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LittleFlower 15-07-2009 06:15

Cost of Cruising
Hello everyone! I'm headed south for the winter on my boat, likely alone or possibly with a friend. I have no specific plans for locations (E. Coast, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, S. America) or length of the trip (3-10 months). Its all up in the air. Any suggestions?

More importantly, I'm interested in knowing an estimated cost of cruising/month. The total cost would include all expenses such as: food, supplies, gas, water, occasional dock or mooring, charts, cruising guides, repairs, etc.

There are two reasons I ask: 1) so I know about how much money I need to have saved 2) because I am splitting the cost with my friend and would like to let her know what to expect. We have agreed to share all expenses.

I understand that I will get a large range of estimates as people's experiences and thriftyness varies. Fill me in. I appreciate your help.


Strygaldwir 15-07-2009 06:56

I'd highly suggest getting Beth Leonard's Cruising guide and reviewing the Bumfuzzle logs ( This is such a broad subject that there is little way, give the information we don't know about your lifestyle, that we would provide any real substantive estimates on what you should budget for.

Rhosyn Mor 15-07-2009 06:56

Teresa,, thats a very open ended question, but I will give it a go.
We here on the good ship Rhosyn Mor cruise at what is probably the low end of the spectrum. over the last 9 years costs have obviously grown, currently budget runs about six thousand a year average, plus a big hit every couple of years ( an extra 25 hundred) for haul out, refit etc, upgrades etc. These prices are in USdollars

Strygaldwir 15-07-2009 07:10

Just looked at your blog. Looks like you have been living aboard for quite a while. I'd think you'd be able to keep the cost very much within reason if you continue your same approach to lifestyle while cruising.

If you get your systems as you want them. I'd think in the $400 range would be very doable.

You can probably get cruising guides from exchanges or other sailors that don't have a use for them any more. Same applies to some paper charts, or chart books.

I'd do the east coast as an opener and then the Bahamas if you are still inclined.

Lots of research available on systems, water, energy, maintenance... etc. Just do so quick searches and there will be almost as much detail as you'd ever want.

Pblais 15-07-2009 07:10

How you live and spend money on land determines how you will be on the water. You won't magically transform yourselves because you travel by boat. Those are the expenses that are hardest to estimate and there really is no rule of thumb. Some do it on $1000 / month others much much more. Some have more fun than others. Being miserable is not the goal.

Some costs are best incurred before you leave because you can shop around. Tend to all maintenance work possible well before you leave. Don't install anything unless you have time to do some shakedown trips to be sure everything is ready and working. Take your friend on an overnight trip and practice and get everyone familiar working together. The preparation and planning helps set expectations and minimizes the unexpected repairs that can still happen any way. Stuff breaks.

Food is hard mostly because you can't totally eat the same way you do on land so that means figuring out what you like and can prepare. You need some things that are easy for times when there is not enough time. Pre buy and repackage as much as you can knowing you'll need more later. Bring your own storage containers and repackage everything before bringing it aboard. You can reduce the volume of trash greatly doing this and have more room and be more organized. It means you can start out with all you need for the beginning and then manage restocking as available.

You need fuel for the boat and if you stay in marinas the money adds up fast. You may be paying around $50 / night with electric more or less for transient docking fees. Fuel price vary and seem to be increasing slowly. Cruising the ICW takes a LOT of fuel. You won't sail most all the time either. How you burn your fuel effects the budget.

The easier way to figure costs is to plan out what you want and need. Sailing is about being prepared. You have the time now to prepare. Start making some lists and just think about the things you will want to do. get charts and study guide books. Discuss with crew expectations and lifestyle choices. I would not rely on someone else's budget as a starting point. In the end your spending will more about your own expectations than anyone here. As you grow to understand how you live you will soon find how much money it takes. It would be nice if you had a lot of fun too. Making the two meet is the harder task.

Being frugal comes with greater understanding. Failure to plan will trash the budget in the first month. You can waste money by failing to plan and prepare. That is the easy way to trash the budget. You might start by planning in detail a few weeks. Attempting this will let you add up numbers. It's not to say you have to chart out 10 months but doing a few weeks would cover a lot of expenses that can be extrapolated. Don't forget the cost of things left behind and basics like insurance and bills.

Reality Check 15-07-2009 07:11

You know their is no real answer to that question......

It depends on what you want and what your spending habits are, and the condition of the boat for the intended use.

You will always need about twice as much as you have. You can get by on far less. Two can almost live as cheaply as one. As you get away from the US heading toward the VI, you will find prices will increase 10 to 20% for food and 15 to 30% for boat supplies are parts. Buying at a Marina will typically cost you an additional 10% or more. Buying locally will be cheaper when buying locally produced items such as fruits and veggies and along the Western Carib, fuel.

I spend about 4 to 6 months in the Eastern Carib each year and spend about $1,750 a month on myself and for the Boat and average of about $1000 per month prorating the insurance maintenance and storage and minor parts / improvements... but that is just me. Have a good Friend who lives on a boat in BVI and gets by on about $500 per month... but his main food source is Red Stripe. Another friend spends over $3,000 per month but has a great time and does no work himself.

Where you stay, in a marina or at an anchorage has a large impact on cost. Free vs up to a couple of hundred a day. Eat aboard most of the time vs fancy places is another obvious cost difference. Eating locally is often about as cheap as aboard for some foods if you know where to go.

Items such as liquor and cigarettes vary greatly. Basically liquor is cheaper in the islands away from the marinas and cigarettes are about the same or marginally cheaper but from what I hear are rather dried out. You will find fewer smokers in the cruising community... a good thing.

speciald@ocens. 15-07-2009 07:40

There was an article in Cruising World a few years ago that adressed this topic. My guess is that yor are actually looking at minimum costs. As you will be using your boat constantly, it will need constant maintenance; things break with wear. A good rule of thumb is 10% of boat cost per year in maintenance. The big variable is life style. If you only anchor out, eat bean sprouts and make solar fresh water - you can get by on very little. If you like to live normally - costs go up. Groceries can be expensive - beer can cost $40 a case in the Bahamas. Marinas are expensive, too. Water can be 20 cents/gallon.

Vasco 15-07-2009 07:41

You say a cruise of 3-10 months. Obviously 10 months will cost more than 3. The longer you go the more you will need for maintenance, also the further you go the more you will need for charts and guides (and they're not cheap). If you're headed south this winter then save as much as you can and go.

For many $1000 a month is quite sufficient. Of course it all depends on whether you have a well-found vessel and your lifestyle . No marinas!! That and eating out takes a lot of money. Put your money in good ground tackle.

In the final analysis you make do with what you've got. Save all you can and take off. Good luck.

nautical62 15-07-2009 11:32

I used to cruise the Bahamas in a pocket cruiser that was probably not all that different from your Norsea. I'd guess your costs will be lower than average, but as people have said, so much depends on your own situation. I strongly agree with Paul, that people tend to live the same basic lifestyle they are accustomed too. Of course, there may be some expenses you leave behind and no longer have and others you get.

Making sure your boat is as prepared as possible and you have the appropriate spares is one way to cut potential costs while out on your cruise.

Some costs to consider:

Insurance: You may have to upgrade your cruising area if insured. If you are uninsured, do some investigating to see if this brings up issues with entry requirements in some countries you wish to visit.

Fuel: You know your boats needs and itinerary better than anyone. Crunch the numbers. Consider whether or not you need to run the engine for power.

Food: I count on spending about 1.5 times as much in the Bahamas or Caribbean as in the U.S. Perhaps more for meals out. Water can be an expense you don't think about. If you like to drink alcohol, that can push the costs up significantly. Rum is often cheaper on many of the islands than it is in the U.S. Beer and wine are usually substantially more.

Marinas: This is insignificant for me, but a big item for some people. In some places one can not anchor, but must pick up and pay for a mooring. (St. John's in the park for example.)

Long range communications: Gets much more complex and expensive when you leave the U.S. - again this can vary. Some people are good at finding free wifi from time to time and rely on little more than that and their VHF. Others feel they need to call home regularly and have expensive satellite phones, ssbs, and all the other fancy gadgets.

Cruising Permit fees - Will vary depending on how many and which locations you visit. Do your research.

Maps and charts - A before hand cost, that could once again vary greatly.

Boat repairs and maintenance -Hopefully minimal for a short cruise if you prepare, but unexpected situations often arise.

Misc. Recreation: Do you plan to rent a car to see an island, go on a scuba trip, etc?

On my last couple trips to the Bahamas on a pocket cruiser with one other person aboard we were able to cover the basic costs of groceries, fuel,water and a few boat drinks on a budget of $15 each per day which might be $18-20 each considering inflation. Maybe $50 once a month for a marina, and/or mooring. A weekly meal or two out, cruising permit, and guidebooks were on top of that. We saw no need to rent a car or hire out recreation services. A night drinking at a bar could add up quickly if one wasn't careful.

If you are on a budget, the Bahamas can be an affordable destination. It means getting few guidebooks, only one permit fee and it's easy to anchor out and never pay for a marina. Many uninhabited islands where you can entertain yourself instead of pay to be entertained. Including the Caribbean will reward you with a very different geography and a much more varied diversity of culture.

I hope this helps you at least come up with a ball park starting point.

All the best.

slomotion 15-07-2009 12:18

As others have stated cruising lifestyles vary widely and are the biggest factor in determining your cruising expenses. The second biggest factor is boat repair/maintenance and this can be unpredictable.

The good news is that if you start with a good condition boat and limit your cruise to 3 to 10 months, you "should" be able to avoid many of the repair/maintenance costs which typically plague long term cruisers - eg. haul out for bottom paint, rigging or sail replacement, etc.

The bad news is that unlike many long term cruisers you probably will not be liquidating your land based assets and so expenses like car/home insurance, mortgage, property taxes, etc. will persist.

FWIW I agree with Nautical62. If you are east coast based and only have 3 to 10 months I would skip Bermuda and head to the Bahamas. You can easily spend months exploring them. If you donít fall in love or you get bored, you can then consider moving on to the Caribbean.

zeehag 15-07-2009 12:33

i found last december in the bvi an dusvi the prices in th estores were comparable with those in california and other places i bought foods....the mooring balls are 15/nite unless in spratts bay--then 65/nite......anchoring is are many ways to keep expenses down to around 400/mo including moorings and whatever it is ye likes to eat--including chips and dips.....go figger--isnt anything to fear or be nervous of.....goooodluck and have fun.....btw--catch fishies while sailing--makes some difference in the prices paid for fresh meats lol.....i got about 7 fishies to eat--4 spanish mackerel, 2 tuna, and a gaffhead catfish...tasty, all of them......

Ocean Girl 15-07-2009 12:43

Hello Teresa,
Just found your great blog :) My parents averaged $30,000 a year cruising, but the most expensive months were the first 2-3. Hope that helps (??). Have fun heading south. Say hi to the atlantic for me ( tell it - Erika is coming soon)

MarkJ 15-07-2009 15:59

If your boat is FULLY set up you don't have to have a large expenditure on boat bits. We are still buying junk for Sea Life in every port whenever we get some money.

Also if your boat is reasonably simple with systems not too much will go wrong (touch wood).

So its mainly living expenses.

The first year is the highest!

Why? Mistakes, high living, lack of a systematic approach to your cruising, and general uphoria :)

And that doesn't include Marinas! YTou might need to go into a marina to get water and therefor have to pay the berthing rate - Expensive.

We could easily blow US$3k per month!
1 good resturant meal per week is more than $1,000 per month! $50 per head plus cocktails, wine, beer and taxi home - aprox $200! (Ask a guy how much women really cost! :p

Duty Free booze is still expensive.

How much beer, wine and spirits do you actually drink? Sundowners - every night - 1 bottle of wine. Then dinner 2 beers for him and 2 glasses wine for Her. Say $20 per NIGHT? x 25 per month = $500

Food: Good quality? Some of those 'normal' foods you are used to are all imported from the USA or Europe so are expensive in the 'rest of the world'.
3 meals per day x 2 people x 25 per month @ $5 per meal = $750

So already you get to $2,250 per month.

In other words people who are saying $1,000 per month may already have provisioned before they left home.... or be living on dried beans.

The other thing is a contingency fund. We would love a $5,000 contingency fund... lordy-lordy how nice that would be!

Whatever your budget you will 'fill' it! Plus the first year will be more expensive than others (we sincerly hope! ;))

No matter how broke you are/become its all worth it :)


Vasco 15-07-2009 17:55


Originally Posted by MarkJ;

In other words people who are saying $1,000 per month may already have provisioned [I
before[/I] they left home.... or be living on dried beans.


Not really, Mark. We do close to that in the winter, six months cruising, and we have lots of beer, rum and red wine. We stock up on beer, wine and meat before we leave the US. Paper products too because they seem to be very expensive elsewhere. Rum we get in the Bahamas. We might eat out once every week or so but it's usually lunch. Food in the Bahamas is quite expensive. We go into a marina for one or two days when we get to Nassau, otherwise it's on the hook. Once you get to the Bahamas your costs actually go down as there are fewer opportunities to spend money. No more heavy-duty provisioning, just fresh things when you can. Just itemize what you actually spend money on once you get away, food, fuel and laundry. See how much that comes to. Usually less than $1000.

nautical62 15-07-2009 18:51


Originally Posted by MarkJ (Post 304857)
We could easily blow US$3k per month!...In other words people who are saying $1,000 per month may already have provisioned before they left home.... or be living on dried beans.

While it's great to hear of everyone's lifestyle and I have no doubts one can easily spend what Mark indicated, and if I had the money I'd easily spend it too. However, I'm with Vasco on what one can get buy on and still have an enjoyable cruise.

I can easily eat reasonable foods for U.S.$10/person per day. A spaghetti dinner and salad is about $4. A couple sandwiches and apple for lunch under $3. Coffee and something basic for breakfast under $2. Many reasonable frozen dinners are under $3. Fuel $6-8 total per day 3 gallons of fresh water per person at $0.20/gallon = 60 cents. Propane about the same.

Obviously meals out, cruising permits, boat maintenance, insurance, etc. are on top of this and can be substantial, but can also vary greatly depending on circumstances and desires. However, I think one can meet the basic living costs for under $500/person/month/person for two onboard. ($1,000 total) One can certainly spend much more, but given the age, boat and agenda of the OP, I don't think she's asking for a estimate on luxury cruising.

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