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Cruising costs - again?

20 June 2006
I live in singapore, I've seen Watermelon at
Raffles Marina, must have been 17 great years of sailing! Im planning to start cruising for a few years, we are a family of 4 (2 kids; 3 and 5 yrs) any idea of a budget to plan ahead and anyone to share info about cruisng with a family?

It was indeed a great 17 years of sailing, and now we look forward to as many years on our new boat, a small (coastal cruising) power catamaran.

Understandably, a great deal of concern is expressed over the costs of cruising, and no matter how hard I try to pin it down, the answer seems to be a moving target that is most easily answered by the person asking it.

There is a discussion forum for cruisers with children on the SSCA web site.

Costs are so difficult because people have such different ideas of what they are comfortable with, and their experiences are so varied, that I can only give a general idea of what is involved.

With young children, home schooling is probably going to be necessary, and I don't know what those expenses are, but I encourage you to not skimp on this aspect of cruising. In my opinion, cruising children are better-mannered, more mature, brighter and more alert than the average child tied to a single location on land. However, this benefit to the children is achieved with usually greater attention paid to the children by their parents as they home school them and impose the discipline that home schooling requires.

Food is going to be the greatest expense, and you have the advantage living in SE Asia of very good, very fresh food at very reasonable prices. Unless, of course, you buy only the imported items from the groceries. Eating out is also less expensive in SE Asia than in most other parts of the world (at least for comparable quality of offerings, and excluding Singapore, naturally). You will probably not spend any less on food, but at least in SE Asia you won't spend more. If you do cruise as far as Europe or beyond, you can expect your food expenses to increase from 50% to 100% over what they are now. Not that every place is more expensive, but the more developed the country, the more expensive the food (except in the US, from my experience, but even here things are changing).

You will need to budget for repairs and general maintenance of the boat, and pay for insurance. Insurance can cost about 2.5% of replacement value (but that is a very rough figure), maintenance should be budgeted at around $1,500 per year for a boat between 35 and 40 feet. And that's if you are very conscientious about maintaining the boat, fixing the small things that break immediately, maintaining the engine very carefully, caring for the sails, etc. Leave the sails exposed to the sun when in port and you will find they don't last very long, and sails are very expensive. When we stayed in a place longer than a few weeks we would remove our sails and stow them below and out of the sun entirely.

Whether you stay in a marina or anchor out makes a big difference in your cruising costs. I think that every boat should go into a marina occasionally in order to do a good and thorough cleaning of the boat and its sails. I don't think that marina living is the best way to cruise, though. The calm, quiet and isolated anchorage is so much a part of the cruising life that those who avoid it in favor of marinas are missing one of the simplest and easiest to obtain joys, in my opinion.

Some people keep and maintain the home that they own, and thus continue to pay taxes and utilities while they are cruising. If you do so without renting the home out, your expenses will be higher, of course. But without home expenses, a lot of your expenses no longer exist. No electric or water bills. No cable TV, a mobile telephone, but no other - and you really don't need more than one phone anymore, since you and your spouse will usually be traveling places together, and when only one goes ashore, you will use your VHF radio to communicate, not your telephone.

Outfitting the boat initially, including HF radio, VHF radio, navigation equipment, etc., is very costly, but there is then little in the way of ongoing expenses unless you go into the more expensive aspects of communicating - satellite telephone, pactor modems, etc. For coastal cruising within SE Asia you will probably be fine with just a mobile phone, and so I wouldn't encourage too sophisticated an outfitting until you've tried the life for a year or more to see just what you are comfortable with and how far you will travel.

I know this is very vague, but each person's level of comfort and security is different as are their lifestyle choices such as food and clothing. I never took any interest in clothes, so my expenses in that area were VERY low. I rather liked the time and effort of doing our laundry in a 5-gallon bucket, and so kept our costs low and didn't own a lot of stuff to clutter our boat. Two children make my simple way of dealing with this not as easy, though.

Couples have cruised on as little as USD $5,000 per year, though $15,000 to $20,000 is a more reasonable sum, and can go a lot higher.

If you have any specific questions that aren't addressed in my Cruising Dictionary Free download, please feel free to write. Questions I haven't thought of then become new additions to the Dictionary, helping me, you, and everybody who goes after.

Fair winds,
Vessel Make/Model: Jeanneau Sun Fizz
Hailing Port: THE TROPICS
About: Jeanne and Peter Pockel - Cruising in the Tropics
Extra: We left Boston in 1986 to go cruising for a few years. Sixteen years later we are still "cruising for a few years".
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/melon/?xjMsgID=3624
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