FORECASTING A VOYAGE'S EXPENSES
The costs we incurred for our circumnavigation, that we published in this page, have been the subject of a lot of discussion: many find them to be very high and believe that it would be possible to travel on a much lower budget.
We do not disagree, and on this page we would provide some
consideration to allow you to build your own budget; let's start then!
LIFESTYLE CHOICE OR EXTENDED VACATION?
Fact is, "voyaging by boat" has many different meanings: a single person or a young couple who live on their boat, often a very old and modestly appointed one, without the economical burden of a house somewhere, slowly sailing with frequent, lengthy stops when they perform some work to refill the coffers, avoiding marinas and restaurants like hell, may have costs very near those of a more conventional domestic lifestyle.
This scenario is clearly very far from somebody performing long-distance sailing on a part-time basis, in fact a vacation of sorts, to then return back to a home and, probably, a well-paid job. Scenarios may range from a somewhat more challenging than usual summer cruise, maybe leaving the boat in a different place each time, to a 2-3 year sabbatical to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.
These scenarios may enjoy an higher budget, but will also have
additional costs, such as more fuel cost due to more motoring due to time
constraints, more frequent use of marinas, and maybe restaurants, or perhaps car
rentals to visit the interior or air tickets to fly back home leaving the boat
in an expensive marina, and so on.
FOOD: like at home
For people who normally buys food in Europe or North America, cost of foodstuff will hardly come as a surprise, at least for what concerns basic items. Delicacies and long-lasting stuff (which may be hard to find, as well as expensive) may be a different story, and the same applies to drinking stuff, especially wine and spirits, which may well cost more than twice the price back home.
Wine and spirits you can do without (or strictly limit usage), but long-lasting items are sometimes needed (be they tinned, vacuum-packed or dried) both for long passages but also as emergency food to avoid having to enter port too often.
Anyway, in general we do not foresee to spend more than at
home for what concerns food.
ENGINE USAGE: 400 / 100 engine hours (=500 miles) = 400 / Month?
The subject "engine use" is very controversial, we range from the purist who barely starts the engine to enter and leave port (if he really has to!) and who limits his power consumption to an LED light for night sailing and recharges batteries by solar or wind charger, to the guy who starts the engine as soon as the speed drops below one or two knots and needs to run the gen-set at least one hour a day to recharge the batteries.
Everybody is free to adopt his style, but even the most stubborn sailor will have to run the engine at least one hour a day either to recharge or to access an anchorage or a port.
The sailing area is also important with regard to engine usage, there is no doubt that in the Med in summer calms are frequent and breezes short-lived (unless you are in Greece during the Meltemi season), while on the opposite in the Antilles you can count on steady trade-winds. In our voyages we found that we had to motor about 50% of the time, and our monthly average mileage was about 1000/1300 miles; this leads to the following calculation:
- 500 / 600 miles/month under engine
Your calculation may give entirely different results depending
on cruising style, encountered weather condition, size of boat and engine.
RESTAURANTS: from 10 to 20 /person-meal (or higher)
This item is very much subject to the frequency of meals ashore, the price levels of the visited Country and obviously the price-level of the specific restaurant: in our estimate I'm taking for granted we are talking of modestly-priced places, obviously a visit to the "Bloody Mary" in Bora-Bora is expensive (but once in a lifetime...) but even in expensive Tahiti you can have a cheap and perfectly decent meal at the infamous "roach coaches" of Papeete port.
This expense item can easily become very heavy on the budget,
two people eating out a dozen times in a month may easily spend in eccess of 500
COMMUNICATION (telephone/internet): from 10 to 100 /month
Gone are the times when a traveler would send news to family and friends only by the occasional letter: by telephone or by e-mail, nowadays you can keep in touch easily, and even while under sail you can do that for a relatively affordable cost.
Even those who are not too keen in phoning home, will certainly wish to get weather forecasts or GRIB files, maybe by e-mail.
What's the cost? The minimum is in the range of 10/15 per month, which would afford you a local operator's SIM-card enabled to international calls and to connect to the Internet (using our own domestic operators' subscription while abroad is generally more expensive, at least in the kind of countries usually visited on a cruise); obviously you may have to reload your credit more than once in a month, depending on usage, but al least you know what you spend and there are no hidden surprises.
Obviously the cell-phone can be used only near shore, and even
more strict is wi-fi, which may cost anywhere from nothing to 10
dollars for one hour or even more! During our voyage only
very seldom we had a free wi-fi connection available, and stealing an unlocked
connection which just happens to be available is wishful thinking, nobody is so
The most economical way to have e-mail while underway is with the SSB radio: if you are a licensed amateur (HAM) you may use the winlink service which is free, otherwise if you have a type-approved marine SSB radio and you got a call-sign for it there's the Sailmail service at the price of 250 US$/year. Obviously you have the initial cost of the radio and both services require a special Pactor modem, which is quite expensive.
As an alternative, you may use a sat-phone which would allow
both voice calls as well as low-speed internet connection, good enough for
e-mail; a suitable sat-phone with data-kit would cost around 1000 , and the
connection cost is around 1$/minute.
If your travel programs are limited to the areas which are covered by their services, you may consider two other operators: Thuraya (covering Europe and Africa) and Globalstar (only land, no oceans); anyway, costs are very similar to Iridium, perhaps a trifle cheaper.
Finally, those who can spend will find several marine-specific
services offered by INMARSAT; wer'e talking professional-grade services here,
costs are higher and the equipment (and aerials) is often bulky as well.
NAUTICAL CHARTS/PILOT BOOKS: 500 / 800 per visited Country
Every time we visit a new Country, we must get the nautical
charts for the area, in our case both traditional paper charts and the
electronic cartridges for our chartplotter.
Concerning plans for ports and anchorages, instead of detailed nautical charts (which are available on the chartplotter, anyway) we prefer to rely on Pilot Books which are better oriented to provide the kind of info which is useful for yachties.
Prices for electronic chart cartridges has gone down somewhat in the last years, nowadays 240 are enough to buy you a cartridge covering the entire Mediterranean or one covering all the British isles. Unfortunately sometimes the borders between one cartridge and the next one may force you to buy a cartridge just for a small portion of it, like the whole of Africa to cover Malta and the Mediterranean shores of Africa, or the whole Latin America down to Cape Horn to get the Caribbean.
Concerning traditional paper charts, prices usually range from 25 to 40 per chart, and you will easily need around 20/30 charts to cover a season's worth of cruising ground: for example, covering the whole of Greece, from the Ionian sea to the Aegean islands and west Turkey will require a minimum of 26 charts, for an expenditure in the range of 700 (depending on which publisher you select, for example the Admiralty is the most expensive).
An interesting solution to limit somewhat the expenditure for paper charts is represented by the so-called "chart folios": collections of all charts covering a certain area, printed in a reduced format (roughly one fourth of the standard size) they cost about one fourth of the same number of standard charts. Unfortunately they do not exist for all areas, typically they are published by the "domestic" hydrographic office (Copyright reasons, I believe) so they are available for the British islands and for the Caribbean from the Admiralty, from the Italian Hydrographic office covering Italy, and from the Croatian one for the shores of Croatia.
Finally, Pilot Books: there is a lot of them on the market,
covering every conceivable destination: in most cases a book covers a single
Country or an equivalent area, but sometimes you need 2 or 3 books to cover a
large and complex Country, for a unit price usually in the range of 35 per volume.
FLIGHTS HOME: from 100 to 700 /person-trip
Several people perform their voyage "in instalments", spending one or two months a year (some lucky ones maybe a little more) to sail an area, leaving the boat every time in a different place waiting for next year to continue the voyage.
This obviously implies to leave the boat in a safe place,
necessarily far from home, and then flying home and then next year flying to the
boat; the cost is obviously varying widely, going back home from somewhere in
Europe is much cheaper than flying from an atoll somewhere in the Pacific Ocean!
PORTS/MOORINGS/LOCAL TAXES: 40/50 /night + 100/300 /Country
Unfortunately many Countries believe they discovered a gold mine by impounding assorted taxes and tariffs upon visiting yachts: the rationale may vary widely, from a contribution to the maintenance of lights and beacons, to a mandatory "Cruising Permit": cost may range from few dozen Euros to several hundred, like in Croatia and, more recently, in Greece. Also in Italy a similar tax has been imposed and then removed a couple of times.
Also around the world we have been requested to pay several times; it's useless to mention them here, this kind of information changes all the time and you should get the latest info on dedicated web-sites. Please note that normally you are not allowed to enter the Country (other than to visit the Authorities, if they do not come onboard) so make sure you have enough cash to perform the payment (hoping they take Dollars or Euros!).
Taking advantage of ports or Marinas may represent an
important expense, although public ports may be cheaper or even free; for a boat
like ours, a fee of 40 per night is standard, and it may be much more.
Away from Europe and North America, Marinas get very scarce, so much so that when you find one you may be more than happy to pay for the convenience, and anyway anchorages usually abound and are almost always for free.
The boat's self-sufficiency becomes an important factor: the
ability to store several days' worth of food, large water tanks, fuel tanks
lasting for many days, and in general the boat's ability to provide creature
comforts while at anchor are all contributing to reduce the frequency of
expensive stays in port.
Another expense item which may range from zero to infinite...
Sure, the boat is a good vehicle to explore a Country's shores, but obviously there may be interesting places in the interior, museums to visit, faraway towns or sights, the list is endless.
Whenever possible we like to rent a car and explore the area
on our own, but sometimes it is more convenient to join an organised trip (ask
the local Tourist Office, or the Marina office, or nearby hotels); for those who
like diving, joining a trip organised by the local diving center is advisable,
and often mandatory (independent dives are often forbidden).
INSURANCE: 1000/4000 /year
Third-party insurance is mandatory in many Countries, and is
anyway highly advisable.
Unfortunately, finding an insurance company willing to provide you a cover for a circumnavigation or a voyage to faraway places may not be easy, and anyway the premium will be quite higher than what you pay for coverage in the home waters; the company may also impose some limitation, such as a minimum number of 3 crewmembers during ocean passages or avoiding certain areas during the hurricane season.
Both at the time of our circumnavigation and now for Shaula4
we are insured with Pantaenius;
they are deemed to be expensive, which may be true compared with France or UK
but not compared to Italy, and they did cover us for the circumnavigation with a
minimum of fuss. To give an idea of prices, we spend in the range of
1000 to insure Shaula4 and its tenders, while the cost for the larger Shaula3
was about the double, and during the circumnavigation we paid about 4000 /
MAINTENANCE (before/during/after): from 1000 /year
No matter how carefully a boat has been refurbished before departure, things may wear out or break during a long voyage which corresponds to several seasons of regular cruising!
Even in a very lucky year, a few ropes may require a replacement, some minor repairs will be needed, perhaps you will add some accessories you did not think of before, then you will have to replace engine oil and filters, and clean the hull before applying a fresh antifouling layer.
So, when I say minimum 1000 Euros, I'm being VERY optimistic, even doing most works yourself only haulage and carenage will cost very near that figure! (unless you do the job yourself, beaching the boat somewhere, assuming that's allowed).
When the boat has grown older, or is subject to the accelerated wear of sailing all-year-round, breakages increase together with costs; if a serious breakage occurs, the expenditure may become important, and even if maybe the insurance will pay, you may have to anticipate the cost and get refunded later. And of course insurance won't cover breakages deriving from regular wear: if the engine needs being overhauled or even replaced because it reached 10.000 hours, the cost is all yours!
During the circumnavigation we have been very lucky, if it wasn't for the capsize we would have had quite few breakages (some worn ropes, the water pump replaced, the fridge control unit replaced - 3 times!!! and about 1000 $ for hull cleaning and anti-fouling in Fiji). In total about 2000 in 2 years.
Consider also that the boat may need some major maintenance
once it has come back from a long voyage, like sail or rigging replacement, or a
complete engine overhaul; if you plan to sell the boat you may avoid the
expense, but it will decrease the sale price.
WINTERING (at home or around the world)
Unless you sail all the year round non-stop, sooner or later you will have to leave the boat somewhere: some people is happy to leave the boat at anchor under the more-or-less close surveillance of a local guy, but risks are very high for a valuable boat: it is not unheard-of to find the boat stolen, or the expensive gear stolen, or the boat missing altogether or washed ashore.
Sure, leaving the boat for months in a marina (assuming there is a marina in the first place...) can be very expensive, but there may be cheaper alternatives such as a buoy mooring or leaving the boat on the hard.
If you are sailing along the tradewind belt, there's an additional problem: the hurricane season: either you bring the boat to a safe place out of the hurricanes' path (which may be a very long detour) or you must find an "Hurricane-proof" place, like leaving the boat ashore, with the keel in a hole in the ground and the hull resting on the ground itself, to avoid it to be capsized by a strong wind.
Prices may vary, but in general do not expect tariffs much
lower than in Europe.
A REAL CASE: THE CRUISE TO GREECE IN 2016
In this page you will find the
detailed report of the expenses incurred during the cruise from Jesolo to Ionian
Last Update: 07/09/2017
Shaula4 website (text and images) by Gianfranco Balducci is licensed under a