The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cruising Cost, the real breakdown, scheduled post

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post for cruisers traveling to French Guiana, it was probably quite boring to the non cruiser, but I hope it helped a future cruiser to that region. This one may be equally boring to the non cruiser, but aimed to help a family dreaming of an exit plan.
I wrote a blog recently about the costs of going cruising, without actually adding any dollar amounts. Our upbringing conditions us not to talk about money, for a variety of good reasons, so we tend to shy away from blatantly talking about costs. That may be the polite response, but cruisers that are dreaming of bringing their families out, need real dollar amounts to know what they are up against. Unless you get some raw data you can’t make real decision on how much you have to save, reserve or have coming in. I don’t like to publicize how much we make, spend, fritter away, but in the hopes that I can enlighten a few people on the actual costs of cruising, I’m breaking my personal taboo and including a summary of our expenditures thus far and how they are broken down.

As a family of five we spend roughly $4300 dollars a month cruising. In some places we are probably extravagant, and in others painfully frugal. It would be interesting to do a monthly breakdown, but I resisted the temptation simply because it varies hugely depending on where we are that particular month and what large expenditures skew the average. We have frugal months where we are mostly at sea or anchored in a relatively inexpensive areas (Mexico, Portugal, Grenada) and we have expensive months when we are transiting the Canal or doing major boat projects and in a marina. The following 
breakdown averages 28 months of cruising in Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean and now we will have some South Pacific data.

The numbers generally speak for themselves, but I will elaborate a little on the different categories so a future cruiser may see where they may have higher expenditures or lower based on their habits and itinerary.

Eating out : Accounts for 9% of our budget. We like to eat and there are five of us, so we probably spend more than most cruising families in this category. With the exception of Mexico and maybe Morocco, most of our meals out are comparable to US prices. The also includes ice cream and sodas in town which I hate to admit add up to quite a bit.

Fuel : (5%) This number may seem a little high, but consider we have traveled over 23,000 nautical miles and that is probably more than most people travel annually, this is a big budget item. It would be dramatically less if we planned to stay in one geographic region : the Med, the Caribbean, Mexico. This also accounts for our propane/butane costs as well as gasoline for the outboard and generator.

Groceries : (17%) Again we like to eat well and there are five of us, so our bills are high. That said we are frugal and when groceries are reasonable I fill the bilges up and when we are in more expensive places we eat out of our stores as much as possible.

Immigration : (3%) Generally immigration costs are not that high. Our amount is a little skewed considering I lumped our two Panamal Canal fees into this category ($1000 each transit and will have to add our $1400 Galapagos fee in a future tally).

Land Travel : (12%) We love the boat, but we also really like to get off the boat and see the land based sites. My favorite reason to cruise is to travel and get to new places. Some of those places are not always accessible by boat. As examples, we did a week long trip to the Copper Canyon in Mexico, a 4 day trip around the Yucatan, another 4 days in Ireland, 3 more days in Scotland, 2 weeks traveling around France and two weeks traveling around Morocco. In addition we did numerous overnights and day trips and racked up numerous rental car fees for shorter forays. This number could definitely be brought down if you stayed in the islands where land travel is not a necessity to see the region.

Misc. : (9%) This is the big catch all. This category includes cab rides, laundry costs, birthday and Xmas presents, haircuts, clothing, school expenses and anything else that doesn’t fit in the other categories. One of these days I plan to tease out these costs a little more, but for now, this is as good as it is going to get.

Misc. Boat : (27%) As you can see this is our big expenditure. It also covered boat insurance which is about $4K a year. I don’t think this number implies our boat has had many breakages, it is more a testament to the fact that Michael repairs things the moment they show a squeak of imperfection. We do have a 24 year old boat, so you would expect a few more costs in this category compared to someone with a newer boat, but I think it mostly illustrates how diligent Mike is about staying on top of maintenance. We’ve been very lucky so far. Mike simply is very much a fan of preventive maintenance. Sometimes I might even call it a little OCD, but when we are crossing oceans I’m happy for his foresight. Along those lines, because we are crossing many oceans, we cannot risk waiting for something to break before fixing it. In addition we have three precious cargo units on board and we are probably overly cautious about their safety (there probably aren’t too many people that have 4 gumby suits on a 42 foot boat in the tropics or two life rafts). We probably spend more in this category than most other people that don’t actually have things breaking on them. You could buy a fixer upper and have high costs, but we bought a great blue water cruiser and we are extremely happy with her performance thus far, we just believe in our own trifecta of stressless cruising: preventive maintenance, redundancy and multiple spares. We could probably open a small chandlery with the spares we carry on board.

Marina : (8%) Most of our marina costs are actually from leaving the boat when we have flown home. This cost would be much less if we didn’t go home 4 times in 3 years. For example, last year we spent about 40 days total tied up in a marina.

Tour : (3%) This is a relatively small segment of our budget, but it includes everything educational we do with the kids including visiting museums, going on guided hikes and other tours.

Travel at Home : (6%) We have been lucky in this category. We made one trip home with the boat (Florida Grandparents) and only incurred marina and rental car costs and the other flights home were highly subsidized by grandparents desperate to see their water logged grandchildren and make sure they weren’t too traumatized by a life at sea.

Medical : (2%) This covers visits to the doctor, dentist and health insurance.  We only cover evacuation and travel insurance, so this cost is substantially less than if we had full coverage from the States. 

Where does the $4300 dollars a month come from every month? We were lucky enough to have a house we rent that was half paid off, so our rent, even after expenses, is half profit. We have two commericial properties that generate some income and we have a summer house that we rent and almost break even on. We do have to come up with some money every month, but after three years of cruising it will amount to less than the price of a new car. So yes, when we return home, I will be driving my old 2000 station wagon until it literally falls apart, but I think it is a great tradeoff.

Could you do it for less? Absolutely, I think most people could do it for much less. If we were doing this as a lifestyle we’d cut down on the land travel, the eating out and the travel home. We still think of it as a short trip, so we splurge more than if we were planning to be out here indefinitely. If we had younger children and not teenagers that consumed huge quantities of food we would have a lower grocery bill as well. If we didn’t move so fast we would have a lower fuel bill (yes we are on a sail boat, but we still do plenty of motoring on our shorter legs, which do add up). On the other hand, we are frugal by nature, so we shop around and use our money wisely. School costs are low as I have bought almost all my curriculums on ebay second hand. I mentioned our insurance costs are low, but they could be even lower if we chose to go without. Many people do not insure their boat and rely on inexpensive local medical care instead of paying monthly premiums for insurance at home they most likely will never use. Other small things help: we walk when we can, we eat in little dive shops when we can, we bargain when it is appropriate, we hand wash, we do everything we can to lessen our costs. In addition Mike does as much of the boat maintenance as he can.
If you have a sound boat and a capable crew, with a family of five, I think you could cruise comfortably on $3000 a month, mostly anchoring out. Less is certainly doable, but I think you would probably have to cut a few corners unless you were anchoring in only a few inexpensive places for a long time. Likewise, you could always spend more: spend more time in marinas, eat out more, do more land travel, have a boat mortgage or have house expenses that are not offset by renters. Everyone will have a different set of priorities, but if you’ve been following us at all, you can probably tell what kind of cruisers we are and judge your own future expenditures against our stated costs.
Anyway, I hope this helps get someone out there that is hesitant or thinks you need a lot more money to get your family on the water having the adventure of a lifetime. 

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