Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Year Four Cost Of Cruising - In Black & White

How Much Does Cruising Cost???  IT COSTS AS MUCH AS YOU HAVE!!!


How much does Cruising cost? $48,626.54

Some of you may look forward to the yearly tally of our cruising costs. I guess we do too, but not in the same way as you. We look at them with held breath, expelling the breath when the final number pops up… then we look more closely at the individual categories in hopes of finding something that we can cut the next year. You might look closely as well to see if there are things that you won’t need to include in your numbers.

Every year I begin this blog post by saying that we hope to see a lower number NEXT year. And then each year, that doesn’t really happen, at least not significantly. There’s always something big that keeps the number up there in the stratosphere. The only solace we can take is that at least, we’ve got the available funds to continue our cruising dream!

Let’s talk about that for a moment. The FIRST question on anyone’s mind when contemplating cruising is “How much does it cost?”. The second question, the one that nobody asks… is “How can you afford it?”. Well many people think asking that question is in poor taste, and perhaps on one level it is. But if you’re out here cruising and really want to help others to get out here, it’s a valid one. But… I’ll tell you like I’ve always told my family “If you have to ask, the answer is NO!”.

Really. If you haven’t got a way to pay your living expenses and financial obligations BEFORE you go cruising, you can’t expect that one will magically appear so that you can go cruising. Cruising is not a way to stop being an adult. You have to support yourself in one way or another. I would imagine that the most common way is like us, to live off of a retirement income. And that’s the only one I can answer for.

I’m lucky because, in a way, a source of income DID magically appear for me! I married an OLD GUY (his brother always did say I was a Gold Digger.  Sand Digger, maybe...) But seriously, we worked hard to get our finances in order so that we could live off of retirement funds. I have a husband who taught school for decades and we live off of his retirement and from Social Security, which he also has having taught in a state other than Texas. Most years we pull a bit from an IRA to fund major purchases. But otherwise we have a budget set up that we work from which takes care of saving for things like boat insurance and other larger purchases. We live relatively frugally outside of what the boat eats up. Our entertainment costs for excursions and dining out routinely fall far below our budgeted amount.

The third question that everybody asks is about health care. Bruce has Medicare taken out of his Social Security so I don’t count that in our yearly costs. I don’t have health insurance. There. I’ve said it. By American standards I’m irresponsible. But since we aren't IN America, it doesn't count!  So far, since I quit my job, my health concerns have disappeared. Most of my former health issues were due to stress from my job. We see doctors in the islands for dental, vision and healthcare and the costs are manageable.

We did buy a policy this past year for catastrophic care and repatriation of remains. What does that mean? It means that if one of us has a major health emergency or dies, we call a phone number OR hit a button on our Garmin inReach device and someone takes over management of our medical emergency. They will pay for the cost of stabilizing the patient and/or getting them to a healthcare facility or back to the US, whichever is indicated.

Our boat insurance has some medical coverage for accidents that happen on the boat. So what does that leave uncovered? It leaves me without coverage for some yet-undiscovered/undeveloped, future long term illness. Yes, I am taking a risk to live this life with my husband, and I will deal with the consequences when/if they arise. It is a personal decision and you must make it for yourself. Nobody has a crystal ball… I wish we did. But living a life consumed by worry of what MAY happen and acting accordingly is not for me evidently.

The FOURTH question we get is about individual categories. This is where the magic happens. THIS is where the mystery lies… Some of you will have expenses that we don’t have that only you can anticipate… or not. Most of my categories are self explanatory, but the following items need some clarification:

Boat Bits Major: This is the category where I put major purchases or anything that’s a one-time or bulk type item. This year we include - February $1,065.37 for crappy batteries we bought in St. Martin; March $1,352.11 for new anchor chain and $1,000 for a used outboard motor we purchased from another cruiser; July $9,484.50 total cost for the new generator; October $1,183.16 Half of the price for new, better batteries. We made a down-payment to Budget Marine in Grenada to hold the batteries for us, then paid the balance upon receipt after we rolled into year 5.

Fees/Registrations/Memberships: This is where we put all sorts of yearly or one-time costs for things like - November $107.17 Amazon Prime Membership (Yes we keep it. Items can be shipped to a consolidator then to the islands, or we can have things shipped to Puerto Rico - or home for hand carriage to us wherever we are. And there’s Prime video…); February $340.00 Chris Parker subscription, Fee for doing our taxes online and a Certificate of Origin for our new dinghy; March $30 US Documentation fee plus email cost; June $384.44 Two aforementioned Garmin inReach Emergency Policies; July $86.60 7 Seas Cruising Association membership and a notary fee; August $135.76 Membership to St. Lucia National Trust and a fee for a shipping agent in St. Lucia; September $34.00 Practical Sailor renewal; October $15 Two days for two persons in the Tobago Cays at anchor

Boat Insurance: This expense is NOT included on this year’s chart because last year we paid it before November and this year we paid it after the new year’s tally rolled over. Your insurance amount may vary.

Tech: This is a catch-all for things like cruising guides, electronic gadgets, navigation apps and includes the cost of a new camera. It’s big this year because we bought a new iPad as well.

Pet Expenses: I don’t include the cost of pet food in this category because that would be ridiculous. What goes into the grocery cart is included in the Grocery category.

Liquor: This number is small because, well, we really don’t drink that much… But secondly, because again, a lot of our liquor is purchased at the grocery store and is included in the Grocery category.


So there you have it folks! You can pour over the numbers and pick out the ones that don’t apply to you. Of course you have to consider costs that we didn’t have this year (insurance) like a bottom job and yard maintenance, and the cost of replacing standing and running rigging periodically. New sails should come along now and then… It’s a boat.

Some people will read this number and get mad. Some have accused me in the past of trying to discourage people from tossing the dock lines and living the dream. But that is not my intention. My intention is to give a true and accurate idea of what it CAN cost to cruise. There are people living the dream for less, and there are those whose budgets probably include more than our whole year just for liquor!

I am not trying to discourage anyone from their Cruising Dreams. But it takes a lot of preparation. We spent YEARS preparing ourselves financially, paying off every debt, setting up credit card and bank accounts that would serve us outside of the US without fees.

I’m trying to reduce the number of abandoned boats and wrecked dreams by giving an accurate accounting of what it costs To Cruise Like We Do. That is important. You CAN cruise on a small boat with less money. But you have to ask yourself if that is what you want to do. Will that make you happy. You must ask yourself the hard questions. For us, this is my husband’s retirement. We work hard to keep up with the never-ending boat projects and expenses so that we can breath the air in this rarefied atmosphere where dreams are realized for the fortunate, but dashed for the ill-prepared.

You can take a look at our prior years here:

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3

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