Budget | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Passage Planning

We introduce you to a young farm family who share their plan for fun yet affordable family cruising. We take you and a crew of sailors who are planning their own escape for a week of sailing and cruise planning in the beautiful Exuma Islands of the Bahamas. We also show you our process for passage planning, techniques for shallow water piloting and snorkel on pristine reefs in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.


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.



Can you work onboard?

Many cruisers dream of making that big cruise when they retire - heading off into the sunset for an indefinite period. Others plan a sabbatical from work planning to return after the big adventure. But nowadays with the improved technology for keeping plugged in while out there - it may be possible to move one’s business out of the house and onto the water. We have seen a number of people trying this over the last few years and I thought it might be of interest to examine the possibilities. Could this be your office?

Keeping in Touch - Internet Access
Internet is obviously the most important factor in staying in touch. Over the last year we have been in range of high speed internet for almost all our cruising. So anyone sending us emails need have waited no more than a day of two for a response (if it was urgent!). We do not use any form of satellite or HF radio as I think these are too slow. We use data access through the phone networks, getting a local data plan in each country. Here in Ireland I got a pay-as-you-go data plan for my iPhone 4 as soon as we arrived. We pay 10Euro for 2GB of data over one week. The SIM was just 10Euro as well. Not all countries are as accommodating however so it pays to check where you plan to cruise. Denmark would not let us have a data sim for some reason. The iPhone has been brilliant. Using "data tethering" I have set it up to provide data access to our two laptops. This means both our computers are on the internet all the time for just 10Euro per week here.

In the event that you can’t get data through the mobile phone then you will be using wifi. This is ok as well but less convenient since you generally need to get a new access at each port. This can be a reasonable deal if you stay put in one marina for a while as they often charge a sensible price per week/month. Daily access can be quite costly. Gone are the days of picking up someone’s unlocked wifi. We haven’t seen a free unlocked wifi for some months. And if you do find one you might wonder about wonder about the security risk. Stick with legitimate wifi or a 3G data plan through a mobile phone network.

Keeping in Touch - Phone
4 words... pay-as-you-go. Assuming you travel on a boat sailing (or powering) from country to country at leisurely pace you will be in a country long enough to set up a local phone access by getting a local SIM card. To do this you need an "unlocked phone" otherwise it will not accept different SIM cards. With your new local number you will have free incoming calls and reasonable calls both locally and to countries around the world. Your definition of reasonable may vary - but as we come from Canada with notoriously high phone rates everything looks reasonable to me! If you need to make very long calls there are usually deals to be had for particular countries.
The one problem of getting a new local SIM at each country is the fact that people might not know which number to call you on. There a number of solutions for this depending on our needs. Skype offers an incoming number which I know numerous people have made use of. This year we just kept our UK mobile number active - roaming as we visit other countries. Then when we receive a long call we just ask if we can call back using our local number.

Getting mail/courier
Sending parcels and post out is obviously no problem. But receiving is a bit trickier as we keep on the move. We generally wait until we are certain we are going to be visiting a specific marina - then call them and ask if we can have them receive mail or a package. People at home are generally thrilled to receive a package or mail with foreign stamps. So unless you are trying to pretend you are still sitting in an office tower, the occasional difficulty of forwarding a package will not likely be an issue.

Flying back to do business
If your business requires trips home or to clients that has also got easier in our experience. We book flights online and often return for a few weeks up to few months - leaving the boat in a marina or hauled out. Many marinas around the world are set up to handle people hauling out or leaving the boat temporarily. Check with other cruisers in your intended area. Seven Seas news letters have also been a good source of info for places to lay-up the boat.

Business Office Afloat
Nowadays there are so many improvements to electronics and computers it is easy to keep an office afloat. We have made a few improvements in the boat - and in our business procedures. A bigger battery bank means we can sit at anchor and run computers on a rainy day. We have a small built-in diesel generator (Mastervolt whisper 3.5). A small printer can connect by wifi to both our computers. And because we are on a boat we are extra careful to backup our computers and data! Backup disks are small and cheap these days.

So there you are - sailing with your business. Nowadays there are many business people who might be able to move their office on board. And get out cruising before retirement.

Enthusiasm for Sailing

We have finished our TWO Boat shows! London & Toronto are on over the same two weekends so we went to London for the first weekend then flew back for the last weekend of the Toronto Boat Show. Whew!

One of my favourite things about the boat shows is meeting new sailors enthusiastic about taking off on a big cruise! Sheryl and I did seminars at the Toronto show for people planning to sail south to the Bahamas and had a full house every time. Its great to see the cruising community is healthy.

Many of these people are planning to leave this year and make their way south down the Intracoastal Waterway to the Bahamas. We showed clips from our TV series with the Erie canal, discussed the Waterway and looked at shallow water cruising in the Bahamas. Afterwards we fielded questions. Here are three of the questions we got after each seminar.

re there Pirates?

With the news today everyone is more concerned about piracy. But does it really affect us as sailors? Well, the answer is “it doesn’t have to”. There are certainly areas where there are pirates. But if you avoid these areas the risks are minimal. Modern pirates don’t roam the high seas like Johnny Depp. They are based from countries like Somalia where law has broken down, and restrict their operations to adjacent sea areas using small boats. So check out the cruising grapevine and find the hotspots to avoid. One excellent resource is the noonsite website piracy pages. www.noonsite.com

What does it cost?

Budgets certainly vary from under $1000 per month for a very basic cruising style right up to whatever you want to pay. Most people find $2,000-$3,000 per month works out comfortably. Of course major repairs, expensive marina stays, flights home and the like can throw any budget off course, but in general it does not have to be an expensive lifestyle. Google search on “sail cruising budget”.

Can I take my boat?

Many people in our recent seminars already have the boat they plan to take cruising. But some are still looking for their perfect cruising boat. For a trip like the intracoastal waterway there will be a bunch of motoring - so a reliable motor is important. A Bahamas winter means a fair amount of wind, but mainly short daysails, so merely renewing/upgrading/beefing up your existing rig will likely be fine. But for heading further afield, looking at ocean passages you need to ask if your boat can handle it. You will also need to be more self-sufficient and repair things along the way. This question really needs serious consideration and possibly an expert opinion or survey if you are not confident in your craft. One of the advantages of the Intracoastal Waterway Bahamas trip is that you have a few months of constant sailing and living aboard to shake out problems and find solutions when you aren’t far from help or the nearest chandlery.

It has been a GREAT 10 days of boat shows! Now we’re looking forward to seeing you out on the water!