We left the West End of the Bahamas at 6 a.m. in total darkness for a 10.5-hour, 97-mile cruise to the Fort Pierce inlet on the east coast of Florida Our timing worked out well as our travel day was the first calm-water day there’d been in over a week, and the window closed down the day after we made our crossing. As Lisa and I whiled-away the hours during our long journey I began to think about the costs associated with boat travel and wondered how much we’ve actually spent during the first seven months of our Great Loop excursion. Do I dare add it all up? Do I really want to know?

Before I get into our expenses I think it would be only fair to lay a little groundwork as it relates to spending money. One boater’s expenses will be completely different than the next because of individual boating lifestyles, so it’s difficult to say, “This is what it costs to do the Great Loop.” When I say lifestyle I’m referring to how often do you go out to dinner or lunch, how fast or slow do you travel, what’s your fuel-burn rate per hour, do you stay at a marina every night, anchor out all the time or a combination of both? Do your perform your own basic maintenance or farm it out?  How often do you return home by plane or rental car? As you can see there’s no set rule as to how much it really costs to travel the Great Loop on a boat. It all depends on you and your priorities.

We left the West End with many new fond memories of the Abaco Islands, their people, and culture. We’ll return again. Here we celebrate our time on the Islands with fellow Loopers from Freedom’s Turn, Good News, and Salvage Crew.

As we entered the Gulf Stream 20 miles out of the West End I noticed our MPH gradually pick up until we reached an additional 2.5 MPH of boost from the water flow. There’s nothing like a little help from Mother Nature to help keep the costs down. In our case we’ve been on the Great Loop for seven months and have traveled 3,798 miles. During these 210 days we’ve anchored out or have benefited from free dock space 56 days or 27% of the time. The balance, 73% of the time was spent at marinas for a cost of $4,910. If we’d never stayed at a marina our dock cost would have been zero dollars, but our trip experience would’ve been vastly different. For us, the mixture of marina life and anchorages makes for a more fulfilling trip because we’re able experience land activities at the dock, and the joys of communing with the natural habitat at anchor.

To keep a handle on expenses and boat engine maintenance, I keep a daily journal of travel that includes dockage, anchorages, fuel purchases, miles traveled, fuel burned, MPG, MPH, and GPH.

It’s very difficult to immerse yourself in a community, visit its museums, or simply take long walks when you want, if you’re always on the hook. The opposite also is true. We’d never forego the intimate contact with Mother Nature we get from anchoring out. We’d never have been able to witness the brilliance of the constellations without the being at anchor in the cover of darkness of our Great Sale Cay anchorage in the Bahamas, or we’d never have seen the four manatee’s frolicking in the channel leading to our anchorage in Fort Pierce if we’d stayed at a marina. With that said some folks have to stay at marinas each night for health concerns, pet constraints, or simply rules of engagement decided by the crew.

Fuel is another big expense and after almost 4,000 miles we’ve spent $4,467. This amount has given us 1,400 gallons of diesel fuel to burn, which, in our Fathom 40 Fast Trawler, translates into an average, so far, of $3.19 per gallon. When we left northern Michigan fuel was $4.50 and I figured we’d average $5 per gallon when it was all said and done. So the good news is that fuel has come down dramatically. The savings versus what we’d budgeted for fuel has actually covered half of our dock expenses for the first seven months, so we’re pretty happy about that.

Here we have a very worn-out impeller I had to replace on our generator. I was doing a routine inspection when I found out it needed to be changed and because I had a spare I alleviated a potential problem later on.

Lisa is a great cook and likes to prepare our meals most of the time. Whether we’re home or traveling on our Kismet, our eating, food buying, and dining out doesn’t drastically change. We eat out about twice, sometimes three times a week (lunch or dinner) with the balance of the meals homemade by Lisa. Obviously this doesn’t add to our trip expenses because we’d be doing this if we were home anyway. However if your plans are to take in the local cuisine every day at port you’ll begin to add a great deal to your travel expenses. A friend figured it costs (for two people) an average of $25 to $40 to go to lunch and between $40 and $100 for dinner. To do this every day would add up fast.

Fort Pierce was our first land-based stop when we returned to the Fort Pierce City Marina; it was nice to be back in the U.S.A.

As boaters work their way up the east coast, most will be able to call their insurance company to let them know they’re above a certain geographical point, and their insurance premium will go down. Of course the reverse of this happens when one goes below a certain geographic parallel; a boat’s insurance premium will go up. The insurance premium is a big variable as it depends on how much boating experience you have, how old your boat is, how big your boat is, if you’re going to the Bahamas and more. For us, our insurance runs about $2,500 per year, including coverage throughout the United States, Canada, and within 120 miles of shore. For larger boats, first timers, or broader coverage, we’ve heard of premiums as high as $5,000 or more. This is an area where it pays to comparison shop. Insurance averages $200 a month for us.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky to be with this bevy of beauties, but I’m not complaining. Here I am with Patti, Linda, and Lisa.

Cell phone, internet wireless service, house taxes and insurance, health insurance, medication, and car insurance, are all expenses we’d have if we were not traveling on Kismet so we don’t add these in as boat-trip expenses. The only expenses we factor in are fuel, dockage, boat maintenance, and occasional rental car; everything else we figure we’d be spending money on if we were home. With that understanding our maintenance has only consisted of replacing zincs, fuel, oil filters, oil, and one haul-out for inspection. We’ve spent about $1,000 and feel fortunate that we’ve not damaged a prop, rudder, or something else that can get into real boat bucks. The older your boat the more apt something will go wrong so you should make sure you budget this into a long voyage. In addition the more you can do the less you’ll spend. If you can change your own oil and filters, zincs, impellers, the more dollars you’ll save. I know that not every boater wants to become a mechanic. However in some cases this ability can come in handy if, as an example, you have an impeller go out at a remote anchorage. In this light it’s a good practice to have spare belts, impellers, hoses, oil, antifreeze and fuel filters, and know how to perform at least these basic tasks.

As we get closer to the Florida coast, I’m startled back to reality when the U.S. Coast Guard alerts all vessels to be on the lookout for a 50-foot boat taking on water and to assist if said vessel is spotted. When I hear something like this it makes the expenses I’ve been calculating seem less important.

Lisa had a grand time at the farmers market in Fort Pierce visiting all the stands and restocking our pantry.

So, here’s the summary.  Lisa and I have spent $4,467 on fuel, $4,910 on dockage, $1,000 on maintenance, $500 on rental cars, and $500 miscellaneous for a grand total of $11,387. This is up and above what we would’ve spent if we’d never left northern Michigan. If you break it down to a more manageable figure the total equals $1,627 more per month than if we had stayed home, or put more simply, $54 per day. Where else can you have this much adventure for only $54 per day?  I’ve also heard of Loopers spending $125 to $200 per day, and others spending much less than we do. I guess it all gets back to what your individual priorities are and how deep your pocket book is. Whatever the case, however much you can afford or how you wish to travel, we’d say it’s worth every penny.