When Noel and I decided to go cruising, as a complete beginner I had two very pertinent questions on my mind. I asked these questions as we hopped on the back of Noel’s motorbike, searching for a boat.
‘So, what’s it going to cost, running a boat?’
He replied, ‘Everything we’ve got.’
A little perplexed, but not yet deterred, I then asked, ‘What’s so great about sailing anyway?’
Noel, with his brutal honesty and years of experience with boats replied, ‘Getting in to port.’
‘Good grief’, I muttered. After about two hours of silence while I digested these little gems, I said, ‘Why do it then?’
Without hesitation Noel responded, ‘It’s the closest thing to freedom I know.’
That did it for me. It was right then that I was sold on the idea. Sixteen years later I still see the wisdom in his answers.
I’ll write about the ‘what’s so good about sailing?’ question down the line. Right now, I guess you’re thinking, ‘well so what?, that doesn’t help me very much.’ However, think about this: cruising WILL cost you everything you have, if you let it.
So, let’s look at the right questions to ask to see if we can make sense of all this:
1) What budget do I have to purchase a boat?
2) What will it cost to run?
3) How will I earn money along the way?
4) How can I save money along the way?
Boats can be as expensive or as cheap as you make them. We find that living on board is a cheaper way to live, but we know how to save money, I am extremely prudent with our dollars and we employ smart tactics. AND you have to start with a good boat, then maintain it – constantly (a job a day, however big or small).
Now, let’s try and find some answers.
1) What budget do I have to purchase a boat? Whatever budget you have it is extremely likely that you will find a boat you love for a ‘bit’ more and go over your budget. This amount does NOT include:
a) all the unexpected problems found during survey that need to be fixed
b) all the things the vendor neglected to tell you that needed to be fixed
c) all those things that just pop up at inopportune times that need to be fixed
d) on-going maintenance and repairs
e) additional equipment (your own ideas/wants)
Summary: Keep at least 10% of your budget for those unexpected issues.
2) What will it cost to run? It depends on where you started from. If you are really lucky and have a good, well maintained boat, then it will also depend upon:
a) the size of your boat*
b) amount of use (little use is not always a good thing)
c) your skills (can you maintain it and carry out repairs? Or do you need help?)
d) your time
*(great examples on actual living costs on various sized boats, on Sail Far Live Free: http://www.sailfarlivefree.com/2012/12/what-does-it-cost-to-go-cruising.html)
3) How will I earn money along the way? Be creative. Use the skills you have. Other cruisers need expertise in all areas. We’ll tackle this subject later on too. However, running your own business is not easy on land, don’t expect it to be easy while cruising. You have the added challenge of communications.
4) How can I save money along the way? This is the easy bit – if you are prepared to change your lifestyle.
Stop spending it! Really. Don’t eat out all the time, figure out how to fix stuff yourself. Learn how to get the best bargains on boat equipment, learn how to keep food for weeks and weeks (without a fridge if necessary, we did for nine years), anchor out and avoid mariner fees. I could go on and on, and I did in our book Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen). I’ll supply more tips down the line, on each of these subjects.
If this all sounds off putting, well you’ve given up too soon. Cruising life is fantastic, but it is not for everyone. If you like a challenge, can adapt to new situations and want to enjoy your life in a way you never dreamed of – then maybe it is for you.
I’ll write more on all these subjects (1-4) in the coming weeks. Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen) covers all this and much more in far greater detail, see www.jackieparry.com for more information – available in paperback & ebook). (Or look at the top of this page and follow the links!)