September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye

September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation

September 1, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing

August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez

August 1, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind

July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap

July 1, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec

June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

June 1, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua

May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising

May 1, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica

April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There

April 1, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama

March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money

March 1, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal

February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal

February 1, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific

January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week

January 1, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef

December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2

December 1, 2011

November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise

November 1, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question

October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers

October 3, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World

September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come

September 1, 2011
Sailing for Humanity

August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work

August 1, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish

July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books

July 1, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas

June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala

June 1, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise

May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now

May 1, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala

April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas

April 1, 2011
At Last in the San Blas

March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon

March 1, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!

February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2

February 1, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1

January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude

December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane

December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba

December 1, 2010
Stuck in Curacao

November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing

November 1, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks

October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe

October 4, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal

September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing

September 1, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea

August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao

August 1, 2010
Bonaire Diving

July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire

July 1, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles

June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent

June 1, 2010
Right Place, Right Time

May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle

May 1, 2010
To the Grenadines

April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon

April 1, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II

March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1

March 1, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing

February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations

February 1, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands

January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa

January 1, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............

December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing

December 1, 2009
Moving On To Morocco

November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med

November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone

October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol

October 1, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise

September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles

September 1, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well

August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca

August 1, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca

July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast

July 1, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia

June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa

June 1, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails

May 15, 2009
Into Africa

May 1, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia

April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy

April 1, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles

March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling

March 1, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports

February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta

February 1, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2

January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1

January 2, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time

December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear

December 1, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend

November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise

November 1, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz

October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman

October 1, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins

September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta

September 1, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story

August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

August 1, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians

July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca

July 1, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe

June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

June 1, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey

May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey

April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living

April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip

April 1, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget

March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi

March 1, 2008
Home Sweet Home

February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising

February 1, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World

January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free

January 1, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni

January 1, 2008
About Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Voyage Itinerary

March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money

By Liz Tosoni

Here in the small bay of Benao, Feel Free bobs at anchor, taking a short rest, en route to Costa Rica.

She had a long day yesterday with good winds from the stern. One visitor came on board, a seagull, surprising us with her boldness and poor table manners. There were dolphins too, merrily keeping us company, pleased to see us at sea again.

Benao is a beautiful spot about 100 miles south and west of Panama city, surrounded by rolling green hills, almost bucolic if you don’t happen to notice the surf beach to the north and west. In fact, it’s one of the premier Panamanian surfing destinations but luckily for us, the eastern corner of the bay offers good protection from the prevailing winds, and holding is excellent. We departed the big city that gobbles money with abandon, and are happy to be under way again. Happy!

Leaving that good city, meandering through the maze of big ships awaiting their turn through the Canal, we recalled that the end of 2011 found us reeling with the amount of money we were spending.


    Here’s a list of the major expenditures:
  • About $4,000.00 in haulout, dry storage and marina fees.
  • $2,750.00 for a new mainsail. The old mainsail had certainly paid for itself after nearly 20 years of use (the same one that was sporting Feel Free when we bought her in 1994) and many thousands of miles, almost all the way around the world, so it was definitely time for a replacement.
  • $512.00 in air freight costs for the new sail.
  • $2,650.00 for a new dinghy. The old one literally blew up, sitting on the foredeck, the morning of our Canal transit!
  • $1,750.00 for a new outboard engine. The old one was eight years old and starting to cause major problems. An on board ‘must-have’ is a reliable outboard, so that was another ‘no-brainer’.
  • More than $1,000.00 for provisions. Panama is one of those shopping meccas not only for groceries and staples but for all and sundry so we wanted to make sure we were well stocked before departure day.
  • $859.00 for Canal transit fees.
  • More than $1,000.00 for hardware items such as lights, pumps, inverters etc.


Then January 2012 came along and the spending spree continued and spiraled, seemingly out of control. We bought a membership at Price Smart so we could buy more and in bulk.


For bargain shopping, I took regular trips to the longest pedestrian only street in the world.

Abastos is a mega market the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Turkey or Tunisia, with mountains of delectable fruits and veggies at great prices: 10 sweet grapefruits for $1, 3 pounds of green beans for $1, a huge bag of bananas for 70c, pineapples, melons, papayas, green peppers, whatever you can imagine, all priced low, low low.

Every day, we came back to the boat laden with goods. Were we becoming shopaholics? Purchases included eye exams and new glasses for Tom, dental and doctor appointments, more hardware, booze, more groceries, taxis, a new sewing machine, a huge amount of Sunbrella fabric, a new portable generator, anchorage fees, pharmacy and first aid items, shoes and clothing, dinners out and pizza and beer nights.

One of the Cruising Guides to Central America and Panama, by Eric Baicy and Sherrell Watson states that “You can find just about anything here so be prepared to spend lots of money.” Now that is the understatement of the century. The Liza Minelli song from Cabaret comes to mind ........

Money makes the world go around...the world go around...the world go around. Money makes the world go around, It makes the world go 'round. A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound ...a buck or a pound...a buck or a pound. Is all that makes the world go around. That clinking, clanking sound...Can make the world go 'round. Money money money money, Money money money money, Money money money...

Well, if that is true, that money makes the world go around, then at least we were helping to keep the world go ‘round while in Panama!

But wait a minute, let’s take a hard look at the big picture. We need to put this whole thing into perspective. Among all those purchases, does anything strike you as extravagant? The answer is NO! Virtually all of the things we were buying were utilitarian, practical, useful, needed items.

Next, let’s scrutinize the first few months of 2011. What did we spend? Well, as it turns out, we were in the San Blas Islands and guess what? We spent very little. Very little. What do I mean by that? I’ll be specific.

Expenses for January 2011- $563.00, February 2011- $600.00, March 2011- $650.00, April 2011- $3,025.00 (including airline tickets and haul-out).

The summer months found us back in Canada, working, actually earning money, and spending next to nothing as room and board were included in our compensation package.

Total expenses for 2011 were approximately $19,000.00, a figure which is about average in terms of yearly figures over the past several years.

People always wonder and sometimes ask “How do you manage your budget, sailing around the world?” and “How much do you spend in a year?” and “How can you afford it?”

Well, during our very first five years of cruising (1985-1990), our expenses averaged about $1,000.00 per month. Those were the days!

From 1990 to 2002, the average jumped 75% to $1,750.00 per month. Keep in mind that during that period, we graduated from Hoki Mai, a rusty old steel 41 footer to Feel Free, our fiberglass 51 footer, and that a larger boat costs more than a smaller boat. Haul-outs, replacement and repair costs, dry storage and marina fees are all higher by virtue of the additional 10 feet of boat length. Replacing Feel Free’s mainsail cost more than twice as much as replacing Hoki Mai’s did. Also keep in mind a 2.5 per cent annual cost of living increase and the increased spending is not surprising.

I just re-read an old article on the costs of cruising that I wrote for Cruising Helmsman (Australia) in 2002. Here’s an interesting excerpt: “In the ‘old days’, our costliest month amounted to $3,750.00 which included the purchase of a SatNav ($2,000.00) and a haul-out in California ($750.00), while the least costly month was in the Tuamotus of French Polynesia and amounted to a mere $84. Compare that to our most and least expensive months of the present period: $5,082.00 (including a blister repair job) in Mexico and $363.00 in the Marshall Islands.”

Here it is, 2012, another 10 years past the date when that one was written and what has changed? I have to admit that I haven’t been keeping as detailed a record as I did in those days. However, I do have some figures that might be of interest. Following are the numbers for 2004, a fairly typical cruising year and the year we sailed from Australia to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand:

Month/Year Place Expenses
January 2004 Australia (Gladstone) $1,899.10
February Australia (Bundaberg) $2,753.41
March Australia (Bundaberg) $2,980.00
April Australia (Cairns) $935.70
May Australia (Cairns) $2,537.55
June Australia (sailing east coast) $178.90
July (Darwin)Australia/Indonesia $3,389.55
August Indonesia $1,000.00
September Indonesia $316.00
October Indonesia/Singapore/Malaysia $1,377.00
November Malaysia $2,078.00
December Malaysia/Thailand $2,119.00

The year-end summary for 2004 tells us that we spent $21,562.00 in total. Divide that by 12 and you get a monthly average of $1,796.83. This is really a bit of a revelation as it means that we actually spent more money in 2004 than we did in 2011! (Mind you, in 2004 we were on the boat non-stop for 12 months, no working, whereas in 2011 we were cruising for only about half the year as we took time out to re-stock the cruising kitty.)

Looking further at the records I see that another revealing year was 2009, the year spent in the Mediterranean with no work stops (Malta, Tunisia, Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands) and then crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Remarkably, the total amount spent that year was actually lower than both 2011 and 2004, approximately $18,000.00.

So what does all of this accounting reveal? I think it tells us that our spending patterns have remained much the same over the previous couple of decades, and that our yearly expenses have not increased.

Taken as a whole, despite all that spending at the end of the year, 2011 was much like most other cruising years. The low cost months balanced the high cost months. This is very heartening news for Tom and me, and I hope it might also help future cruisers look realistically at their own budgeting issues.