Monday, October 26, 2015

The Cost Of Cruising - Dos Libras' Second Year

Last year I posted our cruising costs and got a lot of feedback, mostly positive... and a few negative.  That blog post has had 1, 422 views in less than a year making it one of the most popular posts I've done... People want to know!  How much DOES cruising cost???

Throughout the year I've seen the question asked many times on Facebook in the many groups I frequent... and I'm always astounded at the numbers.  Usually it's people who are contemplating cruising and want to know if they have enough income or savings to support the lifestyle.  A number that seems to come up often is $1,500.  People want to know if they can cruise on $1,500 per month.

The astounding part is the number of positive responses they get!!!  While I'm sure that there are lots of cruising boats out there with a budget of $1,500 per month or so... I think it is irresponsible for anyone to be led to believe that this is the norm.

The answer to the question: How much does cruising cost?... is impossible to answer.  Each person must know themselves and their needs.  If you don't need refrigeration, hot water, or any of the other amenities that can be loaded onto a sailboat to be happy... then by all means, go with your $1,500 per month.  If you don't plan on stopping in a marina now and then, if you plan to go only where the winds take you and not motor, if you plan to live off the land and not eat out or see the sights ashore... then sure!  You can do it!

But if your sailboat is your home.  If you aren't just out for a "trip" with the intention of returning home in a few months or a year... If you want to really experience the places you visit...If you are diligent in the maintenance and improvement of your mobile abode, then the answer to that question most assuredly has to be "No, you can't cruise on $1,500 per month".

When you add all of the maintenance and insurance and everything else that makes a life, the numbers add up fast!

Last year when I posted our tally I expressed my hopes that our second year would be less costly than our first.  Muuuuuaaahhhahahahaa!  Silly Tammy.  What was I thinking?  For all the money we've spent this year you would think that we're sailing around in a POS!!!  It's kind of funny when you think about it... We spend more money making our aging girl look and feel nice than we do for ourselves!!!

Anyway... once again without further ado... The numbers are in!

Auto  Repair Maintenance (obviously optional ) 805.97
Boat Bits  Major (see listing below) 16,435.80
Boat Bits  Misc. (all the little stuff) 4,418.91
Boat Repairman (bottom job and generator repair) 10,136.42
Clothing 619.13
Data/PhoneiPad Apps/Charts (we purchased charts for the caribbean) 1,770.43
Dining Out 2,909.33
Dock / Mooring 4,614.59
Entertainment 694.09
Fees/Registrations/Memberships 901.82
Fuel 2,388.07
Gifts 354.60
Groceries Household Goods 6,470.15
Insurance   Boat 2,932.75
Insurance   Car 391.88
Laundry 388.75
Liquor 676.40
Medical (physicals and cataract surgery) 2,287.22
Misc. 1,223.92
Pet Expenses Vet Fees Supplies 482.25
Postage 92.12
Propane 34.00
Public Transportation 23.50
Pumpout 10.00
Technology 790.20
Tips 158.00
Trash 20.00
Travel  Off Boat 575.58
Water 268.63

Where did it all go?  Well let me list the larger expenses for you...  In this last year we purchased a new windlass and chain (2,500), spent a little over 4,000 on our generator, had a bottom job and repairs/maintanance on the hull (6,800), bought a water maker (7,400 + misc installation costs), purchased a new mainsail and repaired our jib (4,000), and made a new sail pack for the main (700 roughly).  Those are just the big things and don't include the many, many other minor boat bits we've bought to keep our boat in good shape.  

The costs of actually LIVING are few in comparison...  Food and entertainment are things that we can manage and control.  We can choose not to go out and spend big bucks on a meal... we can choose not to buy that new outfit... but we can't continue to cruise without a mainsail...  OK the water maker is a luxury, but not when you consider the fact that having one opens up so many cruising areas that we couldn't really go without one...

So when the estimates of $1,500 per month to cruise come out... ask those questions.  What does that include?  My numbers may include many things that you will never need, and that's exactly why I list them out in categories.  So that you can decide based upon your own needs, just how much cruising costs.  

We've spent a LOT of money on upgrades this summer.  But our hope is that when we leave the dock later this month we will be good for a while.  Our costs while in the Bahamas were few.  But our provisioning cost prior to leaving for the Bahamas made that possible.  As we travel further this next year we will eventually run out of provisions and have to live off the land.  So this next year should be very different from the past two...  

I wonder what next year's tally will look like...

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. –Steve Martin


  1. Great post, Tammy. It's good to see your breakdown - and I'm really looking forward to this next year to see how you do now that "all" of your projects are done. (We know all too well that they are never ALL done). We're trying to get all of those things taken care of, now, before we shove off - and to live on the cheap (other than truly visiting the places we're going!) But who knows what "cheap" will be for us...? Such an interesting lifestyle. Can't wait to get out there and see what happens. In the meantime, I think I may need to stash away a little more cash for repairs... :)

    1. Yes it's truly amazing how much money can be spent on a sailboat to keep things in shape. The most ridiculous things will break down and confound your existence. We really do keep a budget and are constantly having to re-allocate money from the "fun stuff" bucket to the "devoured by the boat" bucket. It's not fair! Thanks for your comment and I look forward to your departure too!

  2. Whew!, year 2 was pretty costly for you guys! It's actually making me feel *slightly* better about all the money that's been draining out of our pockets this year during our refit! But hopefully we'll both have boats in tip top shape soon and see each other out in the Caribbean. :)

    1. Well you guys are doing such basic building stuff yourselves, our expenses have been large items that we had to (wanted to) purchase. I take my hat off to you and anxiously await the completion of your project so you can get back to the fun stuff. It really is true that the more stuff you have, the more expensive it is... Keep us in your thoughts at cocktail hour and drink to all of our next year being less expensive, and we will do the same!

  3. Hi Tammy,
    Very interesting post! It takes into consideration that not all boaters live the same, and also the area in which you are boating may have something to do with costs. It also looks at the fact that "poop happens" and at any time something may happen to the boat that is expensive to fix. I've seen that with other boaters who have engine problems and have to stay in a certain location for several years to be able to fix their problems. I don't know if you follow Tracie and Steve Boyd, but they are sailing in the Isla Mujeres, Belize, Guatemala, areas, and their monthly expenses are less. They did have a major job done on their boat (recored the entire topside of their boat) but they had planned on that and, in fact, compared prices from U.S. and Mexico. U.S. was $12,000, Mexico was $4,000. So they planned on it happening in Mexico. Even with that included, they're monthly expenditures averaged less than $2,000/mo. They anchored out most of the time, but did some docking. They ate out a lot at first, but then after that wore off, they started eating on board more, and then just going out for drinks. I guess folks need to watch what they do, according to their own budget...and everyone's is different. I liked your post...makes you think!!!

    1. Being in the US is very costly no matter how you look at it. We are hoping that leaving the US behind will be so much less expensive... maybe we will never return!

  4. Thank you for sharing this! It's feels realistic and honest. I appreciate that!

    1. You're very welcome. Thanks for your comment. For sure we could cruise for less, but not on this boat and not with keeping up a "normal" household and our "new normal" way of life.

  5. Oh, you're scaring me! We're one of those couples that has a budget of $1500 per month. But, we're trying to get a lot of the repairs out of the way ahead of time and ... we live on land with cars/insurance, etc. for less than half of your budget! We're hoping if we can do it on land ...

    Fingers crossed!

    1. Oh SORRY!!! You may be one of those who CAN happily cruise on $1,500... I just know that I'm not. Our big expenses have definitely been boat upgrades and repairs to systems that many boats don't have. Plus, I hope things change drastically once we get out of the US!!! Keep your eye on the prize, but have a cushion!

  6. Our first year cruising was disastrously expensive; it included a $5000 repair of the V-drive, THREE tows to different marinas with the problem, and unanticipated weeks of dockage. Thank goodness it happened in the US where, although labor was more expensive, parts were more available! Then it got better in the following years, much much better. We live very well on $2500/month. For Cheryl's benefit, almost $1000 of that is "discretionary" - entertainment, marinas, fuel, inland travel, rental cars, so it's possible to do that $1500 (though we are in our 60s and don't want to live quite so frugally any more). Another advantage is the smaller size of Nirvana -- dockage for your 30 footer and our 33 are somewhat more palatable than the costs for a 40+ footer. And take heart -- some of the best adventure stories come from people who traveled with tighter budgets. (think about this: you meet more interesting "characters" on buses and trains than in cars!)

    1. Very true Jaye and thanks for talking Cheryl off the ledge. Your boat would be more comparable to hers than ours. The extra footage comes at a steep cost. We thought our first year would be the most expensive, now we're hoping that it was just the "terrible twos" and we're done... (knocking on teak)

    2. Thanks Dan n Jaye and Tammy ... I think I can come off the ledge now. LOL!

  7. Your Year two is looking like our year one.....we are hoping for a slightly less expensive year two (like you guys!)

    1. I won't say it out loud but I think we've fixed everything that COULD be fixed...Oh and I found your FB page! I look forward to following you!

  8. We won't be on our boat until December, but this sounds a lot like living on land and trying to fix up a house. Always one thing after another needing to be done! Thank you for sharing your expenses. Its helpful to see what types of things come up for cruisers!

    1. You're very welcome! We thought living on the boat at the dock prior to departure for almost a year would get the "breaking things" phase out of the way... but while we fixed things madly for that year before we left, we've still been fixing things regularly ever since. I don't know of anyone who hasn't experienced this while out cruising. What mystifies me is that I don't remember any previous boat that had so much maintenance to be done when we just kept it at the dock and didn't live aboard. Thanks for your comment and for reading our blog!

    2. Given our experience of 8 years on Blue, I think your breakdown is very helpful for new cruisers. One note of caution; If it is on a boat it will break, not IF but WHEN. (Nigel Calder paraphrased) He is absolutely correct. They only way we could carry on as long as we di was to do everything ourselves. Bottom job, water maker, Deck paint, and on. If you read up and learn, spend some money on tools and talk to others, you will fin not only is it less expensive , but you can fix it yourself and you get the pleasure of the doing. A good example is your generator, If you sent it to visit Davey Jones and bought a new Honda every three years, you would come out way ahead after 6 years with a lot less hassle.
      In any case keep it simple and you will always know where to find the repair person who fully warranties his work.

    3. Blue you are correct about the cost of repairs. We've had a hard learning curve and there are so many things we have onboard that a lot of smaller boats don't have. We've thought many times of chunking the generator and had it not come with the boat, we would never have spent the money for one like this. We actually just bought a small portable generator as backup to our generator... (ridiculous I know). The problem with sending it to Davy Jones, is that we're already in so deep with it. We didn't think we were up to building our own water maker, although after installing ours ourselves, maybe we could do it if we had to knowing what we know now... Anyway, it's true, cruising will take all you have! Thanks for your comment and for reading the blog. Wish us luck that our expenses will be fewer in the years to come.

  9. I wish our first year were as low. We have had to spend about double what we planned. Ouch!

    We are hoping the Bahamas will be a lot cheaper - if they are, perhaps we'll just stay forever :)

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

    1. Actually out time in the Bahamas was our least expensive. But then the boat behaved herself and nothing broke while we were there... it all waited until we got back to the US. We are not coming back this time. Will let you know how that strategy works out... but hey, by then maybe we will have met and can talk about it in person!