,297.44

 

5,138.84

1,898.88

2,619.55

2,275.09

 

Note: September "other" includes road trip Uluru $1304

Note: November includes annual Sailmail fee $250

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan 2006

feb 2006

mar 2006

apr 2006

communication

70.51

5.48

21.04

29.56

groceries

102.00

125.79

292.65

53.53

restaurants/bars

304.83

194.66

356.63

243.53

diesel

324.24

179.79

194.59

280.00

marina/mooring

85.70

0

0

41.65

boat supplies

4.89

11.91

65.30

24.78

other

817.92

291.32

648.68

681.64

 

1,710.09

808.95

1,578.89

1,354.69

 

 

 

 

 

 

may 2006

jun 2006

jul 2006

aug 2006

communication

79.13

13.68

121.23

39.79

groceries

140.09

308.49

233.63

193.03

restaurants/bars

331.00

467.70

429.67

561.05

diesel

119.00

167.46

294.27

430.13

marina/mooring

274.33

333.35

535.13

450.89

boat supplies

640.61

66.63

1,112.20

50.00

other

1,344.13

2,090.87

1,380.53

1,131.95

 

2,928.29

3,448.18

4,106.66

2,856.84

 

Note: May includes trips to Cairo and Luxor $875; new boat prop $566; and Suez Canal fees/tips $530

Note: June includes Israel/Jordon road trip $1279

Note: July includes stolen cash/new camera purchase Gocek $684; haulout/mechanic $1169; Istanbul trip $389

Note: August includes Italy trip $607

 

 

 

 

 

 

sep 2006

oct 2006

nov 2006

dec 2006

communication

90.22

42.50

272.06

30.00

groceries

40.03

473.22

413.58

28.01

restaurants/bars

688.13

501.41

501.49

74.86

diesel

366.67

498.23

270.90

0

marina/mooring

538.42

1,461.86

938.56

317.52

boat supplies

25.00

177.92

437.41

0

other

2,561.02

858.02

1,214.21

204.79

 

4,309.49

4,013.16

4,048.21

655.18

 

Note: September includes Italy trip $2,126

Note: November includes annual Sailmail fee $250; welder $230; two car rentals including fuel $346

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan 2007

feb 2007

mar 2007

apr 2007

communication

45.86

4.97

59.00

21.57

groceries

278.86

307.99

143.16

322.10

restaurants/bars

632.06

495.17

750.36

460.15

diesel

427.54

91.01

61.00

249.01

marina/mooring

24.55

105.00

21.00

1,373.13

boat supplies

232.40

241.14

86.90

1,027.98

other

289.24

512.98

2,085.96

986.29

 

1,930.51

1,758.26

3,207.38

4,440.23

 

Note: March includes Puerto Rico road trip $1,186 and Haiti trip $414

Note: April includes two week Florida rental car with fuel $370 and expensive Florida marina

 

Total $136,434. Forty-four months, $3100 per month.

 

Turns out I would have actually had to tack on an additional $1,600 to my estimate of $1,500.

 

When I was planning our trip from my home office in Chicago I came up with a number of $1,750 per month. And I thought that was being generous. In fact the number I came up with was actually $1,500, but just for fun I tacked on another $250. Turns out I would have actually had to tack on an additional $1,600 to my estimate of $1,500.

 

What does that mean? It means take your best guess and double it. Okay, that's not entirely true either. I mean, most of you won't be setting out in your boat for the very first time in your lives. You'll have spent weekends, and quite probably weeks at a time living on your boat before the big trip commences, and you'll likely have a much better grasp of what it takes to live on a boat than I did. I had never stepped foot on a sailboat when I came up with my estimate, so really, how could I come up with a number?

 

I mean, Ali and I had never cooked more than one meal in a week before, now we were suddenly going to provision a boat for months at sea? We had no idea how much time we'd spend motoring versus sailing, or for that matter what our fuel consumption would be. We didn't know that we'd want 300 feet of chain and that our boat would only come with 150. Point is, there were a million unknowns to us—a person who has spent more time on their boat is going to be able to weed out at least half of those and come up with a more accurate budget.

 

Now for fun let's compare this to land travel. After sailing around the world Ali and I purchased a restored '58 VW Bus and hit the road. We spent a couple of years driving 60,000 miles from the U.S. To Mexico, back up to Alaska, then all the way south to Argentina, onto a cargo ship and over to Europe. We eventually sold the bus in England and ended the trip with our first baby on the way.

 

 

1958 Volkswagen Panelvan restored

 

13,600

 

 

 

engine, transmission, brakes, safaris

 

5,400

 

 

 

camper kit

2,100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sept 2007

oct 2007

nov 2007

dec 2007

gas

439.55

229.47

549.40

178.27

vw expenses

231.05

231.87

109.87

5.44

camping

31.00

0

164.22

154.18

hotels/hostels

579.08

151.70

579.50

0

food

262.15

285.88

622.04

557.17

border fees

6.00

0

75.91

0

other

172.50

496.03

559.04

518.99

 

1,721.33

1,394.95

2,659.98

1,414.05

 

 

 

 

 

 

jan 2008

feb 2008

jun 2008

jul 2008

gas

241.45

229.09

288.05

1,441.26

vw expenses

98.67

0

0

97.27

camping

340.00

294.55

124.22

264.28

hotels/hostels

108.55

127.27

0

143.19

food

610.50

552.78

384.87

1,249.38

border fees

0

0

198.00

0

other

359.20

292.64

492.80

315.80

 

1,758.37

1,496.33

1,487.94

3,511.18

 

 

 

 

 

 

aug 2008

sep 2008

oct 2008

nov 2008

gas

1,174.38

549.97

496.71

323.86

vw expenses

137.06

1,247.99

42.46

6.40

camping

206.85

144.94

336.02

100.67

hotels/hostels

153.83

0

170.34

499.23

food

761.78

434.24

712.59

777.36

border fees

0

0

110.59

124.81

other

1,818.39

449.03

477.42

250.13

 

4,252.29

2,826.17

2,346.13

2,082.46

 

 

 

 

 

 

dec 2008

jan 2009

feb 2009

mar 2009

gas

214.34

317.50

315.94

737.18

vw expenses

182.64

198.52

458.23

51.49

camping

168.73

103.48

107.55

210.49

hotels/hostels

540.61

477.44

444.34

197.25

food

820.86

628.56

466.92

724.29

border fees

37.56

1.00

0

23.24

other

2,956.85

309.33

495.21

288.45

 

4,921.59

2,035.83

2,288.19

2,232.39

 

Note: December “other” includes shipping the bus from Panama City to Colombia totaling $2616: container and Panama port fees $1305, airfare for us $435, hotel ten nights $502, Colombia port fees $374

 

 

 

 

 

 

apr 2009

may 2009

jun 2009

jul 2009

gas

511.20

267.37

1,009.17

808.88

vw expenses

216.44

279.50

28.21

302.60

camping

124.16

131.43

602.72

662.14

hotels/hostels

430.96

0

0

953.19

food

642.33

277.77

1,098.66

1,047.93

border fees

0

0

10.86

0

other

5,611.57

553.78

571.45

4,272.85

 

7,536.66

1,509.85

3,321.07

8,047.59

 

Note: April “other” includes cargo ship from Argentina to Germany totaling $4795: RORO bus shipment $932, cabin for two $3496, wire fee $67, Brazil visas $300

Note: July includes a side trip to Paris and flights home to the States

 

$58,844 in total. Twenty months, $2,942 per month.

 

$41,170 total without Europe. Sixteen months $2,573 per month.

 

I really thought that the land travel was going to come in quite a bit cheaper than the sailing.

 

I have to admit, I really thought that the land travel was going to come in quite a bit cheaper than the sailing. And it does if you factor in the massive boat repair bill we had in New Zealand which jacks up our monthly budget for our sail around the world all the way from $3,100 to $3,862. But leave that out and shazzam, land and sea are on pretty equal footing.

 

Then again, if we'd stuck to just driving the Americas, and left out the expense of shipping and traveling through Europe, our cost per month of living on the road drops precipitously to just $2,573. That's significantly cheaper than cruising.

 

So you can see that there are a million-and-one ways to manipulate the numbers to fit—your lifestyle, and your cruising goals.

 

In the end though, no matter what number you end up at, traveling the world is a bargain. The payback for the money spent is tenfold. In all my years of travel and all of the reading I've done, I have never once come across a person who said, “Well, that (traveling) was a waste of money. Wish I'd stayed put.

 

Travel has a way of shaping our financial future.

 

The experience of world travel will shape your future. For many it becomes an ongoing quest, for others it is something that they can always lean on—when they think times are tough they can almost certainly think of people that have it a lot tougher. And I think for most of us travel has a way of shaping our financial future as well—molding good spending habits, encouraging saving, lowering waste of all kinds, and forcing that all important question into our minds—not, “Can I afford this?” but, “Do I need this?” That's a question that can help anybody on any budget.

 

Now get out your pad and pencil, jot down some numbers, compare them to what you see above. Now go in and tweak them some more. Add a little cushion. Okay? Done? Now call your spouse into the room. Go on do it. Now repeat after me, "See honey, we can make this work."

One Response to “What Does it Cost to Cruise?”

  1. [...] Pat made some very good points about sailing blogs.  Hope he approves of mine     “What Does it Cost to Cruise” contains realistic cruising figures and [...]

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