Tuesday, March 18, 2014



No, this is not our boat.  :-)

If you missed part one of this series you might want to go back and read it, before beginning this blog post.  Before we get started on the cruising budget, let's talk about the big initial investment …... "the boat".  Much of your cruising budget will be dependent upon this initial investment.

When referring to cruising boats throughout this post, I am referring to a boat that a couple would typically be cruising on…..not a boat for a single-hander (someone who sails alone); and certainly not a boat for a family of five.  Even if we do narrow the field to boats for a cruising couple, you will still have a very wide range of prices.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the pricing of a boat.  A few are: size, age, condition, equipment, etc.  

The larger the boat the more expensive the maintenance costs, marina fees, and equipment will be.  There are lots of costs regarding boats that are based purely on the size of the boat…marina slips, bottom jobs, haulouts, yard storage, sails, etc.  Where boat expenses is concerned, size does matter.  :-)  Bigger boat = bigger money…both initially, and over the long haul.

Here we are on our former boat, INTO THE LIGHT in the Bahamas in 2006  

The average size of the cruising monohull 6-8 years ago was in the 44' to 45' range.  I think because there are now more younger couples cruising in smaller boats, the average size has dropped a bit.  My SWAG on the average size now is in the 42' to 43' range.  On average, the smaller cruiser is 33' to 34' , with the bigger boats being 47' to 48' .  Again, there are exceptions on both ends of the spectrum.  The key word here being "exceptions".

The better condition your boat is in (or the more money you spend on a repairs/refit before leaving) the more your initial costs.  But, if you buy a boat that is ill-equipped and in poor condition, and begin cruising with it that way, you can bet that your annual maintenance cost will drive the BOAT EXPENSE part of your budget through the roof.  And, you will end up spending much more money over the long haul.  It's a 'pay me now, or pay me a lot more later' type situation.

Our former boat, INTO THE LIGHT at anchor at Norman's Cay 2006

Let's talk equipment for a moment.  While there are those who have sailed around the world on a boat without refrigeration, with sophisticated electronics, without a propane stove, without a head (toilet, for you landlubbers), etc., these people are the exception.  They have gotten to see things and enjoy things that most of the world will never experience.  I salute them, I admire them, but, I wouldn't want to have been them.  

Under ideal circumstances, the cruising life still forces you to give up some of the luxuries of land-based life.  You will always have less room, you will always be at the mercy of the weather, you will always be maintaining your boat, and things will not be nearly as convenient for you while cruising as they are for you on land.  Buying groceries, laundry, communicating, etc., will all be much more difficult and much more time consuming.  With those trade-offs already established, there is no need to make life more difficult than necessary.

I am firmly in the camp of people who, while they enjoy sailing and traveling, do not want to continuously 'camp out' on the water for 3-10 years or longer.  The following is equipment that we will ultimately have on board, and that we think makes cruising comfortable for us.  Remember, everyone has different budgets and everyone has different definitions of comfort.  It's all about compromise.

INTO THE LIGHT back in South Carolina 2006

For the purpose of this article, I will relay what most cruising boats ultimately (I use the word 'ultimately' because a few start cruising without some of this equipment, but add it later) have where equipment is concerned:

  • A built in stove, oven
  • A built in refrigerator/freezer
  • At least on head (bathroom)
  • A dinghy with an outboard motor as a 'car'
  • trusty anchor with good anchoring gear
  • Some type of chart plotter for navigation
  • An electric anchor windlass to save the back
  • *Solar panels to charge the boat batteries
  • *A watermaker to create freshwater from seawater
  • *A grill in the cockpit to enjoy grilling out

Some folks would contend that the last 3 items (*) on the list are not essential, and I would agree, but they do make life much, much more convenient and much more comfortable.

So, whether you are buying a 34' boat for $75k or a 48' yacht for $275k, you will have to determine for yourself what level of comfort you desire; and what trade-offs you can live with to get yourself out there cruising, and stay within your individual cruising budget.

The bottom line…... you don't have to have a new, 54' sailing yacht to be a happy, fulfilled cruiser.  You do have to get a boat that is safe, and meets YOUR needs for comfort and ease of operation.  Everyone will have a different definitions and standards for their safety, their comfort, and their ease of operation.

As always, YMMV. 

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