"Some years ago, having little or no money in my purse, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."
-Herman Melville from Moby Dick
Anyone who has been bitten by the cruising bug during a weekend away, a two-week sailing vacation, or even just after one night aboard has probably thought to themselves, "I wonder how I could cruise full-time and just sail away?"
Likewise, the most common cruising question I see on other blogs and sailing forums is, "How much does it cost to go cruising?", or at least some variation of that question focused on the financials. And so, I thought I'd pull together what my own research on the matter has taught me and share it with you here on Sail Far Live Free. My resources include many fellow bloggers and the online sailing community represented in my two favorite forums (see below). If you're feeling good about the costs and want information, inspiration and ideas for earning money while cruising, check out the companion to this post here [Earning while Cruising - Lessons from the Pros].
|The cruising life aboard s/v Island Bound|
For example, is the boat paid for or will a boat loan eat up the monthly cruising budget? Do you plan to cruise on a simple 30-footer, or do you need three heads, two guest staterooms, and space for a watermaker, bikes, surfboards, etc. that is only feasible on a 55-footer? Will you cruise the South Pacific, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or somewhere else? Will you cruise solo, or perhaps with a spouse or other family members? Do you need a radar, windlass, 3 chart plotters, a generator, and dive compressor or is your gear list small and simple? Will you carry boat insurance? What about health insurance? Are you willing to work a few jobs along the cruising route to earn cash? Your cost is dependent on the answers to all of these questions and more.
Your initial "nest egg", purchase price of your boat, and subsequent size of your cruising kitty all play a role in determining how much it will cost you per month to cruise and how long you can stay "out there". If you sell your home for $200k and spend $150k of the proceeds on a boat, the remaining $50k kitty will expire pretty quickly. Conversely, if you purchase a $50k boat and have $150k remaining in the kitty, your cruising window is opened much further. One thing I can fairly confidently say will keep you tied to the dock is debt. Pay off and sell off what you have on land. Trust me, they made more than one house like yours and plenty of SUV's to go around, so you can always get another when you swallow the anchor.
Perhaps my favorite answer to the question of "How much does it cost to cruise?" is that cruising costs whatever you have. If you truly want the cruising lifestyle, you can make it work on just about any budget and boat.
Here's your chance to glean from the experience of others. I've posted a few summaries and links from some of my favorite fellow bloggers, all of whom have considerable experience cruising full-time. Check out what they have to say about the costs of cruising and see how they've answered some of the questions above.
Bumfuzzle: Many of you are familiar with Pat and Ali. They've been out cruising (among other things) for several years on a couple different boats, both pre-kids and now with two young children. Pat is a no-B.S. kinda guy, so you won't have to read in between the lines to figure out their costs and the choices they've made.
Cruising cost blog post: Bumfuzzle's cost to sail around the world
When: Sept. 2003 - April 2007
Who: Crew of two adults
Boat: 35' Wildcat catamaran
Average cost: $2,981 per month
Notes: Monthly costs included canal fees, flights, car purchase in New Zealand, multiple side trips on land (Italy, Istanbul, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Uluru, New Zealand)
Windtraveler: Brittany and Scott are another younger couple out living and exploring on their sailboat. Their blog is one of the most popular and well-written sailing blogs you'll find. They're also just about to start a new cruise on a new boat with their toddler.
Cruising cost blog posts: Windtraveler's "How much does it cost?" post and Windtraveler's cruising kitty
When: Sept. 2010 - current
Who: crew of two adults, one baby (~8 months)
Boat: 44' Brewer center cockpit
Average cost: ???
Notes: They credit their financial ability to cruise to being debt free, having a nest egg from their wedding, no expensive assets (house), being willing to work while cruising (writing & boat captain), and living a simple life while spending "significantly less on day to day life than our land-lubbing counterparts."
Wavetrain: While Charlie Doane isn't currently cruising full-time, he's got a lot of cruising experience under his belt, including a year on a budget boat back 1995. He's also the cruising editor at SAIL Magazine.
Cruising cost blog post: Wavetrain's "Bluewater Sailing on a Budget"
Where: North Atlantic circle from Connecticut to West Africa and back
Who: crew of 2 adults
Boat: 35' Pearson Alberg
Average cost: $833 per month
Notes: Charlie spent $28,500 purchasing his Alberg and another $15,500 upgrading and outfitting it for offshore work before his 1995 cruise.
Zero to Cruising: Mike and Rebecca are big time into cruising. Like the Bumfuzzle's above, they started with zero sailing experience and dove in headfirst. They're out there now in the Caribbean blogging, cruising, and living life.
Cruising cost blog post: Zero To Cruising's "How much water does it take to go cruising?"
When: July 2010 - current
Who: crew of two adults
Boat: 32' PDQ catamaran
Notes: You can get a good feel for the progression of new cruisers (from learning to sail, to purchasing a boat, to outfitting the boat, to actually cruising) by starting at the beginning of the ZTC blog.
Ocelot: I've been reading about the Hacking family adventures literally for years. They share amazing perspectives from each of the family members. They also have a very comprehensive website with a ton of info about getting into cruising and the associated costs.
Cruising cost blog posts: Hacking Family's "Cruising Costs" and Hacking Family's "FAQ's" (many specific to cruising costs)
Where: circumnavigation + more
When: 2001 - current
Who: crew of 2 adults, 2 teenage children (sometimes)
Boat: 45' Kronos (Wauquiez) catamaran
Average cost: $1,958 per month w/o kids aboard and $3,000 per month w/ kids aboard
Notes: These are true veteran cruisers with just about as much practical cruising experience as you'll find.
Del Viento: Mike, Windy (love that name!), and their kids have some of the most down-to-Earth information and stories on their blog. Mike and Windy have also cruised both pre-kids and now with two young children.
Cruising cost blog post: Del Viento's "The Cost"
Where: Baja, Mexico and U.S. West Coast
When: April 2010 - current
Who: crew of 2 adults, 2 school-age children
Boat: 40' Fuji
Average cost: $2,000 to $4,000 per month
Note: Their costs are my estimates after looking through the records they provide on the blog. They often spend more than the average when boat gear, travel, etc. are included.
Distant Shores: This is a very helpful cruising budget overview page from Paul and Sheryl Shard, veteran cruisers who have been out living the lifestyle for over 20 years.
UPDATE: Here are some additional resources and cruising cost perspectives from folks out cruising now.
What it Costs to Cruise by Jimmy Cornell: Jimmy (Yes, the World Cruising Routes Jimmy) offers some excellent, seasoned advice in this article and sums it up with this; "My own general advice on budgets and cruising is to allow more than planned, and make sure that you have access to funds in a serious emergency. I also urge you to think carefully before making a clean break with shore life. If you’re forced to change plans, whether for health or financial reasons, it’s good to have somewhere to return to, especially during a period of economic uncertainty."
Calculate your Cruising Costs by Jackie Parry: Here's a serious attempt to help wannabe cruisers start considering the real costs and come up with as realistic of a number as possible before leaving the land behind. Jackie even urges folks to include things such as bribes ("$20 here and there") in their list of potential expenses and initial budget.
Cost of a Cruising Boat Refit and Funding the Trip by Dani and Tate: These two are waist deep in their refit and can give an intimate look at the real costs of preparing an older boat for voyaging. They're also getting closer to departure, so stay tuned to their blog to see how their boat performs and how their plan unfolds from a financial perspective. UPDATE - Dani and Tate were full-on cruisers in 2015. Here's their costs for the year.
The Costs of Cruising & How to Afford Sailing by Brian from s/v Delos: Here's a look into the how and how much for cruising on a rather large (53') sailboat from the fun loving crew of s/v Delos. Towards the bottom of Brian's post you'll see he reveals some actual costs and expenses.
Financial Records from s/v Third Day's Cruising Adventures: There are plenty of raw details in this PDF of monthly expenses from the Boren family. This particular link is for their 2012 expenses, but you can data from other years as well if you dig a little.
Matt and Jessica's Cruising Costs from 2012: Another candid look inside the budget of a current cruising couple. This gives a good idea of the variability from month to month and place to place.
And lastly, here's a collection of some other online resources and sailing forum threads that contain a tons of information and perspectives about the costs of cruising on a sailboat:
Related Blog Post:
Sailnet Forum threads:
- "Annual cost of cruising in the Caribbean"
- "My Escape Plan"
- Paul and Sheryl Shard's article from SailNet
Cruiser's Forum threads: