The cruising community is made up of people ranging in age from their early twenties to upper eighties. Some boats we’ve crossed paths with have entire families on board, some only a single sailor. Most are crewed with couples sporting a wrinkle or two and silver to white hair. All very young at heart, but have also worked long enough to collect some type of pension. Despite the lonely nature of long distant cruising, most cruisers are very social people, which means many conversations and group get-togethers everywhere you go. The gatherings at local anchorages include conversations mostly about boat problems and solutions. There are cooking tips, travel and destination recommendations, travel plans of each boat and lots and lots of stories about the fish that got away or the scariest passage ever. Usually at some point during the gathering because of our comparatively immature look, someone will ask how we can afford to go cruising. I usually answer I can’t. Once the truth comes out the questions jump to something like, wasn’t that stressful? and then to something about a plane crash. But I digress. The topic I’m addressing is How can you (or me) afford to go cruising?
The short answer is I don’t know. I’ve seen cruisers on near million dollar yachts to boats half the size of mine. And mines not that big. Buying the boat is the easy part. There are many other expenses when it comes to cruising. Maintenance is not cheap. Even doing it yourself. Parts are expensive in the USA and they don’t get any cheaper elsewhere, if you can find them. Repairs, again not cheap, and there is always something to fix on a boat.
If you want to stay in a marina, it can be very expensive. We anchored out 90% of the time and usually that is free. Some ports still collect an anchoring fee. Anchored out you still have to get to shore and many marinas will charge you to tie up to their dinghy dock. Then there are port fees, immigration fees, and boat permits. It cost us around $700 to “check into” Panama, but you can fly in for free. Honduras on the other hand was about $20. There are sometimes other costs also associated with arriving in a new country.
Everywhere you go there are touristy attractions tempting you. But were not tourists. (sort of) We’re just living in our mobile house. How many of you have done all the touristy stuff located right in your own backyard? Now imagine having a new backyard every month. At least food is usually reasonable, as long as you’re willing to eat what is locally affordable.
So how does the owner of the small bucket of bolts afford to cruise the same ocean as the million dollar yachts, and all the sizes in between? Some cruisers are wealthy, some retired, some are on sea-batical, and some still working. Just like living on land, you do have to budget. Cruising can cost you all the money you have. We planned and saved for years so we could go. If you anchor out, eat on your boat not in restaurants, avoid the tourist traps and avoid the more expensive countries, you can save yourself a lot of money. If you’re willing to give up some comforts and are creative with your lifestyle and budget, you too could be out cruising.
Anna and I are well aware of how blessed we are to be able to live the life we live. Our wish is for all of you to be able to live the life you want to live.