First launched thirty years ago, SisterShip Magazine has been taken out of drydock, refitted, and is now ready to set sail. Our team has been busy in the ‘shipyard’ and we are about to untie the lines. We would love you to join us on our voyage!
Here is a taster of what is coming up – there are plenty of other surprises… don’t miss out, follow us on our Facebook Page or via our website, so you’ll be the first to know when the first issue is ready.
But we did make it. Ecluse number 56 de Fonseranes (K206.5), has six locks, one after the other. Fortunately, we were first in line, but two other boats where squished in with us, testing everyone’s skills and patience.
At the first lock, the lock-keeper swaggered over and managed to stop chatting on his mobile for a second. I naturally assumed he had come to take my line (as per every other lock-keeper). He took the line, slipped it over a bollard and then rapidly shot fast-French at me, ignoring my pleas to slow down. His disgust at handling our lines was evident.
He chatted on his phone more, watched the other boats come in and then said, in near perfect English, ‘you do your own lines.’
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘No problem.’
To which he replied with the most magnificent Gaelic shrug, that I would assume is usually reserved for vermin.
This was before they REALLY let the water in.
The hire boat was ordered to leave the first lock, first. While the crew gathered the lines the lock-keeper tutted, rolled his eyes and stood with hands on hips. Who knows what was going on in his tiny mind – but the phone rang and it was all smiles and back to chatting with buddies.
As we puttered in I wondered how I was going to get the lines on the bollards with the boat-hook, the lock walls were too high.
‘About a third-of-the-way-in are steps,’ I said to Noel, ‘You’ll have to get me near them.’ Noel nodded in his usual relaxed manor.
I’d climbed up many locks before in our sailboat. I know it is ‘not the done thing’, but we had no choice back then or here. Back then I was on a low boat, with no lock-keeper I had to get the lines on a bollard, so up I went. Here, with muscles some thirteen years older, I had to think carefully about what I was doing.
The dry steps, of course, the lower ones were underwater and covered in green slime.
I took my time but it was a little scary.
You could walk the boat through (and others did, keeping hold of the lines) but they had plenty of crew, shorter boats, lighter lines. But, they still couldn’t ‘walk the boat through’ when we all got to the bridge. Besides Noel was doing inch-by-inch manoeuvring (handled brilliantly), and I wanted to help him too.
What followed was a scary launch of my body out to the slippery, slime-ridden steps, a steady climb with a fore and aft line on each shoulder and crowd-pleasing success. Noel manoeuvred the boat’s bow and stern right up close to the wall, however the curved lock-wall still meant I had large leap. I received ‘whoops’, claps and admiration. Meanwhile, the lock-keeper straightened his sunnies and chatted on the phone.
There was plenty of cheering as I made my way up.
What resulted was me feeling alive, working the ropes, being independent, and being strong. I was thinking on my feet. On this trip, we’ve been hauling anchors, furling heavy ropes several times a day, climbing on deck, jumping ashore and shopping via bicycles. My muscles are becoming defined, my jeans are looser, I feel alive and yes, I am loving the whole thing!
The other amusing result I’ve noticed is that our precious paint is no longer precious. After six locks in what can only be described as ‘water-fall’ conditions, just inches (sometimes much less) between boats and walls, and all of a sudden you don’t give a flying fig about your paintwork – just surviving unscathed!
In my opinion, as lock-keepers, there’s too much responsibility for surly youths, which results in an attitude. That said, apparently since their hazard pay has been taken away, the lock-keepers on the Midi will not take your lines. I am not sure what the hazard is of taking lines. Actually it created a hazard as we took a moment or two than usual to secure the boat, and the lock-keeper let the water in before we were ready! Not fun!
I noticed, also, that not one of the boats’ crew looked at, waved, said Merci or even acknowledged the lock-keepers.
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.
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 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:
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
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)
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)
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?
Obviously, you also need to account for your personal situation, for example:
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.
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.