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Another question that we are asked frequently concerns the voyage's expense budget and money-management matters.


BEFORE LEAVING: besides the costs incurred to equip the boat (see details in the "Budget" page) we also had a lot of expenses: the Rally fee amounted at 15.000 Euros (10.000 GBP at the 2007 exchange rate), and we also had the cost of some trips to England for preparatory meetings and training courses (SSB and First-Aid) for a total cost of about 15.000 Euros. Also the trips to Brittany to prepare the boat for the voyage amounted to a significant expenditure, at least 10.000 Euros.
Finally, we spent 5000 Euros for a professional engine overhaul just before the Rally departure (well worth the money, we did not have one single engine-related problem throughout the voyage, unlike many other boats).

A CLASSIC MISTAKE: it's very easy to underestimate the boat preparation expenditure and then leave with too-little spare money, which would not be enough in case of a major problem: NEVER LEAVE WITH NOT ENOUGH SPARE MONEY, especially if the boat is aging. The lack of funds is the first cause of aborted voyages!

DURING THE VOYAGE: alas, the detailed data that we started collecting from the start have been lost together with the computers where it was stored when we capsized and the boat was flooded, and afterwards I lacked the time and the will to resume the data collection; anyway, we can approximate a few figures:

- provisions: basic food items (bread, fruit and vegs, fresh food, fish and poultry) are generally available at prices much lower than in Europe, and also more sophisticated items (pasta, preserved food, meat, canned food) although slightly less easy to find, are normally not outrageously expensive; concerning beverages, local beers are available almost everywhere and are normally moderately priced, while wine and spirits and, oddily enough, sparkling mineral water (or soda water which is the nearest replacement) are much more expensive and often hard to find. In the average, we did not spend in food more than what we would have spent at home.

- eating-out: this has been our most under-estimated expenditure!! Left to our own devices, we would have just allowed ourselves a meal out every now and then, but being in a group a dinner ashore was the top opportunity to socialize, and despite prices were generally lower than in Europe (except for wine, that is...) we ended-up spending more than 10.000 Euros!
Also evenings at anchor were not safe, as it soon became customary to gather crews for a sundowner or a joint dinner onboard (to be reciprocated next day), and this was usually giving a deadly blow to each boat's spirits reserves!

- Fuel: our total diesel-oil consumption amounted at 6.000 liters for an expenditure in the range of 6.000 Euros (diesel price was in most cases slightly lower than in Europe), plus 2.000 Euros of engine oil and filters, that we religiously replaced every 200 hours as recommended by the engine manufacturer (also because diesel was often rather dirty and filters had a tough life!).

- Port and canal fees: marinas are scarce around the world and when they exist they tend to be expensive, even though not as much as in the Mediterranean! We spent in the range of 3.000 Euros, not including Panama- and Suez-canal fees which were included in the Rally price.

- Maintenance: without the capsize, our maintenance costs would have been limited to about 1.000 Euros for repeatedly replacing the fridge's control box, plus about 2.000 Euros for an antifouling job done in Fiji. Just for accuracy, we may add few hundred Euros for the use of few of the spare parts we were carrying (mostly water pumps).
The unforeseen expenses were a consequence of the capsize: over time, the cost amounted at about 10.000 Euros, just not big enough to justify calling the insurance (the excess plus the loss of the no-claim bonus would have amounted roughly to the same figure).
All in all, we did not fare too badly, despite the knock-down damages we spent less than many other boats; a very conservative boat-handling certainly contributed to this result.

- Insurance: we had a full-coverage policy which, albeit expensive, is a must in a voyage where the risk of serious damage (or even of losing the boat) is not negligible. Not too easy to find a Company willing to provide world-wide coverage, we were insured by Pantaenius like several other Rally boats, and we know for a fact that they have paid with no fuss some serious accidents (including a total loss during the previous Rally).
Total expenditure for 2 years has been about 8.000 Euros, approximately the double of what we use to pay for the same policy while in the Med.

- Communication: 800 Euros per year for the Iridium subscription (including 500 minutes of pre-paid conversation) plus 250 dollars for the Sailmail subscription, on top of which we spent in average between 100 and 200 Euros per month in phone calls: absolutely essential to buy local SIM-cards (or the full GSM phone) in each country: they usually sell for few dollars, and the price of calls to Europe is a fraction of that of European operators. We could also use GSM phones to call each other, which is very convenient, and GSM coverage was available almost everywhere, even in very poor and desolate areas.

- Sight-seeing: one travels to see places, and this unavoidably leads to additional expenses: car rentals, trips or flights to remote places, hotel stays, entry fees, and so on: hard to define a figure, we spent about 15.000 Euros but we know other crews that spent much more.

TOTAL EXPENDITURE (food not included): about 100.000 EUROS
(of which about half spent before departure!)


Very often transactions have to be in cash: only hotels and large supermarkets routinely accept credit cards (Visa and Mastercard only, Amex is much less widely accepted).

Luckily, ATMs have become ubiquitous and we never had to go to a bank to get cash, but be careful with the Credit Card's fees! In our case, the italian cash-only cards connected with the Cirrus international circuit were far cheaper than others and widely accepted by ATMs all around the world.
Despite we ran most transactions in cash (using the cards to draw money from ATMs) we had one of our Credit Cards cloned, and the same happened to several other crews, so it's advisable to keep the cards' monthly expense ceiling to a low figure (say, 1.500 or 2.000 Euros) as a safety measure against theft.
Another problem to be addressed before leaving is how to get the new cards when the existing ones expire: no credit card company will ship the replacement to anywhere other than the customer's home address, so you will need to formally authorise somebody to collect the new cards when they are shipped and forward them to you (preferably hand-carried by somebody).

EMERGENCY CASH: a small stock of strong-currency cash (preferably dollars) is sometimes necessary for big expenditures to be made in cash (trips, hotels, various fees and, touch wood, unexpected repairs) or sometimes to change that into local currency. We left with a kitty of 5.000 dollars and 5.000 Euros, and we had to replenish our dollars stock several times during the voyage.


Well then, sailing around the world is something that only rich people can afford?

That would certainly be the first impression after seeing the figures we published! ....and in the Rally we were among those with the lowest budget!

Is it possible to spend less, without having to become a sort of "sea gypsies"? Certainly yes!!

A first example comes from "Cayuco", one of the Rally boats; a very old boat, but very sturdy and maintained in a "do-it-yourself" style that did nothing to improve the boat's appeal compared to the other Rally boats but still managed to complete the circumnavigation on schedule.
This result is entirely to be attributed to owners Tony and Audrey's perseverance in the face of the continuous string of failures that plagued their navigation, and to their ability in implementing low-cost fixes.
Tony's do-it-yourself skills, on top of his qualification as a professional engine-maintenance instructor, were instrumental in their ability to perform emergency fixes at sea and often also the full repairs when in harbour.

Hats off to both of them, many would have given up at the first difficulties! It must be said, though, that - as they freely admitted - they took risks,  and they could not fully enjoy their voyage, not only due to the limited budget, but also due to the time spent to continuously fix the boat!

I believe it was a mistake on their part to embark in a two-year circumnavigation: in a more relaxed timescale, they would have enjoyed the voyage much more. And so, here is the first of the possible SOLUTIONS TO CUT COSTS:

- TRAVEL SLOWLY: as already said before, a fast voyage requires a large (i.e. fast) boat, new or well-maintained (to avoid wasting time for repairs), often running under engine to keep the schedule (fuel consumption and engine wear) and, once in harbour, spending whatever needed to visit the place in the short time available. Joining a Rally is a further means to enhance the chances of a successful voyage, but is also a significant expenditure not needed when travelling slowly.
A slow voyage also allows to DILUTE over a longer period some expenses (e.g. fuel) or to choose lower-cost approaches (do-it-yourself repairs, lower-cost ways to visit places, etc.).

- LESS EXPENSIVE BOAT: we chose an aluminium-hulled boat for its strength, and equipped it with all the gear we felt was useful to maximise comfort and minimize risks in a short-crewed navigation; choosing a good second-hand GRP boat (maybe an Hallberg-Rassy, but a Jeanneau would do as well) one may save a lot; let's say that between 150 and 200.000 Euros would be enough to get a perfectly adequate 35/40-footer.
Choosing an older or perhaps less fashionable boat it's possible to further cut the cost, but be careful! Breakages may be tricky and expensive to fix in remote places where spare parts have to be flown-in, if they are available in the first place, otherwise you may have to replace a whole system just because spares are not made anymore.

- SMALLER BOAT: sure, especially for a small crew and sailing at a leisurely pace, any boat between 9 and 11 meters (30-35 feet) would be suitable, although I would recommend against: in my opinion comfort at sea and, more importantly, storage capacity are inadequate.
In Europe the ownership cost of a larger boat is markedly higher, but that's much less so in remote places around the world, where moorings are seldom to be paid and tariffs are cheaper anyway.

To confirm the above point, several Rally crews bought a large boat specifically for the circumnavigation, and sold it as soon as back in Europe.

- SELL THE HOUSE: well, I would never sell the house in order to raise the money to buy the boat! After few years, the boat will have depreciated (unlike houses!) and the money would have disappeared into thin air.
An entirely different thing, if circumstances allow (for example taking advantage of a relocation), would be to close or sell the house before leaving in order to REDUCE COSTS (rent, if applicable, maintenance costs, taxes, etc.).
Even some of the Rally crews made that, even though the voyage was lasting only two years, and certainly there are problems to be considered (where to store all the furniture, where to live in case of an unexpected early return from the voyage,...), but if circumstances allow the saving may be significant.

- WORK WHILE TRAVELLING: not everybody could easily find a temporary job in the visited Countries: it's certainly easier for a diesel engineer or a nurse than for a lawyer!...
It must also be remembered that working while on a tourist visa is illegal almost everywhere, so probably small occasional jobs is all that can be done without raising too much attention.

An entirely different story for those lucky ones whose job can be performed anywhere (e.g. painters, or writers) or whose job allows for long interruptions (seasonal shop- or hotel-owners?).

Managing a business remotely is usually very hard, as those Rally skippers who tried it can testify: their boats sailed around the world, but they didn't, as they were continuously flying back home to fix things at work!



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Last Update: 11/11/2014

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