Costs of buying,
living and cruising
on a large sailboat

    Galleon     Contact me.

This page updated: July 2014

One-Time Costs
        Sailing School
        Trips to see Candidate Boats
        Marine Surveyor / Haulout / Sea trial / Mechanic
        Title/Liens Verification
        Purchase Price
        Purchase Taxes / Registration / Documentation
        Attorney and Escrow fees
        Delivery Cost
        Refitting / Fixup / Spares
Recurring Costs
        Boat Insurance
        Car Storage / Maintenance / Insurance / Registration at home port
        Connectivity: Radio, Internet, Satellite TV
        Maintenance and Replacement
        Medical Insurance
        Membership/Subscription Fees
        PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding
        Safe-Deposit Box
        Storage Locker
        Boat Registration and Taxes
        Personal Taxes
        Travel: Customs fees, cruising and fishing licenses
        Dockage / Marina fees / Services while visiting on-shore
        Vacations from the boat
My Costs To Date

SeaRoom - Paul Shard's "Cost of Cruising Today 2006"
SailNet - Mark Matthews' "Start-up and Running Costs"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Realistic Cruising Budgets"
Chris Caswell's "The Price of Ownership"
Long Passages' "Costs"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Cruising Advice"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Financing the Sailing Habit"
SV Third Day's "What it Costs to go Cruising: 2010"
Matt & Jessica's "Cost of Cruising 2014"
"It Costs What You've Got" article by Bernadette Bernon in 10/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine (data from a 8 or 10 cruisers)
"Cruising Budgets That Work" article by Beth Leonard in 10/2006 issue of Cruising World magazine
Blackwells' Ten Tips for Voyaging Inexpensively

Good book (but 1991): "The Dollars and Sense of Sailboat Ownership" by Jeff Spranger.

Note: I am trying to be a bit conservative (high) in my cost numbers.
It would be pleasant to have a surprise in the right direction.

"People waste time, effort and money on all kinds of things that don't make sense, when by owning a boat one can consolidate and waste them all on one thing."
- Mike Hughes

One-Time Costs

Mostly in the order you'd do them, I think.

Sailing School

Circa 2000, $1500 range for pretty extensive set of classes. I went to Spinnaker Sailing and got ASA Bareboat Charter certified.

After the classes, I paid $1400 for a 1-year membership that gave unlimited sailing of 22 to 25-foot sailboats. I sailed 30-40 times, in all kinds of conditions, singlehanding and with friends. Lots of fun, and lots of learning.

Trips to see Candidate Boats

Air-fare and hotel and rental car each time.

I thought about moving to Florida and getting a furnished apartment to do the boat-search. But I ended up driving to FL, staying in hotels for a month while searching, then flying back home to rest and negotiate long-distance on the boat I ended up buying. Hotels were my biggest expense.

Some people fly all over the country or the world looking at boats, but my requirements and purchase-price weren't stringent enough to justify that. I found plenty of "good enough" boats in Florida.

Marine Surveyor / Haulout / Sea trial / Mechanic

About $1000 per boat checked.

Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors
  • One-day survey and sea-trial of 44-foot boat cost me $15/foot for surveyor at Key Largo FL in 4/2001.
  • Surveyor costs about $10/foot on S shore of lake Ontario.
  • In-water survey of 37-footer in ClearWater FL == $275
  • "Surveys are usually $10-$15/foot ..."
  • "I paid $11 per foot [in 1999]"
  • From SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Pre Purchase Tips":
    "Pre-purchase surveys run around $10 to 12 per foot, plus a haul-out charge of $4 to 7 per foot. Both costs are the responsibility of the buyer."
  • "In the Annapolis MD area, best surveyors are charging $14/ft. Travellift expenses are additional ... around $4 to $4.50/ft."
  • "On Long Island, New York, I am paying $18 per foot for a pre-purchase survey. (A condition and value survey for insurance purposes would have been $10 per foot.) I will be paying a sailmaker about $20 per sail."
  • Haul-out and pressure-wash of 44-foot boat (for survey; boat is in sling for 1 hour) cost me $320 at Key Largo FL in 4/2001.
  • Engine survey costs about $125 including compression test ?
  • Sail inspection by sailmaker costs about $60/hour, takes 1-2 hours ?
  • Next time, unless I want insurance, I'll probably skip the surveyor. I'd check the hull and rigging and appliances myself, and maybe hire a mechanic to check the engine.

Title/Liens Verification

If the boat is US federally "documented", order an Abstract of Title (CG-1332, $25) from the National Vessel Documentation Center, which shows the boat's history.

Could use a "marine title/escrow company".

From M. J. Mikell of D. N. Jones Documentation Service:
... [If] you purchase a vessel that is under state numbering:
If the state is a title state, the title for the vessel would show the lien from any financial organization.
If the state is a registration state, there is virtually no way to determine if any liens or mortgages exist for the vessel. ...

The benefit of U. S. Coast Guard documentation is the fact that the Coast Guard bill of sale bears a warranty statement that the seller sells the vessel free and clear of any encumbrances and should something ever come up against the vessel this is your legal recourse back to the seller.

Vessels are very odd pieces of property. The maritime law states that liens and mortgages do not have to recorded anywhere to be valid. ...
[Seems to be right; see David Brown's "Secret Liens"]

From David Hayward of New England Marine:
Our fee schedule for a transaction differs from boat to boat depending on many factors. A UCC search may not meet the needs of the transaction if for example the boat was currently Documented. A UCC search usually costs between $25 and $40 per name per search. If a person had more than one address it would be per address. If there is a fear of a Federal Tax lien then that issue should also be searched. ...

[I asked for clarification of the "A UCC search may not meet the needs ..." statement:]

Once a boat is federally documented it falls under federal law and as such null and void state filings. The reason lenders require documentation over state titling is that if they title the boat, then the borrower decides to document the boat on his own, the bank's state lien filing or title in essence becomes voided. Since there is no higher level of law the federal is always the safest for the lender. Also other nations recognize the federally registered (documented) boat since the national registries are a result of internationally conceived laws that most nations will honor.

I hope this offers you a flavor for the scope of the undertaking. It is difficult to cover all aspects of all types of transactions in a few words. ...

From Kimberly George of Marine Title Company:
The first fee is for our office to handle the closing, or funds on the transaction. This $350 fee includes lien and ownership searches, preparation and filing of the buyer and seller documents necessary to transfer ownership at the state level, and our company's fees. To have a full UCC/Tax lien search it is $85 per individual. If you decide to purchase a documented vessel and choose to keep it documented there is an additional fee of $350. This includes the Coast Guard Filing fees, our company preparing the necessary documents, and transferring ownership with the U.S. Coast Guard. ...

From Janet Saxton of Jan Saxton Yacht Documentation:
The abstract of title for vessels ... shows all previous owners who documented the vessel with Coast Guard and any mortgages or encumbrances which may have been recorded against the vessel. It also shows when these mortgages were "satisfied". If the present owner has borrowed funds, this First Preferred Ship's Mortgage will show on the abstract. At that point, we would ask the seller to obtain a "Payoff Letter" from his bank showing the amount it would take to clear the title. Once the bank is paid, they would sign a Satisfaction of Mortgage which we would have recorded.

For a USCG Documented vessel, the paperwork is so simple that you can do it yourself easily; don't pay anyone to do it for you.

Purchase Price

Maybe $80K to $110K for 20-year-old 40-45 foot sailboat ? Lots of variables: type of boat, condition, equipment, state of market, etc.

"Offer them half the asking price, but be prepared when they say yes." (may be true of smaller boats only)

Some people advocate looking for years, then negotiating for many months. But I found a boat I really liked, in the right place at the right time for less money than I had been budgeting, and was willing to "overpay" a few thousand dollars to get it soon and go cruising.

Purchase Taxes / Registration / Documentation

"Weaseling out of things is important to learn.
It's what separates us from the animals.
Except the weasel."
- Homer Simpson

USA federal taxes:
There is no US luxury tax on boats any more.

Easy to "document" in USA if buying new or previously documented; don't bother to use a "documentation service".

US Coast Guard's "Initial Vessel Documentation" (PDF). Costs about $85.

USCG table of fees (PDF).

From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
If you are paying a service to do the documentation, don't! (unless you suspect the ownership) they simply charge you $400 for filling out the 1-page form and paying the $95 fee ...

From sardog on BoaterEd forum:
Regarding documented vessels, this should dispel some of the myths:

1. Documented vessels for recreational purposes do not need to be inspected.

2. Vessels under 5 net tons are not eligible for documentation.

3. Passenger vessels over 5 net tons MUST be documented (except in the U.S. Virgin Islands). This applies to all vessels that carry at least 1 passenger for hire.

4. Mandatory inspections only come into play for vessels carrying greater than 6 persons for hire and a few other odd vessels, such as freight, tankers, steam-powered etc.

5. Vessels that are documented must NOT display state numbers. Some states require documented vessels to register with the state in an effort to rip you off, but you are not to display their numbers, only their cheesy decal so you don't get harassed.

US states in general:
BoatU.S.'s "State Boating Taxes"

Some states (Delaware, etc) have no sales tax on buying a boat, especially if you take the boat out of state after buying. But then you have to worry about how long you stay in every state you visit, because most of them have time-limits that trigger imposition of sales or "use" tax. But they won't impose their taxes if you've already paid equivalent taxes to some other state.

From Jared Sherman on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
> pay the dealer to deliver to the next state so you
> avoid sales tax, then document the boat. you can
> then sail about and avoid taxes.

That is called "tax evasion" and aside from being illegal, it is not likely to succeed any more. MOST states that have sales tax also have "use tax" and they are all smart enough to routinely visit the marinas, looking at hailing ports and taking notes.

The odds are very good that a tax evader will be caught, and then have to pay fines and penalties in addition to the original taxes. I've heard from folks on the lists that have had exactly that problem.

"Document the boat" affects NOTHING about state taxes or state registration. If a state requires a motor vehicle to be registered, that requirement remains for documented vessels. Ditto for taxes.

You might as well steal the boat and forge all the papers for it, that way the government will pay all of your expenses for five years after they catch up with you, instead of asking you to pay back taxes.

From Ric on Cruising World message board:
... Speaking with our dockmaster, he said that the FL Revenue Department sends a person around to marinas and anchorages 2 or 3 times a year to check for absent or out of date stickers, as well as to cross check FL registration numbers (if your boat has them), by computer with Tallahassee, to see if the registration is up to date. Florida Marine Patrol will also stop you if they see no sticker, plus take that opportunity to inspect you and issue citations for violations. So much for being able to keep a boat in FL for years without registering it and paying the sales tax -- plus penalties, which are significant. ...

Pay state sales tax immediately after buying; there are hefty penalties and interest for delaying.

From Bryan Genez on the World-Cruising mailing list:
For almost all locations, it's not *where you buy* the boat, but *where you keep* the boat that determines the tax.

Buy a boat in St Thomas and tie it up in Ft Lauderdale, you pay 6% of the purchase price [to Florida]. Buy the boat in Ft Lauderdale and tie it up in Ft Lauderdale, you pay 6% of the purchase price. Buy the boat in Ft Lauderdale and keep it in St Thomas ... no tax!


As far as how long you can stay in one place without attracting the attention of the tax police, that will vary from location to location. Florida is 90 days. Maryland is 30 ...

From Rick Kennerly on the World-Cruising mailing list:
... MD and VA, particularly, hire a lot of dock walkers who record boat names and hailing ports and then check again to see if they've been in the state over xxx months, which by law makes you a resident of that state, regardless of where you domicile, for the purposes of taxes (a lot of people from PA, WV, NC, DE, even NY keep their boats on the Chesapeake full time). OTOH, we were in MD for over 4 years and because we didn't use commercial marinas they'd never caught on to us before that. It's a toss of the dice. [But very expensive if you're caught.]

Florida is really bad, too. But if you keep your boat hailing port from somewhere else (like Texas, or one of the western states) and keep on the move, you can do pretty well at evading the tax man. The rub comes if you're in an accident, have a long hospitalization, a family emergency, or need extensive yard work and you settle in for a while and get spotted or turned in.

The very best strategy is to go ahead and pay a sales tax / use tax / excise tax somewhere. If you are nabbed, you've got something to wave saying you're not a scofflaw. And if you are fined or taxed or both, they usually reduce it by the amount of tax you'd already paid in another state (although if you paid more in tax than that state would have taken, they never seem to offer you a refund).

From Bob McLeran on the Trawler World mailing list:
Taxes and Residence/Domicile - a primer

This primer is very general, but should give you an idea of what you need to be thinking about when you change your residence/domicile, or when you move about and _don't_ want to change your residence/domicile. ...

The examples I've used are based on personal experience. The legal stuff is based on my experience as a lawyer in the Navy JAGC for 30 years and having to deal with taxes and residence/domicile issues as they apply to an extremely mobile military and civilian population!

There has been so much discussion in the past week about taxes on boats, that I thought I'd put together a little summary of how the tax laws work. Related to the topic is the matter of "residence" and "domicile" so I'm throwing in some info about those topics as well.

Legal Residence

You'd best consult a tax adviser or an attorney who's familiar with this area of the law, but here are a few general rules:

(1) EVERYONE has a legal residence somewhere. Residence is sometimes referred to as "domicile," and although there is a legal distinction between the two, it's not critical for this discussion. (I don't have my Black's Law dictionary with me as I'm writing this.)

(2) You can change your "domicile," but you can't change it to someplace where you do not currently reside. You must have an _intent_ to change your domicile, and you have to exhibit your intent to change when you are in the place you intend to make your "domicile" (if changing from your old one) if you want it to "stick" when push comes to shove with the local tax authorities. On the other hand, if you do *not* _intend_ to change your domicile (when living in a location other than the one you consider to be your domicile), you must avoid doing things which might be interpreted as an indication of your intent to change (for example, you should *never* vote in a state election in a location you do not consider your domicile. (Most big-money legal issues surrounding residence and domicile arise after you're referred to as a "decedent," so by then it's too late to do much to convince the authorities one way or the other!) Examples of not intending to change your residence even after a prolonged stay in one location would be where a person is hospitalized and unable to be moved, or where your boat is subject to some catastrophe that disables it to the point of requiring long-term repairs and you don't have any other form of transportation - both of those situations would result in an _involuntary_ stay in the location, and in the absence of other manifestations of an intent, would not establish a new residency.

(3) Residence has different meanings for different things. For example, states impose their own rules of "residence" for tax purposes - you may have to pay income tax in the state where you reside for a minimum period of time and earn a certain amount of income, even though that state is not your "domicile." States also have residency requirements for voting in _state_ elections.

(4) Various tangible things are evidence of an intent to establish a "domicile." Driver's license, bank accounts, ownership of a home, registering to vote (in a state election - you can vote for President/VP anyplace), titling a vehicle, etc. These things establish your "domicile." They also establish your "residence," but as indicated above, "residence" means different things for different purposes.

Unless you do something affirmative to change your "domicile" it will remain the state where you currently live, even though you might be cruising the ICW, etc. You can keep your driver's license there, vote (perhaps absentee), pay taxes, etc. You can also change your domicile by living in Florida, for example because it has no income tax, and registering to vote, opening bank accounts, paying local taxes, voting, etc - all of which are simply manifestations of your intent to change your domicile.

It's complicated, and at the same time rather simple. You could easily end up with several states claiming that you are a resident there for tax purposes, and more importantly, state inheritance tax purposes!!! It's not something that should be undertaken on a whim - there are far too many ramifications.

If you have a personal situation that requires an answer and big $$$ are at stake, you'd best consult with your attorney or tax advisor who's familiar with this area of the law. Events can be interpreted differently and the legal rules could be different in your state. In the long run, you'll be dealing with the state tax authorities and (the Gods forbid) the legal system!


This is a very general discussion of taxes and their consequences for the boat owner, so if you have a real situation, you'd best consult with your accountant or a tax attorney.

States generally impose four kinds of taxes: income, sales, use, and property. There are a few others, such as business taxes, that aren't really germaine to this discussion.

(1) Income tax is imposed on income earned within the state, or by a person who "resides" in the state, wherever earned. (See previous discussion re legal residence.)

(2) Sales tax is imposed on the sale of an item within the state. Generally, the rate is the same no matter what the item within the state, but states may choose to exempt certain items from the imposition of the sales tax, such as food. Other specific types of items may have a specific sales tax imposed, such as the sale of real estate, that is at a different rate from the general sales tax.

(3) Use tax is a tax imposed on items BROUGHT INTO THE STATE upon which no sales or use tax has been paid in any other state. Generally, the rate is the same as the rate of the sales tax.

(4) Property tax is generally an annual tax imposed at a set rate for different categories of items LOCATED WITHIN THE STATE. For example, the property tax on commercial real estate may be different than the property tax on residential real estate; the property tax on cars different than that on trucks; the property tax on boats different than that on cars, etc. Some states exempt certain items, such as boats owned for recreational purposes; others impose a property tax on all boats.

Now that the generalities and definitions have been dispensed with, the real question is - Where are you THINKING of locating? If you have options, you might be able to take advantage of the fact that some states do not have an annual property tax on boats. Other than that, with very few exceptions, you'll have to pay either a sales tax in the state where you buy the boat, or a use tax in the state where you eventually house/keep the boat. While some states don't have a sales tax on certain items (groceries, for instance), they may impose a sales tax on big ticket items like cars and boats. A use tax is sort of a complement to the sales tax. You pay one or the other, but not both, and the tax rate is generally the same for both.

Property tax is a different matter. Some states have it, others don't. Some tax boats, others exempt boats (Maryland, for instance). As an example, I live in Virginia and keep my boat in Maryland. I bought her in Massachusetts. She's documented with the Coast Guard, and I renewed the documentation in my name when I bought her. I did not pay a sales tax in Massachusetts because I knew I wasn't going to keep the boat there and didn't know where I'd eventually end up. I had the option of keeping the boat in Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia, all of which would have about the same convenience factor. Once I chose to keep the boat in Maryland (for cruising considerations), I had to obtain a Maryland "USE" decal by paying the use tax. Maryland does not have a property tax, so I won't have to pay any other taxes there. Had I chosen DC, I would have not had to pay either a sales, use or property tax. Had I chosen Virginia, I would have had to pay the one-time use tax, plus an annual property tax. Coast Guard documentation does not eliminate the need to pay taxes, although some states MAY exempt documented boats - depends entirely on how the legislature decides to handle the matter.

Once the sales or use tax is paid in any state, KEEP THE RECEIPT. No other state SHOULD require you to pay their use tax once you show proof that you've already paid an amount at least equal to or greater than the tax which that state would impose - you'll normally be credited with the tax (sales or use) paid in another state. If you paid less than that state would impose, you may have to pay the difference; if you paid more, normally no tax would be due.

If you are a transient (not staying permanently in any location), you may be able to "get by" without paying the property tax if one is imposed on boats - but you'll need to keep moving. Most states have a time limit on how long the boat can be in the state without paying the sales/use and property taxes. In Maryland, as an example, it is 30 days (sales/use tax only). States with any sort of transient boater traffic patrol their waterways and marinas to try to catch boats who are not in compliance with their local tax laws.

In short, once you decide what your options are, check with the tax authorities, your attorney or tax adviser. Some states have information about their tax structure available through the internet!

I wouldn't advocate lying or "coming up with a good cover story" in any event in order to avoid the taxes. The burden is on the taxpayer to show that the tax isn't owed, once the state establishes a likelihood that it should be paid. There are penalties for non-payment, and interest that accrues at a steep monthly rate!

If you have a personal situation that requires an answer and big $$$ are at stake, you'd best consult with your attorney or tax advisor.

Can create a Delaware corporation (for about $300 setup and then $125 per year after that, from Yacht Registry, Ltd) and have the corporation buy the boat. Later, the corporation can be sold without incurring sales tax or having to re-register the boat.

Delaware Division of Revenue says "No State or local general sales taxes" and "No personal property or inventory taxes".

Facts For Florida Vessel Owners

One-time sales tax: 6% of sale price of boat, plus county surtax on first $5000. There is no Florida sales tax on purchase of a boat if taken out of the state within 10 or 90 days, and not returned to state for 6 months.

If USCG-documented, does not have to be "titled" in Florida.

One-time title fee for dinghy: $6.

From James Forsyth on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
We keep our boat in Maryland, and pay under ten dollars every two years to register our Valiant 40 there - same as it costs for our dinghy! The boat is documented, the dinghy, obviously, is not. We bought the boat in Florida, which did not charge us sales tax since we were moving it out of the state right away (if memory serves, they allowed us 30 days, it took us about 12 hours to get offshore).

HOWEVER, when you bring your boat into Maryland, if you didn't pay sales tax elsewhere, they charge you either sales tax or a use tax, 5% in either case, to first register the boat. It's a one-time tax, but there's no legitimate way around it. Other states tend to do the same thing. Most states will give you credit if you paid tax elsewhere, but when you move your boat to a state, you are probably going to have to pay tax on the boat, if you didn't pay it when you bought it in the first place. By styling it a "use tax" it's perfectly legal. Unpleasant maybe, but legal. No free lunch, etc.

"In US Virgin Islands you can register your yacht for $25 and $150 a year but you need the yacht in USVI at the time of registering." and "There is no sales tax in the USVI's. However, many US states will impose a sales tax on a boat purchased elsewhere but brought into the state."

"The Turks and Caicos Islands as a British Colony are in the 'business' of yacht registration."

Registration of yachts in the British Virgin Islands: about US$2000.

From Dave Richardson on the WorldCruising mailing list:
We are in the process of launching a new boat and this time have researched all the options (at least the viable options). British Virgin Islands documentation appears to be the best. There are no taxes of any kind, no profit or capital gains and no inheritance tax [and no sales tax]. In most countries inheritance tax is very significant. Not that I care as old sailors never die. You must provide ships registry, radio license, lien search, bills of sale, a Veritas or American Bureau of Shipping tonnage survey. There are about 300,000 registered companies in the BVI, many of these hosting vessels, so it is not an unbeaten path. There are about 60 agents in the BVI who provide this service. The BVI unlike some of the true Banana Republics is also subject to British common law and corporate practice, but unlike all of the other British offshore possessions is granted complete internal administration, thus bureaucracy is kept to a minimum while your investment is unlikely to be seized by a government in need. Total cost of incorporation, surveys and documentation is ~$3000 US with a $300 per year corporate renewal fee. Insurance is now handled by Lloyds with very flexible terms.

From U.S. Customs:
A U. S. resident living or stationed abroad and entering the United States for a short visit may import a foreign-built boat duty-free if, upon arrival, he or she claims and is granted nonresident Customs status and exports the boat when departing the United States.

From Dave Richardson on the WorldCruising mailing list 1/2001:
We are registered in the BVI (British Virgin Islands). We did this only after hiring a lawyer in the USA at considerable expense to give us a legal opinion. Bottom line, there is no downside other than the 1 year cruising permit, renewable ad infinitum, at a cost of $10 which you must get from the USCG. On initial entry into the USA it is also not the simple sticker a USA registered vessel must have but then again no worse than any other country and better than many. We selected the BVI due to:

1. A lower cost than most British havens such as Guernsey or Jersey.

2. An excellent reputation for maintaining high standards of audit (several of the channel islands and Caribbean Islands are under investigation for money laundering and tax avoidance). There are in fact a couple which you might want to avoid as the US IRS sees these as a tax dodge. Grand Caymans comes to mind.

3. You don't need to hold the annual meeting on the island.

4. No taxes as an offshore corporation.

5. British standard law and Lloyds are recognized.

6. No death tax or inheritance tax.

7. No requirement to be a British Citizen.

Please don't take this the wrong way (if you are a USA Citizen) but you will also be sailing under the British Red Duster and not the USA Stars and Stripes. In many countries of the world sadly that is a positive. Although my wife who is a USA Citizen doesn't feel great about it.

The downside is the boat can only be in the BVI 29 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes per calendar year.

I also have VHF, SSB, Inmarsat etc. operators permits, station licenses and so on from the BVI. One stop shopping. You might also want to become a member of the Royal BVI Yacht Club. It has reciprocal privileges with most of the other yacht clubs worldwide including many of the other "Royals".

It cost us about $1600 US to register and a further $300 per year maintenance. It is a big bill but still half of what the channel islands would have been. We have already saved that much by buying in the USA and other islands tax and duty free as the goods were going to a foreign country.

A woman named Jan Painter who [used to] own ASAP Yacht Documentation [now owns All Yacht Registries] did the whole thing for us. ...

Creating a corporation to avoid taxes:
My understanding:
  1. You form a corporation and have the corporation buy the boat.
  2. The corporation will have to pay applicable sales tax when buying the boat.
  3. The corporation will not have to pay any "personal property taxes" on the boat while it owns the boat.
  4. Later, instead of selling the boat, you sell the whole corporation. The corporation can be sold without incurring sales tax or having to re-title or re-register the boat.

From Chuck Morford on the WorldCruising mailing list:
I'm no expert, but as a former S-Corp CEO I can tell you that if your "Corporation" doesn't show a profit after a couple of years (3 or 5 or something like that) the IRS will rule that your Corporation is a "Hobby" rather than a business and you'll lose your corporation status ...

From Rick Kennerly on the WorldCruising mailing list:
... if the sole purpose of incorporation, according to the IRS, is to avoid paying taxes, then it would be fairly easy for any taxing entity, not to mention creditor or injured party, to "pierce the corporate veil" and revert you back to Joe Citizen.

From Bryan Genez on the WorldCruising mailing list:
... Don't rely upon the sales pitch of the company that sets up corporations; talk to your local agency that collects taxes on boats. You may get an entirely different picture.

Attorney and Escrow fees

See Title/Liens Verification section, above.

Delivery Cost

Refitting / Fixup / Spares

Maybe $25K ? May be less if boat is in good shape, but then purchase price may be higher.

Nigel Calder's "A Refit Reality Check"
David Pascoe's "How to Decide if Buying an Older Boat is Right for You"

Initial refit can run anywhere from 20% to 50% of purchase price.

From "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard (oriented toward long-distance voyaging):
If boat is less than 5 years old, refit for offshore sailing may be 25% to 33% of purchase price.
If boat is 10 or more years old, refit for offshore sailing may be 50% of purchase price.

Pay for hotel rooms while boat is in boatyard ?

From John Dunsmoor:
Budget a hundred grand will get you into a [40-foot or so] boat, and give you options. Figure the first's year expenses to be closer to twenty and the second probably the same even if you attempt to control the bloodbath.

Also figure that it is going to take eighteen months to thirty months to go from purchase to ready-to-cruise. This does not mean you won't be sailing, but if you're smart you won't be sailing far.

There are several categories of vessels for sale. One major category are the boats that have passed from current usage to "for sale" and have sat for a while, sometimes years without use, with minimum maintenance. These boats can survey well. I can guarantee with this category of vessel that systems failures are just around the corner and will be beyond what one would expect.

Cruising is like exercise: you may think that you are using all the muscles you need to play tennis but till you actually play tennis you will never know. And invariably when you do finally play you will hurt in places that you didn't even know that you had. Same with the boat.

Personal experience: I once met a couple who were friends and neighbors of one of my students. They had purchased a vessel, nearly fifty feet, some three years earlier. And over the past three years they spent almost every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday working on the boat. They lived about four hours away and drove to the boat each weekend, and many times during the week, to stay on board and fix up their dream machine. They had not sailed much, but they were now at that point and asked me to help. So I agreed, gave them a reading list. Unfortunately, it took four attempts and six grand to successfully make the trip from their slip to the ocean, about three miles. Now this is a boat that had continuous, enthusiastic maintenance for three years. In that first month of our relationship they replaced or repaired: one head, the fresh water system, a transmission, the fuel system, a starter, an injector pump, one winch, and about twenty little items that were not big enough to mention. They were daunted, and expressed their amazement.

The truth ... this is so common that it could be called normal.

Another student in my inventory of stories, full of enthusiasm purchased a vessel, one that had sat for a number of years without use, the boat was in excellent visual condition. This student spent thousands of dollars of his limited budget upgrading systems and putting on the newest toys. At the time, I attempted, to the point of being a nuisance, to dissuade him from spending so much of his commissioning budget so early in the game. He listened to a minor degree and was glad he did. The first six months he suffered some rather large expenses.

This is a common occurrence, spending too much in the beginning.

Another type of common vessel for sale is the "current" cruiser. This a boat that has been actively used and maintained. Unfortunately this vessel type has its own unique elements. Either the boat is loved and cared for in a professional manner and the purchase price reflects this, the boat does not sell, and then the vessel moves into the category of boats which we already spoke of.

Or the owner knows that any excess expenditure is a waste of good money that he will not be able to recoup in the vessel's sale. So, there are a hundred weak points that he knows of and does not share this information.

Perfect scenario:

  1. Find a good boat.

  2. Survey it to death. This is the ONLY TIME in your entire boating life that you will be in the driver's seat. This is an opportunity to make the best deal possible. You may not be able to control the price you sell the boat for, or the expenses you will incur, but you can control what you pay for a vessel up front.

  3. Go to the yard with a list of immediate problems and tasks. Stay focused and get out of the yard as quickly as possible. This is important; it is so easy for the boatyard to turn into a bloodbath of expenses. Just one more thing, one more thing, one more thing. My suggestion is to work from a detailed list of items. You will have a number of repairs that you will want to take care of after a good survey.

    I would like to expand on surveying a vessel. Like I said it is your only time to be in control. You need to be able to work from a list. To this list you will add a number of items that should be done to any new purchase. Change all the engine and transmission fluids, change all the engine hoses, change all the belts, service all the thru hulls, check every single hose for condition and change if at all suspicious.

    Changing hose is more time-consuming than expensive but this will be the only time you have the enthusiasm and probably will be the only time you will ever do this. Most sailors move on to another vessel before they ever get to do this task a second time. Which means that when you do this it will be the first time since the boat was purchased by the previous owner, if then.

    Vessels now-a-days have ball valves instead of proper seacocks, which last forever and can be serviced. Ball valves cost about a tenth and last only a few years before dying.

  4. Go sailing ... after the bloodbath of yard time you will need to go have some fun so that you can remember why you have volunteered for such abuse.

  5. You will need to haul again in a year and you will have a list as long as your arm. This second haul out is most important. The first time around you were operating from a position of ignorance, you had no personal knowledge of the vessel. After the first year to eighteen months you are beginning to know your vessel. Her personality, what she likes and what she does not. Her weaknesses and her strengths, what you can adapt to and what has to be changed.

  6. During that first year of sailing, stay close to facilities, you will need to be able to get parts and professionals. Being in Belize with an engine that refuses to run, borders on horrendous. Who needs the stress ?

  7. At the eighteen to twenty-four month mark you should be in good shape. You have survived screwups, fixed about every thing at least once. Know where your weak spots are. Thrown away some of the whiz-bang, can't live without purchases. Realized why the previous owner did some modification that you have spent money FIXING and now are spending more money putting back the way you found it.
Rosy picture? Not quite. Doable? Yes. Worth it? YES.

From Skip on the SailNet Caribbeanislands-list:
... I characterize refit as an over-ripe onion. Peel a layer, then cry. Peel another layer and cry again. Eventually you get down to the good stuff. Every project seems to spawn new projects.


If you're using contractors to any great degree, count on your expected expenses in a major refit to be not less than triple your (and their - likely it will require a much higher multiple for yours) worst guess, unless they're willing to make firm job quotes vs time and materials - but very few will, other than for cut-and-dried, simple projects (bottom paint on a prepped bottom, e.g.).

Don Casey, the good old boat writer, says the way he figures time on projects he does himself is this: Break each project down into the smallest envisionable tasks. Assign what you think to be a *worst-case* length of time to accomplish each. Add them up. Then apply the fudge factor. His is 3. He says, for him, that usually works out pretty close.

That's for a guy who makes a living writing about keeping up old boats, and does lots of it along the way. So, unlike us, he doesn't have to learn each job (we don't know how to do this well, since we don't do it all the time) and, just when we get the hang of it, move to the next one. Yet, his jobs usually take three times the worst he can figure. For us, it's probably more like a 5 to 10 fudge factor. For contractors, if it's a T&M *estimate*, I think the Casey fudge would probably be reasonable. That is, whatever a contractor thinks it will take, multiply by 3. ...

I still have on the mast a list of stuff which, when Lydia was here last year, in May, and I went home for a couple of weeks, my contractor said would be finished when I got back. Not one of them was finished, when I returned. And, today, 11 months later, there are still several items left on the second list which he said would be finished in June (another month).


... if you're not at the job site at least very regularly, nothing happens. ... if you're going to use contractors, plan on visiting the site daily, if not more frequently ...


... if you're talking about equipping (vs refitting), you can probably come pretty close in cost estimates.


... if we let it, the boat would continue to generate projects, and it would never leave.

From Jim Isbell on the WorldCruising mailing list, 12 May 1999:
Ok, two years ago Feb I bought the boat. I made a list of 16 things that had to be done before we left to see the world in 6 months. The cost would be $15,000 and we would be on our way by July 1997.

Then I didn't retire but stayed on two more years. The list grew to a max, at one time, of 120 things to do. And the cost was approaching "over run".

Now I am planning on a January 2000 departure (after hurricane season). I finally retired in January 1999 and began serious work on the boat. The cost so far is up to $13,000 which is not too bad from my original estimate. The list is now down/up to 48 things to do from my original 16 things to do.

I ran a complete audit of the things-to-do list yesterday and the 48 items will require $6,000 and 112 hours of time. If I divide 112 by 8 I find that working 8 hours a day I can be done in three weeks, yeah, sure. Since I have 7 months left it looks like that will be just about enough time ... #8-)

The total cost will come in under $20,000 so I don't feel too bad. Only a 33% overrun is much better than the government does on most of its work.

Much of the remaining work is little stuff such as purchasing an item to be carried so the time involved is not that bad. Many of the things are convenience items or cosmetics so are not so critical.

The two big costs not yet met are the survey and refurb of the standing and running rigging and the purchase of a liferaft. (The life raft I have now is 20 years old and was last inspected 8 years ago. I expect when we open it we will find garbage.) These two items will run about $3,500. The remaining $2,500 will go for a water maker and a hot water heater and some incidentals.

I am hoping to find a used watermaker and a used liferaft but have budgeted for new equipment.

But not included in my $6,000 budget are a few things that are unknowns as yet, such as possibly a new sail or two and maybe replacing the current head.

I figure when I get the list down to about the original 16 items I will be about ready to go and will finish on the run.


From Peter Hendrick:
[In 1996,] We spent 95K for our '86 Wauquiez Hood 38 and then immediately spent an additional 30K on equipment.

From John Anderton:
The boat I bought [13 years ago] was a seven year old Cabo Rico 38 in quite a state of misuse as it had sat at the brokerage for over two years. The teak was gray, the gelcoat thick with grunge, the canvas faded. It had gone on the market for $98k, and I bought it for $69k. Today [2000], Cabo Rico's of this size and age sell on the East Coast for $125k. I also bought it the last year that sales taxes were deductible.

That said here's a list of things I've done:
The biggest was painting the mast, boom, and staysail boom, installing conduit on the mast interior for wiring, replacing the rigging, installing a RADAR mount and new tri color light, new halyard attachment, new safety lines for the deck and misc. stuff for $12k plus.
Next came the gelcoat job on the hull for blisters and replacing the foam interior in the rudder for about $10k.
Having someone else do a full seven coat varnish job can be had for just under $5k so I only did this one once.
Gel batteries, monitor, inverter, alternator, and regulator installed is close to $5k
Electric windless installed, chain, upgrade anchors $4k
Below deck autopilot installed $4k
Monitor windvane installed $4k
Liferaft $4k
Dinghy, outboard, hoist for motor, swimsteps between $3 and $4k
Then you get into the new 125% jib, new main, asym. spinnaker, GPS, SSB, EPIRB, roller furling. There's about $10k

Or converting from CNG to propane (new stove and heater, tanks etc).
Dodger and sail covers? did that.
Transmission and starter? replaced
Refrig., head, water heater - replaced
Currently replacing cushions $3k

So - I got a good deal on a basic boat, lived aboard for 13 years and have it ready to retire/cruise this fall.

The dream continues.

From Andy on Cruising World message board:
Refit costs - wow. I added up the refit costs from the last 2 years since I bought Hope, a 1966 Lecomte Northeast 38. She came with a Yanmar motor, good main sail, Newmar electric panel, and good top side and bottom paint. The total cost for everything (including sandpaper) from thru hulls to standing rigging is $22,000 so far plus my labor. I've done all the work including engine R/B myself. I estimate another $7000 for autopilot, windlass, chain, and little stuff this winter. I still want a water maker and ssb but not until I'm ready to leave on the "big cruise".

From Grandma Rosalie on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... what we have spent in the last 2 years upgrading our boat [1979 CSY 44, bought 2 years ago for less than $100k]. Some things are essentials that were noted on the original survey (such as replacing the cutless bearing) and some are luxuries - I have not attempted to segregate out the luxuries, and the numbers are rough round numbers. Things are listed in order of price, and not in order of purchase or importance.

Max prop (feathering prop) $3600
Autopilot $1700
SSB $1600
2 LectraSans $1400
RADAR (Si-Tex) $1000
Dinghy davits from Kato $1000
2 solar panels ($500 @) $1000
New bimini top $800
Wind generator $800
EPIRB $800
Used non-electric windlass $795
Inverter (sine wave) $700
Upholstery fabric $700 +-
Mast steps, ascenders, etc $680
10 PFDs and rebuilt kits $680
Charts/electronic charts $610 +-
Para-tech anchor $600
Tank tender $600
Sewing machine for sails etc. $600
Replacements for motor mounts $600
1/2 barrel chain rode @290 ft $500
RADAR arch $500
ICOM VHF with hailer etc. $480
Computer nav program $480
SuperMax anchor $450
Portabote - 2nd hand $450
2 GPS $439
Spare starter $390
Wire and hose for Lectra Sans $350
Dripless packing $300
2 binoculars $229
Link 20 $200
2 marine toilets $200
New shaft (original scored) $200
13" color TV-VCR - dual power $200
Spare engine cooling pump $150
2 alternators $130
Cushion for helm seat $125
Battery cable and crimping tool $120
2 strainers $120
2 Fenders $100
Wood for projects $100 +-
Cutlass bearing $90
Stainless plate/stern rail Danforth $80
4 dock lines $80
Exhaust elbow $70
2nd hand VHF (handheld) $65
High level alarm $50
Spare exhaust elbow $40
2 bilge pumps and grey water box $40
2 bearings for roller furler $30

Does not count numerous stainless fasteners, or stuff we already had like a pressure cooker, a climbing harness and 4 batteries, or stuff we got out of the city house when we sold it like a microwave, stereo and CD changer. Bottom paint, repainting the trim, purchase of new name graphics, and books bought for each other as gifts amounts are also not specified.

Adds up to about $25,000; a little over 25% of the purchase price.

See Buying Smartly section of my Living On A Boat page

Recurring Costs (including some non-boat stuff)

This depends a lot on your lifestyle. If you dock each night in a marina, eat at restaurants, drink all night in bars, make lots of phone calls, rent a car to sightsee on each major island you stop at, costs will be high. If you spend most nights anchored out, costs will be low. But some things such as maintenance costs are more related to type/complexity of the boat, how/where you're using it, and how much work you can do yourself.

Jim and Diane's "What's It Cost and More"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Budget Busters And Budget Buddies"
"How much does it cost to live the cruising life ?" article by Beth Leonard in 7/2000 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
Paul Shard's "The Cost of Cruising Today"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Retirement Cruising Budgets"
SailNet - Paul and Sheryl Shard's "Calculating the Cost of Cruising"

Boat Insurance

See my Boat Insurance page.

Car Storage / Maintenance / Insurance / Registration at home port    Car

Maybe $1800/year.

I may keep a car only for the first year, while I am "coastal cruising" (and maybe doing a "running refit") in Florida. [I ended up keeping it almost 3 years. It started to be a hassle to store it: it got vandalized in storage, and the battery died completely.]

While car is in storage, send letter to your insurance company telling them so. Have them cut your coverage to the minimum required.

After I sold my car, I looked into getting "non-owner" insurance, to cover me when driving rental cars or relatives cars, and so getting full insurance a few years later would be easier. But non-owner insurance (liability-only) would have cost $428/year; I didn't do it.

Florida: $15/year drivers license fee, $27/year registration fee, one-time $100 initial registration fee, $10/year emissions inspection fee.

Moving into Florida: must register car within 10 days of "establishing residency" (Registration of Motor Vehicles), must get Florida insurance after using car in Florida for 90 days, must get Florida driver's license within 30 days of becoming a resident.

Driver License and Registration for New Florida Residents says get driver's license first, get insurance, then register car.

"FL will not let us register a vehicle to a PMB, which is what we had intended to do; driver's license yes - vehicle reg no." !!!

A dialog I had with Florida DMV in 6/2000:
From me:
I am about to move to Florida to live on a boat. I will become a Florida resident, but my address will be a Private Mail Box (PMB) at a mail-handling service in Florida.

Will I be able to obtain a driver's license and car registration using a PMB home address ?
From DMV (licensing):
You can get your driver license using a private mail box; however, you must give a street location for the driver record. The address where your boat is docked will do.
From me:
My boat probably won't be docked in the same place twice. I plan to be anchored out in the water most of the time. So could I use the address of the PMB as my "street location" ?

And please confirm that both driver's license and car registration can be accomplished with a PMB as an address. Your message only mentions driver's license.
From DMV (licensing):
You will have to give a street address of some kind. They will not issue you a license with just a po box. I will forward this message to the Division of Motor Vehicles for them to answer you about the registration.
From DMV (titles and registrations):
You can use your PMB address.

In 5/2001, I didn't have any trouble using my PMB address to get Florida driver's license, title, registration and insurance. I always wrote the address as "123 Main St #456", and didn't tell anyone that it is a PMB. Voter registration is the only agency that demanded a physical address (to figure out what precinct to put me in) in addition to the PMB; I gave them the address of a marina I happened to be in at the time.

Insurance: maybe $700 per year.

Maintenance: maybe $300 per year (it's a 1999 Honda Accord DX, stripped).

Cruisers Auto Insurance, from Jerald King on Cruising World message board:
We have sold our home; we have sold all our cars. Now, how do we get liability insurance while we drive rental cars? In the past, our homeowners liability umbrella and our auto insurance liability covered us in rental cars.

We can buy insurance from the car rental company. The problem is that it is expensive and limited. For example, insurance on the Ford E250 Cargo van we are currently driving, and will drive to California in mid-July, is $24/day and provides only $50,000 liability. We also have a mid-size Hyundai car rented. That insurance would cost us $77 per week with the same liability limit (the car rents for $140/week).

It has been suggested that we keep our old dead Saab in storage and continue to insure it. That way we would have coverage on the rental cars when we drive them. That option would cost us over $700 per year for insurance and licenses and $500 per year for storage costs.

My insurance broker and two others I have called have said that there is no "broadform" liability available for rental cars if you don't own a car.

How do you other cruisers who don't own cars but do rent cars provide liability insurance for yourselves while in the USA ? (I know my USA coverage does not insure me in Mexico, the Caribbean, etc.)

It has also been pointed out that if we cruise for five years without auto insurance and then try to buy auto insurance we will be assigned to a high risk pool for at least a year, even though we have spotless driving records and no claims since 1991.

Has anyone tried to get auto insurance in the USA after cruising for years without it?

[more ...]

I am only concerned about auto rentals in the USA since very few USA insurance carriers provide coverage outside the USA. When I had a real job I averaged over 100 days of car rentals a year for 15 years. I rented in Africa, Europe, Australia and North America. Since I owned my own business I purchased special auto insurance that would cover me worldwide in any car. That extra insurance only cost me $198 per year but it was tied to my business auto insurance. State Farm will not sell me such a policy if I don't own a car.

I have MasterCharge, Visa and AmEx Platinum and have always used them for car rentals all over the world. I talked to all three companies yesterday and today. They all provide SECONDARY insurance that picks up the deductible and other amounts NOT provided by your primary insurance company. If you rent a car thru either AmEx or Visa or MasterCharge and carry NO primary insurance they will provide comprehensive/collision and a very small amount of liability (less than $50,000 which is totally inadequate). I spent several hours on the phone with them - they are adamant that they provide secondary coverage.

It is not possible to purchase an umbrella liability policy (also known as "broadform" liability coverage) unless you already insure either an automobile or a house. The umbrella policy is tied to the primary homeowners or auto owners policy. An umbrella or broadform is what we want, we have always carried an umbrella on both the car and the house insurance. As I said, I have talked to five brokers or agents while trying to buy an umbrella - I can't find a way to do it!

We have had State Farm for 20 years - they will not provide any insurance if we don't own a home or an auto. I have talked to two larger insurance brokers, to Royal and Sun Assurance, and to Blue Water Insurance. They have all told me the same thing - if you don't have a land based asset that is insured you can't purchase any liability insurance.

The policies that Blue Water brokers only provide liablility coverage for damage the boat causes. If I cause the damage when away from the boat - that is not insured.

Yes, I can purchase insurance each time I rent a car - at a minimum of $10 per day and it provides very little liability insurance.
From Al Golden on Cruising World message board:
1. Umbrella policies are designed primarily as excess policies. That is, they pick the next million or more after the primary policy is exhausted. If there is no primary policy you are personally exposed for the first $300,000 or more of any judgement.

2. Credit cards typically cover only damage to the rental auto.

3. Keeping a clunker with coverage on it is an option, BUT your policy will only cover the rental car up to the value, and for the coverages maintained on the clunker.

4. Are there solutions? Not good ones, but:

a. We sell Zurich's liveaboard policy which covers your personal liability as well as the yacht liability. No problem, but expensive.

b. Buy the rental car company's coverage. No problem, but expensive.

Paying for a rental car with a credit card may give you collision insurance, but not for a long-term rental.

"Non-owner" automobile insurance may liability-only, not collision.

State Farm does offer non-owner insurance (covers liability, medical, and uninsured motorists); rate seems to be same as for equivalent parts of "owner" insurance.

Connectivity: Radio, Internet, Satellite TV

Maybe $600/year ?

Email over radio is available (see the Email section of my Radio On A Boat page) but is slow and expensive and limited in area. Better to go ashore and use cyber-cafes to access web-based email service ?
(Webbox gives Web access to any POP3 mail server.)

Web access over radio is impractical; go ashore and use cyber-cafes (see the Web Access From Boat section of my Radio On A Boat page).

Satellite TV probably doesn't work well because of motion of boat.

I don't want a telephone. My girlfriend forced me to get a cell-phone; it was a huge hassle and money-drain. One of the happiest days of my life when the one-year contract ended and I could get rid of it.

Fuel    Fuel pump

Diesel engine consumes maybe 0.5 - 0.75 gallons per hour ? Depends on lots of variables.

Assuming 1 hour/day to charge batteries and 10 hours/week for travel, 0.75 gallons/hour at $2/gallon, the total cost will be approximately $1400 per year.

Real data now that I bought a motor-sailer with a 6-cylinder diesel, and later installed solar panels: Engine burns about 1.5 gallons/hour at 6 knots; about 4 MPG. Diesel at marinas is cheaper than diesel at gas stations. I paid $0.86 to $1.54/gallon for diesel over 2001-2003. I did some long trips, motoring all the way: probably 2000+ miles/year average. Add the time spent recharging batteries before I had solar, and I probably spent $1100/year on diesel. Now, in 2005 and in the Caribbean, diesel is closer to $3/gallon.



Maybe $2000/year.

Food probably more expensive than usual because you'll be buying from smaller stores near marinas, and everything is more expensive on islands. But may be more or less expensive due to currency exchange rates.

Especially expensive places (for everything, not just food): Bermuda, USVI.

Can catch fish from the boat (but I seldom have).

Maintenance and Replacement

Rule of thumb seems to be: annual cost will be 10% to 15% of value of boat. Some of the assumptions leading to this include replacing all sails and rigging every 7 years, having diesel rebuilt every 7 years, having boat hauled and bottom painted every year, etc.

Some people advocate trying to do it all (and they do mean all) yourself, up to and including building your own mast, letting low tide beach your boat so you can do the annual scrubbing and painting of the hull, etc !

Being able to do your own maintenance and repair is not only a cost savings but also a safety benefit.

From Tropicbird on Cruising World message board, talking about a $100K, 40-foot sailboat:
From my experience with a Wilderness 40 (Gary Mull, Santa Cruz built, 72-81 PHRF), I would guess you should budget at least $10,000 and probably closer to $20,000 per year for the boat (repairs, systems upgrades, cosmetics, insurance).

Stuff wears out, gets old, gets damaged in use, or needs to be replaced. Sails last 3 years if you really sail, and would cost about $5,000 for a dacron main and a 110% on a furler. Chutes are another $2,200 every 4 years. Rod lasts about 7 years and a rod and turnbuckle rerig is another $5,000. When you replace the rod, you will probably replace or upgrade the furler $2,000. Rebuilding the watermaker is $500 or so every couple years. LP for the decks is probably $6,000, for the hull $4,000, and for the mast $1,500. Heads die, pumps die, autopilots die. Halyards die. You want to upgrade to line adjust lead cars. The cabin sole needs varnish. The interior needs varnish. You want new foam in your bed, and new covers in the salon. The heat exchanger needs to be replaced. The exhaust elbow needs to be replaced. The raw water pump needs to be replaced. All the belts and hoses on the engine and the coolant pump all ought to be replaced. The stainless steel gallery sink pits through from the salt water being used in it and needs to be replaced. You want a new stove. The TV, never designed to be used on a boat, dies. Batteries last say 500 to 1,000 cycles, 3 to 5 years. Rafts cost $300-$500 per year. EPIRB batteries are $300 or so. You need a new awning. The cabin ports need to be replaced. The winches need to be serviced and reanodized. The keel leaks: it needs to be lowered, the bolts inspected, and then rebedded. The anchor windlass self-destructs. You need new Lexan in your deck hatches. You want to upgrade from a folding Martec to a geared folder or a feathering prop. A diver is say $30 per month; a bottom job is at least $1,000. You need to repair water damage to your deck core. The depth sounder stops sounding. The bracket holding the fridge compressor breaks. You are tied up at the end of a dock and the low voltage sensor on your air conditioner does not shut it down fast enough and you need a new compressor. Your fuel tanks are 15 years old and are starting to leak thru pits in the stainless and need to be replaced. I cannot remember whether the J40 uses hydraulics or blocks for the backstay, the vang, the outhaul. Either way, they all go. Etc., etc., etc.

Then there are the inevitable "accidents." Your new LP hull gets massive scrapes from a bumboat. You round down and put the spin pole in the water and need a new tube. ("Let's get a lighter one, like that black one on Steve's boat.") Your dinghy gets trashed at the town dock because someone sandwiches it between the rock wall of the dock and a 20' panga while you are ashore for dinner. Your bimini is blown down in a 60 knot squall, and the same squall mangles your bow roller when the snubber breaks and the chain pulls tight. Some kids are fishing off the dock, and they catch your dinghy, puncturing one chamber and sinking the motor. You are boarded for an "inspection" and the boarders mess up your lifelines and stanchions, oh and by the way, one of them grabbed your SSB whip to keep from falling ("Sir, we are almost done, and if you will just sign this release, you may go on your way ...").

Whatever you do not do as you go along either has to be done when you finish or just lowers the value of the yacht when you sell it.

A guy I know, the chief carpenter on a 100' plus motoryacht, budgets 20% of the new value of the yacht for maintenance each year to keep it "new" (and it stays new). The longer I am at this, the less I think he overstates the real costs. I get similar estimates from the professional captains of sailing yachts (e.g., $60,000 per year to keep up a Deerfoot 2-62, used value about $500,000, and not to such a high cosmetic standard).

Yes, they pay people anywhere from $2 to $15 cash per hour to clean, paint, varnish, sand, and scrub, and they pay the yards and marine specialists to do things. Some of this you may be able to do yourself, but a lot of this you probably cannot, and ought to hire an expert to do so as to not diminish the value of your yacht. (Whatever thoughts I had about LP, I watched a very good painter try 4 times to get a perfect dark blue Awlgrip finish on a Farr 40.)

From "The Dollars and Sense of Sailboat Ownership" by Jeff Spranger (1991):
"My boat, a 34-footer valued realistically at $35,000, costs me approximately 14 percent of that value each year in recurring costs: moorage, off-season hauling and storage, insurance, outfitting supplies, and replacement of gear. Note that the figure does not include costs to upgrade my boat, only her maintenance. ... I do all my own maintenance work, religiously buy at a discount, ..."

From Jim Isbell:
Your maintenance estimates are too high. If I have to spend 10% of my boats value ($10,000) a year, I will shoot myself. My plan is about $2,000 a year to cover a bottom job every two years and whatever breaks. There might be some surprises but I don't think so. The big cost was getting the boat ready in the first place. I bought it for $52,500 and will have an additional $20,000 in it on upgrades and repairs before I leave. This has been a 3-year project.

From Ted Stalcup on The Live-Aboard List:
I've always thought the "10-15% of boat value for maintenance" was a ridiculous figure. It in no way accounts for an economy of scale. Let's say a 42-48' trawler costs $400K (actually they cost about twice that these days). You would have to perform a major overhaul on both engines every single year to account for the $40K; replacing all the electronics might run you $40K but not every year. You might claim that something costing $40K comes up every year but you'd have to have astoundingly bad luck to string along a series of years like that. I think this 10% figure is probably more accurate for boats that cost under $50K. Sure, larger boats do cost more to maintain, larger bottoms to scrape and paint, larger decks to cover and so on but I think that the actual dollar amounts don't increase at a clean 10% of cost.

My experience so far (3/2004; after almost 3 years of ownership):
Bought boat for mid-$70k's.
Paid about $5k in sales tax.
Spent about $14k in maintenance and upgrades in 3 years, doing much of the labor myself. (Actually, about $5k of that is boatyard expenses.)

That's around 6% per year in maintenance and upgrades.

The boat is and has been almost fully functional; I've cruised the Exumas, the east coast ICW, Florida Keys, up the Tenn-Tom and down the Mississippi. But I've put off replacing the sails, fixing air-conditioner, upgrading the freezer, replacing rigging.

Costs of work I'm planning to have done on my 44-foot (50 if you count davits and anchor platform) boat in Marathon FL 6/2001:
Haul, pressure-wash and bottom-paint (assume 2 coats, 7 gallons paint at $130/gallon, 3 hours/coat):
Boatyard Rates Total
Marathon Boatyard, 2059 Overseas Highway oceanside (next to West Marine), 305-743-6341 Bottom-painting package: 50-foot == $850 plus cost of paint, plus $40/hour for 2nd to Nth coats of paint $1880
Keys Boat Works, 700 39th St bayside, 305-743-5583, email Bottom-painting package with 1 coat of Trinidad: $1056; about $600 for 2nd coat $1650
Marathon Marina, 1021 11th St oceanside, 305-743-6575 Bottom-painting package: $995 for 2 coats, plus $48/hour for 3rd to Nth coats of paint $995
Driftwood Marina, 13900 Overseas Highway, MM 54, 305-289-0432 Bottom-painting package: $1194 for 1 full coat plus 2nd on waterline, plus 2 hours at $65/hour for 2nd full coat, plus $93/gallon for 2nd coat paint $1530 or so
To keep the boat in the yard for a month (ending with 5 days of bottom-painting), living on it for 2 weeks of that month, add:
Boatyard Rates Additional money
Marathon Boatyard Liveaboard not allowed; must get 14 hotel days at $50/day; 25 lay days at $25/day $1300 or so
Keys Boat Works $334/month storage ($422/month if no paint, but get credit for work days if pay for labor), 14 liveaboard at $10/day $474 - $562
Marathon Marina No liveaboard allowed in storage; storage is full right now; 25 lay days at $25/day, 14 liveaboard at $8/day $737
Driftwood Marina $250/month storage, 7 lay days at $30/day, 14 liveaboard at $10/day $600
To have the boatyard replace 20 gate-valves, through-hulls and hoses (at 1 hour each) in the first week of that month, add:
Boatyard Skilled labor rate Additional money
Marathon Boatyard $60/hour $1200
Keys Boat Works $60/hour $1200
Marathon Marina $48/hour $960
Driftwood Marina $65/hour $1300
Haul-out, block and launch (assume 44-foot; usually pressure-wash is another $50):
Boatyard Amount
Marathon Boatyard $308
Keys Boat Works $418
Marathon Marina $297
Driftwood Marina $336

From Lew Hodgett on The Live-Aboard List:
The enemy of sails is two-fold: the wind and the real culprit, UV rays.

A full suit of sails for a 40 ft, blue water boat could easily approach $10K-$15K.

If you sail in relatively high latitudes, life of those sails could easily exceed 10 years.

OTOH, sail at low latitudes, say 1,500 hours/year, and those same sails may be rags in 3-5 years.

Assume a worst case of $15K cost and 3 year life and you have a sail cost of $5K/year.

($5K/year)/(1,500 Hours/year) = $3.34/hour of sailing.

BTW, 1,500 hours is a lot of sailing time in one year IMHO.

If you assume 6.68 miles/hour as an average speed, then ($3.34/Hour)/(6.68 Miles/hour) = $0.50/mile.

Sail from San Francisco Bay to Cabo, say about 1,400-1,500 miles, you will have depreciated your sails about $750.

The numbers are quite variable; however, they serve to illustrate the point.

From the day something is created, it starts the inevitable march to the junkyard, and that includes us.
From Eric Thompson on The Live-Aboard List:
$10K-$15K ??? Absolutely custom made new sails? Maybe.

I can buy a slightly used but serviceable mainsail for my Coronado 35 for under $1000 any time I want. I've been quoted the price by 3 different used sail sources.

I am never going to buy a new sail to depreciate it'd first 59% in the first year anymore than I bought a new sailboat.

So let us recompute the costs.

Let's say I spend a whole $2500 (main and jib only - I ain't flying no spinnakers :-) )

Let's say they last 2 years (I think you are all wet here, too many letters from too many people out there in the tropics. The main cause of sail loss is damage from too much cloth in too much wind.)

So I amortize $1250 over the 1500 hours (never gonna happen - I'm WAY too lazy to sail that much!) at a more realistic 4 knots. I think I got about $0.21 per mile? Maybe my math is bad, or is it really that much cheaper than fuel?

And, as I said, most letters I read from people cruising from Mexico to the South Pacific describe blown-out spinnakers, not mains, usually caused (by their own admission) by carrying the spinner when they should not be doing so (overnight in deteriorating weather).
From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
I'm still using the original sails that came with my boat, a Whitby 42 built in '77. I have had a few repairs made, but the cost of repairs is "in the noise".

I'm about to replace these sails and the price of three sails (main, mizzen and jib) is $3259. Amortize that over 26 years and sail cost is insignificant.

Medical Insurance

See my Boater Medical Insurance page

Membership/Subscription Fees

For magazines, associations, etc.

Maybe $300/year.

See start of my Living On A Boat page for more.

PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding     Mailbox

PO box typical rates: $100 to $200 per year.

From a Mailboxes Etc in St. Petersburg FL 1/2001:
> How much does a non-business mailbox cost ?
Small $10/mo; medium $14/mo; large $19/mo. ALL have a 3-month minimum and a $5 non-refundable key charge.

> What will the mailing address look like ?
Street address with # ---

> Will DMV accept such an address for getting a driver's license and car registration ?
Yes, because it's a street address - also good for accepting UPS and Fed-Ex packages during the day.

Mail-forwarding services typical rates: $150 to $200 per year plus postage (see the Communications And Mail section of my Living On A Boat page). Location of the service matters, because that will establish your legal residence, and sales tax can vary by county.

From Terry on The Live-Aboard List:
"I don't want to use Roger at Cruising Services ever again ..."

My experience: I access all of my billing and accounts on the internet. I use debit card and credit card, and once a month go on the internet and push a button to pay the credit card from the checking account. A few places still insist on doing business via paper mail: USCG boat documentation renewal, and some bank transactions (IRA CD changes, account open/close, etc). My official address used to be a Mailboxes Etc box; now it is my brother's address.

Safe-Deposit Box

Typical rates: $50 to $100 per year.

Storage Locker

Far better to sell/give everything away than to store it indefinitely.

In Florida, air-conditioned storage is not completely necessary, not for papers. Good containers (Tupperware, maybe with dessiccant packets) would probably do fine.

From George Sass in "Gently With The Tides" edited by Michael Frankel:
... three years later, I've paid more in storage fees than the price of buying all new belongings. I've also forgotten what's in storage. That's how much I miss the stuff.

Boat Registration and Taxes

Maybe $100/year.

Delaware: $50/year registration fee for 40-64' boat, $10/year registration fee for dinghy.

Florida Vessel Owners: The Facts

Florida: $86/year registration fee for 40-64' boat (if USCG-documented, it gets a Florida decal but not numbers), $7/year registration fee for dinghy.

Note: You can renew USCG Documentation by filing form CG-1280 without waiting for renewal notice to arrive (the notice arrives a very short time before the renewal deadline); there is no fee for renewal.

In Florida, if boat is 30 years old, non-commercial, with "original type power plant", you can file a form (HSMV 87243, procedure VSRS-01) to declare it an "antique boat"; this greatly reduces the annual registration fee. You still need a normal registration sticker; you also get an antique sticker to put next to it.

Personal Taxes

"Death and taxes are inevitable, but at least death doesn't get worse every year."

USA Federal Income Tax:
From IRS: "All U.S. citizens ... are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income."

From Mike Horrell on The Live-Aboard List:
The US tax code excludes people living outside the US and earning up to $80,000 from foreign sources; above that, you still are liable for taxes. Many people are under the mistaken impression that this is a general exclusion, but it is not. It applies to EARNED income and the IRS specifically states that pensions are not exempt under any circumstances, even ones that are paid by non-US companies or organizations.

USA State Taxes:
From Tom O'Meara on The Live-Aboard List:
You are taxed based upon your state of residence ... In the US, you cannot be "stateless".

The states with no income taxes are (in counter-clockwise order) Alaska, Washington state, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and New Hampshire. Florida taxes stocks, and New Hampshire and Tennessee tax interest/dividend income.

From Ken Winans on Cruising World message board:
My partner and I cruised for 15 months beginning in mid-'97. We were, at the time we left, residents of Florida. In looking into what our legal residence would be, we found it was determined by the address you use. If you use, as we did, a mail forwarding service, the state that the service uses becomes your state. ...

We had other considerations, namely a car. We sold everything else but kept a car in Florida so when we flew back for visits we had transportation. We could not use a PO Box as our official residence for DMV so we asked a friend to store the car and we used their address on the registration and insurance.

From Florida Department of Revenue page:
You are considered a Florida resident ... when your true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment is in Florida. Filing a declaration of domicile, qualifying for homestead exemption or registering to vote in Florida can establish residency. Other actions, such as obtaining a Florida driver's license, only indicate an intent to establish residency.

Florida resident general taxes: no income tax, but "intangible personal property tax" of 0.1% to 0.2% per year on stocks, bonds (but not CDs), money-market and mutual funds outside of IRAs and 401Ks (basically).

From Mike Horrell on The Live-Aboard List:
Some states, such as Virginia where I currently reside, take the attitude that, as the last state to "own" you, they still have the right to claim their share of blood until such time as you formally become the resident of another state and can prove this via voter registration, drivers license, etc. This bit of fiscal outrage has survived court challenge and is accepted tax law. While our accountant admitted he was unaware of any cases where Virginia had tried to apply the law to overseas residents, Virginia can and apparently HAS retroactively applied the law to returnees, claiming "back taxes". So it ain't just the Feds; your local governments could also demand you shell out.

Travel: Customs fees, cruising and fishing licenses

Maybe $500/year.

From "The Cruising Life" by Jim Trefethen:
Many countries are realizing that there is money to be made from cruisers, and raising entry fees into the $100 to $200 range.

Some reported customs/cruising/arrival/departure fees:
Location and date Fee for boat
Bahamas, 2005 $300 for boat over 35 feet, includes fishing license
Turks and Caicos, 2005 $50 per person per month, if you stay more than 1 week
Dominican Republic, 2005 About $70 for 44-foot boat with one person aboard
Anguilla, 1994 $50 for 1-week cruising permit
Antigua, 2000 $13 departure fee, maybe $20/month cruising permit ?
Bermuda, 1999 $15 per person

Fees to enter Mexico, from letter from Robert and Elaine Jans in 4/2000 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:
  • $34/person/year for fishing license (every person must have license if fishing gear is on board).
  • $84 for entry of boat > 30' LOA.
  • $28 for entry of dinghy.
  • $90 for Ham radio license.
  • $200-$300/year for $300K Mexican liability insurance (optional; your existing insurance may be valid).
  • $??/person for visa.

US Customs Service: $25/year for User Fee Decal, for USA boat to cruise in USA.

Dockage / Marina fees / Services while visiting on-shore

Nancy Wigal's "Shopping for Marina Slips"

From Ack Phht on alt.sailing.asa newsgroup, probably in 2000:
Down most of the Atlantic coast, transient rates for dockage (per night) vary from $0.75 per foot to $3 per foot, depending upon location, and to a lesser extent, services. Weekly rates are about 75-85% of what you would pay on a per- night basis, and monthly rates are often a great bargain, commonly in the $5 to $20 per foot per month range.

Annual rates, including in-water storage during summer, and on-the-hard in winter seem to be from $900 per year to $5000 per year.

Mooring (as opposed to dockage) is usually even cheaper, often $15 per night for transient. Unfortunately, I am not thrilled at the idea of leaving my boat unattended at a mooring, so I usually don't look for a mooring if I have to leave the boat for a while. Also moorings available to transients are much more rare than slips.

Anchoring is free, and the most fun. I try to be at the dock if I have to leave the boat unattended, for working on the boat, or in very bad weather.


It pays to shop around. I have almost always been able to find slips and moorings at the low end of the ranges described, cos I'm naturally cheap. Skipper Bob puts out some excellent publications describing costs of boating along the Atlantic coast. Get one at any good marine bookstore. I have used them with great success for frugal cruisin.


"During our trip down the coastline from Ma to Fl [probably in 2000] we stopped in fourteen different marinas over sixteen days we encountered a range of fees. The high in NY was $2.50 per foot, the low in NC was $.75 per foot. Most were $1.00 per foot with exactly half charging for a shore cord and half not. As a rule the cost were lower in the area south of Va."

In the Caribbean, the price of water ranges from free to 50 cents per gallon. With big water tanks aboard, and ability to catch some rainwater, almost never have to pay for water.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List, 11/2000:
> What is the average charge, per day/week/month/annual, for a mooring?

We have used a transient mooring several times and it was $15/day.

A notable moorage was at the 79th Street marina where for $15/day NYC was our playground.

> When you are anchored or using a mooring buoy, I realize there is often a
> dinghy docking fee at a marina. Is free docking ever available?

We have cruised from Key West to Maine. Key West dinghy dock was $2.50/day, $15/week, $45/month. St Augustine was $7/day, $120/month. Norfolk Waterside at ICW mile zero was $2 day the first year, free the second year, and $2 the third year - guess it depended on who was on watch. Everywhere else was free and varied between town docks, restaurants/bars, and Annapolis, where by local law every street that ends at the water is a free dinghy dock. We love Annapolis.

I presume that if you pay for a mooring that includes dinghy dock.

> When paying a mooring or dinghy docking fee, does this fee include use of
> marina shower/laundry/etc services?

Key West and St. Augustine had head/shower/laundry included.

From Tom Foppiano on The Live-Aboard List 11/2000:
The city of Key West has recently began a mooring area for about 150 boats. The cost will be $150 per month the first year, $250 in year 2 and $325 in year 3. After that the price will rise based on the CPI. Transients will be charged $12 per day. For this price you get the mooring, dinghy dockage and 3 pump outs per month. Though this sounds good on its face, the down side is there will be no more liveaboard or anchorage in the sea plane basin which is now home to lots of boats and liveaboards for FREE!

In 3/2001, if you anchor out at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon FL, for $55/month at the Dockside Lounge you can land your dinghy, park your car, and get your mail.

From Tom Ward on the SailNet liveaboard-list 3/2001:
I just spent a week doing a marina tour on the Florida gulf coast. I visited marinas from Bradenton to Naples. The average price was $10/ft +/- electric plus $100 - 250 for liveaboards / month for a 40' sailboat. Most of these included such amenities as laundry, showers, pool and sauna or jacuzzi, some even had workout facilities. Every marina I visited allowed liveaboards, although not all of them had slips for a 40' boat.

> looking for prices and information
> about different places and costs of just anchoring.

Anchoring is always free. BUT:
- some places outlaw it completely
- some places limit it to 72 hours or so
- some places are so built-up that there's no space to anchor
- some places are so deep or rocky that you can't safely anchor
- even if you can anchor, getting ashore in your dinghy may cost $1 to $10 per day
- many/most places don't charge anything to come ashore in your dinghy

For example,
- I anchored everywhere on my east coast ICW trip (Florida Keys to Trenton NJ), but I didn't go up the east coast of NJ and to New England. I understand harbors in southern New England are tight and built-up. In some parts of NC and SC, the ICW was so narrow and built-up that decent anchoring spots were 40 miles (a whole day's travel) apart.
- Most places in Chesapeake had no charge too come ashore in your dinghy. Washington DC charged $10 per day (included showers). Sometimes you have to be creative to get ashore (land at a bridge or boat-ramp or beach).
- Most places in the Keys will charge $3 or so per day to come ashore in your dinghy.

Vacations from the boat

My experience:
I find I need a couple of "vacations from the boat" each year, usually one for Christmas and one in the summer. I leave the boat anchored somewhere and fly to New Jersey to stay with my Mom and visit with my brothers and sisters. It mentally refreshes me, and it's nice to see everyone.

If you're cruising in some remote place, and/or you need to leave the boat in a marina, a "vacation from the boat" could be costly. And a short-notice air-fare due to a family emergency could be worse.

It pays to plan ahead and check air-fares from the various islands back to USA. I've found fares to my particular destination (Philadelphia) can differ by a factor of 2 between two islands 50 miles apart. For example, in 12/2010, Martinique to Philly 2-stop for $1200 versus St Lucia to Philly non-stop for $600.


From Jim Isbell:
I would say you are being too conservative in your numbers. ...

1) Why keep a car while you are gone? You won't need it till you get back and it would be better to get a newer one by then. I will be keeping 7 cars so I'm not one to talk, but I have the place and the resources to keep them.

2) Your food will cost less than you think. I plan on less than $300 a month for two people.


4) Your maintenance estimates are too high. If I have to spend 10% of my boats value ($10,000) a year I will shoot myself. My plan is about $2000 a year to cover a bottom job every two years and whatever breaks. There might be some surprises but I don't think so. The big cost was getting the boat ready in the first place. I bought it for $52,500 and will have an additional $20,000 in it on upgrades and repairs before I leave. This has been a 3-year project.

5) If you wait till you have a million you will never go.

6) I will be maintaining the boat, my house, my cars, and all my "Stuff" on a budget of $3000 a month and plan on having $1500 surplus every month. So, practically, you could do it on $1500 a month (the guy I bought the boat from did it on $400 a month for 8 years) which at 6% means you need only $300,000 and you need less when you consider that you can use some of the principal if you want to figure how long till you die. But even more importantly, after age 62 you will get a bump in income from SS and a cut in costs from Medicare.


BTW, one thing I would do. Don't buy anything till you absolutely have to have it unless it's a used bargain. Much of my stuff I waited on and then found it cheap from someone who was quitting ... ICOM 725, new in box, $450 ... 3KW Isolation transformer, used, $100 ... Davits, used, free ... Water maker, used, $1500 ... 45 lb Bruce anchor $95 ... etc. If I had bought all that stuff new I would have paid more than $6000 and instead I paid $2415. It's worth waiting.

Also, don't do as I have done and build up a big pile of stuff in the garage that on the last day I will be just throwing aboard and will never find it.

From Ric Seymour on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
I have been a Liveaboard on and off for twenty years. I currently have a boat on the Chesapeake where sailboats for sale are more than plentiful. If all you have is $100K to spend on a boat, you really only have about $75K because the first 12 to 18 months will cost you at least a third of the purchase price.

It's a hellofa jump from a Liveaboard wannabe to being a Liveaboard. It's really not some Polynesian dream. Excluding my note on the boat these are a few of the monthly expenses for a 40 - 45 foot sailboat:
    Annual Slip Fee: $4,400 per year
    Monthly Electricity: $100 month
    Liveaboard Fee: (Yup! Marinas charge a Liveaboard fee) $50 a month
    Insurance: Chesapeake and East Coast Atlantic: $1,550 per year. (And I'm a 100 ton NC/Aux Sail Master with no claims)

That's $604.17 per month without allocating any money for maintenance like:
    Haul out, power wash, launch and 2 weeks on the hard: $400 every 2 years.
    Bottom paint every 2 years (Do it yourself) 2 gallons at $120 per gallon ($240)
    Cetol or varnish every year: $40

Realistically assuming you have a Chartplotter, GPS, RADAR, VHF, SSB, Wind, depth, speed instruments, autopilot, wind generator or solar panels. And then there's the 4 cyl. diesel, possible genset, zodiac, outboard motor, windlass, winches, etc. etc. etc. Your annual maintenance will be at least another $200 per month.

This year my "maintenance" has been almost $5,800. Add that to the $604 and you're at $1,100 per month (NOT COUNTING THE BOAT LOAN PAYMENT).

I'm not telling you not to do it my friend, but this is a serious cash commitment here.

Summarized from Ed and Marion Herndon of the Seamaster 48 powerboat "Remedy":
Monthly costs from 2+ years of USA cruising:

Communications $263

Total per month: $2325

From Bob Kunath on Great-loop mailing list:
... Dock space and marina space is by far the greatest cost of cruising. and restaurant eating probably second. ...

From Lauren on Cruising World message board:
How much does it cost to live on land? I would bet that no two [people] have the same budget. Neither do any two cruising boats. We have cruised twice and no two boats had the same budget. Can you resist the smell of grilling fish at a beachfront eatery? Can you say no when all your pals hit the bars after a long, nasty passage? Do you need to have lots of people around? That means booze most of the time. Will currency affect your budget? On our first trip to Mexico the peso was stronger relative to the dollar and beer was costly. Next trip the devalued peso meant more to the greenback. Whatever your taste, your cruising budget will reflect YOUR taste and lifestyle. Remember that cruising is life afloat!!!! It would be unrealistic to expect to change your style as soon as you cast off so plan accordingly.

From Don Dement on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
I remember a review years ago that made sense on boat ownership costs. In this, there are three "segments":
  1. Cost to buy the boat and sell it the next day; (purchase/sale); plus
  2. Cost to keep the boat minimally cared for but not used (ownership); plus
  3. Cost to use it in the fashion you desire (usage).
The first relates to the purchase price, taxes on it, sales commissions, any sales advertising, your search and any legal costs.

The second relates to any cartage or delivery costs, various insurance premiums, home dockage and electricity, annual haulouts and painting, opportunity cost if you wish to include it, and change in market price, all in static ownership.

The third relates to dynamic ownership: fuel, replacement of wornouts, upgrades, and other expenses of cruising operations such as transient dockage, mail forwarding, changes in telephone, deposits, etc.

From Jim s/v Ganesha on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... we have taken numerous courses both on and off the water - we feel full-time cruising is a very serious undertaking.

All of the following is IMHO:

1. Develop a very clear idea of what you want and what you are willing to give up. Many things are mutually exclusive; therefore, every boat is a compromise. If it does one thing then it doesn't do something else as a direct result/cost of doing that one thing.

2. Physically test out your ideas of what you think you want. Charter, sail on other peoples boats, start out with a smaller boat, etc.

3. Develop your skill levels. We are in our ninth year and know we have a lot more to learn before heading transoceanic. Both of us are fully capable of single handing the boat. If you will cruise with a partner make sure you share the level of commitment to the life style.

The "RULE":

Everything costs - either in terms of money, time or "convenience".

A. The more you can do yourself the cheaper it becomes in terms of money but you will often pay for it in time or even convenience. (check out my earlier postings on pulling the mast - lol)

B. On room - we are going full-time on a Downeast 32 with the Caribbean being our destination. (Our 32, which is a very big 32, is still smaller than some walk in closets.) We intend to move up to a 38-40 if the skill and courage arrive and we decide to head out to the S. Pacific. (A slightly bigger walk in closet with an attached master bath?)

C. Luxuries cost - big time. For us, refrigeration and water making are the two very big ticket items we decided we wanted. Air conditioning is going off the boat and there is no hot water or pressurized system. No tv, video, etc. but a very extensive computer system. Etc.etc. (All this is personal tastes/needs. I think you need to know what yours are before heading out.)

D. Maintenance is a never ending task. You can't let it go. (On shore, if the basement gets water in it you can get to it someday - on a boat however!)

E. On safety equipment we follow the rule: If we can't afford the proper equipment - we can't afford to cruise.

From Maurice Wick on the alt.sailing newsgroup:
> Can someone give me in round numbers what it would cost to:
> -- completely overhaul a Perkins 50 hp diesel engine
> -- replace the standing rigging on a 39 foot sloop with 54 foot high mast.

There are four questions I have.

1) Will you be doing any of the work?
2) Will someone else be doing the work?
3) Is the one doing the work any good?
4) If that person is any good, does he/she know it and charge accordingly?

The same goes for the rigging.

I replaced the standing rigging on our 39' cutter rigged ketch; wire, sta-locks, a few turnbuckles, and misc. parts for around $1200 USD. (as I recall) ... after paying a 'professional' rigger 300 something bucks for time and materials ... to stop the work we had contracted, leave and never come back.

I learned very early that this fella was a gomer, and just because you're a 'professional' doesn't mean you're any good ... even if other folks pay for your services.

From Evans Starzinger on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
Three observations:

1. Live aboards have to make a basic decision: bring as much of your shore life on board as possible or adapt a much simpler life to the boat. This basic decision will swing your budget dramatically. Both the initial boat costs and annual costs will be hugely different. Just for example we know two live aboard couples each with two kids. Boat #1 who have lived aboard for 8 years spent about $8K on their boat and then put around 2,000 hours of labor into it. Their annual costs have been $6k-$10k. They don't really have an electrical system and they don't have much space, but they very very much enjoy their life and their kids are educated and worldly. Boat #2 who have lived aboard 5 years put $400K into the boat and spend about $20k per year. They have watermakers, microwave, VCR for the kids, etc. They also very very much enjoy their lives, but it is more inward focused whereas boat #1 is by necessity more outward focused. Either approach will work, both are very different from shore life.

2. You don't need lots of gear or strong enough engines to pull away from dangerous weather to be safe and happy at sea. You do need to commit yourself to learning new skills and a new way of life. A landsman will turn his engine on and power toward shore in bad weather, a sailor will turn his engine off and sail away from shore.

3. There seem to be four models for financially successful live-aboards:
(a) Those who retire early with a good pension (like after 20 years in the military),
(b) those who own and are renting out real estate (although this group tends to have occasional emergencies with their tenants),
(c) Those who made a lot of money relatively young and are living off the interest, and
(d) those with almost no assets but have portable skills who work when the case gets low (the three best skills seem to be medical, boat, and restaurant related).

From BobG on Cruising World message board:
We too, sold our house, bought a much less expensive condo to keep furniture and belongings and have a home base. Put much of the profit from the sale of the house into a heavily built, seaworthy boat.

We learned the hard way that $25,000 per year was inadequate to maintain the boat up to our standard (that means if something is broken it must be fixed - not neglected), keep insurance (health, life, boat) pay taxes, food, clothing, occasional dockage, fuel, etc and fly home once or twice a year to visit family.

We did 90% of all maintenance ourselves, but had to pay for it when it was beyond our skills (not much was, but when necessary, it was very expensive).

As to boat insurance, many cruisers opt to drop this because it can be expensive. Their rationale is that they would rather put the money saved into very good equipment to avoid accidents that could destroy or sink their boat. To my way of thinking that is unrealistic. You can not protect your boat from serious acts of nature or things that can happen to it when you are not aboard or awake. The boat represents the largest portion of the cruiser's assets and should be protected. We came across many examples of what happens to the uninsured, underfunded cruiser in our travels. They are very sad and hopeless stories.

We had owned sailboats for 30 years prior to our departure, so thought we knew just about everything we would need to know to cruise safely. Just to make sure, and to refresh knowledge not often called upon, we read the course material for the Coast Guard Master's License. Lo and behold, there was much we didn't know! We studied and passed the exam.

We also studied for and gained our Ham Radio operator's licenses. We installed a Ham radio and found it be be very useful.

We took our boat to a Community College in Jacksonville, Florida where our old Perkins 4-108 engine was removed and brought to their shop. We lived on board, at their dock, while we attended classes on how to repair and rebuild our diesel engine. The lessons learned there came in mighty handy later on.

We cruised for 4 1/2 years before the money ran out and we were forced to return to shore to make a living.

Bottom line:

1. It is a fantastic way of life. Much to see and do. Much to learn.

2. "Seaworthy" generally (but not always) means "more expensive". That is not to say that all more expensive boats are seaworthy.

3. Falling in love with a boat can be a dangerous thing. I did, and it clouded my judgement. I should not have bought the boat I fell in love with. I should have remained more objective and kept searching for a boat that would require less upgrading and less maintenance.

4. Don't be discouraged by what may appear as negative thoughts in items 2 and 3 above. They are meant to give you some perspective and ideas on how to proceed, not turn you off. I am saving now to do it again.

From Bob Taylor on WorldCruising mailing list:
Re: How much does it cost to cruise?

Seems there are just too many variables to give an answer that is meaningful to everyone. I have picked up a few things from my friends that have gotten away ahead of me.

The statement "It will cost what you have" is only true if you don't control your costs. If you don't do that while on land you probable won't when you go.

"The parts that are not boat will cost about what they do on land." This means food etc don't change just because you move on board. You will continue to eat etc about as before. However this is not true depending on where you are. Some countries are cheaper and some more.

"If you can do your own maintenance it saves a lot." This is also true on land before you go.

Of the 9 different couples that I have been friends with for a long time, that share this kind of info with me, and that are "out there" the average monthly total expense is about $1800. They all have boats between 34 and 42 feet. They all do their own maintenance. They are just down to earth people like me and don't "high roll." They are currently everywhere from South Pacific to Caribbean to DOWNTOWN Paris. That last one says the expenses have become HIGHER lately.

Most like me prefer a "cook out" or entertaining on the boat to a restaurant.

They keep sending me e-mails saying "Wish you were here". They are killing me.

From Ernie Martin on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
The first thing you have to realize is that you are not on vacation. I took 3 years off to travel and live on my first boat. When I got home and took stock of my expenses, I discovered that I was still alive in spite of the amount of alcohol I had consumed. The first year was expensive because I was on vacation: lots of eating out seeing the sights going to the bars often. Just a big party (loved every minute of it). In the second year friends dropped down and I continued to party because they wanted to see everything and I was their guide; they were on vacation and had the budget to play. I started to run low and didn't know how to say "Have a good time". In my last year funds were getting low and if I wanted to stay I had better learn how to live the lifestyle I could afford. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, how about less than one thousand? As I said "LIVE THE LIFESTYLE I COULD AFFORD". How often do you go out now? How much money do you spend now on eating out? Unless you suddenly come into a bundle, look at what your lifestyle is now. In my 3rd year I told friends that if they wanted to have me along at the bars or dances they had to pick up the tab. I was providing them with a bed and transportation to reefs and interesting islands but I couldn't keep up with their expensive Vacation budget. They understood and to my amazement we had a great time sometimes without me. But I had already been there and done it and the T shirt was getting thin.

What I'm trying to say is it's possible for a couple to have a good time, party once in a while, and generally enjoy themselves for less than $1000 a month. If you are planning to make it a lifestyle. If it's a vacation that includes those that put a 2, 3, or 5 year limit and then plan on going back to home port. You are not really committed to sailing/traveling as a new way of life; you're just testing the waters. Go with the intention of staying and budget accordingly. There are lots of things to do that will entertain and amaze you. How do you do it ? There have been books written on that topic. Every case is different; you just have to answer a few questions honestly. How much money do I have? How often do I party? And on and on; the questions aren't rocket science, just common sense. The last question is how much am I willing to go without? I decided I needed a larger boat ...

From Bob Wise on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
There is a a theory that expenses will rise to meet whatever you have plus 10%, and I have seen many cruisers who have succumbed to that trap.

I hate to be simplistic but it really all depends on a three factors: Mindset, Where you cruise and how you cruise. Sheila and I have seen people spend incredible amounts of money in places that were dirt cheap, as well as people spending hardly anything in places that were absurdly expensive. So it really comes down to attitude and mindset!

Boats with lots of toys and gadgets cost more to run than boats that have less. They also have to spend more time in port getting things fixed.

Everywhere we have cruised we have found that anchoring was never a problem (our total cost for a year in the Med in marina costs was about $750). Down here in the Caribbean there is no reason to do marinas (unless you like bugs onboard). To be honest as our boat is not air-conditioned we find marinas hot and uncomfortable, so much prefer the boat on the hook anyway, and if we find it gets uncomfortable we just move to the next anchorage.

Might want to take a look at the book "Voyaging on a Small Income" by Annie Hill as a reality check; she certainly could teach us all something about cruising in general. I don't agree with everything she says but 80% is right on. Lin and Larry also are a good source (though for some reason even when I agree with them they tend to piss me off).

Our European friends came up with a great term for the style of a lot of the American cruisers in the Canary Islands before our crossing: Consumer Yachting! Sad to say it fits but is easily avoided if you look to what is important to the task at hand and your "REAL" comfort (not what someone tells you you need!).

When we built our boat we had a lot of ideas about what was needed for cruising. Had lists of lists and they all seemed like a good idea at the time. But as our trip went on we found as time went by we shed a lot of excess weight and gear that never got used or systems that were more trouble than they were worth ... evolution of sorts.

Oh, by the way, our average monthly for three years of cruising and 28000 miles came to $387 for food, entertainment, boat systems and repairs. When we decided to stop for a bit and go back to work for a while our boat was in better condition than when we left!

From article by Jerry Powlas in May/June 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine:
  • [From Dan Spurr's evaluation:]
    Expect to lose about 30% of your investment when you sell your boat.

  • Maintenance is essential; upgrades are optional.

  • Upgrades are most valuable to you if they are in harmony with the common use of your boat.

  • To minimize the "loss" when you sell:
    • Don't buy/sell often.
    • Sail often, to get maximum enjoyment for your money.
    • Don't buy bigger than you need.
    • Don't buy upgrades you don't need.

From Robert Reib on Great-loop mailing list:
... During the 7 years [1992-1999] we owned our diesel trawler we replaced the Loran C once and the GPS once because of new technology. We even replaced our VHF radio 3 times and our TVs on board 3 times. Our refrigerator was replaced twice and our propane stove once. In short new electronic technology will come and go at an alarming rate. Many boaters replace this stuff routinely at the first sign of a problem because it is cheaper to buy newer electronic technology than repair old. ...

From Brian Conrad on The Live-Aboard List:
I have found that the cost of living is dependent on the "standard" of living you want to achieve, or better yet what you feel you need to have. I have lived aboard and cruised on $100 a month for a three month period and was quite happy sailing the Chesapeake and NC Sounds. Then again I have spent $100 in one evening on other cruises to the same places, and left a lot fatter from a meal ashore and with a throbbing head the next morning.

Bottom line, once you eliminate boat expenses (I actually mean minimize) you can sail on almost any budget. The more gadgets you have the more your long term cost will be. I say Stay Simple. (could be that boat name I have been looking for, eh). I sailed for four days once with a gallon or two of water, five pounds of potatoes, a can of beans, and only six gallons of gas. So those days only cost me about $10. It was a great time.

Some tips to eliminate some costs are:

- Stay simple. Some ruffles are good and nicce, but choose them wisely.
- Don't be in a rush.
- Sail when there is wind. Anchor and do boaatwork, relax, sleep when in the calm.
- Try to eliminate dockside time. Use your mmandatory gas stops for your service needs/layovers.
- Take a dinghy and some oars. Leave the o/bb stowed (for emergencies only) or onshore.
- Eliminate the unnecessary, consume less, eenjoy/appreciate more.

I am sure there are about a thousand others that I can list, but I think you get the idea.

From Joe Klir on Low-Cost Voyaging mailing list:
The overall cost analysis breaks this issue into the following elements:

(1) Capital Expenditure
Building or purchasing seaworthy boat at minimum cost in reasonable time frame.

(2) Maintenance

(3) Operating costs
The low-cost voyaging should be based on minimal operating cost, parking on bilge keels, not entering marinas, using as little as possible of diesel, relying on alternative energy.

(4) Subsistence
Purchasing, fishing and foraging to provide a healthy diet at reasonable cost.

(5) Income
Generating an income stream while cruising to nurture the financial resources.

From article by Colin Ward in 11/2003 issue of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine:
... the cruiser usually lives happily without many of the trappings of life on land. The key to a moderate cost of cruising is cost avoidance. By giving up expensive clothing, high-priced restaurants, real estate, telephones, cable TV, furniture and household goods, vehicles and the associated upkeep, taxes and insurance, many of the land costs simply go away. ...

... you can make some of those unnecessary land costs go away long before you go cruising. ...

From "The Dollars and Sense of Sailboat Ownership" by Jeff Spranger:
Ways to reduce costs:
  • Own the best possible boat: no larger, more expensive, or harder to handle than necessary.

  • Do as much maintenance as possible yourself, and plan routine preventive maintenance.

  • Ignore advertising intended to make you add expensive gear such as instruments and sails that may make sailing easier and faster, but seldom in proportion to their cost and complexity.

Use the boat. It is one thing to get continual real pleasure out of owning a boat that extracts a hefty toll in time and money. But it's quite another to face that toll and leave the boat neglected, tied securely to her expensive dock.

From "The Dollars and Sense of Sailboat Ownership" by Jeff Spranger:
"I don't believe anyone should buy a boat unless that boat is eminently affordable. That doesn't mean not owning any boat; it means not owning one that creates a hardship."

From Rick Feineis on the World-Cruising mailing list 10/2005:
I remember one of the sailing magazines conducting a fairly serious survey of cruising expenses. They broke it down into budgetary cruisers, middle of the road people, and top end people who could pretty much do whatever they wanted to.

For some reason I remember it averaging:

Low - Less than $1000 per month - No eating out, small boat, no docking except when you have to, low to no overhead of equipment.

Middle - $1500 to $2500 per month - Some eating out within reason, docking some more along with a fair amount of equipment to maintain.

High - Over $3500 (more like $5000) per month - Full-bore eating out, dock all the time, full complement of sailing gadgets and trips home to vacation from the cruise.

From Len den Besten on the World-Cruising mailing list 10/2005:
In a lot of fora people say they did or do it more or less spartan on 1000 USD a month. Last januari I spoke to a cruiser who had been cont. cruising from may 1999. He had registered all payments. Amounts are euro's. This cruiser was underway with a 49 ft steel sloop with his wife and 12 yr old daughter. He never tied to a pier, stayed on anchor. He summarized his exp with: "Europe is two times as expensive as wherever on this planet".

may '99 to
jan '05
per year
Marina's / mooring00
Maintenance +haul-out8.7121.537
Out to dinner2.865506
Misc(flying, water)3.693652
Paper, printing52492
Telephone, internet2.864505

Another cruiser gave me this. 2 persons, in USD, 6 times haul-out and flown home. Part of boat-equipment bought after departure.

per year
Boat Equipment5.270
Food & Beverage4.496
Maintenance & Repair2.975
Gifts & Souvenirs1.928
Boat Insurance1.913
Medical & Insurance1.370
Clothing & Personal1.260
Communication & Postage882
Membership Fees670
Operating Costs634
Cruising Fees&Licenses428

Myself (we want to start our trip with a 50 ft alu sloop in 2007). I plan on *having room for* 2500 euro's a month and that's (I hope) not synonymous with actual spending. With that amount we will have to pay for *all* expenses. We do want to insure medical costs (600 euro's pp/year, all countries except usa) and we do want our boat insured (2000 euro's/year, with 2500 own payment when there is a claim). This is what our budget looks like:

harbour-fees (incid. marina)3.500
Insurance boat2.000
Medical costs1.500
Out to dinner/entert.2.000
per month2.500

My rough ratings of the cost of living in various countries I've cruised to so far, for basic food, fuel, transportation and communications stuff, on a scale of 0 to 10:
Bahamas9Nassau and Marsh Harbour food more like 6
Turks and Caicos (Provo)7 
Dominican Republic3transportation and restaurant food/drink are cheaper than USA
Puerto Rico5 
St Martin5 
Guadeloupe6fuel very expensive
Martinique6fuel very expensive
St Lucia6 

From Capt_Douglas on the World-Cruising mailing list 11/2005:
Re: Costs?

From experience I know that the answer to your question is difficult to answer with much accuracy, but here goes.

The larger the boat the more it will cost to maintain, insure, obtain cruising permits, dock, haul, and provision. A good rule is for every 10'/3m over 25'/8m the costs double (e.g. if your costs are $5000/year for a 25', then you could expect to pay $10k/35', $20k/45', etc). The average size of a cruising boat is around 35-40' which is a good compromise between living space, costs, and comfort. The type of boat you buy is not something you asked about.

The type of lifestyle you choose will affect the cost of cruising. If the boat is "bare-bones" then the costs will be the lowest. Costs will multiply (e.g. satphone vs mail, satphone vs SSB/HF, genset, AC, water maker, dining ashore, not having a love of fish and crustaceans, dock vs the hook, flights home, extensive travel in remote locations, rental vs walking, running the genset/engine to produce ice for drinks, etc) as you add creature comforts and enjoy living aboard rather than camping aboard.

Cruising the temperate climates will cost less than going pole-to-pole. Putting your boat on the hard to build the kitty will cost money.

Provisioning costs will depend on your willingness to wean yourself from meat and become more vegetarian, rice and beans will replace potatoes, fish will become the predominant protein, and in general eat what the locals eat. Provisioning has changed more than cruising and most large ports have good supplies so the idea of carrying 100 rolls of toilet paper are largely gone. These costs can be offset by buying what's available locally at cheaper rates than other areas, knowing that certain areas (Tahiti for example) are very expensive except for subsidized items. Stolen items will be costly to replace and major problems require setting aside a portion of your kitty for emergencies.

When I started cruising on my 37' sloop in '92 I got by on about $500/mo by anchoring out, using a wind generator to charge the batteries, and enjoyed catching and eating seafood. I ate ashore seldom (generally rewarding myself one night ashore during my stay, never on the first night, for the passage), did my laundry in a 5-gallon bucket, took sun- showers, and read. My largest expense was for my camera (I'm a semi-pro photographer and dive instructor), my dive gear, and dive instructor fees/insurance, my laptop (for correspondence, route planning, etc) and my SSB (for WeFAX, ham-assisted calls home, and listening to the world). Along the way I added a tape recorder to record music in places I visited knowing that tape was cheaper than pre-recorded cassettes). I also added a car stereo/CD player for nights when HF wasn't coming in well.

I have no TV/VCR but I do have a 2000w charger/inverter. I sailed with a GPS, depth sounder and knotlog. If given I'd gladly take a radar and chart plotter but the cost of those items (and their power requirements) would allow me to cruise for many months. The plus is that the passage would be less stressful. I have added wind instruments and a windvane (to complement my autopilot). I carry charts (swapping along the way for the next leg), use a sextant for GPS verification, and am a voracious reader. Discretionary money usually goes for cruising guides, pilots, weather GRIB files, email, and the occasional souvenir.

In 2002 my tastes had moderated some (still no genset, water maker, freezer, unplanned trips home, etc) and I averaged about $1000/mo. In the last ten years my dinghy motor was stolen ($1200 for a 15 hp), my new/used 10' inflatable disintegrated after years of use ($1000 for a newer/used one), an engine overhaul due to defective anti-siphon valve ($2400 for parts, postage, phone calls, and a mechanic to check/bless the repairs before I started the engine), new rigging ($2000 upsized one size, new ends, and a good quality rigging cutter), a set of sails ($3500 and they need to be replaced in the next year or so), a new water tank when the original one gave up the ghost ($700), and a cutless bearing ($800 for haul, pressure wash, week on the hard, bottom paint, and relaunch). Add in $500 for a GPIRB to replace the old 121.5 model and a new pair of high-quality binoculars, $1200 to replace the deep-cycle batteries twice due to age, and a set of solar panels (lower charging power but far quieter and safer than the wind generator) and not much else has changed.

I had budgeted money for rebuild kits for the windlass, roller furling, winches, stuffing box, hoses, wiring, switches, clothing, new chain, new lines, and other maintenance items.

If I amortize the big-ticket items over the ten years I averaged about $850/mo. If I start from the loss of the outboard (first major unplanned item) then it's closer to $1200/mo. I'm back in the States rebuilding the kitty and will be leaving again in 2008. I figure that I'll be in the $1200/mo range when single-handling and $2200/mo with my partner.

My lady likes to paint so that'll add to the cruising costs. I've gone digital and that'll be a new expense (hopefully cheaper and easier to produce high-quality images). I've replaced the underwater housing for the camera after 3000+ dives, and am giving serious thought to a satphone for emergency communications.

As I reread this I'm getting a bit disillusioned. I know I'll have to work harder and longer to build up the kitty if I'm to do the circumnavigation, but I also know it'll be worth it. The friends you make, experiences you enjoy, cultures you meet and interact with, and the enjoyment of something new over the horizon or in the next anchorage, and old friends you meet in the most unexpected places more than compensate.

Pick up Beth Leonard's "The Voyager's Handbook", Jim Trefethen's "The Cruising Life", Nigel Calder's "Cruising Handbook", Dave and Jaja Martin's fine book to get different but remarkably similar opinions and real-life cruising experiences. Join the SSCA/CCA or whatever cruising club you know of and read their cruising reports/letters. Talk to the folks at Bluewater Books, Armchair Sailor, or any good nautical supply store. Many of the employees (particularly at Bluewater and Armchair) are cruisers who have either swallowed the hook or are building the kitty. Their knowledge and those of boat-specific support web-sites, cruisers you meet on the docks, and articles you read will help you get a handle on this tough subject.

And remember, whatever style you choose can be modified as time goes on.

From Kirk on Cruiser Log Forums 8/2006:
We spent two years sailing west from Guam to the Caribbean via the Red Sea. We figured it cost us (the wife and me) $750 USD per month and we weren't consciously trying to be frugal. We did, however, avoid marinas.

We always ate well, always had cold beer in the fridge and a bottle of wine to share. And, I'll admit, we cranked-up the engine whenever our speed dropped below three knots.

Oh! ... and we had a LOT of fun, too!

Our boat was a 37' cutter and (luckily) we suffered no major break-downs along the way. The only thing we're gonna do differently next time we set out is take more time to travel inland ... and further off the rhumb line.

$750 per month for two people - easy!

From Peter on Cruiser Log Forums 8/2006:
The cost of cruising depends on how much or little money you have to spend. Using marinas eats very hard into the kitty, as does motoring when the wind isn't good enough to sail. Food costs, fuel and just about everything else varies so much from place to place it isn't possible to give a 'basic costing'. I eat a lot of fish and buy local produce where I can and don't hang out at marinas or drink more than the odd one. I can live on about 30% of what I 'needed' on land. But again it all depends on how you want to cruise. If you want to it can be done very economically with a little thought about preparation and where you buy WHAT you need. For example an oil filter in Australia for my yacht motor is bought at an auto shop and not at a chandlers, saving about 40%, and is the same filter number and listed for the motor.

From JeanneP on Cruiser Log Forums 8/2006:
Have you ever made a list of what you spend on your land life? Telephone, electricity, heat/aircon, mortgage, property taxes, TV, ... ?

Not much goes for food compared to everything else, eh? Get rid of all those expenses and life is easier right away!

From article by Beth Leonard in 10/2006 issue of Cruising World magazine:
  • "Too many people spend what they 'have to' on the boat and use whatever's left to go cruising. All too often, that means spending more than was necessary for the boat and cutting the voyage short when the funds run low. Given that many inexpensive boats safely complete major voyages every year, a better approach is to allocate money to the cruising kitty first, then decide how much boat you can afford."

    • Living expenses: provisions, entertainment and excursions, dockage, communications, fuel, customs fees, laundry, charts and guides, etc.
    • Boat expenses: maintenance, repairs, upgrades, boat insurance.
    • Discretionary expenses: souvenirs, travel home, health insurance, health care.

  • "Around $4000 [per year, for a couple] in living expenses [doesn't include boat expenses and discretionary expenses] is the absolute minimum we've heard of to keep body, soul and boat together, with the vast majority of that spent on food."

  • "It's almost impossible to pay out less than [the low-end couple] spends on annual expenses - $8000 - without cutting corners on boat maintenance or nutrition."

My response to an email I received:
> I currently own a 62' powerboat that is not crewed and am considering going
> to a crewed 80 vessel. I would like to be able to do a spreadsheet for
> anticipated costs. Do you have access to information that might help?
> I of course have numbers from my present ownership over the past 7 years.
> The new vessel would be a new purchase with no mortgage and moorage costs
> would be with an owned slip. I know that in general they talk about 10% of the
> cost of the vessel per year but I am trying to find out if that includes
> mortgage payments.

Sorry, I don't have anything rigorous to offer you, just a lot of anecdotal stuff on my Costs web page.

The 10% figure does not include financing costs, just maintenance costs. And it varies widely, partly depending on how well you want to keep your boat. If you fix only essential items, and do the work yourself, maybe less than 5% would be right. If you want the boat pristine, and pay for all work, 15% or more might be accurate.

You could try some estimates: assume you'll haul out and repaint the bottom every year, have to rebuild the engines every 5-10 years, etc. Maybe replace all instruments every 10 years ? Damage and replace the props every 5 years ? Replace dinghy and outboard every 10 years ? Replace alternator and batteries every 5 years ? Get costs of those jobs and come up with a per-year average.

I wonder if the dealer selling you the boat can give some guidance ?

From Peter Ogilvie on the World-Cruising mailing list 5/2008:
Re: Costs for cruising couple:

FWIW, we cruised for slightly more than a year for $1200 including all boat expenses, souvenir purchases, occasional meals out and bar tab, in short, everything. We had the boat thoroughly stocked when we left so didn't have to reprovision for quite a few months and that was largely replacing small consumables like popcorn, hot sauce and peanut butter. Boat was new so didn't have any significant expenses there. We caught/shot/speared much of our protein and bought fresh produce from the locals where available. Our alcohol consumption was minimal, mostly an occasional beer on a hot day. We hiked, snorkeled, and explored on our bikes for entertainment and never ran out of things to do. One of the few times in my life haven't had to watch my weight.

Now for the caveat. That was 30 years ago so you have to multiply that figure by at least 5 to get today's dollars. If you are content to anchor out, stay out of tourist-trap shopping centers, eat most of your meals in, and live off the local economies, you can cruise very cheaply. I would also add, a lot more enjoyably than playing marina on the left and hanging out with the marina crowd. To each his own, but cruising doesn't have to be expensive but you have to do it simply.

From discussion about cruising Mexico on the World-Cruising mailing list 8/2009:
From Rosalie B:
We spend more than some people because we stay in marinas and eat out in restaurants often while they anchor out and fish for a lot of their food. They can also go to the less expensive places - the Keys, the Virgin Islands or Bermuda are expensive. I have heard that Mexico and a lot of places in South America are much cheaper.

We spend less than some because we don't have expensive tastes in food and drink, we have a sailboat which doesn't use much fuel, we have the boat set up so that we can generate much of our own power with solar panels and a wind generator (we don't have AC and we don't have a genset) and Bob does all his own mechanical work, does his own upholstery, does his own bottom painting etc.

It is more or less the same reason as our cars don't cost us much money because we've bought old ones for cash (no car payments) and Bob does almost all the mechanical work on them himself so we have almost no labor costs.

From Jeff & Judy Wahl:
The couple who spent $1000 / month sailed all over the sea of Cortez and down to Z-town. They anchored out mostly. They would also come in daily going for walks and visiting. Go out to eat but normally once or twice a week and rarely having drinks in the bars. Otherwise fished and just enjoyed the simple life. If you take out the partying and eating at Gringo places you can live rather inexpensively. We made a game out of finding the cheapest beer, got it down to $.50 a can.

In Mexico you can survive on fishing and dollar Tacos from locals. If you want Gringo food at Gringo prices it adds up rather fast. As for fuel it is usually cheaper in Mexico than in the USA. As for boat repairs if you are handy they can be repaired for a reasonable price. If you hire everything done, it adds up, like varnishing, changing oil, Etc. There are some things that it is always better to hire a professional for. It is hard to budget for the unexpected so have a little stash of cash that you can dip into. Be prepared to motor sail, we call it smotoring, I don't care where you are going, the wind is always on the nose. If you like marinas you will spend $350 to $900 per month BUT with marinas come gringo prices for food, beer, etc. Which means budgeting for a marina doesn't go hand in hand with fishing and dollar tacos. It all depends which lifestyle you want.

If you wait for all your bases to be covered you will never go. You don't need a satellite phone or even Marine SSB. See, you just saved $3000 of your startup costs. You don't have to have a watermaker: just saved another $3000. Not to mention the ongoing costs of operation. What I have found out is the more stuff you add to your boat the more stuff that breaks down and the more time you spend getting ready to go. All you really need is a good set of charts and a handheld GPS to know where you are. Be sure to get an EPIRB, your family will appreciate it.

From Rit:
... occasional dockage. As you move South, anchorages become harder and harder to find, especially ones you can dink into shore for supplies or find within your day's sailing range.

You will have to come into dock to shop and do laundry and most places will charge you and it's not cheap. Prices range from as low as $1 (hard to find) per foot to as much as $4 per foot.

From Normandie Fischer:
We live on a fixed income and have been cruising the Sea of Cortez for over a year now. Michael does most of our repairs. We anchor out by choice. We eat frugally. But. If we hadn't had a savings account for emergencies, we'd have found ourselves in trouble. There are places you can't anchor easily or comfortably, so you end up with marina costs that weren't in the original budget. There are times you need to go into the marina to replenish supplies because the nearby anchoring area is fouled and you won't want to risk having to dive to clear up an anchoring mess in a dirty harbor. There will be the unforeseen mechanical failure of something you could ordinarily fix -- if you were in your workshop at home with ALL the tools nearby -- so you go in or haul out and deal with the frustration of having to hire a machine shop or a mechanic because you don't have cylinder hones or a milling machine or a hydraulic press on board.

You may be surprised by how often you will motor. Yes, we're sailors, and yes, we could be purists. You'll probably have an easier time with that part of things on your 30 footer than we do on our big grand old lady. And, yes, when our very reliable, very well-maintained engine swallowed a valve, we sailed in windless days (or rather drifted) down the coast, into and out of Cabo, across the Sea to Mazatlan -- six days across instead of the two-plus it would have taken with some wind). And so we told ourselves, we could just take our time with other crossings, other voyages. But when we're out there and exhausted and the threat of a nightly blow makes one long for a dropped hook, the engine as an augmentation to sails is very much appreciated. We find that at the end of the day, at least here where the wind is either up and blowing or hiding in wisps, most of our fellow cruisers had the iron genny roaring to help them along. Even with a very efficient diesel engine, you might want to increase your budget for diesel costs.

So, your budget will work if you can completely avoid any problem and any marina expense and always have the wind behind you. Just be prepared for contingencies that can be extremely draining on limited resources. You're out of debt now and you want to stay that way.


... spares are a bigger expense than we'd imagined. We came with extras of everything, including tools galore, but now we need to buy spares for our spares. Because Michael can fix most things, we usually avoid labor costs, but I can't tell you how many "new" pumps or instruments have needed replacing because of some manufacturing defect or other failure. Just today he changed out the two-year old water pump for our refrigerator. It should have lasted longer than that, especially because it was so highly touted. We go through pumps of one kind or another as though they're going out of style ... And Michael knows systems.

From killarney_sailor - Bristil 45.5 - Ainia on the SailNet forums 7/2010:
We have lived on a 45 footer for 2 1/2 yrs including last winter in the Eastern Caribbean and we are starting a circumnavigation in the fall. We tend to live quite simply on the boat - for example, no nights in marinas in last 6 months, eat out about once every 2 weeks on average and eat whatever is available locally at a decent price - sometimes this is quite like North American food, sometimes not, either is fine. Our boat is quality-built but almost 30 years old. We spent close to $60k getting it ready for extended cruising (don't assume that because the boat you are buying is newer that there will not be considerable expenditures to be made, but that is a different topic.

So much for the context. Our spending in Caribbean averaged about $1200 a month not including insurance. One month it was closer to $4000 because we decided to upgrade the windlass and get a new laptop and prices in St Martin were excellent. We had no significant breakdowns on the boat with something over 6000 miles travelled so boat expenses each month were modest. We did have contingency funds available but did not have to use any. Previous messages mention $100/ft/month, in our case that would be $4500 per month. I don't think that anyone we met in the Caribbean was spending nearly that.

Cruising in the Med and other parts of western Europe is a different matter entirely. Many of the Europeans we met in the Caribbean said they were there because sailing was so expensive in their home countries. For example, apparently there are no (as in none) places to anchor on the Med coast of Spain and dockage for a 40-footer for one night is generally around 70 euros. Also other things are very expensive as well.

You also mention going back and forth across the Atlantic. This is not a casual undertaking and will be hard on the boat even with crossings in the best seasons and best places. Most people sail to Europe and stay there for some time (2 to many years) before coming back to the Americas. Our original plan was to sail to Europe this summer and stay there for a couple of years but it seemed to be out of our budget range.


Our insurance was around $4300 a year for a boat worth $180k. We are likely not going to keep full insurance for next year and have only liability insurance. This will be much less money. We do not have health insurance. We are Canadians and have some overseas coverage from this (depends on how long we are out of the country at any given time). Also, the cost of paying for any needed health costs are manageable anywhere but the USA - we heard of people getting treatment for a major laceration in Grenada (3 visits to a clinic) with a total cost of $15 for the medication used.

From Yofy on the SailNet forums 7/2010:
Last summer we delivered a Lagoon 50, a 50-foot catamaran, from La Rochelle France (on the Atlantic coast) through the Med to Port Said, Egypt and on to the Red Sea. On board we generally had 6 to 8 people (crew and guests). Over the years we have heard how expensive cruising in Europe is and we budgeted accordingly.

The reality ? Cruising in Europe is as expensive as you want it to be. Our most expensive marina cost was 180 Euro/day with metered electric and water and Wi-Fi charge on top of that. That was in Palma de Mallorca and we could have avoided those high prices if the owner's rep had been willing to moor a little ways out of town and reserve a space in advance. Our cheapest marina cost was 0 Euro/day. We tied up to a barge in a deserted marina in Greece. No water or electricity available. Most often we paid from 35 Euro to 60 Euro/day (and that was with the extra tariff for catamarans).

What we learned (and were pleasantly surprised to find out) was that it is still possible to anchor throughout Europe with only a few exceptions. We met cruisers who regularly anchored out for a week or two and then came into a marina for a day or so to top up batteries and water tanks, do laundry and provision ... the usual chores.

Food costs are similar to the USA and often cheaper. If you shop in local markets you can eat like a king. Eating out never cost us more than 25 Euro a person for a 3-course meal with wine. But we like to ask the locals where they eat and to try to avoid "touristy" places when we can.

If you put solar panels, a wind-generator and a watermaker on your boat, you can save yourself money by being able to avoid the expensive marinas. (We had to pay 50 Euro for water in Palma de Mallorca because we arrived on the weekend of the biggest race and all the berths were full. If we had had a watermaker - which the owner refused to buy - we could have saved the money and agravation and anchored out.)

From Jungle Jim on the SailNet forums 7/2010:
We set sail last August, 2009 from Hawaii and are now moored in Duxbury, MA. Our boat is a 52' Motorsailor and cost in the range you are planning [$300K ?]. Jungle was sailed from New Zealand to Hawaii by the previous owners. All totaled: 12,392 miles sailed since last July, of which my wife and I sailed over 8,000 miles, with crew for the longer trips. We spent 6 months in San Diego readying Jungle for live aboard cruising at a rough cost of $70K (I planned $30-40K). We left mid-March and basically sprinted from San Diego to Boston in 3 months. This jacked up costs and we now plan to slow down to enjoy and reduce costs.

My experience is 10 months living on board and taking into consideration the first year incurs the highest costs:

Rough monthly costs:

- Boat Ins: $750. Currently using Lloyds for ocean crossing.
- Health Ins: $600. Will most likely increase year to year.
- Food, drink: $400. Five crew from HI, three crew from San Diego.
- Entertain: $300. We like to eat out, may be low.
- Fuel: $700. We've been on a mission to arrive Boston.
- Maint: $450. Eng/Gen on high usage, always work to do.

Total/month: $3200. I'll argue with myself - this is low.

Emergency funding: $20,000 (major failures).

Additional comments:
- the "make ready" will be much higher than you think (a la home remodel).
- do as much yourself as possible - critical for cruising (when no help around).
- the frequent visitors will get old and expensive - it did for us.

My Costs To Date

My experience so far (major capital-type costs only; 1973 Gulfstar 44 motor-sailer):
1st month: Purchase: mid-$70k's.
1st month: Sales tax: $5k.
1st month: Registration/documentation: $400.
2nd month: Engine heat-exchanger replacement by mechanic: $1400.
3rd month: Boatyard 2001 (haul-out, bottom-paint, replace through-hulls and valves, fix davits, store 3 weeks): $4170.
5th month: Mast-climbing gear: $300.
5th month: Halyard replacement: $400.
5th month: New anchor chain and 4th anchor: $600.
5th-6th month: charts, binoculars, handheld VHF, SSB radio, wet-suit: $700.
6th month: Latex mattresses for aft cabin: $440.
12th month: Electrical upgrade (battery charger, alternator, battery monitor, batteries): $1500.
12th month: Charts, propane hose, CD player: $350.
(13th month is 5/2002)
14th month: New engine oil cooler: $320.
15th month: Work on engine raw water intake and pump: $300.
20th month: Rebuild genset fuel injectors: $300.
20th month: Solar panels: $1200.
22nd month: Boatyard 2003 (haul-out, bottom-paint, misc): $1200.
24th month: Engine exhaust riser/elbow: $300.
(25th month is 5/2003)
28th month: Larger primary anchor (used): $280.
33rd month: Anchor light, genset muffler: $200.
34th month: Security grates and padlocks: $625.
(37th month is 5/2004)
42nd month: Engine fuel injector nozzles: $200.
42nd month: Outboard work, mostly on lower unit: $330.
42nd month: Charts and guides for Caribbean: $200.
43rd month: Propane tank, regulator, GPS antenna: $250.
(49th month is 5/2005)

60th month: Golf-cart battery, used jib: $370.
61st month: Boatyard 2006 (haul-out, bottom-paint, cutless bearings): $1400.
(61st month is 5/2006)

66th month: Battery switch: $44.
69th month: Rebuilt engine fuel injection pump: $750.
70th month: Replaced batteries and doubled size, plus combiner and switches: $440.
(73rd month is 5/2007)

76th month: Replaced 100-foot anchor chain: $470.
76th month: Alternator rebuild: $160.
83rd month: New outboard motor: $1600.
(85rd month is 5/2008)

94th month: Transmission rebuild: $1080.
94th month: New engine mounts: $300.
95th month: New mainsail: $1235.
(97th month is 5/2009)

105th month: Wind-generator: $1350.
107th month: Used anchor chain: $50.
109th month: Jib-furler-drum repair: $375.
(109th month is 5/2010)

114th month: Starter solenoid repair: $210.

(121st month is 5/2011)
124th month: Primary anchor chain: $580.
125th month: Standing rigging wire and parts: $1815.
125th month: Starting battery: $190.
127th month: VHF radio, VHF antenna, lifelines, meters, switches: $370.
129th month: wire for VHF radios, more rigging wire, galley sink, cockpit cushion, camp stove: $850.
(133rd month is 5/2012)
135th month: trailer-winch, chain-claws, jib sheets, engine oil filter mount and filters, Wi-Fi stuff: $600.
(145rd month is 5/2013)
148th month: VHF antenna, and misc over previous months: $150.
152nd month: Refrigerator recharging stuff, and misc over previous months: $100.
(157th month is 5/2014)
167th month: haul-out, bottom-paint, new cutless bearing, weld rudder shoe, new main furling and outhaul lines: $3200.
After 167th month (3/2015), total is about $115k.
(169th month is 5/2015)
178th month: oil-cooler: $350.

Capital expenses/upgrades I'm putting off: new autopilot head and backup autopilot ($1000), new prop ($800 ?), new jib, anchor windlass.

Some recurring non-capital costs:
insurance $1000/year (not any more; cancelled it),
registration $100/year (not any more; outside USA),
fuel maybe $1600/year (about 75 cents/mile).

My guess is that in the first 3 years, I was working on the boat about 1-2 hours per day, and researching boat things or shopping for boat things another 1 hour per day. That works out to about 1000 hours per year. At boatyard rates of $50+ per hour, that's $50k or more per year. In the next few years, the amount of work went down a lot.

My annual non-capital expenses (estimates):
  • Boat Insurance: was about $900/year first two years, then I went without insurance. Would be $2000/year now, if I could get it.

  • Car Storage / Maintenance / Insurance / Registration at home port: about $1000/year for first three years, then I sold my car (taking a huge hit on depreciation).

  • Connectivity: Phone, Internet: was about $700/year for cell-phone, but got rid of it. Also about $100/year for internet cafes.

  • Fuel: I burn about 1.4 gallons of diesel (at about $1.25/gallon in 2001; $2.50/gallon in 2005) per hour, getting about 4 MPG. Since I've done a couple of 3000-mile mostly-motoring trips in the first couple of years, fuel ran about $1000/year. Now that I have solar panels and will do Caribbean trips and try to sail more, that should lessen a bit (nope; fuel prices have doubled).

  • Entertainment: I don't go to restaurants much, and bars not at all.

  • Food: maybe $2000/year ? I do all my own cooking.

  • Maintenance and Replacement: maybe $1500/year ? I do all the work myself, but parts are costly, and even small parts (paint, hose clamps, tools, etc) add up. This doesn't include the capital-type items listed previously.

  • Medical Insurance: I don't have this; I should. Probably would be $2500/year.
    (As of 1/2014, I have a international mediocre policy, about $800/year.)

  • Membership/Subscription Fees: about $200/year for the first two years, but I've been letting all my subscriptions expire.

  • PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding: about $200/year for the box, and another $100 or so for forwarding. (Got rid of the PO box after 4 years.)

  • Boat Registration and Taxes: was about $100/year for first two years, but $15/year since I declared my boat as a "Florida antique vessel". Then zero after I left the USA.

  • Travel: Customs fees, cruising and fishing licenses: minimal so far since most of the first three years were cruised in the USA. Averaged about $50/month in Bahamas and Dominican Republic; much less E and SE of there.

  • Dockage / Marina fees / Services while visiting on-shore: spent about $3000 the first year, about $300/year (dinghy dockage) later, almost zero now.

  • Vacations from the boat: about $3500/year (I anchor the boat and fly to NJ/PA twice a year). Has gotten more expensive as I've gotten farther from USA.

First year: about $11k.
Second year: about $8k.
Third year: about $7k.
Fourth year: about $4k (no boat insurance, no car, no big cruise, no haulout).

If you ever get depressed by your boat costs, read an aviation web site or magazine to make yourself feel better. Airplane costs are insane !