08 January 2018

Cost Of Cruising & Living Aboard A Sailboat | 2017 Recap

Although I post regularly on our cost of cruising and living aboard Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat {see our How Much It Costs page,} I thought it would be useful to do a recap of how much we spent during all of 2017. That way you can see the total picture including yearly spend and average monthly spend by category.

So let's cut to the chase - we spent $24,095 during 2017, which comes out to a monthly average of $2,008.

If you want to see the breakdown behind those numbers, have a read below. Be warned, it's a long post so I'll throw some random pictures in to jazz things up.

But before we get started, here are a few thoughts about expense tracking vs. budgeting, income, and categorizing expenses.

Expense Tracking vs. Budgeting

We track our expenses on a monthly basis. We do not track our expenses against a budget. In fact, we don't have a budget. For some people budgeting (i.e., setting limits on how much you're going to spend in certain categories) is a very useful tool to control expenditure and prioritize spending decisions. For example, they might allocate $200 a month for eating out. Once they've reached that cap, they don't go out to eat again until the following month. Or they might only spend $150 that month, which means they've got an extra $50 in next month's budget.

We've found that by tightly monitoring and managing how much we spend, we don't need to budget. We know that in some months and some years we're going to spend more than in others. We're naturally frugal (some might call it cheap) and tend to consider what we spend our money on quite carefully. Keep in mind that this approach works for us, but it might not work for you.


The questions everyone really wants to know are How much money do you have? and How can you afford this? If you're hoping that we'll answer those questions, then you're going to be disappointed. Suffice it to say that we have a little bit of income and some savings.  By taking a minimalist approach, living frugally, and stretching our dollars, we've been able to enjoy this lifestyle for now. It may not last forever, but we're going to keep at it while it's still fun and we still have our health. {FYI, for what it's worth, we're in our 50s, so we're not collecting retirement income, social security etc.}


Everyone categorizes their expenses differently, which can make it tricky to compare different people's reports of their cost of cruising.

For example, some people categorize everything they buy in a grocery store as groceries even if it includes things you can't eat. And I can see why - it probably makes for easier tracking. You just enter the total on the grocery store receipt under the groceries category. I like to make things hard for myself, so I go through each grocery store receipt line item by line item and assign things to separate categories. That way I know exactly how much we spend on food versus things like shampoo.

There's no right or wrong way to categorize things. Whatever works best for you is the right way.


When you look at the nitty-gritty details of what we spent below, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:
(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising costs.
(b) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford, whether you get subsidies etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka the Affordable Care Act), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition.
3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax and the Bahamas has a 7.5% VAT.

4 - We have two people living on board full-time - my husband and me (although Scott was gone for ten weeks of the year). No pets and no kids. 

Indiantown Marina

>>Marina Costs<<

Yearly Total = $4,562
Monthly Average = $380

We include all costs for marina slips and mooring balls in this category. Basically a place to park our boat when we're not anchored out. You can think of it like rent.

During 2017, we spent about five months cruising in Florida and the Bahamas. We had to take a marina slip in Florida during this time to repair a broken dinghy davit and replace our engine's water pump. We anchored the rest of the time while we were out cruising. If we can help it, we try to avoid staying at marinas or picking up mooring balls to try to keep our monthly "rent" down.

When we weren't out cruising, we were at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida. At the beginning of the year (January and February), we were working on boat projects before we left for the Bahamas and we came back to Indiantown at the end of July to wait out hurricane season. The monthly fee for a boat our size during 2017 was $572 and included electric and water. {Note: The rates at Indiantown Marina have gone up for 2018 and they eliminated the monthly rate in the work yard.}

Rebedding a portlight.

>>Boat Stuff<<

Yearly Total = $6,745
Monthly Average = $562

This includes everything we buy for the boat, as well as items related to repairs and maintenance.

While the yearly total is enough to make me wonder why anyone would own a boat, it's lower than what I expect we'll spend in 2018 as we've got some pricey items and tasks on our wishlist (watermaker, new headsail, new batteries, AIS, bottom paint, new cooker, chain plates, lifelines, sorting out our windlass).

For those of you who want to know where all the money went, here are the details (I've also included links to relevant blog posts):

  • Auto Pilot - Our Raymarine autohelm had been giving us some issues, so we bought a new wheel, new belts, and an auto pilot drive clamp kit.
  • Anchoring - We bought a new mushroom anchor, shackle, and line for our dinghy. We also bought seizing wire.
  • Dinghy - We had to replace one of our dinghy davits, as well as the base plate.
  • Electric - We got a new solar panel and connectors, as well as a Blue Sky 3000 controller. We bought an inverter and a 12-volt socket which we installed in the aft cabin. 
  • Engine - We had to replace our exhaust elbow on our Thornycroft T80 engine. We had two exhaust elbows (one to keep as a spare), end caps, and gaskets shipped over from the UK. Our water pump had to be replaced. We sourced a spare through a tractor supply outfit. And we bought some of the usual spares you would expect - Racor fuel filters, oil filters etc.
  • Navigation - We bought a new Plastimo compass.
  • Plumbing & Waste Management - We bought a new manual fresh water pump for the galley which is great for minimizing water usage. We installed a new galley faucet. We bought a new electric water pump, a new bilge pump switch, and joker valves. 
  • Portlights & Hatches - We bought acrylic and Dow 795 sealant to replace and rebed all or our hatches and one of the portlights in the saloon. We'll replace the other three portlights when Scott gets back.
  • Safety - We bought two of those cheap orange PFDs to keep in the dinghy, a tether, and a Sailrite harness kit.
  • Sails - We bought a stack pack kit from Sailrite and a new fairlead for our headsail roller furling set-up.
  • Other - We bought two Camfaro fans (one for the saloon and one in the aft cabin). They make life so much more comfortable on board. We changed out our bulbs to LED. We bought a new zinc, but haven't had to replace it yet. We got a clamp-on cup holder for the cockpit. Scott made a fold-out table for our galley out of a cutting board. Great solution for when you need extra counter space. And there's the usual tools, hardware, and other miscellaneous stuff you need to work on various projects .

Doing laundry at Black Point, Exumas

>>Boat Fuel<<

Yearly Total = $710
Monthly Average = $59

This includes diesel for our inboard engine and gas for our outboard engine and generator.

I use our Wonderbag all the time. It's like a non-electric slow cooker. Great for saving on propane.

>>Propane & Butane<<

Yearly Total = $138
Monthly Average = $11

Our grill and our cooker run on propane (LPG). The stove part of our cooker broke and we ended up using a butane camping stove while we were out cruising, which is why you see butane reported here. Getting a new cooker is on our wish list for 2018. While we're at Indiantown Marina, we use an electric hot plate and crockpot for cooking.

Tickety Boo in a slip at Indiantown Marina.

>>Boat Insurance & Documentation<<

Yearly Total = $953
Monthly Average = $79

This includes insurance and documentation related fees.

Previously, we only carried liability insurance as the quotes we had for full insurance were way too high considering the age and value of our boat. We opted to accept the risk of something happening to our boat and self-insured. However, we were able to get full insurance through Geico in 2017 for $776 for coverage in the Bahamas and the States. It wasn't much higher than a liability-only policy so we went for it. I'm not looking forward to sorting out insurance options for next year, if we head to the Western Caribbean. {Note: We just got our renewal notice for Geico and our premium has gone up to $937, a 21% increase. Gotta pay for those hurricanes somehow.}

We also have Tow Boat US insurance ($124) which offers peace of mind should we need need a tow or assistance (you can think of it like AAA or CAA insurance for your car).

Other costs in this category include $27 for a Customs & Border Protection decal (which allows you to clear back into the States over the phone as part of the Small Vessel Registration System) and $26 for our annual Coast Guard documentation renewal.

Views like this are why we love cruising.

>>Boat Miscellaneous<<

Yearly Total = $461
Monthly Average = $38

This includes stuff that doesn't fit into the other categories, like charts and guidebooks, pump-outs, membership in the Moody Owner's Association, and a haul-out and splash at Indiantown Marina.

Charts and guidebooks for the Bahamas


Yearly Total = $4,012
Monthly Average = $334

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good. 

Our spend on groceries over the year is really variable. We spend lots in months where we're provisioning for the Bahamas and not as much in other months when we're out cruising. That's why I like to look at the monthly average, which actually turned out to be lower than I thought it would be. However, keep in mind that Scott was away for ten weeks of the year so I spent less on groceries during that period.

Making chocolate chip cookies in our tiny galley.

>>Personal & Hygiene<<

Yearly Total = $204
Monthly Average = $17

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here, like bug spray.

Taco Tuesday at a bar in Indiantown.


Yearly Total = $1,233
Monthly Average = $103

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat.

Tracking pizza, fast food, coffees etc. in the entertainment category helps to remind ourselves that, in an ideal world, we would only drink and eat out as a form of entertainment - enjoying the company of friends (Taco Tuesday comes to mind), as part of our travels (like the chicken dinner we had a church fair in the Bahamas), or indulging in Ethiopian food (one of our favorite cuisines). However, we don't live in an ideal world and fall prey to the lures of take-away food from time to time.

We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals, and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.

This is one of the categories where we can really try to control costs and look for ways to cut back on spending as part of our yearly review. For example, I was spending about $8 a month on online sci-fi/fantasy magazines (Amisov's, Analog etc.), but I have a number of back issues which I haven't gotten around to reading yet, so I canceled the subscriptions. $8 a month may not seem like a lot, but over the course of the year it adds up to $96.

Camping in the Everglades

>>Vehicle & Camper<<

Yearly Total = $877
Monthly Average = $73

This includes gas, repairs, and maintenance for our Nissan Pathfinder, and storage fees for both our vehicle and camper. It also includes any parking, public transport, taxis, Ubers etc.

We have a 13' Scamp travel trailer which we store at Indiantown Marina for $21 a month. We go back and forth on whether we should sell it or not and, until we decide, it lives here at the marina. We also stored our vehicle while we were out cruising (also $21 a month).

We spent $455 on gas, primarily for going into the "big city" of Stuart for shopping (about 20 miles away), as well as our evacuation to Atlanta as a result of Hurricane Irma. We try to batch errands together to minimize the amount of trips we need to make so that we can save on fuel.

Bimini repair at Cave Cay, Abacos

>>Medical Expenses<<

Yearly Total = $1,278
Monthly Average = $106

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions, and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

The majority of the spend this year ($1,206) was for some hospital and doctor bills for treatment in 2016. It took ages for insurance and the medical providers to sort out the billing, which meant I was still paying the last of it this year. Our insurance policy is primarily for catastrophic coverage which means we have a huge deductible and out-of-pocket expenses to be met before insurance kicks in. {Sigh}

Staying connected on board.


Yearly Total = $884
Monthly Average = $126

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $60 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. We continued with that plan while we were out cruising so that we can keep our US cell phone number.

In the Bahamas, we had a 30-day data plan ($35). The data plan we bought was billed as "Limitless" which the woman at BTC assured us had no data cap, nor would it choke down our speed after we used a certain amount of data. Turns out that was rather misleading. Once you used 15GB of data, they shut you down without warning. Fortunately, we didn't use up our data allowance, but I know other people who did. To be fair, the cost per GB was actually pretty good compared to our AT&T plan.

Tickety Boo anchored at White Cay, Berry Islands


Yearly Total = $3,371
Monthly Average = $281

In this category, we include how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else, things like laundry and trash disposal.

Our biggest expense was on travel - clearing into the Bahamas ($150), Scott's plane ticket to Glasgow ($260), my plane ticket to Portland to see family ($464), and a dodgy motel when we evacuated from Indiantown as a result of Hurricane Irma ($30).

We spent $263 on clothes and shoes. In some ways that surprises me because I actually need to get rid of some more of my clothes, but in other ways it doesn't. Shoes wear out and t-shirts get holes in them.

We bought some new electronics including a Kindle, laptop, earbuds, flat screen TV, and printer. We both got wetsuits and I got new snorkeling mask (one of those full-face ones, can't wait to try it out). And the list goes on and on - new stuff for the galley (mixing bowls, mortar and pestle, English muffin rings etc.), fishing gear, Amazon Prime, photocopies, a toy dinosaur from the dollar store, and a water hose.

Did we spend more or less than you would have expected? Do you track your expenses? Any frugal tips and tricks to share?

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  1. Overall though, the cost of insurance on your boat equals what a lot of people pay for on a car. So that's not bad.
    I think if most people added up what they spend a year living in a house with cars, it would be more than you spend.

    1. I think your right - life on land can get pretty expensive.

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  2. Some months we eat out a lot, some we don't hardly at all. My husband fusses at our grocery bill, but I think we are under your total, so not bad.

    1. I wonder if the fact that your vegetarian helps keep you grocery bill low?

  3. Great job .. Thanks for sharing (and giving us hope). LOL!

    1. Well, I'm sure every year won't be this inexpensive, so don't be too hopeful :-)

  4. Not bad. About the same cost as living in California. I'd be lying if I didn't admit my end goal with to have created enough side businesses to effectively get paid to exist and never worry about money again.

    1. That's a great end goal to have to never have to worry about money again.

  5. Very well done. You have a budget and you know where your money goes and how much you need to live comfortably. Many people live day to day and have no idea where their money goes.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

    1. We used to be those people who had no idea where their money went.

  6. I hope you get to enjoy this lifestyle for many years to come. It's funny how my partner and I can disagree on what makes for a wise expenditure. I thought buying a new corset a wardrobe necessity but always refused to pay $6 for the bag of chocolate covered pretzel crisps he brought home yesterday. Doesn't this sort of snack food crap buying justify the desire for another corset? Heh... I like how you said you like to make things hard on yourself. That sounds like me. ~grin~ Be well!

    1. That's such a funny example of how priorities can differ :-)

  7. Excellent accounting. I'd say you had the best of things in life. Anytime someone says anything about being able to travel, I'm like a dog with a leash in its mouth. Ready! Let's go.

  8. Wow, I admire how much work you've undertaken to track your expenses this closely. Pretty amazing. I think you kept them low, considering you were on a boat. I'm trying my best to keep mine to $20K/year, but I'm on dry land. (That includes my mortgage.)

    1. Wow, $20k/year including a mortgage - that's an impressive goal, especially if that's $20k Canadian :-)

  9. I adore your lifestyle--but as your post proves, it does take a fair bit of work and tracking. I love that you're able to travel so much.

    Here's to another year of fun with sailing!

    1. Tracking expenses closely is one of the things that helps us be able to travel so much, for which I am very grateful.

  10. Such useful info - really! Im comparing your costs to ours and thinking "Hey, they've got the same priorities as us! Cool!"
    One question: Checking into the Bahamas, how did they measure your length? Documented, or length on deck, or tape measure... And did your davits count? Wondering what to expect...

    1. Clearing into the Bahamas is based on what is stated in your documentation, so davits don't count :-)

  11. You do a terrific job tracking your costs, but I suppose to make a go of your chosen lifestyle, it'd be foolish not to keep track. We're cheap... um, I mean frugal... too, but I do spend a lot more money on groceries. I like to cook and we both like to eat, so there ya go...

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head - in order to be able to live this life pre-retirement age, we really do have to track costs closely.

  12. I love my "what we've spent" spreadsheet and I was pleased to read it's not just me who goes through a shopping receipt taking out all the non food items and putting them into separate categories. It was extra hard in Greece trying to decipher the Greek language :-) Great post, makes me think I should write one for our year too.

    1. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who breaks out shopping receipts, although I'm not sure I could do it in Greek :-) I'd love to see a summary of your cost of cruising for last year.

  13. I liked your blurb about "Expense Tracking vs. Budgeting". you guys are doing everything along the same lines as us. We don't have a budget either, we are just generally and generously frugal. :-) We only spend money on necessities and by being so careful with money, we get to live the life of our choice.

    Your boat insurance amount is pretty good! But, to be covered in hurricane zones, or slightly outside of those zones and internationally, will increase the rate. For Irie, we paid between $2000 and $3000 a year, depending on our location. Very much "ouch". That being said, our annual boat expenses ranged between $8000 and $12,000 a year during our eight cruising years.

    I was going to say that you should do better in the future, when the marina costs are gone, but that money will (guaranteed) be spent on other boat-related expenses.

    My yearly expense report for 2017 will be put together and posted soon as well. It made us reflect on our time on the water. And, we are surprised that it is not that much different... On Irie, the most we spent during a year of cruising was around $20,000, the least about $13,000 - everything included, even plane tickets "home". I think, in 2017, we spent about $15,000 while house sitting!

    1. I put that bit about expense vs. budget in because I think some people think they're the same thing and I wanted to show that you don't necessarily have to have one to control your costs. Love the fact that you spent so little while house sitting.

      Considering the value of our boat isn't really all that much, the insurance seems high to me, but in the scheme of things, I guess it isn't too bad.

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