Aside from ‘What Kind of Boat Should I Get?’, this is probably the most Googled subject among potential cruisers. It is asked so much that many of the cruising blog writers will give you a breakdown of their monthly expenses so you can know exactly how much they spend on this lifestyle. I hate to disappoint you but we aren’t those people. I never met a spreadsheet that could keep my attention for more than 5 minutes. Maybe Mike will want to keep a spreadsheet while we’re cruising. After all, he does that kind of gig for a living. I’m sure he’ll miss it terribly when he dumps his job and waves bye bye. (Wink wink)
So we’re unlikely to be that cruising couple that keeps track of stuff down to the penny. We’ve just never been that way. But I will tell you this: you know those people who answer the above question with a smarty pants answer like ‘It costs as much as you’ve got.’? As much as that kind of answer irritates the crap out of me, they have a point. And that irritates me, too. (Maybe it’s just been too long since I had chocolate or something. I’m extra twitchy lately.)
I think what people should really be asking is how much it costs to PREPARE to go cruising. This is where the big money is, unless shit happens and you have to have serious repairs in faraway lands. You can’t know that in advance, unless you just go with a completely unprepared boat. Then, well, you’re kind of asking for trouble. It’s a risk some people choose to take, and that’s fine for them, but not for us.
We’ve got about a year before we leave jobs and start preparing to get out of Tacoma. Between now and then there is a lot of money we need to spend. How much will we spend? Please reference the smarty pants answer in paragraph two: as much as we’ve got. And this will mean cold hard cash, not credit cards. Our employment prospects on the high seas are fairly grim. I mean, I’m not going to do any Life Coaching or Psychotherapy via sat phone. And I guarantee Mike will not be coding at sea. No, we’ll leave with debts paid off and just enough in pension money to able to do this without being terrified. So the answer of how much we’ll spend is going to truly be however much we have. Damn those irritating smarties with their hands on their hips.
I thought it would be a fun little exercise to make a list of the things we need to purchase for Galapagos before we leave. To be sure, we don’t need everything on this list if you get right down to it. (If you want a game of semantics, just begin a conversation about wants vs. needs. It goes downhill very quickly.) We have a safe boat now. She floats, she doesn’t leak, she has sails. We have a dinghy and oars. We have good anchoring gear. Who really needs a life boat? What are the odds, I mean? Who needs a Sat phone if you can just have an EPIRB? We can sail without a working SSB radio. We do it all the time in the summer. The ‘go now’ people might say that we should just forget everything else on this list and go. We kind of like being a little more prepared than that, though. Call us crazy.
People may say that we don’t have to purchase everything we need before we leave the U.S., and that, too, is true.We could definitely leave without a sat phone, or even an SSB radio. But it’s so much easier to get things here, and having stuff shipped to foreign lands like Mexico is not something I would deliberately set out to do. So let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that we want to have these things before we go, especially as most are related to safety and communications.
Want to know about how much we’d need to spend before we leave on stuff that will make our cruise safer, easier, and possibly more fun? Here you go. Don’t forget we have high sales tax in Washington State. Add at least 8% to these prices, more in Seattle. (I have not included the usual maintenance stuff like doing a bottom job because that would have to happen regardless of staying or leaving. Maintaining the vessel in good working order is a given.) Also note that almost all of these things are the same price for our big boat as they are for people with small boats. We are also willing to buy quality used goods to save money whenever possible.
- Portland Pudgy Dinghy – This is our first choice for a dinghy. It’s extremely practical, easily rowed, and can be a sailing dinghy. We are loathe to give up our Walker Bay because we both like rowing, and because we could outfit that for sailing as well. But our trip this summer to the west coast informed us that this Walker Bay 8 foot dinghy is wonderful around here, but too small and lightweight for wilder areas. We could make do for awhile with the Walker Bay, but it would limit us. The Pudgy is unsinkable and stable like no one’s business. The downside is that like the Walker Bay, it must be stowed on deck during passages. Considering it is also a lifeboat, that makes sense. It’s very hard to find these used, although there was one recently on Craigslist. The used price was not much lower than the price new.
Basic Boat- $2695
Life Raft Kit – $1975
Sail Kit (really wanted, but not needed) $1295
2.3HP Honda motor (or equivalent) $927
Total: $5597 without sail kit
$6892 with sail kit
- OR Rigid Inflatable dinghy with a folding transom, like this Achilles model, so it can be stowed below while on passages. We are less likely to buy a used inflatable because there is a reason why people call them ‘deflatables’. (Still, if we found the right deal, never say never.) The idea of being able to store the dinghy below, leaving the forward deck clear during passages, is appealing. If we go this route,, we have to buy a life raft, plus a larger outboard engine. If we stay cruising for several years, we’ll have to add the cost of getting the life raft repacked and recertified every couple of years. Some manufacturers have you do it more often than others, and you have to be sure to be in a place where that service is offered.
Life Raft, 6 person (we may have passengers) – $3200
Achilles RIB – About $3385
Tahatsu 9.8 HP or equivalent- $1900
Total approximation:$8485 Ouch!
- Either SSB radio or Iridium Sat Phone. In a perfect world, both. Galapagos has an old Kenwood SSB on board but Mike, a radio geek, has not been able to get it to work. Anyone know someone who could take a look at it? Melissa is decidedly NOT a radio geek, or any kind of geek other than a plant geek. She just wants something that works, and will keep them in touch with family, weather, ships, other cruisers, and the occasional post to Facebook. If we could get our current SSB to work, that would be very nice. Know someone who might help with this? Contact us.
ICOM IC-M802 SSB Transceiver $1840
Iridium Go – $1270
- EPIRB like this one. About $400 Another bunch of money on stuff we hope never to use.
- Internet and cell phone booster such as the Wirie Pro or equivalent – $650
- Offshore PFDs with build in harness similar to this one: $200 x 2 = $400
- Tides Marine Strong Track for our mainsail. It would just make life a lot easier. Easy to raise the sail, easy to drop the sail. I like easy. I’m a lazy sailor. And our main does not drop easily. In high winds this can be a problem. I don’t like problems in high winds. This product gets rave reviews from cruisers and Practical Sailor just reviewed theirs and they loved it. Our sail track is old and worn. It needs refurbishing. Practical Sailor says this product costs $28/foot. Our track is about 50 feet, so approximate cost for our boat is $1400.Grand total of everything we dream of buying: $12,452 , plus whatever I forgot to put on the list.
Of course, these are only the ‘big ticket’ items, and I may have even missed one or two. Here’s a partial list of the smaller (less than $1000) items we’ll want to have before we go. This list seems to have a mind of it’s own and grows without our even feeding it:
Hatch covers and screens
Medical supplies for first aid
Ditch bag. We have many of the items needed already, and I have a waterproof backpack I can use for the bag itself.
More dock lines
Additional fenders, like these inflatable ones by Easystow.
Cockpit screen enclosure. We could get this done in Mexico.
Millions of spare parts, extra pumps, etc.
Rebuild kits for both heads
Now you know why we still have our jobs. If we can release ourselves from our house, the items on this list will be much easier to attain. No action yet on the rental plan for the house, so that may just be a no-go. Did we completely miss the mark in terms of the market in our area? Maybe. We had to give it a try and we’re still trying on that. We can afford to wait a few months.
But we do have plan B, which is another long shot but includes our son, Andrew, getting a good job here in the Tacoma area with his new Geographic Information Systems certification (which he completes in June). He’d love to live in his own house with his girlfriend and a couple of friends, and we’d love for him to do that, too. If that works, then wonderful! If it doesn’t, plan C is to sell the place and just be at peace with it. I think when it comes to separating yourself from the family home, it’s kind of like a divorce. You want to be sure you’ve done everything you can to stay together. Then, if it still doesn’t work, you have your answer and can feel ok about it.
Here’s to forward momentum, regardless which direction. The universe will show us the way. You readers are part of our universe, so any thoughts or leads you have on how to pinch a few pennies are welcome. Know someone who wants to sell their white Portland Pudgy? Yeah. I didn’t think so.