GUEST POST: While I am on the road this week and exploring Madrid, I’ve arranged for some of my favorite travel bloggers to share their travel stories and advice here. So enjoy, give our guest bloggers lots of love and be sure to check out the author’s site.

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Maybe your adventure will take the form of voyaging on the open seas. Before you sell the house, here are some of the financial considerations for planning long term travel over blue water.

How much will it cost?

The costs of cruising can be the most daunting issue to get in the way of your decision to cast off those dock lines. Ask anyone who has spent at least a year onboard and underway and you will get as many unique answers.

The Short Answer – “It takes as much money as you have, plus some!”

A recent discourse on one of the popular cruising forums dealt with this very important issue. The question that started the thread asked:

“What is the average cost [of cruising]. I know it varies greatly. I have a refitted Tartan 30 that I do all the work on. We are 52 and 53 years old and do not need a lot to be satisfied. We plan to anchor out most of the time and currently eat out very little. We like the simple things snorkeling, walking, enjoying nature around us. We will have solar panels and wind generator and should not have to run the diesel (much) in the tropics (hopefully). We plan to leave South Carolina for the islands for a couple of years then maybe go around if we decide to. We will have at least $1,200 a month without touching principle, what kind of cruising life will that support for two?”

This is an excellent example of an average cruiser. The reply posts came from a wide variety of folks in various cruising areas. Each had different perspectives just as they have different boats. Just how much your cruise will cost will depend on a number of factors.

Any discussion of cruising costs will quickly turned to provisioning and how to keep costs down, which brings us to the first factor:

Food Costs

How will you store the provisions you buy? How long will they last? Will you require refrigeration? Freezer? How will you power them? How much energy will it take to keep them?

Another big factor, we’ll call it ‘Number 2,’ is Cruising Area. Where you cruise will also decide how much you will spend.

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Your Cruising Area

Generally speaking, cruising the Caribbean, the Med or even the US can be expensive compared to cruising Mexico’s west coast, Central America, and farther south. Cruising the South Pacific (except for Tahiti and New Zealand) can make your cruising kitty last longer. Some island nations are just now beginning to charge exorbitant sums for cruising permits. But for the most part, it’s still cheaper than Europe, unless of course you are cruising off-the-beaten path in the eastern Med, Turkey or Croatia.

The answers to these questions will determine how much your cruise may cost.

Power Consumption

One post dealt with ways to manage power consumption while having all the ‘go-slow’ stuff like watermaker, solar panels and a wind generator.

‘David’ from Scotland says,

“The boat is a Beneteau Oceanis 461 and spends its (unused by us) time in secondary charter, it does not have a watermaker nor any solar on board or even a 12V unit to run the Refrigerator/Freezer. Liveaboard plans are to rebuild the fridge/freezer boxes with at least 6″ of insulation, add one or two 12V systems and add solar and a watermaker, plus a nice small generator and an inverter, as well as a small ice maker. I think with a good freezer and a watermaker you can limit your expensive runs ashore to the food stores. These trips always seem to cost much more than we anticipate and well, we have been doing this for a number of years now, so we should have this down to a fine art. Perhaps the secret is to only take in a finite amount of dollars with you. But then when something that you like is in stock, it is best to stock up with it, as for sure when you go to get it next time, it will be all gone. And treats like the Pecan Pie from the store at Bitter End YC on Virgin Gorda are, for sure, not to be missed. So having no dollars in your wallet to purchase one could be traumatic and result in the crews’ mutiny.

I like ‘David’s’ remark about taking ‘a finite amount of dollars with you.’ It fits nicely with the adage that it takes all that you have. When we were cruising between 1999 and 2001 on the US west coast, Mexico and Central America, we allotted ourselves a monthly budget. We actually placed equal amounts of cash in envelopes for each month. If we spent less in a particular month, we would place the extra in a ‘slush fund’ meant for unforeseen or emergency situations. I guarantee that you will have them.

Be sure not to deprive yourselves of those special treats like the Pecan Pie at the BEYC! Managing your expenditures however, will be paramount in making sure you don’t run out of funds prematurely.

Which brings me to the third factor:

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Your Boats Systems

“The bigger the boat, the bigger the boat bucks”

That’s another cruising adage you will be certain to hear. We cruised on a 1964 Alberg 35 – a “good old boat” in many books and perfect for our “mini cruising kitty.” Although the Alberg 35 was not necessarily built to be a blue water cruiser, with some specific modifications, we ‘cruiser-ized’ her to make her into a stout coastal cruiser. The most important cost-saving gear that we invested in: 2-small solar panels, a FourWinds wind generator and a PowerSurvivor 35 watermaker – all purchased second hand. Where we did not cut costs was on new standard rigging, new wiring all around and new interfacing instruments. Safety should be foremost in your planning stage, so depending on the age of your vessel you will need to invest as necessary.

We kept all systems as basic as possible since our cruising kitty was not only small, but also finite. This also insured that we would be able to fix almost all the things that broke. A definite cost-saver.

Many younger cruisers like us (42 and 51 when we left San Francisco) might not have passive income like rental property or pensions to cruise on. We made the decision to go with a limited savings fund, on a smaller boat (that was paid for) and plenty of skills that would allow us to work along he way to augment our kitty. Why wait until you retire? There are plenty of folks out there cruising on smaller budgets just as there are those who are taking slips at marinas instead of anchoring, eating at nice restaurants rather than cooking onboard, thus spending far more than the average of $1,200/month.


Refrigeration seems to be a major need for the majority of cruisers, especially women. If you are a 20 or 30-something single man setting off on your own, you probably won’t need to make this investment. For the sanity and comfort of the crew, I would suggest making an investment in a good unit. Our little boat came with an icebox which was located most inconveniently next to the engine and contained little or no insulation. We didn’t have the space or the money to install a refrigeration system so we decided to purchase a stand-alone Engel© unit. We were lucky to find one after our first year aboard, at a boat show, on a visit back to the states, for a considerable discount. Stand-alone chests can run on both AC and DC are very cost-effective and our Engel used very little power. We were generally able to keep up with our entire power demands without resorting to the engine to recharge the house batteries. This unit now sits on our balcony, still running perfectly over nine years later and will become our freezer on our next boat.


According to ‘S/V Carina’ in Panama, “Best to have a good nest egg of capital you can draw from for when the big things break down or wear out – which they will.

“We are proponents of mixed solar and wind, though a high output wind generator is a must if you decide to use wind generation. Wind provides power at night and on days when the sun doesn’t shine. We have owned our KISS© wind generator almost five years and have done nothing to it but watch it generate amps.”

A small Honda gas generator is nice to have for running power tools and for charging batteries when there is little sun for solar or wind input as can happen during some seasons in Central and South America.

We have a Technautics © cold plate in our freezer and an insulated (gated) panel that divides the original well insulated icebox into this freezer and a refrigerator. This has worked well for us.”

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

You Can Do This

Rick on S/V La Vita a 1987 Hans Christian 33T says that he and his wife are spending around $50/week (boat parts not included) while cruising in Mexico. He says,

“I guess [the] bottom line is: Do you take your culture with you or are you ‘out here’ to experience the other cultures of the world on their terms. Can we afford more? Yes. But we choose not to just now so that we can have more later when the culture may dictate that need.”

This is our experience. Apart from the constant boat repair work/expenditure so we can safely go long distances, we are happy with our “lot in life.” Simpler is definitely better and also less expensive.”

The important thing to remember is that anyone can do this. Get the right boat for your budget, get the right gear to make it comfortable, yet easy to maintain and manage, and above all…get out there and Go Cruising! Quit your job, and travel the world!

About the author:

Nancy Birnbaum, former editor of the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s Commodores’ Bulletin, is a freelance editor and writer. She is the Online Editor of the Cruising Compass for Blue Water Sailing Magazine. You can see photos of her cruise online (search the members for “cruisingeditor”) and her website Cruising Editor.

Photo (top): Wili Hybrid

Photo (mid): Wolfgang Staudt

Photo (mid-lower): Angela7

Photo (bottom): Ordinary Guy