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How Much Does It Cost To Cruise?

By The Ithaka - Published January 27, 2006 - Viewed 1564 times

How Much Does It Cost To Cruise?

The big question. Greg J, from the Great Lakes says he and his wife are going cruising in just two more years. "From what I've read," he says, "it sounds like you can live like a king on a thousand a month. Is this still true? Assuming the boat is paid for, have the costs surprised you at all?"

From Bernadette: This is, by far, the most frequently asked question we receive from readers. Yes, the costs have surprised us; we spent our entire first-year budget in the first six months. But mostly, the extra costs came from repairs we didn't expect to have to make. Our windlass began to give out in Annapolis, and by Virginia we had to buy and professionally install a new one. We developed some electrical problems, and had to have some wiring redone. We bought a new battery monitor, had it professionally installed. It never worked right, and two weeks later, while we were in Florida, we had to have it reinstalled - an expensive delay. What we learned from this, however, is that we hadn't budgeted enough for normal repairs for the first year, even though Ithaka is a well-found boat, and she and her systems were in seemingly excellent condition when we left Newport. Also, the ICW was a money pit for us, as we made that voyage during the freezing months of November and December last year, and during brutal ice blizzards, in order to use our heater at night, a few times we had to tie up at marinas, which are exorbitantly expensive -- we hadn't budgeted for this. It all added up fast.

Once you get out of the United States, however, you can live majestically on an average of $1,000 a month, provided you stay away from shore and out of the marinas. When you're out on the hook, fishing for your dinner, eating from your stores, and keeping your wallets in a drawer and not your pocket, you'll have what we call "Zero-Dollar Days." This was especially easy to do in Cuba, and Belize. However, whenever we've wanted to go ashore, or explore inhabited islands for a few days, the wallets come out of the drawer, go into our pockets, and money seems to gush out at an alarming rate, as some strange compulsion to buy previously un-coveted things seems to take over temporarily. Plus, we rented a car while we were in Mexico and went inland to explore, and to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza - an expensive proposition, as we left the boat in Puerto Aventuras Marina and stayed in hotels for a couple of days, but an experience we wouldn't want to have missed. However, Guatemala is downright cheap; while traveling about, we rarely spent as much as $30 a day, and that includes the $3.65 cents a day to keep Ithaka at Tortugal Marina.

A good rule of thumb is to figure out your annual budget, including repairs, and a trip home, then add 50% to it for the first year. No joke. It's far easier to budget accurately, and spend lots less money for the second year and beyond, but the first year holds surprises. Now that we're going into year two, our expenses have dropped dramatically, although I think $1,000 a month is still unrealistic for our kind of cruising. If you have insurance premiums, and you want to fly home once a year, it's probably better to count on a minimum $2,500-a-month budget.

NOTE: Since this was written, I've published an extensive special report in Cruising World magazine that gives the definitive answer of how much it really costs to cruise. I interviewed 12 different cruising couples -- from different economic brackets, cruising styles, and cruising destinations - and their actual budgets are included in the article. The complete special report is How Much Does It Cost To Cruise?.

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