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Omaha 06-27-2010 07:54 PM

Basic cost question
We're doing some advance planning for our dream of retiring on a sailboat and spending our time cruising the Caribbean, with possible occasional Atlantic crossings and summers spent cruising the Mediterranean.

We expect to have a steady stream of visitors, so we are planning on a decent sized sailboat...a 45 to 50 footer. We should have the resources to pay cash for the boat, and get one that is reasonably new (so hopefully there are no major repair/retrofit costs for a long time).

What I'm looking for is some guidance regarding what day to day and month to month expenses will look like...just the basics...things like insurance and food (for two) and ongoing maintenance and repairs.

I realize this is a terribly broad question, and if its any help we have very modest tastes and intend to pursue this from a "minimalist" perspective. We are just looking for some general ideas of how much it will cost on an ongoing basis to live this way.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!!!

sailingdog 06-27-2010 08:34 PM

I hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of variables to the costs... For instance:
  • Are you planning on keeping the boat in a marina or anchoring out most of the time?
  • Are you going to be going out to restaurants every other night or cooking and eating aboard most of the time?
  • Are you going to pay the yard to do the maintenance or do most of your own maintenance?
  • Are you going to get full coverage insurance, and for what cruising areas?

Your costs will depend a lot on how you answer them and approach cruising.

I'd point out that getting a boat over 40' is going to escalate a lot of your costs, and a 50' boat will cost at least twice as much as a 40' in maintenance and such typically, as costs generally double with every 10' in length as a rough rule of thumb. BTW, a 50' boat conflicts with a "minimalist" approach IMHO. :D

Also, what experience do you and your wife have? I'd point out that when cruising, you will often be sailing the boat singlehanded at different times and should get a boat that either of you can singlehand.

What is your approximate budget for the boat in question? I highly recommend that you reserve at least 15-20% of your boat buying budget for refitting, modifying and upgrading your boat, since boats are not like cars, and often need to be modified to suit the way you will use the boat.

wind_magic 06-27-2010 10:45 PM


I too was surprised to read the word "minimalist" in the same post as 50 foot boat! :D

I think the short answer for how much it is going to cost is that it is going to cost you the same thing it costs you right now, plus and minus a few things. Getting on a boat doesn't suddenly change your life, you bring your life with you, same life, different location. If you're used to eating fresh pineapple every day, you're going to want fresh pineapple every day. If you live a big life now, you'll be living a big life on the boat too, at least until you change it. It's amazing how many people seem to think they are going to wash clothing at the laundromat, ride bicycles to the store, bake bread from scratch, etc, who wouldn't DREAM of doing that right now.

bljones 06-27-2010 10:54 PM

budget $100/ft. /month.
So, for a 50 footer, figure $5000.00/month.
It will likely be less, but budget $5000.00 to play it safe. If it is less please forward the excess to me as a management fee.

BTW, "modest tastes", "minimalist", and "45-50 footer " and "steady stream of guests" do not dovetail together. Simply because of it's bloody size, a 50 ft' boat precludes minimalism. It is damn hard to live like Thoreau when you are on a Trump-sized boat.

Omaha 06-28-2010 04:10 PM

$100/month/ft sounds like a decent rule of thumb. I like round numbers.

As for the question of minimalism and all that, our tastes are very modest. We don't eat out six nights per week, we don't wear fancy clothes or drive fancy cars. In contemplating this boat, we want big for its own sake...We have seven kids and the grandkids are coming on strong so there is every reason to expect a steady stream of them coming for visits. And we want as much boat as possible for our planned Atlantic crossings.

Thanks, everyone.

sailingdog 06-28-2010 04:49 PM

Rather than going with a 50' monohull, I'd highly recommend you look at going with something like a Chris White designed Atlantic 42 catamaran. It will have more living space than a 50' boat, and it is specifically designed to be sailed short-handed. The pilothouse and forward cockpit allow you to sail the boat relatively easily in even the worst weather in relative safety. It is probably less money than many 45-50' monohulls as well.

killarney_sailor 06-28-2010 05:04 PM

We have lived on a 45 footer for 2 1/2 yrs including last winter in the Eastern Caribbean and we are starting a circumnavigation in the fall. We tend to live quite simply on the boat - for example, no nights in marinas in last 6 months, eat out about once every 2 weeks on average and eat whatever is available locally at a decent price - sometimes this is quite like North American food, sometimes not, either is fine. Our boat is quality-built but almost 30 years old. We spent close to $60k getting it ready for extended cruising (don't assume that because the boat you are buying is newer that there will not be considerable expenditures to be made, but that is a different topic.

So much for the context. Our spending in Caribbean averaged about $1200 a month not including insurance. One month it was closer to $4000 because we decided to upgrade the windlass and get a new laptop and prices in St Martin were excellent. We had no significant breakdowns on the boat with something over 6000 miles travelled so boat expenses each month were modest. We did have contingency funds available but did not to use any. People mention $100 /ft/month, in our case that would be $4500 per month. I don't think that anyone we met in the Caribbean were spending nearly that.

Cruising in the Med and other parts of western Europe is a different matter entirely. Many of the Europeans we met in the Caribbean said they were there because sailing was so expensive in their home countries. For example, apparently there are no (as in none) places to anchor on the Med coast of Spain and dockage for a 40 footer for one night is generally around 70 euros. Also other things are very expensive as well compared to the compared.

You also mention going back and forth across the Atlantic. This is not a casual undertaking and will be hard on the boat even with crossings in the best seasons and best places. Most people sail to Europe and stay there for some time ( 2 to many years) before coming back to the Americas. Our original plan was to sail to Europe this summer and stay there for a couple of years but it seemed to be out of our budget range.

BTW, if you do go, it is possible to winter in the downtowns of both London and Paris for not too much money.

I would encourage you to pursue your goal but I think you need to do a great deal more research.

Omaha 06-29-2010 12:06 AM

"you need to do a great deal more research."

Indeed! This is something that's going to happen (if it happens) about ten years out.

For the $1200 per month not counting insurance, how much were you paying for insurance on top of that?

Round numbers, if our finances continue as I expect them to, we will be in a position to spend something in the neighborhood of $300k on the boat and whatever initial "make ready" expenses we incur. After that, we should be able to generate an income somewhere between $2500 and $5000 per month. What I'm hearing from this discussion is that those numbers should be more than sufficient.

killarney_sailor 06-29-2010 09:16 AM

insurance costs
Our insurance was around $4300 a year for a boat worth $180k. We are likely not going to keep full insurance for next year and have only liability insurance. This will be much less money. We do not have health insurance. We are Canadians and have some overseas coverage from this (depends on how long we are out of the country at any given time). Also, the cost of paying for any needed health costs are manageable anywhere but the US - we heard of people getting treatment for a major laceration in Grenada (3 visits to a clinic) with a total cost of $15 for the medication used.

With your budget you should do just fine. Someone suggested a catamaran. This would work well in the Caribbean but would be problematic anywhere where you needed to use docks. We have friends who have a St Francis 50 and it is remarkably palatial. They paid more than $1million for it but the construction quality was still a bit iffy. For something like this you are better off with a used boat that someone else has done all the prep work on.

A general comment I would make is that you should look for a better boat rather than a bigger boat. With your budget you should be able to get a large, high-quality boat though.

kd3pc 06-29-2010 09:42 AM


Originally Posted by Omaha (Post 617721)
$100/month/ft sounds like a decent rule of thumb. I like round numbers.

We live on the boat for far less than this...according to your guess, $4200 a month...that is almost $50K a year, with no thought of tax?

We are a quarter to a third of this...including insurance, avoiding the hurricane window...but we don't eat out or stay in expensive marinas.

think frugal...

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