Jackie Parry – author

Cruising Clinic – Calculate your cruising costs


What does it cost to run a boat? The answer is irritating. The answer is a question.

How much money do you have?

This article is an attempt to help you think about what it may cost. This exercise will guide you towards your potential expenses. However, you cannot forecast equipment failure, taxes, medical emergencies, breakdowns etc.

First off

It is important to remember that an enormous quantity of money does not guarantee success in this lifestyle. A simple boat equals simple costs. The fewer things you make do without, the less you will spend.

Can you 'do without' a mariner and carry your own water?

Can you ‘do without’ a marina and carry your own water?

Regular payments vs ad hoc

At first glance the land-living expenses listed below looks much shorter than the cruising list. However, the land list has regular (monthly/weekly) payments, whereas the cruising list has ad hoc costs. You may have marina costs once a year. You may have few breakdowns/repairs or no medical costs.

1) Make a list of your current (land living) expenses:


Utility Bills



Phone/Satellite TV/Internet

Car (all inclusive costs for our small Barina (5 years ago) was AUS$28 a day!). Click here for cost calculator.

Entertainment (eating out/movies)


Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and not hire an agent

Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and not hire an agent

2) Make a list of what you may spend cruising (after boat purchase)


Checking in charges*

Cruising Permits/taxes (changes with each year/country)

Marina fees (you may not always be able to anchor out)

Accommodation (can you stay on the boat when hauled out?)


Flying home (family emergency)

Gas/LPG/Fuel/Water (in some places you will pay for water)

Shipping in spare parts


Car hire (potentially)

Boat insurance (check out this comprehensive guide on boat insurance)

Storage costs (are you renting your house/selling your house, storing possessions)

Transit charges (Panama canal/Suez canal)

Repairs/maintenance/new equipment (25% of the value of your boat is a good budget)

Medical costs

Exchange rate fees/currency variations

Mail forwarding services

Bribes ($20 here and there)

Food (some places it will be incredibly cheap, other places it will be incredibly expensive!)

*Checking in charges can range from $1,000+ (Galapagos, current charges) to nothing. We estimate our checking-in costs for around the world, including cruising permits, but excluding visas, to be around US$2,500. The most expensive (for us) was Sri Lanka (US$200) and least expensive France ($0). However, this was a few years ago! (Galapagos’ charges were under $200 then.)

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert?

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert?

Personal situation

Obviously, you also need to account for your personal situation, for example:

Retired/retirement fund/savings?

Working as you go?

Skills to use while sailing?

Sold up? Still paying mortgage and/or storage?

Just how cheaply can you live?

We have friends who claim they often lived on $1 a day. They caught fish and had a very simple 28 footer. They were expert ‘fisher-people’ and had the know-how (and spare parts) to complete 99% of their necessary repairs. This is quite unusual. You must not rely on catching fish! Also, you would have to be prepared to only use five litres of diesel a year.

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Our expenditure

At the top, under SAILING STUFF/FAQ we have listed our expenditure in Ecuador for over a month (Ecuador Expenditure), including our daily jobs. There is also a description of where we started from, ie what we already had on board.

See how others do it

Read more on how to go cruising now: here.

Click here for some interesting examples on actual living costs on various sized boats, by Sail Far Live Free.

Click here for more information of the cost of cruising. (American Sailing Association)

More help

Our book, Cruisers’ AA has over 1,800 tips, tricks, advice & ideas on improving life on board, particularly on saving $$$$s!

Next: Budgeting for a boat – what do I get for my money?



Author: jackieandnoel

Author and Traveller

2 thoughts on “Cruising Clinic – Calculate your cruising costs

  1. 9 years, circumnavigation on 38′ Island Packet, returned jan 2013. Sold everything, bought best boat we could find, not the biggest! Learned to do everything ourselves. Anchored out when at all possible. Paid for all medical for 2 people in 60s….no problem…great international care, cheap. Almost never came back to USA! Why?dont go if you can’t cut ties. Fished and bought local produce. Came back with more money than we left with! Capt invested in gold at right time. Life, modest living, now in USA is way more expensive than cruising. Sold boat loosing only 25% not counting about $50,000 in updates and maintenance over 9 years. Boat cost $260,000. Was just 4 years old and like new. We were not well experienced cruisers but knew sailing. Folks who know systems and how to update older boats could save more. We know now! Go to our blog and write with any financial questions
    Sailingcyan.blogspot.com. We think more cruisers should share info on how much it all costs.


    • Thanks for all the information Alexis and the link. I will be taking a look. I couldn’t agree more with what you say, and definitely about cutting ties. People used to say to us ‘you are so lucky’ – yes, we had luck, health etc. But we MADE IT HAPPEN, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices and the rewards are wonderful! We find living on board far cheaper than on land. Stay in touch!


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