Cruisers Forum

Join CruisersForum Today

Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 23-08-2009, 03:14   #1
Registered User
zumsel's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Nova Scotia/Canada
Boat: 42' Cruising Cat, designed by Bernd Kohler
Posts: 49
Images: 32
Comparing Operating Costs: Sailboat vs Trawler

I have just started looking for my new cruising boat which should also become my retirement home. I'm currently 52 years old and plan to retire within the next two to three years from working as a contractor in the IT business. At least from doing this full-time. I'm living in in small fishing harbour on the east coats of Nova Scotia and plan to cruise mostly alone down the east coast of Canada, the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean Islands. I don't have anymore intentions to circumnavigate. That dream is long over. But it would be nice if the boat would be capable to do so.

I'm also not a die hard sailor. So I really could see me in a nice trawler, carrying a sailing dingy for these special days on the deck house. And I know the size of boat I'm looking at, 40 to 50 feet, seams to be awful big for just one person. But I have four children and a wonderful former wife, and I hope that they will all join me on me cruises for some extended periods. But again, I should be able to handle my boat by my own!

I also love some space around me, carrying an enormous amount of books with me and other stuff. This should be my second home besides my cottage in Canada. Okay bigger needs more maintenance, more money spend. But also more home.

But back to the topic. I just picked two boats around 50 feet length. A Beneteau 50 with a 85 hp Perkins M90 diesel and a typical Grand Banks 48/49 with dual 135 hp Lehmann diesel engines.

So assuming that I will travel 4000 nm per year running the engines roughly 600 hours in that time, the Beneteau 50 would consume 1200 gal of diesel (based on 2 gal per hour) and the Grand Banks would consume 3600 gal (based on 6 gal per hour for both engines). Okay, I know that the engine in the Beneteau would properly run less because it's a sailing boat. But lets use these numbers. To be on the save side for the moment, I will calculate the per gal price with US$4.00.- So the Beneteau will have diesel costs per year of US$4,800.00 and the Grand Banks of US$14,400.00 I have not included any usage of a diesel generator in my calculations, rather planning to use Solar Panels and Wind Generator instead.

A new set of sails for the Beneteau would cost me every seven years around $11000 (based on the online Sailrite calculator). So per year this would add roughly US$1600 plus an additional US$600 for other rigging consumables. When I add now the diesel costs for the Beneteau 50 to these figures I have a total of US$7,000.00 per year. Less then 50% of the operating cost for the Grand Banks 48/49. What did I miss, were is my error.

zumsel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 04:56   #2
Long Range Cruiser
MarkJ's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Australian living on "Sea Life" currently in New York
Boat: Beneteau 393 "Sea Life"
Posts: 12,180
Images: 25
Originally Posted by zumsel View Post
What did I miss, were is my error.

Your error is in the cost of sails / rigging replacement

At 4,000nms per year your sails and rigging will last till you die. At least 20 years, I would think.

We have done 16,000 NMs on shot ex-charter boat sails and they are ratspoop but still going till we get to Thailand. So I reckon they would be good, new and well sailed, for 50,000 to 100,000 miles. Then the replacement is about $5k to $6k not the 11,000 you mention.

The main differences I can see are hull shape, amenities etc. You are either a power boat type of hull/ammenity person or will satisfy yourself with a sail boat.
A 50 foot sail boat will give you a good amenity that you only need to sail when the wind comes from a nice direction. You really never have to plunge upwind. I don't think we have ever had to work to windward. The closest is being had on the wind for a bit now and again, but never working to windward.

The other benifit is a 50 footer will let you circumnavigate if you so desire later on.

So, think it through. Power boats are fine if the fuel price fits your budget. A sail boat can be like a power boat with the added benefit of using the sails when the wind/circumstances lets you.

A sailboat never gives you that enclosed, glassed in bridge that all power boats give......


Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
MarkJ is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 05:13   #3
Registered User
S/V Illusion's Avatar

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Lakewood Ranch, FLORIDA
Boat: Alden 50 in Narragansett Bay, RI
Posts: 1,532
Apples and oranges - like comparing a car with a truck. With a sailboat, count how many times you will be climbing up/down the ladder over the period you plan to cruise. Not doing that in a trawler can be priceless.
Not that this is the only distinction which makes the comparison dubious, e.g., being able to make it under a bridge in a sailboat can be frustrating.

You really need to consider more than simply the $$$ differences
S/V Illusion is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 06:05   #4
Senior Cruiser
skipmac's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: 29 49.16 N 82 25.82 W
Boat: Pearson 422
Posts: 11,234
Yes, apples and oranges

Comparing the fuel cost is such a small part of the overall difference it is almost pointless. Even if you are just looking just at operating costs you will have to factor in engine maintenance and repair. This will vary dramatically based on the age, hours and overall condition of the engines when you get the boat.

You also might want to consider that a 50 trawler will have almost double the living space of a typical 50 sailboat but also a lot more boat to handle singlehanded, especially docking in adverse conditions.
The water is always bluer on the other side of the ocean.
skipmac is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 07:59   #5
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: between the devil and the deep blue sea
Boat: a sailing boat
Posts: 15,074
Agree with the above comments, except that the sails WILL last 6-7 years only, unless you cover them very, very well when not in use and best just take them off when in marina for any extended period - the reason is the sails get damage from sailing and chafe BUT most of all from the UV. So even unused sails left on the furler / boom will be shreds in 7 years.

The living space I hope will not be an issue for you - have a look and judge by yourself - but I found the new 50 foot sailing boats huge inside. The deck space is better on a trawler though - more comfortable to move about and better space to foldout some chairs and a table.

Probably just follow your heart - go for the boat you like best - because you cannot price the feeling you get when you row off a bit, look at her and say to yourself - isn't she lovely?

barnakiel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 08:15   #6
Registered User
zumsel's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Nova Scotia/Canada
Boat: 42' Cruising Cat, designed by Bernd Kohler
Posts: 49
Images: 32
Thank you all so far for your comments. I know that this comparison stinks. But I think it is a legitimate start to compare the cost of going from point A to point B in a sailing boat and a trawler. I had never thought that the difference would be so big, although I really doubt that a set of sails will last more then seven years. And yes, fuel costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Taking engine maintenance into account will tip the scale even more in favour of the sailing boat. I know already that I have lost my heart in a sailing boat. But I have recently stumbled across some lovely trawler. And the sheer amount of living space is unquestionable a big plus. On the other hand you could not call a 50' monohull dwarfish.
zumsel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 08:16   #7
Senior Cruiser
osirissail's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: A real life Zombie from FL
Boat: Gulfstar 53 - Osiris
Posts: 5,416
Images: 2
- - I concur, you really need to seriously consider what lifestyle you want when cruising. The sailboat is smaller inside which translates to living in a single wide RV versus a double wide (slide outs, etc.) for the power yacht.
- - Maintenance, I would suggest is about equal as sails and all the rigging and lines will match the power boat's engines, genset, and extra systems maintenance. I buddy boated for almost 3 years with 2 Nordic Tug 42's and my 50 ft sailing ketch. They spent as much time as I did keeping systems maintained.
- - Fuel burn is probably the biggest issue between the two, as you need a lot of current cash to refill versus spread out costs of sails and rigging. All the other costs of operations are very close to each other.
- - Comfort - good heavy sailboats with ride reasonably fine in big waves and winds whereas the power yacht can push straight to the destination at up to twice the speed. So it is a choice of more pain for a shorter time versus less pain for a longer time period. By the way do not buy a power yacht that does not have active stabilizers. If you cannot afford them - go with the sail boat.
- - If you can afford a power yacht with active stabilizers, and live with the fuel burn costs - go for the power yacht! If not, then go for the sailboat. A new power yacht wrinkle on the market is the "power cats" - catamarans where they forgot to install the mast and instead beefed up the engines. These "animals" ride quite well - probably well enough to negate the need for active stabilizers. Along with their better hull forms the fuel burn might be significantly reduced.
osirissail is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 08:28   #8
Registered User

Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Anacortes, WA
Boat: Maine Cat 41
Posts: 325
The other issue when considering power vs sail is that fuel prices probably won't stay at $4.00/gal. Consider what happens at $10/gal and what happens when it gets rationed. Powerboat owners will be s.o.l. at that point when it becomes totally 'unacceptable' to use/burn those amounts of fuel. I've even been concerned about the amount of fuel I use for heat even in our 'summer' in the PNW.

It probably gets too close to a different thread but the day IS coming sooner than we can imagine.
cchesley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 09:11   #9
Registered User
lorenzo b's Avatar

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Panama
Boat: Steel trawler 63' Eileen Farrell
Posts: 960
From what I can figure, with limited experience, the real cost of boating is in the amenities and appearances, that is to say shiny fiberglass, chrome, teak, varnish, spiffy looking sails etc. Compare, if you will, the cost difference in purchase and maintenance of a Grand Banks trawler and a working fishing boat of the same size. I once met a family of four living on a sailboat in Panama. The boat was good and solid but looked like hell compared to what you'll see at any upscale marina, yet they were perfectly happy not to be spending their lives polishing chrome. Across the way from me right now is a great sailboat that is in repair and tied up because the teak decking needs to be pulled off the fiberglass and replaced at a cost of thousands of dollars and months of work. The teak is purely for show and a pain in the butt, but you see it all the time on boats. When we were shopping for boats we were constantly having to take off our shoes to come aboard. Why would anyone own a boat you can't walk on?
If you want a boat that is solid and safe, that's relatively cheap. If you have to have a showboat the screams money, you will have to pay for it over and over again.
lorenzo b is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 09:39   #10
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Fort Pierce, FL. Texas Roots
Boat: 82 Present, 13 ft dinghy
Posts: 490
Get George Buehler's book about Trawelers, he does an extensive study comparing cost.
Mule is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 09:40   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: San Diego, CA
Boat: Will be a 50' Cat
Posts: 382
I have wrestled with this same question and let me say upfront that I don't own a boat yet. BUT, after charting a Grand Banks and a Catamaran, it was a no brainer for me. What really bothered me about the Trawler (besides it's hefty draft) was the noise and vibration of the engines being on during a passage. For this reason alone I would go with a CAT, but not only that, a CAT can be used as a Trawler in that you can easily use the engines if the wind is not cooperating or you need to make a fast passage... I don't want your thread to divert to a CAT vs Mono so will leave it there... Mono's also have good space.

capcook is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 09:47   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 340
Send a message via Skype™ to gosstyla
Check Steve Dashew's website SetSail

He has done cost analysis comparing his cruising on sail and power yachts.
gosstyla is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 11:04   #13
Registered User
anjou's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Malvernshire, on the sunny side of the hill.
Boat: 50' steel canal and river cruiser
Posts: 1,905
Originally Posted by cchesley View Post
The other issue when considering power vs sail is that fuel prices probably won't stay at $4.00/gal. Consider what happens at $10/gal and what happens when it gets rationed. Powerboat owners will be s.o.l. at that point when it becomes totally 'unacceptable' to use/burn those amounts of fuel. I've even been concerned about the amount of fuel I use for heat even in our 'summer' in the PNW.

It probably gets too close to a different thread but the day IS coming sooner than we can imagine.
I agree completely. We are already talking about the impact of oil on farming for tractor diesel, agro chemicals derived from oil, fertilisers etc and as and when oil becomes more expensive and then running out, what can we do to farm differently whilst feeding billions of people. Wind power is the way to go.
anjou is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 12:05   #14
CF Adviser
Moderator Emeritus
Hud3's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Virginia
Boat: Island Packet 380, now sold
Posts: 8,847
Images: 47
You can have it both ways!

Buy the sailboat. Sail it until you get too old. Sell it and buy the trawler. It's a time-honored thought process followed by many a couple who love living on a boat.
Hud3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-08-2009, 13:47   #15
Registered User

Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: FL
Boat: Far East Mariner 40
Posts: 652
Hud is correct, all the way down the ICW during the winter by the way, many people we talked to said "how long before you switch to a Trawler, everyone does"...We are 55 and love our sailboat, we actually live on it. However, I can see a day in the future where we will begin to look at trawlers. Our sailboat is relativly simple, and some would say hard work to travel and live on. We are healthy and love the life, but we all get older and begin to slow and will look for another way to stay on the water.

Islandmike is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Comparing New Diesel Engines Under 35 hp sandy daugherty Engines and Propulsion Systems 11 27-10-2009 23:58
any feedback about comparing these two boats NewSailor Monohull Sailboats 1 17-04-2007 23:15
sailboat storage costs? bluewater General Sailing Forum 0 07-02-2007 13:19
Operating RPMs Rippy Engines and Propulsion Systems 15 23-02-2006 04:51
Normal operating rpm Weyalan Engines and Propulsion Systems 3 19-12-2005 16:44

Our Communities

Our communities encompass many different hobbies and interests, but each one is built on friendly, intelligent membership.

» More about our Communities

Automotive Communities

Our Automotive communities encompass many different makes and models. From U.S. domestics to European Saloons.

» More about our Automotive Communities

Marine Communities

Our Marine websites focus on Cruising and Sailing Vessels, including forums and the largest cruising Wiki project on the web today.

» More about our Marine Communities

Copyright 2002-2015 Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 09:40.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.