Cost of Cruising: Our First Year - $23,452

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After a year of sailing, we have learned a lot about what we need to be happy and to no one’s surprise, it doesn’t take much.  After living the majority of our lives in a consumption-based culture it has been a refreshing change of pace to stop the accumulation and enjoy what we have. We have sailed over 9,000 miles in our small 175sf home to 6 different countries and have done our best to take advantage of what we enjoy the most, Time. Time in nature, Time with friends and Time with family. All of these important aspects of life come with no financial burden, but unfortunately, not all of life’s needs are so unrestricted. For the rest of our requirements, we have done our best to track our cost in a hope that by sharing the information we might help others understand the financial necessities of this particular lifestyle.

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Below is a summary of the financial costs incurred over the past 12 months. Understand, it was not our goal to live a life of luxury or to spend as little as we could, but simply to live a comfortable lifestyle and enjoy the time we had.

 

Countries Visited:

United States, Canada, Mexico, French Polynesia, American Samoa, Tonga

 

Groceries: $7,280

Just like back on land, we cook most of our meals ourselves. This was an obvious place to keep our cost down in most countries. Mexico was a great place to shop for groceries, cheaper and better quality than back in the United States.

What did we do right?

Overall, I think we did a fairly good job finding quality provisioning shops even if it meant going the extra distance. Long bus rides and crazy Taxies are just part of the process.

What would we have done differently?

Not much, we really enjoyed shopping locally and finding new dishes to make. It was a BIG challenge in the south pacific to find good veggies, but other than the higher costs in places like French Polynesia, it has been good. Our only regret on this subject is not buying more food in Mexico before we left. We provisioned for approximately 3 months and we wish we done it for closer to 9 months. Especially on the cheap Mexican beer.  Beer in Mexico cost about 65 cents per can, while in French Polynesia it was over $3.50 a can at the grocery store.

 

Marinas: $1,458

This was an area of our budget that ended up way above our expectations. Looking back in really came down to all the places we stayed on the West Coast of the United States. Many of the places do not allow for anchoring and the high cost of a slip really surprised us.

What did we do right?

WE BOUGHT A ROCNA, I can’t say enough about our Rocna anchor. It has held us in just about every condition you could imagine. We have 200 ft of 3/8”HT chain and the combination of anchor and chain has never let us down.  This comfort on the hook allowed us to feel confident staying out longer and keeping away from the dock and its fees.

What would we have done differently?

If we were to do it again, we would have done better research before we left port for the next anchorage. This might have saved us a few bucks while we were back in the US.

 

Boat Maintenance: $3,195

Boat maintenance was always in the back of our mind as an unknown. You never know what you might need to fix. Luckily for us, we didn’t have a lot of work outside of the typical oil and filter changes. Our biggest cost was a new Dodger while in Mexico ($1,000) and several new lines we purchased before we left for the Pacific.

What did we do right?

Before we left we installed several new systems on the boat. Doing this right the first time and in a place with easy access to parts was a major benefit. We left Seattle with a boat in A+ shape and this helped keep projects down along the way. But even more importantly, we bought a small boat. Each time we had to fix something or have something done on the boat, it was a fraction of what it would have been if we had a boat even 10’ longer.

What would we have done differently?

We spent several hundred dollars trying to get a used water maker to work. Never needed it (in the areas we traveled) and never should have spent the time and money working on it.

 

Insurance: $2,049

This amount covered the cost of both our Boat insurance and our Medical (IMG). Both have high deductibles but would cover our butts if anything serious happened.  Luckily, we never needed either of them. Aksel had 6 stitches at the local clinic while we were in Mexico and the total was around $300, therefore we never bothered with insurance. We also had some prescriptions refilled in American Samoa that totaled $80, including the Dr. visit.

What did we do right?

We think we did right by having insurance in case the worst should happen. We feel we have worked too hard on assets back on land to lose them due to an accident or a sudden serious illness.

What would we have done differently?

We had a $2,500 deductible on our Medical insurance and we would have made that even higher to lower our costs if we were to do it again. Medical costs are very low outside the United States (yes, we are all getting screwed back home) and the quality of care is very similar in most cases. If something major would have happened, and we needed specialized care, we could easily pay the deductible and fly anywhere in the world (covered by our insurance) to get the best care we could. (not necessarily in the United States)

 

Fuel: $1,250

Finding high-quality fuel has been easy in most places in the Pacific. We only carry 60 gallons of fuel but we have not had a problem finding it when we needed it. The average fuel cost has been about $4.75 per gallon but we have seen it over $6.00 per gallon in French Polynesia.

What did we do right?

Again, owning a small boat has its benefits. Our 27HP Volvo uses about a ½ gallon per hour and we can motor nearly 500 miles on the 60 gallons we fill up with. We have heard of several another boat that uses nearly 3 times this amount and we have been shocked to see some other sailboat fill up with 500 gallons of fuel at a time. Another trick we learned is that motoring at 1600 rpms we use less than half the fuel we consume yet go ¾ of the speed. Not always the best for all diesels but it works for us.

What would we have done differently?

Sometime in an effort to save fuel, we would sail when we really should have motored. Sailing at 2kts when you are 20 miles from the anchorage you are trying to get to by sundown is not always the best idea. Strangely this is one area we should have spent more money.

 

Communications: $823

Our main costs associated with communications has been the use of our InReach device. This allows us to text any email or cell number from anywhere in the world. It has been a great tool to have onboard and a great help getting weather updates.

What did we do right?

We sold our IridiumGO. We bought a used IridiumGO before we left Seattle with the intention of paying for the unlimited plan for slow satellite internet. This would have cost at least $150 per month nearly $1200 per year more than what we ended up paying. Obviously, there would have been some benefits to having it, but overall it wasn’t the product for us and we were glad to buy sim cards and Wi-Fi Hotspots when at the port at a far lower cost.

What would we have done differently?

If we were to do it all again we would go with the same InReach plan and change nothing.

 

Eating Out: $2,078

When in Mexico, eating out was almost an everyday occurrence. The three of us could have tacos and beers for less than $20 so it was easy on the budget. Once we got to the Pacific islands, that changed quickly. It has been rare for us to find a meal for the 3 of us that was under $50. And to be honest, with the exception of one or two places, the food quality wasn’t worth the cost.  Towards the end of the year, if we ate out it typically was at a food truck or just getting a snack while out exploring a village. We also have started to enjoy saving our eating out budget for higher quality meals.

What did we do right?

When eating out was cheap and good we did it, when it wasn’t we didn’t. There were several times we considered going out in French Polynesia, but $30 for a burger was just more than we could justify.  But at other times we dropped over $100 on meals that we will remember for the rest of our life. Overall, we think the key for us was finding a good balance.  

What would we have done differently?

Let’s be honest, we should have eaten even more tacos and drank more beer while in Mexico.

 

Customs and Immigration: $411

When checking into a country you never know what costs you will face. You can do all the research you want, but until you show up at the border, you just never know. Entry fees change all the time and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with them all. Canada and French Polynesia were 100% free to check in and out of while the other countries all had some fee ranging from $27-140. Even the USA charged us a customs fee to come back into the country from Canada.

One funny side note, the fastest check-in time was in Canada, it took less than 5 minutes. Our longest check-in time was in French Polynesia, it took over 5 days because we showed up over the long Easter weekend.

What did we do right?

We never hire an agent to help us check in. This sometimes makes it more difficult or takes us a bit longer, but it saved us several hundred dollars. Even when you don’t speak the language, most officials are incredibly nice and very helpful. We were never once asked to bay a bribe or any “extra” fees that they wouldn’t give us a receipt for. Overall it was a good experience and one that didn’t require paying for additional help.

What would we have done differently?

When arriving in a new country you are required to have copies of all your documentation, this was something we knew and had a dozen copies of everything ready to go… except for our crew list. For some reason, we always kept forgetting to do this so we ended up filling one out by hand every time. It only took a few extra minutes, but the more prepared you are, the more professional the officials will treat you and the faster the transaction takes place. It never really caused a problem but would have been nice to have.

 

Miscellaneous: $4,908

This has been a catch-all for items that don’t come up very often or that were too difficult to put into another category. They include items such as trips home to visit family ($1500), tattoos in French Polynesia ($700), taxi rides, pearls from the Tuamotus ($280) and other assortments of purchases. Looking back we might have done a better job of adding more categories, but this worked for us at the moment.

What did we do right?

Getting tattoos after crossing the Pacific was a big one and we are really glad we found a great artist at a reasonable price.  This is obviously a long-term commitment and some things you just don’t want to do on the cheap.

What would we have done differently?

Overall this was where most of our surprise costs came from. We were more than happy to have spent the money on these items, but we should have done a better job of anticipating these types of expenses in our early budgeting. Adding a 20% line item would have been the smart thing to do when planning out the financial side of our trip.

 

YEAR $23,435 - MONTH $1,954 - DAY $64

 

In one year we have spent just under $2,000 per month, $500 over our original goal of $1,500.  The topic that always comes up when discussing our finances on the boat is, “How can we get back on budget?” And after much debate, the answer is quite simple, Travel to cheaper countries. Many of the built-in costs such as food, boat maintenance, and fuel are based on the local economies we find ourselves in and won’t significantly change with altered spending behavior. Traveling home less often, getting fewer tattoos and not buying pearls are easy ways to save and will not be in our budget next year. But other experiences and adventures will be and we will make sure to account for them beforehand this time. We will also be traveling to more expensive countries for long periods of time, making for the significant strain on the budget. But in the end, it is Time that we are after, not Things, so I am certain we will find a way.

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