|Costs of buying,
living and cruising
on a large sailboat.
This page updated: July 2014
One-Time Costs section
Sailing School section
Trips to see Candidate Boats section
Marine Surveyor / Haulout / Sea trial / Mechanic section
Title/Liens Verification section
Purchase Price section
Purchase Taxes / Registration / Documentation section
Attorney and Escrow fees section
Delivery Cost section
Refitting / Fixup / Spares section
Recurring Costs section
Boat Insurance section
Car Storage / Maintenance / Insurance / Registration at home port section
Connectivity: Radio, Internet, Satellite TV section
Maintenance and Replacement section
Medical Insurance section
Membership/Subscription Fees section
PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding section
Safe-Deposit Box section
Storage Locker section
Boat Registration and Taxes section
Personal Taxes section
Travel: Customs fees, cruising and fishing licenses section
Dockage / Marina fees / Services while visiting on-shore section
Vacations from the boat section
My Costs To Date section
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"
Heartsong III's "Recent Questions"
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
- Mike Hughes
Mostly in the order you'd do them, I think.
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.
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.
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
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
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
... 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
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.
You'd best consult a tax adviser or an attorney who's familiar with thi
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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:
- You form a corporation and have the corporation buy the boat.
- The corporation will have to pay applicable sales tax when buying the boat.
- The corporation will not have to pay any "personal property taxes" on the boat while it owns the boat.
- 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.
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
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
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.
Find a good boat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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
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 , 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
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
2 LectraSans $1400
RADAR (Si-Tex) $1000
Dinghy davits from Kato $1000
2 solar panels ($500 @) $1000
New bimini top $800
Wind generator $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"
Beth Leonard's "Cost of Cruising"
See my Boat Insurance page.
Car Storage / Maintenance / Insurance / Registration at home port
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:
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.
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.
From Al Golden on Cruising World message board:
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?
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 comp/collison 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.
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 ?
(MailStart 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.
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.
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):
|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
|Keys Boat Works, 700 39th St bayside, 305-743-5583,
||Bottom-painting package with 1 coat of Trinidad: $1056; about $600 for 2nd coat
|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
|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:
||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
||No liveaboard allowed in storage; storage is full right now; 25 lay days at $25/day, 14 liveaboard at $8/day
||$250/month storage, 7 lay days at $30/day, 14 liveaboard at $10/day
To have the boatyard replace 20 gate-valves, through-hulls and hoses
(at 1 hour each) in the first week of that month, add:
||Skilled labor rate
|Keys Boat Works
Haul-out, block and launch (assume 44-foot; usually pressure-wash is another $50):
|Keys Boat Works
From Lew Hodgett on The Live-Aboard List:
The enemy of sails is two-fold: the wind and the real culprit, UV rays.
From Eric Thompson on The Live-Aboard List:
A full suit of sails for a 40 ft, blue water boat could easily approach
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
($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
From the day something is created, it starts the inevitable march to the
junkyard, and that includes us.
$10K-$15K ??? Absolutely custom made new sails? Maybe.
From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
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
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
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
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.
See my Boater Medical Insurance page
For magazines, associations, etc.
See start of my Living On A Boat page for more.
PO Box, or Mail-Forwarding
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.
Typical rates: $50 to $100 per year.
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
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.
"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
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
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
||$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
||$50 for 1-week cruising permit
||$13 departure fee, maybe $20/month cruising permit ?
||$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 ususally 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, resturants/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
- 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
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
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
Haul out, power wash, launch and 2 weeks on the hard: $400 every 2
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
Summarized from Ed and Marion Herndon of the
Seamaster 48 powerboat "Remedy":
Monthly costs from 2+ years of USA cruising:
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":
- Cost to buy the boat and sell it the next day; (purchase/sale); plus
- Cost to keep the boat minimally cared for but not used (ownership); plus
- 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.
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.
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
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
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
From Evans Starzinger on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
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
(b) those who own and are renting out real estate (although this
group tends to have ocasional 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
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.
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
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.
(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.
Purchasing, fishing and foraging to provide a heathy diet at
Generating an income stream while cruising to nurture the
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|
|Marina's / mooring||0||0|
|Out to dinner||2.865||506|
Another cruiser gave me this. 2 persons, in USD, 6 times haul-out and
flown home. Part of boat-equipment bought after departure.
|Food & Beverage||4.496|
|Maintenance & Repair||2.975|
|Gifts & Souvenirs||1.928|
|Medical & Insurance||1.370|
|Clothing & Personal||1.260|
|Communication & Postage||882|
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|
|Out to dinner/entert.||2.000|
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:
|Bahamas||9||Nassau and Marsh Harbour food more like 6|
|Turks and Caicos (Provo)||7|| |
|Dominican Republic||3||transportation and restaurant food/drink are cheaper than USA|
|Puerto Rico||5|| |
|St Martin||5|| |
|Guadeloupe||6||fuel very expensive|
|Martinique||6||fuel very expensive|
|St Lucia||6|| |
From Capt_Douglas on the
World-Cruising mailing list 11/2005:
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
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 souvenier.
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.
... 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).
- 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 !