So, You Want to Go Cruising? Part Two–Financials
If you missed it, Part One of this series focused on the decisions one makes before going cruising: Whether to go, how to choose a boat, what experience you need, and that sort of thing. This is not meant to be an all-knowing, all-inclusive list. These are simply my answers to the questions we’ve received lately from folks who want to go cruising. I assure you, other cruisers – and EW – will have different responses to some of these questions. Let them get their own blog. BUT – comments and discussions are welcomed here. Have at it!
Now then, on with the show …
How much does cruising cost? How much do you have? I’m only being a little facetious here. EW and I are on a limited budget, but other folks cruise with less. How important is cruising and what will you give up or forego? We don’t rent cars. We very rarely stay in a slip. We only rent moorings when there are no other options due to safety or when we want to stay in marine preserves. We have not gone back to mainland US since we left Florida in December of 2010. We chose to leave during a down economy, knowing that if we stayed to achieve a more nearly perfect financial picture, we’d likely be too old to cruise. (Or one of us would be, EW is 10 years older than I am. Did you hear bout his “age related counseling? I still get a chuckle out of that.) Some folks do 90% of the repairs and maintenance on their boats, others have boatyards do all their work. Again, I refer you to Beth Leonard’s book, The Voyager Handbook. She has an outstanding breakdown of the costs using three different fictional couples with three different budgets. I don’t think she missed a thing.
Can you earn money out here? Yes, but it ain’t easy. We are planning a longer, more expensive trip and needed to add to the cruising kitty, so we decided to spend the winter in St. Thomas where we can legally work. All of the Caribbean islands frown on non-locals getting jobs, though in some places you can pay for a work permit, and for some skills it’s worth it. We know Dutch sailors who are staying in St. Maartin so they can work, sailors from France who are in Sainte Martin or Guadeloupe for the season, and a whole lot of folks from the States who have been living aboard and working full time on St. Thomas for a year or ten.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that a woman we met in Grenada now has a full-time job working for her former company. She puts 40 hours a week on the computer. A cruising family from Wales is largely funded by the wife’s continued work as a freelance medical writer. She maintains her clients, fulfills assignments, and gets paid, just as she did back home. EW was a well respected yacht broker in Maine, and has acted as a buyers’ broker for folks looking to follow in our lifestyle, helping them to choose the right boat, and acting as their agent. He has maintained his business checking and escrow accounts for that reason. I’m starting to consistently make money with my writing, am considering monetizing this blog, and am mulling over two new books. All of that will supplement EW’s retirement, allowing us more flexibility in our travels. Other cruisers have spent considerable time and expense to get their boats ready for chartering. Most go whole hog and charter through brokers, attending at least one charter show each season. A few charter on a smaller scale through their own website. When it works, 8-12 weeks of chartering can provide an excellent supplement to the cruising kitty. I do not want to charter. Thank goodness EW doesn’t either. Whew.
Finally, it’s good to remember that you can’t fail at this. You try a new lifestyle, if it works you keep going, if it doesn’t, stop for a while or go back to a different lifestyle. Beth Leonard’s more recent articles have been about the transition to life on land. A couple from Australia, who are able to work in the States said that the best decision they made was to stop cruising for two years to return to South Carolina to work. Not only did they fill the cruising kitty and reduce stress, but they also discovered the place they want to retire to after cruising. There is no shame in changing course. A younger couple we met cruised for just under a year and decided to make a change because he just couldn’t get into the lifestyle. I’m sure the decision was preceded by angst filled conversations, but the result is fantastic. She has accepted a position with an NGO, and they will move half way around the world. I’m not sure whether they would have considered such a move had they not already altered their life to go cruising.
Two of our closest cruising friends have opted to take a few years back in the states working real jobs while living on the dock in Boston. While I don’t envy them for the winters, that isn’t a bad place to be at all. They’ll fill the coffers, improve their boat, and set sail for Europe on schedule. Fatty and Caroline Goodlander have sailed for years, circumnavigating and raising a daughter aboard. Fatty’s most recent book, Buy, Outfit, Sail: How To Inexpensively and Safely Buy, Outfit, and Sail a Small Vessel Around the World describes how to start cruising on a shoestring. There are lessons in that book for all of us.
So, how much does it cost? How much do you have? If this is your dream, go for it.
This lifestyle expands your horizons … and your thinking. My dear friend Rhoda would be the first to say that’s a good thing – and that the resources will be available to us if we’re clear about what we want. We have never regretted cutting the lines and setting sail – even if we didn’t have all of our financial ducks in a row.
Photos, top to bottom: Anchorage in Clarks Court Bay, Grenada; After the Death March Hike with guests Stu and Cathy Klein, also in Grenada; and EW, Peter Bonta and the Tim West Band at Open Mic Night at Tickles. This is about love, not money.
BOOK! Did you catch that I have a book out now? Harts at Sea, Sailing to Windward is available at Amaon.com in both Kindle and print formats. Check it out.
Nice post, Barb. We, too, are often asked the same questions, and we give the same answers. In think it is hard for some folks to truly grasp the concept of living within a budget - a real budget, perhaps a finite budget. "Living the dream" isn't a one week vacation in the Caribbean, it's a lifestyle one chooses. Like I always say, I still have to do the laundry and clean the toilet! Happy Sailing, we miss you both very much!
Posted by: Linda | 01/22/2013 at 08:49 AM
Thank you Linda. You two are certainly putting the hours in -- great post about the sanding/painting and I am looking forward to hearing about your sewing projects. Followers of Harts at Sea - if you haven't found http://sailingtroubadour.blogspot.com/ yet -- go now. Read and enjoy.
Posted by: Barb | 01/22/2013 at 12:20 PM
Barb. Great blog. One financial lesson we learned early-on was to remember that its just not your personal expenses - but your boat's needs as well. We found that it was 50/50 - living expenses vs boat expenses (and we also did most of our own boat work as well). This will probably be better for those folks out there in a brand new boat with a still active warranty - but not for the rest of us. Good luck on filling your kitty!
Posted by: D&J | 01/22/2013 at 01:08 PM
I didnt realize that you couldn't work on most of the islands. thats good to know. my husband plans on doing locum tenens some, so that may require a trip back to the states. and thats not necessarily a bad thing. just something to consider. I do appreciate the bloggers you list. its nice getting to see so many others living the life.
Posted by: Lynn | 01/22/2013 at 02:33 PM
Lynn re: Locum Tenens -- I'm not up on that at all, but suggest that there may be opportunities for physicians in the islands -- certainly in Grenada where the medical school is located. Also certainly in the USVI. There are other islands with medical schools as well, and they may offer some opportunity. I was thinking of Grenada, because working during the hurricane season when you really can't sail to a lot of places sounds like a good idea to me.
Posted by: Barb | 01/23/2013 at 04:52 PM