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Budget for Cruising

sailboat cost of cruising

Monthly Expenses - This is the first question most people ask when trying to plan a long term cruise. What might it cost per month? The answer, as one might expect, varies dramatically! Cruising Style and Type of Boat are two factors... and then add in other more occasional expenses below.

Cruising Style
  • Beans and Rice cruising used to be more popular - minimal food, no marina stays, no car rentals, maintaining the boat yourself without all the options - it was possible to cruise for $500-800 - perhaps thats risen a little recently so figure $800-1000. But not many people are doing that anymore in our experience.
  • Budget Cruising - Anchor most of the time, occasional marina visits, a few frills and the occasional meal ashore - $1000-1500 depending on boat size. This is easier in the Caribbean or someplace where you want to anchor all the time anyway. Groceries and boat repairs take much of the budget but you eat better than Beans and Rice ;-)
  • Comfortable Cruising - $1500-2500 - Rent a car occasionally, stay in marinas more often and eat ashore to get the flavour of the area you are cruising.
  • Sky’s the limit - There is no limit to what you COULD spend - fly home occasionally - eat out "like a power-boater" ;-) it is possible to spend well over $5000 a month
  • On the Move - If you are planning a fast round trip cruise it will cost more than a relaxed winter in the Bahamas. Doing an Atlantic Circle trip in 1-2 years will mean more things break and you are in unfamiliar territory more often. Similarly a quick trip down the intracoastal means you spend more than a relaxed trip when you find the more affordable options up the side creeks. Add $500/month if you are in a hurry.

Type of Boat
  • Pocket/Small Cruiser - 25-32 foot - We don’t see many cruisers less than 32 feet on extended cruising these days. But if they are they can be doing it for less money. But it is not a good idea to try to cram all the available upgrades on a small boat. We have seen 30 footers with davits, air-con, large dinghy and outboards and stern arches. A small boat can be seriously overloaded and might be dangerous at sea. But a small sailboat is the least expensive option and can be a very seaworthy and fun way to get out cruising. Less time/money spent on maintenance if you keep it simple!
  • Mid-size Cruiser - 35-42 - most popular size cruiser. By the time you get to 42 feet the budget for fuel and maintenance is getting higher but the boat is well able to handle a couple in relative comfort. There is room to store what you need and most 42 footers can handle a dinghy on a stern arch, upgraded battery capacity etc. Add $300-400/month for DIY maintenance - more to have someone do the work for you.
  • Larger Cruiser - 44-54 foot - this is the limit for most cruisers we see out there. Budget for dockage, fuel and maintenance is naturally higher than the smaller boats. In the Caribbean the 50 footer is more common than here in Europe but you don’t need to go to the dock that often - and dockage can be a very expensive budget item. Add $400-600 to the monthly budget above for the larger boat.
  • Catamaran - Cats in the 38-45 foot range are similar to the Large Cruiser - dockage and repairs will be in the same range as well as the interior space being similar. A 45 foot cat is a BIG boat. It has 2 engines to maintain and is usually charged 50% more for dockage than a 45 foot monohull.

Yearly repair and major expenses
Rigging, sails, engine repairs, a new outboard, a new dinghy... these are all in the occasional category and can be hard to budget. When you have a new boat, most of these items will not appear in the budget for a few years, but if you have an older boat you might well be facing a major repair in the short term. Most dramatic might be new standing rigging or a new engine, either could be around $10K depending on the boat. These are the most difficult to predict but a good survey before heading out on a major cruise could be a good investment. But for boats over 10-15 years old it would be good to budget in perhaps $5000-8000 per year for bigger repairs/upgrades. Boats larger than 40 feet will naturally have larger budgets for these things.


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