There's a fine line between cruising and camping. To me, camping get's old far sooner than cruising.
The cost of cruising is directly proportional to the size of your vessel, your comfort level, and your lifestyle. Whatever you can do while you're still working to get the boat prepared will affect the cost of cruising. And your peace of mind. Replacing the rigging
a new to you slightly used sail may pay off with little maintenance
over a significant period.
What you carry aboard will affect how much it costs to cruise
. It should come as no surprise that engineless, refrigeratorless, vessels with simple sail plans cost less to maintain.
Add fans to the boat to move the air. Add an awning to help control the heat that enters the cabin
. Add a wind
scoop to suck up every breath of air out there. Add LED lighting
to reduce battery consumption
, prolong battery
life, and reduce the need for a genset, second wind generator
or third solar
panel. Consider solar
power over that genset.
But we want to cruise
, not camp. [Spoiler: My answer is in the last paragraph.]
In the "old" days, cruisers took everything they might need when they left the dock
. Today, many places stock the basics, abet at different, and some say extortion, prices. What's a cruiser to do?
Prepare smartly. Take only the items you sure won't exist elsewhere or whose quality precludes buying. They sell toilet paper, paper towels, and coffee most places. Finding zip lock bags, Crystal Light lemonaide, Starbucks, and mango chutney, may be more difficult. There are a lot of resources out there, but many of them aren't that current
. Organizations like SSCA, CCA, cruising blogs, and this site can give you a reasonably current
idea of what to buy and where. There are ports
has historically been reasonable and available, so plan to stop there, not at the most expensive spots. Please do as I say on this, not as I seem to do.
Waste nothing. That means good portion control and keeping waste to a minimum. You can keep many condiments unrefrigerated after opening if you are scrupulous about preventing anything foreign from getting into the contents. Buying that gallon jar of mayonnaise because it's cheaper than 4 qt containers, or that 1000 packet box may not be the best way to go. Know how to store items so that their life can be maximized. I've had a few memorable meals
simply by cleaning
out the leftovers from the fridge and making a one pot meal (I call it gruel but some call it burgoo). It can lead to some interesting discussions, and laughs, over sundowners.
Enjoy the challenge of eating simply or what the locals eat. A 20# bag of rice costs far less than the same quantity of potatoes; and lasts longer. Legumes are inexpensive, have lots of nutritional value and can stretch the much more expensive meats. The locals have the same problem as you do - unless it's subsidized by the state, chances are they're avoiding or stretching it too. Growing sprouts can add a fresh taste and crunch to that salad or sandwich. Tarot root is an acquired taste. Kava, to me, has no chance of being tasty - but it has other endearing points.
If you see it, buy it. Now. Chances are the item may not be there tomorrow, or even later today. Buy smartly. Can you get your produce, eggs, and fruits from a family
cheaper than at the local market? Can you live with 3rd world meat, not the brand you get back home? Know when the supply boat comes in. Buying when the items are freshest will reduce spoilage and save you money
Take as little money
ashore as possible. What you don't have you can't spend. And lock the credit card(s) away except for cash advances and bit ticket items. Learn the happy hours of the places you frequent. That $3 beer
can be offset by munching you dinner at the appetizer table.
Gang up. Rent a car with other boaters for that long excursion to the store, point of interest, or airport
. Try group buying of produce, eggs, milk, diesel
. All the locals can say is no.
Keep on top of repairs
. Finding out that that impeller was half the price
and available off the shelf in the _last_ port can be a real eyeopener. By knowing what you'll be needing soon, you may be able to find a better bargain in the next port rather than the one you left.
Talk it up. Meet with other cruisers to gather as much info as you can. We're all cruising and sharing info can be a real cost saver. In some cases, having someone speak the language can reduce the cost, or at least the anxiety, significantly.
Yeah, but what about the money?
Buy in bulk, repackage (those vacuum bagger gizmos seem to keep things much longer than other methods) and store properly. Consider group buying.
Make your own bread. It's remarkably easy (even for a male singlehander), costs far less than buying, seems to last longer, and fills the boat with a mouth watering aroma. Yeah, it uses gas, but you can cook that lasagna in the same oven
as the bread or fill the oven
with bread tins.
Do the maintenance
yourself - or get some assistance from another boater. It may cost you a lunch or cold adult beverage, but it'll be cheaper than having it done, you'll get it done right, and make a friend. Plan on spending some time every day doing the regular maintenance. Consider group buying of oil
, gas, diesel
, filters, etc.
Learn to wash clothes yourself. You can wash using a 5-gallon bucket but for $100-150 you can buy the items to do it faster, use less water
, and better. True, these items require manual labor and a couple hours time, but getting all your clothes back and knowing you've saved yourself $20-50 can be a real treat.
Treat yourself - carefully. Hey, it's cruising, not detention. Besides, a treat now and then helps reinforce the idea of enjoying the experience.
Yeah, but what about the money?!
There are 5 areas I budget
1. The vessel - general repairs
, general maintenance, annual inspections, bottom paint
, sail repair, insurance
will probably be the biggest hit. I don't carry insurance, I'm the insurance but if you're boat's owned by the bank you've got to pay for the privilege
and I have no idea what that is for your vessel.
- Do you want to carry 4 gallons of bottom paint
for two years before using it? I'd rather buy it down island. It's usually fresher, sometimes better, and buying the paint
may offset the cost of the haul. $50/mo
- You might consider carrying some spare sail material and a sail repair kit though.
- If it costs you $1200 for a weekend haul, then put $100/month into the cruising account expense side.
- If you've got a tendency to motorsail, then consider the additional cost of fuel
filters, oil changes, zincs, and impellers into the cruising expense over the daily 2hr run to charge the batteries and fridge. I do the latter, run the engine
about 2hr/day and probably accumulate 500-600 hrs/year. That's 3 changes @ about $80 each, a new raw water
impeller and belt each year, so I budget $30/mo
should be changed, or seriously looked at, about every 10 years; unless you've suffered through a serious blow, then you might want to look sooner. Carrying some spare rigging gear
can save you time and money. $20/mo
- Things wear out so I carry some spare line, a couple blocks, a repair kit for the winch
, and a spare control for the windlass
. Anchors get lost
chafes through and things go bump in the night (and sometimes day). I carry 2 primary anchors, a kedge, and a dinghy anchor
. I don't carry any spare chain.
- Tools are a sore subject with me. I seem to leave metal souvenirs in most anchorages
where I do maintenance, loan that sweet stuffing box wrench to a boater that scoots in the middle of the night, or just don't have that smoke shifter for the inverted flange bolt cap. And neither does anyone else in the anchorage 'cuz my engine's an '00 model - that'd be 1900, not 2000. $20/mo
2. The crew - medical
, sanity, diversions, treats. What are the ratio's of expense to income
on: movies, TV, internet
, magazines, medical
insurance, medications, travel, treats?
- Some meds that require a script in the US are over the counter elsewhere. Some you can't get. If you're in the last group then you need to budget not only for the meds, but the cost of getting them to you. In some drastic cases, I've heard of family
personally delivering the meds. And don't forget that the heat of the tropics can reduce the potency of meds quickly. If you're healthy then $25/mo/person is a good number. I go through that much in bandaids, but I'm a clumsy oaf.
- Sanity is relative. Most landlubbers think that cruisers are a couple of pickles short of a sandwich. Me, I know how sweet this alternative, alternative lifestyle is. I get my sanity by listening to music
, the local radio
stations, snorkeling, diving
, beach combing, writing (duh!), photography
, and reading. Books
down island are very expensive so I'm always looking at the book swaps for something new to read. I can be very easily amused, it appears. $50/mo
- But I lose things, things break, I want that ... so $20/mo if the wifi's free or $30/mo if not.
- I'm reasonably healthy but have a emergency
flight policy that'll take me from where I am to a US hospital should I need it. $40/mo
- I use ointments, preventatives (swimmers ear), suntan lotion, Advil, and bandaids so I budget $20/mo for that. Most times it's $0 but you gotta cover the bases you think of.
- I have frequent (I should say infrequent) flyer miles and a credit card with $0 balance in case I need medical service
now, or need to be sick in bed
with a nurse.
3. Feeding the crew - what you eat on land is probably a good idea of what you'll eat on the boat. So, what's the ratio of food
you have at home?
- I'm doing this again so I've got a better idea of what it's like. I have engine
and a rebuilt, and far more energy efficient, fridge/freezer. It's not large but it does store the basics, doesn't make ice or keep ice cream, but will keep leftovers good for a couple days.
- I tend to eat a lot of rice and black/pinto beans, black bean soup, tortillas, and pasta with some meat thrown in to even things out. I buy rice and beans in big bags, repackage, and forgo things that'll spoil before I can cook them. $50/mo
- I use a pressure cooker most of the time as it cuts down on the fuel
used and takes less time thereby keeping the cabin
cooler. The cooker's a 6-qt commercial
one that'll probably be around after the next ice age. Some folks can what they buy and my pressure cookers
large enough for 4 qt bottles in case I find that truckload of strawberries for $1.
- I go through 20# of propane
about every 4-5 months. I've got one of those pushpit external propane
grills for cooking
- I make my own bread. $20/mo for 10 loaves.
- Protein is a big expense for me. It seems that even that slow running geezer rooster with freezer
burn's way more expensive than prime chicken here, but I'm there, not here. I tend to buy canned meat and what fresh/once fresh I can if the price's right. I dislike _having_ to buy because I'm out. $100/mo
- I enjoy fishing
. Whomever said fishing wasn't catching was right. And I always seemed to lose that new $25 lure on the first get-go, so now I roll my own. I also carry spare hooks, line, leader, and some cheap
lures as barter material. Line wears out, lures get lost
, hooks get taken, and the rod and reel wear out so I figure $10/mo for that pleasure(?). Anybody got a good way of testing barracuda for ciguatera let me know - I seem to catch them 80% of the time and they always seem to swallow the hook and 6' of leader too.
- I buy bulk cheese, canned butter, UHT milk, and hot sauces about every 2 months. I've found and tested a number of recipes
for making simple, nutritious, and tasty meals. I waste as little as possible. I like sun tea and go through about 2 gallons/week. $70/mo
- After a long passage
I splurge for veggies, fruit, and a reasonable meal, letting someone else cook. $20/mo
- Paper and plastic products are replaced when I can. I use a lot of zip lock bags to portion control and reduce spoilage. I buy the trash compactor rated garbage bags as they seem to hold the waste and smell better than other plastic bags. $20/mo
- I have an inflatable
dingy with a small outboard
. It's probably my one creature comfort. I can run errands, go exploring, or beat it back to the boat before the rains starts and the open hatches catch all that free rain right into my mattress. $20/mo
- In port I fill the diesel, fill the outboard
tank with gas, and dump the garbage. If I need water
and it's not free, then I try to fill that tank too. I do the high priority items first in case I have to scoot. With diesel at $4-6/gallon, filling up can be a big hit, so before I do, I try to chat up the other cruisers to find the best deal. Diesel $5/gal. Gas $5/gal 2-cycle oil $2/qt Water $0.50/gal Figure $100/mo if there's wind _not_ on the nose.
4. Getting there - unless you're a pro at celestial (and even we pro's look at the GPS
first) you're going to need to know where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. Can you navigate with charts
, cruising guides
, sailing directions, and guides gleaned from the internet
? Do you know you need a chart plotter? And if electronic charts
give you a better comfort factor, you're going to need electronic charts. While they've come down in price
, I recommend buying charts only when you need them. In my experience, buying them too soon guarantees an update before I install them and most places won't take the chips back.
- As much as I hate to waste the space, I tend to carry a lot of charts. I've got a GPS
, not a chart plotter/navcomp. That said, with the price of electronic charts coming down, buying electronically is getting hard to resist. I buy charts and area related books near the next section of my journey. Sometimes I can do a swap, but a lot of the times I seem to be going in the same direction as the other 200 boats in the anchorage. $20/mo
- I invariably need to get the latest, greatest, bestest cruising info in print form and since I don't carry a printer, pay someone to print it out for me. $20/mo
- Then there's Customs
, Immigration, Port Captain
, Police, taxi fees
, Agent fees
, and carbon paper. And those foreign language crew forms that need to be in sextuplet form the 10 copies of your ships papers, and the deforestation of the planet. Not to mention the "gifts" or overtime payments that magically appear when checking in or out. $100/port/person
5. Safety Gear
- This is important to me. I carry an EPIRB
, handheld VHF
, flares, PFDs, harness, MOB
gear, and an abandon ship bag. I don't carry a life raft yet but I'm saving for one. I cobbled together a power inflater for my dingy than can inflate it in about 20 seconds. That'll have to do until I can find the money. A life raft equates to about 6 months cruising and I'm not convinced that buying anything other than new is the wise thing to do. Most of the safety
gear'll last for a number of years but the EPRIB'll probably need a new battery in 3 years and the life raft needs an annual inspection
so I'd add $40/mo to the budget for safety items. If I were to charter
, I'd bump that up some and buy the raft before leaving the dock
So, where are we? I get $975 for a slightly enhanced upper 30's, early 1980's sailboat with one crew most of the time. That sounds a bit low, but it's not far off. If you're sailing with others then you've got to bump the costs of food and port fees up some. Some ports
require you to come to the dock (at a fee) or grab a mooring
(at a fee) or pay their tender
driver (at a fee) to get checked in.
Some popular anchorages
are going to all mooring
and I've not added that fee in either (generally $15/night), nor have I budgeted for sundowner drinks, beach pot-lucks, happy hours, or a lot of items.
I go to the dock only long enough to fill the diesel and if I can get a free overnight I'll do that too. I anchor
out 95% of the time because the breeze's better, the bugs fewer, the noise
pollution less, and the water's cleaner. Being on the hook is probably the cheapest way there is short of grabbing a free mooring.
I've not included flights home because I'm working on having friends and family come see me, since I'm in that exotic spot, have a boat, and are willing to let them charter
it free - as long as I can go along. Cheap
Nor have I budgeted for one of my vices - t-shirts and mola's. But then I'm weak in a couple areas.
So that's my estimate. $1000/mo for a high and probably $700 for the low. The actual's may be lower but I know this is a fairly good number. Your lifestyle, basic requirements, wishes, dreams, and luck of the draw will affect your actual's. So will where you go, when you go, and how you get there.