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Article by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips


1992 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


How much does the cruising life cost? I know people sailing around the world on less than $5,000 a year, and others who spend ten times that much. Assuming the boat is fully equipped and paid off, I'd say the average long-term cruising couple I meet is spending $10,000 to $25,000 annually, all inclusive. Clearly, cruising costs vary widely from boat to boat.

The factors that most directly affect the variable cost of cruising are personal life style, maintenance and repair, cruising grounds, and provisioning.

Personal life style includes how often you pay to berth in marinas, eat out in restaurants and drink at pubs, rent cars or motor bikes for sightseeing, travel inland, fly back home or fly family over for visits, and purchase non-essentials. In these categories alone, moderation can reduce, and extravagance can increase, annual cruising costs by many thousands of dollars. This doesn't mean you must live like a pauper. For example, you can dine out often in the less expensive countries and do more cooking aboard in the high-priced places.

Whether or not you insure your boat is also a matter of personal budget and conscience. If you do, it'll add from 1% to 2% of the boat's value to your annual cruising costs. Medical expenses are yet another personal variable.

The condition and upkeep of the vessel helps determine cruising costs. If you sail a fairly new boat, repair parts and labor will claim a smaller portion of your budget than if the boat and its gear are older and already well worn at the start of the voyage. Carrying a large inventory of spare parts saves time and money when making repairs in foreign ports.

Self-sufficiency is a key to budget cruising. The crew's ability (or inability) to perform regular and preventative maintenance, as well as most repair jobs aboard, significantly effects the cruising kitty. Hiring skilled labor (when you can find it) is expensive. The frugal sailor is a self-taught handyman who acquires a working knowledge of mechanics, sail repair, carpentry, rigging, electronics, and plumbing.

Where you sail also makes a big difference. The cost of living aboard in cruising grounds such as Guatemala, Turkey or Thailand is much cheaper than in countries like Norway, Italy and Japan. Also, almost everything costs more on an island because goods must be imported. Trade winds sailing consumes little engine fuel compared to summertime cruising in the relatively windless Mediterranean, for example, where the engine works overtime and fuel prices are high. Areas with lively fishing grounds can supplement the food allowance.

Thoughtful, bulk provisioning saves money. When you plan to purchase basic non-perishables such as rice, beans, grains, and canned foods in quantity (i.e., more than a thousand dollars worth), you can often strike a deal with a local grocer (or a health-food store owner) for a discount. Then, while cruising, supplement these staples with fresh produce and meats from local markets, and fish from the sea. Otherwise, buying familiar foods may be difficult and expensive in foreign ports. Prices of maintenance items such as bottom paint vary enormously from country to country. Stock up when you find good deals.

The frills that a big cruising budget permits are nice if you can afford them. But the real magic of the cruising life is not purchased. It is lived. So put away your calculator, cast off the lines, and go. Because the cost of cruising is nothing compared to the price of not going.

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