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Old 25-01-2008, 13:25   #1
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Sailing away for a Dollar a day???!!

Ok, maybe in reality not a Dollar - but it makes a catchy headline!


Plenty of posts on “How much do I need?”, but not a lot on “How small could I make my expenses?”…..

I thought this could be a thread dedicated to exploring ideas (whether practical / proven……….. or not!) for living aboard a cruising yacht (not tied to a dock permanently) on a minimal (or non existent?!) budget.

My thinking is that a boat must be an ideal basis for living self sufficiently and the closer one gets to self sufficiency the less need to spend the actual $$$ / £££’s……

Not to say that all the "choices" that would be required are those I (or others) would be prepared to actually make in real life…………. and of course in reality folk would no doubt spend more than a single dollar a day (whether from investments , savings or working - at least now and again)..........given that sometimes the solution to a problem is simply cold hard cash ....…….


But I figure plenty of scope to avoid / minimise future expenditure by pre-planning and pre-equipping the right boat (even if some ideas involved an initial capital outlay that could otherwise be avoided) and therefore reduce the income required (from whatever source, but particularly from work!).whilst actually underway on the endless cruise……..into the WBY!

So what do I want?…… Money Free and Eco-Friendly cruising! When do I want it?…….Now!
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Old 25-01-2008, 13:28   #2
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Ok, I will start , as I think this is the “easy” bit………

Heat, Light and Power

We have the usual suspects, Solar, Wind, Engine, Gas, Kerosene and……….none!

I reckon a combination of each should make a boat self sufficient (or near as damn it), without going back to the stone age , albeit the washing machine will probably have to be replaced by…….a bucket!
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Old 25-01-2008, 13:41   #3
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David, this is how we tried to live aboard our last boat. The usual suspects for us were:

*Diesel (to provide electricity)
*Oil (to provide lubricaiton to then provide eletricity)
*Anchors and Chain eventually
*Dinghy petrol for going ashore (and getting water)
*Dinghies in general - they die after a while
*Breakdowns of things like plumbing and electric/tronic items
*Head failures
*Heat (cutting my own wood was cheap, but also required petrol and a chainsaw)
*Vegetables in winter and sometimes in summer
*Fruit
*Meats (no deer to shoot on the high seas)
*Clothing
*Various tools for fixing things
*Bottom Paint
*Haul outs to apply the former
*Anchor Lights


Etc.... etc....

While I have tried to live the dream of self sufficiency at anchor, I have found there are practical limitations due to the fact that humans need land-based items to not only be comfortable, but to survive at sea.

It's my strong feeling that this is a rat-hole to go down. You can't be self-sufficient at sea. You will always require the land - not to mention you have to earn some $$ to buy all the stuff in my bulleted list above.

It would be less expensive to buy land in the middle of nowhere and set up shop. However, boats are better than land.

(one guy's opinion, who has been there)
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Old 25-01-2008, 13:51   #4
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The best and cheapest source of heat is the sun. Move with the seasons, and you never need any other kind of heater.
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Old 25-01-2008, 13:57   #5
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The best and cheapest source of heat is the sun. Move with the seasons, and you never need any other kind of heater.
Of course... but then you run into a FAR greater expense than heat:

You then need to add:

*Sails
*Running Rigging
*Standing Rigging
*Lots of Diesel
*Fuel Filters
*Main engine oil changes
*New Main Engine some day
... the list goes on and on

I've done the math. It's not cheaper to move with the sun than to stay put and pay for heat (and even a dock too).

It's romantic... but not cheap.

But then someone probably says, "just stay where it's warm."

*Hurricanes - could cost you much more than the other items in the list.
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Old 25-01-2008, 14:13   #6
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You could potentially try to barter or work for all of those things cutting money out of the equation totally. This would technically fulfill the requirements, however I doubt that's what is wanted.
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Old 25-01-2008, 15:09   #7
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Size matters, and the vanity of 'overkill' costs.

Smaller yachts, much smaller costs. Better to have a 25'+ up and running than a 35'+ you can't really afford to run.

So many yachts must be kitted out for either the worst conditions the world can throw at them or as the ultimate placebo shoreside home. How many actually leave sight of land or even the dockside?

All very reminiscent of the 'jones's' that never drive around anything other than local city streets in a maserati or buy a Winnebago and permanently park it up. Vanity and imagine... aarrgghh!
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Old 25-01-2008, 15:35   #8
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A self sufficient boat as much as can be . That will entail doing everything once and the best it can be done . No Short cuts.
Sailing. . . . . as much sailing as possible.
100 years ago motors on sailboats weren't all that common. If its the life you chose its the sacrifice you make. Become Self sufficient, in other-words never having to hire anyone to do anything for you EVER!
That will BTW get you some goods bye and bye when others need your services.
I am no diesel mechanic, but I am the one fellow whom several small diesel owners have come knocking on my hull when they had problems. I never charged . . .so far for mechanical or electrical work I do for others, but if things were different I was trying to get by you bet I would accept a gift.
Learn to live and eat simple. Get a pole spear and learn how to use it. Buy a Lobster /Crab trap too and Never move your boat more than a 1000 yards when you not dragging a line hoping to catch dinner. Learn to be entertaining. . . .can get ya a lot of free drinks and at $5 to $8 a pop that's not to be sneezed at. My brother is an incredible spear-fisherman. 100 lbs of rice stored properly 50 lbs of black or red dry beans some spices we could live and eat good for a year. I play a little Guitar know a couple 100 jokes we are both adept with our hands and can fix just about anything . Don taught Electronics in the Air-force and for another 20+ years as a civilian.
The Average Paper Pusher wouldn't have much to offer the sailing community.
Can't you just hear it now. Hey man I got major electrical or motor problems how about I trade ya for a spead sheet...what-ta ya think dude??? Hahahahaha
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Old 25-01-2008, 15:44   #9
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David and Sean's bit on electricity is a big one.

Our first boat had kero lamps. Now I've sailed on freakin floating Christmas trees with cappuccino machines on board.

We never had fresh water, we washed over the side (just rub hard with a towel to get the salt off), did the dishes in salt water, washed the boat in saltwater. Mum got to use water for cooking but as far as I remember one 20litre demijohn lasted a full week.

The dinghy had funny little wooden things sticking out the side that we waved and made the boat go Plus when you row past a boat you can say hello

We never had a computer, TV, microwave, hot water, freezer, frig (just an ice box).

If you cut out all the crap, or don't use it, then you save a lot.
Then use food that doesnt need refrigeration. Fish more. But do you take it to the extent that you fish for 1 or 2 hours a day every day? Some areas there not much to be caught or ciguatera, of trolling on the move is a bit limited. Netting prawns etc? Skin diving for crabs, lobster etc.

If you want to live for $1 per day (not counting maintenance) it would be practical per person if you bought rice 10kg bags and fished, supplemented with some fresh veges from local markets once a week. Bean sprouts growing on deck!

After a while we wouldn't be carrying any extra weight! We would prolly be pretty healthy. Like the most healthy we have ever been in our lives!

And then we could do a commando raid on McDonalds
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Old 25-01-2008, 15:54   #10
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Yeah, we did the whole lot of it:

*Fishing
*Gathering Vegetables on Shore (in summer)
*Buying "land animasl" in bulk and grinding our own meat (by hand) of out the cheap cuts
*Finding, cutting and splitting all firewood for our only heat, the Little Cod woodstove
*Didn't eat out but once or twice in 2 years (food sucks anyway, ours is better)

Those that think sailboats make it any cheaper than efficient power boats are not looking at the full picture, or have never lived like this. Sails are BIG money. Running rigging is big money. Standing rigging is big money. You can't neglect that stuff indefinitely and where do you need to go when you need new ones? You guessed it: land.

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions, because we did everything there is to do being self sufficient on a boat. It cannot be done. Go try it. Live at anchor like we did. You'll find you have to go to land for a lot of things.

Humans cannot survive at sea without going to land to get the essentials. It is a logical impossibility. Fishing is a pipe dream too. What if you don't catch dinner this week because the fish are running somewhere else? Then what? Starve? You gotta go to land again.

I went weeks without catching fish - probably because I suck at it! ha ha
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Old 25-01-2008, 16:16   #11
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I don't think anyone was implying we need to be totally self sufficient. That's just not practical. No One should need to. I am not leaving money for the kids they all make more than me!
Hard to imagine anyone living in a G8 country and not having several hundred thousand dollars in the bank and some sort of retirement check coming in every month . So with say just $250K and even just in c/ds and $2500 a month from retirement of some sort , and health care plan . . .I would think the goall would be to not out live your money so at least you just Never dip into the principle. No doubt that most of us here have a lot more than the $250K and surly few are foolish enough to have much of it in a CD.
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Old 25-01-2008, 16:35   #12
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I don't think anyone was implying we need to be totally self sufficient. That's just not practical. No One should need to. I am not leaving money for the kids they all make more than me!
Hard to imagine anyone living in a G8 country and not having several hundred thousand dollars in the bank and some sort of retirement check coming in every month . So with say just $250K and even just in c/ds and $2500 a month from retirement of some sort , and health care plan . . .I would think the goall would be to not out live your money so at least you just Never dip into the principle. No doubt that most of us here have a lot more than the $250K and surly few are foolish enough to have much of it in a CD.
Whoops. Sorry. I didn't realize this is what you were talking about. I was indeed talking about being totally self sufficient. I was (in agreement with you) trying to show that I have done it and it is not possible (nor practical).

Well, you have just met your first person from a G8 country without $250K in cds, $2500/mo in income arriving without me working, a health care plan, or other vast piles of riches.

I'm one of those "gritty" boat guys.

You know the kind... all scruffy, filling up the water jugs at the fancy marina dock, even though he's not a member? The one your wife says hi to, but you turn your nose up at? (not you personally, "you" being used to describe the rich guys walking docks in their sunday best)
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Old 25-01-2008, 16:39   #13
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Yeah, we are not going to be self sufficiant either thats too droll! LOL
However there are median points in everything and cruising (NOT, read that word 'NOT' including maintenance costs, cost of repairs, sails etc for $1 per day) can be done more simply if required for a month or 2 if the investment cheque doesnt come in. we fully intent to hide behind some island if we blow the budget but also we are not going into purgatory! We are going to spend like we have never spent before because we always have said things like: "Lets not buy a cup of coffee here, wait till we are on the boat and in some romanitc port in the Med and I will buy you a coffee then at some dock side cafe".

The median point is there somewhere for all cruisers, an example may be a thread I havent read: "Broadband Access" theres 23 posts in the thread!!!!!! LOL Do we expect to have broadband on board and still have to soak our Lima Beans overnight?

We don't want internet access on the boat because our lives have been ruled (ruined) by it for years. But thats our choice. It may change after a year or a week...
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Old 25-01-2008, 16:46   #14
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The median point is there somewhere for all cruisers, an example may be a thread I havent read: "Broadband Access" theres 23 posts in the thread!!!!!! LOL Do we expect to have broadband on board and still have to soak our Lima Beans overnight?

We don't want internet access on the boat because our lives have been ruled (ruined) by it for years. But thats our choice. It may change after a year or a week...
VERY good point, Mark! I had to laugh at this, because I was just what you are describing. There I was: fishing half the day, grinding meat up by hand, going ashore to pick plants that I hoped were not poisonous, living as cheaply as possible on a boat with my WiFi connection blazing away to allow me to post on the Cruisers Forum. ha ha ha

It's an exercise in hypocracy!

Yes, without the laptop, I personally would have used probably half the diesel we used in our genset. Laptops are the most power hungry devices aside from refrigeration, I have in any of my alternate living arrangements (be it boat or land).


Yet... for some reason, I MUST have the internet. I honestly have difficulty without it. So many things go through the mind you need to look up. weather.gov, looking up local places in port to visit, finding marine stuff, and saving yourself 10 hours of work on a boat problem by posting the question up here.

Excellent post. I couldn't agree more.
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Old 25-01-2008, 17:11   #15
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So the challenge is "sailing away for $1 a day".
It's a cold and rainy Friday here and my desk is boring so I might get more wordy than usual :-)
"Sailing away" implies exclusion of the cost for the boat itself. But maintaining and operating the boat is paramount. Simple boat = cheap to keep, complex boat means big bucks to use and keep everything working.
Food is similar. Fancy food and/or eating out = bigger bucks. Eat simply (rice and beans if you must) and buy what the locals have cheaply available.
So it all boils down to how simply can you live?
Two great examples;
Voyaging on a Small Income by Annie Hill (living simply off one's earned interest. And I don't think she's talkin about $250k - give me a break!).
And, of course Lynn and Larry Pardee.
Oh, I just remembered a fellow that spent several years cruising around the So Pac on a 20-something catamaran for about $1/day and just finished building and sailing south again in a slightly larger one. But think absolute minimalist - not many can.
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