The cruising community is rich in anecdotal stories about everything. We could really use a "Snopes" website for cruisers! Here are some thoughts on some of the comments recently posted:
First, Brent Swain asserts:
Originally Posted by Brent Swain
$1K a month is extremely extravagent . It has never cost me more than a fraction that amount to cruise
"Extravagant" for him perhaps, and more power to him. But not extravagant when the needs and wishes of average cruisers are considered. Here are two of my related anecdotes for your consideration. BTW, since you appear to be leaving from the west coast
, I assume you'll be heading for Mexico
, at least initially.
(1) Before leaving Santa Barbara on our first voyage, we also wondered, like you, what our day-to-day expenses were likely to be. We sought out the only person we knew of in the harbor who had spent a couple of years in Puerto Vallarta
and asked him. Without hesitating, he told us that we wouldn't be able to survive on anything less than $2K/month. That surprised and depressed us, but we sailed anyway. A couple of years later, while hanging out in Banderas Bay, we learned that our informant kept his boat in the main Puerto Vallarta
marina, was a serious alcoholic with a passion for expensive wines, and ate all his meals
at the finest restaurants near the marina. Go Figure.
(2) About twelve years ago, I was giving a seminar on watermakers at a West Marine
cruisers event in Catalina
. At one point I gave the audience a ballpark estimate of daily water consumption
: I mentioned that my wife and I used about 5 gallons per day, on average.
Standing right behind my wife in the audience was an old curmudgeon who is well known for selling a package of detailed charts
of the Sea of Cortez
. When he heard my estimate, he was heard to exclaim, rather loudly: "Hmmph! That fellow wouldn't last long on my boat!" This fellow was also known for not having any electrical
devices or batteries on his boat, for not using running or anchor lights, for always anchoring
off the stern of his boat, and a number of other atypical habits.
Bottom line: different strokes for different folks, eh?
: In general, we found that "meat" is cheaper in the third world countries, and often tastes better than the same items in the U.S. For example, I love bacon. Wait until you try Mexican bacon! It's much better than anything I've ever bought in the U.S.
Interestingly, many poorer people in other countries eat avocados as a substitute for meat. I'm not a nutritionist, but it's my understanding that avocado is a pretty good nutritional substitute for meat. Further, it's not considered "green gold" in other countries; i.e., they're cheap. If you like avocados, you're in!
: There was no way we could afford hull
insurance while cruising. However, we always carried liability, which cost us only a little over $100/year. Not only is this a good idea, but it's becoming a requirement in many marinas and ports
(e.g., Zihuatenejo). When we considered getting hull insurance, we found it was expensive (e.g., $1000 extra for a one-way passage
to Hawaii), required us to take on a third crew member
and provide proof that all three of us were competent sailors, and was not valid, for example, in Mexican waters after June 1. We decided that, if we were to lose the boat, we were likely to be lost
ourselves at the same time and, in that event, collecting insurance wouldn't do us much good. Yes, that thinking required a bit of rationalization, but it worked for us for our many years of fulltime cruising.
One other problem with U.S. insurance in other countries: if you ever have to file a claim, many of those countries insist that the surveyor
or damage inspector be a local. Understandably, many insurance companies won't go along with that requirement, and your claim could be in trouble. One alternative is to purchase
a short-term policy from an agent in each country you visit. Port authorities can recommend such agents. I can't verify how well this works, having never done that. In general, however, past experience has made me distrustful of ALL insurance companies, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere. They are eager to receive your policy payments but, when it comes to honoring any claims, it's like pulling teeth. That's just my personal opinion, based on real-life experience. Caveat emptor!
: If you have adequate medical
coverage, great! However, don't think that good medical treatment in any other country is as expensive as it is in the U.S. In fact, the only reason I was able to afford to return to living in the U.S. is because I have VA coverage, which is excellent! Even if you don't have insurance, most medical issues can be paid for in other countries with out-of-pocket money, without breaking the budget. Here are a few examples of that from my own travels:
1.) 3-root root canal in Puerto Vallarta: $150.
2.) 3-tooth bridge with 2 posts, post and crowns on two other teeth, a root canal, a cleaning
, and a couple of cosmetic fillings in Venezuela
: about $1000.
3.) A friend had a hernia operation involving installing a mesh and several days in the hospital in Ecuador
: $200 for everything.
4.) A complete eye examination, with all the latest equipment
and whistles and bells, in Panama
5.) My wife had a bone density test in Venezuela
: $35. Similar charges for a mammogram and cholesterol test.
6.) We always carried two doses of Cipro antibiotic for emergencies. You can buy it over the counter in Mexico. As I recall
, the cost was about $30 for enough tablets for two doses.
7.) I developed a staph infection on my leg in Costa Rica
. A local pharmacist looked at it and prescribed both oral and topical antibiotics. The treatment worked, even though I'd had the infection for several months--certainly long enough to become worried that it hadn't healed and, in fact, was getting gradually worse. The medications were so inexpensive that I don't even remember what they cost; it was trivial. BTW, it is quite common for pharmacists to diagnose and treat many common ailments in these countries. But, ask around and shop around; there are also many doctors in those countries who are attracted to us "rich" gringos and will charge prices comparable to, or even higher than, the U.S. norms.
If more U.S. citizens knew about the quality and affordability of medical care in other countries, they would realize how terribly broken the U.S. health care
system is. What a shame.
Expenses in Mexico
: Yes, things are clearly getting more restrictive in many places in Mexico. It was Fox's grand plan to put marinas along the Mexican coast every fifty miles! During our cruising years we saw marinas take over the anchorages
in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Banderas Bay, and at Puerto Escondido, Baja
In La Cruz, for example, the new marina enclosed the only reasonable stretch of beach where one could safely land a dinghy
. Initially, they "generously" provided a dinghy dock
inside the marina, but then charged $10 for each trip
to the dock
( not per day
, which would have been bad enough). To their credit, the marina owners hired a new manager and, at the time of our last visit, provided the dinghy dock for free, but I seriously doubt that will last forever.
"Revenue boats" now patrol the islands north of La Paz
, Mexico, which are diving paradises. They demand fees
for anchoring offshore
. Similar things are happening elsewhere.
My lady and I like to think that we cruised back in what are rapidly becoming the "good old days." I'll be interested in reading your posts about how things are now, when you get to cruising.