So,….How much does it cost to live and travel on a Sailboat ????

Aspiring cruisers frequently ask the question “What does it cost to do this?” …..that’s tough to answer unless you keep records for a few months, at least.   Plus it can be difficult since boats and their systems come in various sizes and levels of complexity.  The larger the boat and the more systems you have on board the greater the associated costs.  We feel like we live pretty well on Kitty Hawk.  She has a nice balance of systems and amenities without feeling like you are camping  on the water.

For us, generally speaking, we run between $3,000 and $4,000 per month.  Some months if we don’t have an upgrade or repair and we anchor out more, we are closer to that $3k number.  Some of our friends who cruised in the 1980’s have told us they could get by on as little as $300 per month !!! Looking back, my first car in 1982 cost me $400 !!!

Kim, fortunately, is becoming meticulous when it comes to documenting our expenses on a daily basis.  Now that we have a full year under our belts, I thought it was time to put all of her hard work together into a post.  Since the process of categorizing expenses has taken some time to refine, I decided to limit this first accounting to the last six months.  That should help to make this more understandable.

Unfortunately, the app we use to track these expenses can’t export the information.  We have to use screen shots of the reports, so the resolution isn’t the best but you’ll be able to see how things break down percentage wise.




It seems like the first half of the year is always the most expensive.  Since hurricane season starts on June 1, that tends to be the time when we get any professional assistance with any needed repairs started.  We also pay for our annual hurricane haulout reservation in May, which adds between $250 and $500 to the budget.  There was also about $2,000 of extra expenses, due to some poor work we had done in North Carolina in 2015, that not only required corrective repairs but caused some damages that needed repair also.  There are some front loaded services for the year that come up and we are in the process of dividing these up over the whole year. The average for this last six month period was about $4,480.00 per month.  Adjusting for the extra repairs this number should be more like $4,100.00.   I feel safe in saying that this number will continue to go down as we move forward.  Our rough numbers for the twelve month period was closer to $3,000 per month. I hope our upcoming years will be closer to that $3,000 mark, or less !!

Our largest category, Entertainment, covers anytime we eat out, away from the boat, or any other land based excursions (Parks, tours or the like).

The second largest, Monthly expenses, includes set, recurring expenses.  Things like XM Radio subscriptions, cell phones, our MiFi hot spot, DAN insurance, Boat/car/life insurance, personal property taxes and membership fees fall into this category (our old sailing club dues, our current marina association, Elks club, etc).

In third place we have Miscellaneous, that includes things like income taxes, laundry, health/vision, other supplies, fishing gear, scuba gear, and hotels.

Transportation includes, taxis, buses and rental cars.

Fuel includes both the diesel for the boat and gasoline for any vehicles we use along the way, plus the gas for the dinghy and dive compressor.

“Lowes” is our catch all category for any hardware store expense.

The Marina category covers any docking expenses or other fees incurred while at a Marina or private dock (Wifi, water, electricity etc).

The Alcohol category covers wine, beer or liquor that we buy to keep on the boat. (That 2% is much lower than anyone anticipated, I bet !!)

We will compile another report like this in another six months and include both periods to see how the expenses shape up once we have all the categories locked in.

Never fear….the Key West Post is still coming…’s still in the draft phase….


Example of our first six months of operating expenses

Occasionally,  I sit down and calculate what the total is for the last six months of owning, operating and maintaining our boat.  At times it is painful…. Keep in mind ours is an older, though upgraded, 44′ sailboat.  There have been a few things we added or upgraded which we probably could have lived without but we decided were essential.

Here’s what last winter cost us, (2014 into 2015) just for the boat and travel, not food or entertainment….

Transient or Seasonal Dockage: $1,700

Insurance: $100/month so $600

Fuel: $500

Equipment replacement or repairs: $5,000  (We had to replace a lot of items that the prior owner wanted to keep and we also added a Garmin 741XS chartplotter which has been fantastic)

Home slip: $150/month…$900

Travel to and from boat: $3,000 ( we have spent a lot of time helping a terminally ill family member over the last year so this will drop significantly)

Radio Licenses: $200

Haulout/Bottom Paint : $1600

Epirb recert: $300

So, we are at $13,700 for a six month period.  ($2,283.00 per month)  Some of these items won’t come around again for three years (bottom job, radio licenses, EPIRB) so the cost can be amortized over a longer period reducing the monthly cost.  Downside is when they need to be done you’d better have had the discipline to save your cash.  The good news is I cleaned our hull in December before we left Oriental, NC and it looked great after a year in the water.  The use of the Petit Ultima SR60 was a good choice.  The bottom looked like it had just been painted except for some growth on the intakes.  I have read a lot of varying opinions on how often to clean the bottom and many claim that the more often you clean it the faster your paint “ablates” and the sooner you have to reapply…this seems to be the case in this instance as ours is holding up very, very well with only two light cleanings a year.

The first six months, granted, will probably be the most expensive of the time periods during which you will own your boat.  Gear, cosmetic changes, upgrades and the inevitable mistakes that break or lose something will be factors that increase this number, so be ready.

This last December (2014), our house batteries decided that they needed to be replaced…(right after our engine starting battery needed replacement $150)…..we have ten….they are Trojan T-105’s that run about $150 a piece (after taxes)…..they typically last five years ….that works out to a manageable $25 per month over the life of the batteries but that sticker shock will keep you awake a few nights when they need replacement….