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Cruising On Social Security

By Little Gidding - Published January 14, 2006 - Viewed 878 times

CRUISING ON SOCIAL SECURITY

From Janet & Julian:

Is it possible to live on $1313 per month (social security check) on a 79 Hunter 30 in the Caribbean just going from anchorage to anchorage? We would like to set out in November 2005 and would appreciate your input.

Hi Janet & Julian,

Yes, we think it's possible to live aboard and cruise frugally in the Caribbean on a monthly budget of around $1300. We know an American couple who were barely getting by on their boat in Isla Mujeres, Mexico for several years on his social security cheques of $600 per month. We also know cruisers who spend several times that amount. The cruising literature tends to focus on either the minimalists surviving on next to nothing or the luxury yacht owners with money to spare. There's lots of room on the budget continuum between these two extremes.

We've found that a good portion of our budget is spent on boat repairs and maintenance. Having a smaller production boat like yours should help contain those expenditures. Keeping your boat systems simple also helps. Fancy electronics are prone to failure, as are reverse osmosis watermakers and refrigeration units. None of these is essential. You'll save a lot of money if you do most of the boat maintenance work yourselves. You might not feel qualified to rebuild your diesel engine, but routine projects such as changing the oil, filters, coolant, and belts are not difficult (only messy). And anyone can refinish exterior wood, wax the hull, and slap on bottom paint, although it's surprising how many cruisers pay others to do these jobs.

The cost of living varies considerably within the Caribbean. In general, the French islands are most expensive, the Spanish speaking countries least expensive, and the former British colonies fall somewhere in between. Ironically, we often spend more money overall in cheaper settings because we can't resist a good deal -- also known as going broke saving money. In pricier places, we go out less frequently and buy fewer things. If you provision where prices are low -- for example, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Venezuela, and Mexico -- you can avoid spending a lot of money in expensive places.

Beyond the basics of keeping the boat operational and buying food, you'll discover that much of your spending is discretionary. Depending on your expectations regarding personal comfort and amenity, you can live quite adequately on a limited budget. It boils down to making choices: anchoring out instead of going to the dock; communicating by e-mail at inexpensive Internet cafes rather than phoning home; favouring public transportation over rental cars to get around on shore (it's a great way to meet the locals); forgoing restaurant dining by inviting fellow boaters to join you for a potluck dinner on the beach (you'll probably have more fun).

Overall, we feel money is an overrated consideration when it comes to casting off the dock lines and setting sail for the horizon. More important is the will to go.

We hope to see you out here some day.





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