$ and Making it Happen

By far the most popular questions we get asked are about expenses, mostly from younger potential cruisers under 40, like ourselves. They're questions that are pretty difficult to answer, based on so many variables...however...hopefully some of the following rambles will be insightful regardless:

Every one of us out here cruising makes different lifestyle choices. You have the multi-millionaires with top-notch luxury yachts that are in one reality. Then at the complete other end are folks on a very tight budget that sometimes work where they travel or just sail part time, leave their boat, and fly back to their particular country to make more $ before returning. Some people are on old boats that are much cheaper but need more work. Some people are on brand new boats with every gadget and tool.

For the cheapest path, you would want to find a solid little boat (little being cheaper) that has potential. Work on her yourself and get her where you want her before you set out. Living on her while you work on her is even cheaper yet. It could take years before you can actually go "cruising" with her, but you will go if you really commit to it. It all just takes a lot of time and sweat. There is plenty of quality gear you can get used if you take the time to research what you want and look around.

Once cruising, the greatest expense, hands-down, is still the boat itself. Once again, it all depends on so many factors: what shape the boat is in, what work you do yourself along the way and what you pay someone else to do. Everything from haul outs, painting the bottom, doing rigging work, or maintaining your engine and/or generator, etc. If you choose or need to replace batteries, or electronics, or a watermaker along the way...then it's easy to spend thousands of dollars quickly.

Beth Leonard and Evans Stargazer, of SV Hawk, say that boat expenses are about 5-10% of the value of their boat, and that seems about right to us too. There explanation makes sense. This is what their website says:

...'The normal answer is 5-10% of the value of the boat. This is really just the simple accounting principle of depreciation. Things have a life span, and they wear out and break down. If you spend less on maintenance than the depreciation number you are in theory degrading the condition of the boat and if you spend more you are increasing the condition. The 5-10% number is simply saying that boat stuff has on average a 10-20 year life before it wears out and breaks down and needs to be replaced. For a used boat this generally works pretty well. You can take the 5-10% either of your purchase price (adjusted for inflation) or of current replacement/resale value, depending if your aim is to keep the boat in the condition as it was when you purchased or as it is now.

This rule does break down at the extremes. For a brand new boat, you loose quite a lot of value as you walk out the door, and you should use the week 1 resale value rather than the purchase price. At the other end, you can get a real beater boat for almost nothing. You may have to put some real money into it just to keep it sailing. In this case you need to base the 5-10% on your low beater purchase price plus an initial slug of refit money, enough to get the boat into 'steady state maintainable sailing' condition.

It's obviously a very general assumption, but is about as good a general answer as anyone can give. And over a long time frame its pretty accurate. It is really difficult to be more precise as it depends completely on the exact boat, and how and where you use it and what sort of condition you want to keep it in. You can spend essentially nothing and fix things yourself only when they break with toothpicks and bubblegum, or you can spend a gazillion dollars and hire professionals to replace things proactively with gold plated electrical terminals and titanium fittings (or of course anywhere in between)...'

***Our expenses:

For us, our budget has changed a bit each year.. Without the "boat projects, gear, and repair costs"(we will keep this separate as all this will depend on your own particular vessel), I would say per year traveling in the places we have has been approximately 15-$30,000 U.S. for 2 of us. That's diesel, marina fees, food, fun, eating out, and port/agent fees. You can certainly do it on much less, all dependent on your situation and how you want to travel, how much you eat out, how much diesel you use, how much you tie up, etc...
And then, of course, you could do it on a lot more.

So much of it also depends on where you will be cruising. This summer and fall in the Med (where we are now) has been the most expensive in the last 4 years. Why? Because EVERYTHING is expensive. Diesel is around 1 euro/liter and there are rarely good sailing days, marinas are expensive, food out is expensive, and hiring cars/traveling away from the boat is expensive. So, you really should look into where you want to go regarding your budget. Most places in the Pacific you can live super cheap, eat good food, diesel is much cheaper, and you will be at anchor most of the time so no marina fees (or just a few if you tie up here or there).

In our case, when we were in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, PNG, Palau, and western Papua/Indonesia, we lived super cheap and barely spent anything (except for some boat parts/equipment we had sent to Palau). We traded villagers for a lot of our vegetables/fruit, caught tons of fish, sailed a lot, and didn't see or pay for a marina in over 1 year. Our biggest expense that year was in our "fun" category for scuba diving.

***Here's 2 other boats have also written about their BUDGET that we have found:

The first couple is from a boat called, Bumfuzzle.
Pat and Ali did an around-the-world cruise just a few years back, and posted a great account of their expenses in a Latitude 38 article you can DOWNLOAD ARTICLE HERE. They were both young, full of adventure, and didn't skimp on making the most of their journey. If you look at their finances you will see that they spent approximately 30K to 40K a year including all boat repairs, parts, diesel, officialdom, fun, hiring cars, and flying back to the U.S. Without their boat repairs/parts it looks to me like they spent around 25-30K a year for everything.

The second article is from the most recent SSCA Bulletin from a boat called SV Bebe
I'm not entirely sure of their true figure annually for expenses, as they talk about 110% of their "budget"? Does this mean 110% of what they thought they would spend of 35K annually? Or 110% of double what they more realistically thought they would spend?? Confusing.
If they spent 110% of 35K, that would be roughly $38,500.
If they spent 110% of 50K-60K, that would be approximately $55,000 - $66,000.

*Here's my thoughts on these 2 boats:
Like I said, Pat and Ali didn't skimp and choose to do it up as they cruise. They rented cars, flew around places, kept their boat going strong, and ate out quite a bit. They had a catamaran that needed quite a bit of love, so they definitely put some money into their boat upkeep as they cruised too. Overall, I think their expenses are very true what you would spend STILL cruising in their style with a similar boat.

SV Bebe is a '53 Amel. An expensive boat with expensive repairs. Sure, they did lots of work themselves, but still pretty expensive when you add up all the extra boat parts, paints, haulout fees, marina berthing fees, etc...for a '50+ boat. The bigger the boat, the more expensive it will be, almost always. They also don't provide details of their expenses with travel, flights, etc..., so not sure where all their numbers come from. Overall, I think these guys are cruising more on the high end in the cruising community.

***What kind of boat should u get???

If you are already a sailor then you are one step ahead of many people wanting to do this. Next step is to seriously study boats. Look at boats, talk to people about boats, and sail boats. For us, it was 4 years of planning and prep before we took off. It takes time if you want to know a bit about what you're doing. But that being said, we have certainly met people who bought a boat and took off without really even knowing how to sail. I wouldn't recommend it, but people do and we've certainly met some great people, and some characters, out here who have pulled it off.

So my recommendation to all the budget-minded younger cruisers would be to buy an affordable (for you) solid little boat. Work on it, live on it, and get used to it for at least a year. (This will also be super healthy for your relationship if you are going to do this as a couple). :)
Then save some $ and go for a small trip to make sure you really like it...


take off for an extended trip and leave your boat somewhere for 1/2 the year so you can go home and make some more cash, then return to the boat and cruise again for another 6 months, etc...


plan on a trip for a season or 2, possibly in the South Pacific from the U.S., Mexico, or Panama, and then down to NZ or Australia for hurricane season, or even stay in Fiji. Then sell the boat. Or stop and work. We've met many young cruisers who did just this, including some good friends from the UK who sailed from the Caribbean across the Pacific, landed in NZ, sold their boat, had a baby, and now live and work there and love it.

***Monohull vs. Catamaran???

(In no way are we experts here, so if you want real advice then it's better to talk to some long-time cat owners and/or just long-time world sailors) but here's some personal thoughts anyways that might still help a bit...

I would say it all depends on where you want to travel, how long you will be out, and what your budget is.
-cons for catamarans generally more $ up front and more boat to deal with. more $ for marinas (or difficult to even find a slip) and you have things like 2 engines for servicing and spare parts.
-also, underway in rough seas it is super loud as the hulls are generally super light and thin.
-and lastly, cats take a bit more attention when sailing in weather. you need to be more alert and they sail differently in strong conditions then monoulls

-pros for cats are lots more space, nice stable house at anchor and fast passages. also, great swimming and playing platform at anchorages, room for guests/friends, and warm dry salon/cabin where you can do watches on passage...huge bonus.

*for us, if we did this again....
-if we were doing a circumnavigation again, we would have a similar boat. DreamKeeper really has been a perfect boat for our journey. Sure, we wish we had more space and all that, but...overall she is safe and solid, a good sailor, and has been a great home. Also, for us, as we wern't old salts and top-notch sailors to begin with, a safe and solid monohull has been a very good choice for us.

-if we were going to just do the Pacific/Caribbean/SE ASia now, after having circumnavigated already, we would seriously look into a cat. we would love to have more space, have more room to stretch and have more room for friends/guests/crew/or, (I can't believe I am even writing this), kids. :)

-if you are considering places like Alaska, Chile, South Africa, the Southern Indian Ocean...then i would say get yourself a super solid monohull that is safe and comfortable and, if you can afford it, has a heater.

-if going to the Med and you are on a budget, then having a cat motor-sailing to wind up the Red Sea and paying for slips in the Med, will definitely kill your cash. if you add up diesel and marinas (even if you anchor out most of the time), you will definitely spend your pennies even for a short season in the Med.