Back in the year 2000, I travelled around Europe by train. When I returned and told of my adventures I’d occasionally get asked how much it cost, however this was mostly because we were poor students, and every penny spent on hostels, ferries, or flights, meant one less to spend on alcohol.
Later, I learned to ride a motorcycle and started what ultimately became a love affair with overland travel. This included multiple tours around various parts of Europe, an off-road skirmish in North Africa, and half a year in South America. In all this time very rarely did anyone ever ask about cost, unless it was for something specific e.g. the entrance fee to a national park, or clearance fees for customs. After all, I was now a fully paid up member of society, and so too were those I told about my travels; the money just wasn’t as important as it was during my backpacking days.
Now we get to sailing, and being a full time live-aboard. And it seems people are once again fascinated by ‘how much it costs.’ Most assume that because I live on a boat that I must be rich, independently wealthy, or be living off some kind of trust fund. Perhaps it’s because of my age, but I’ve even been quizzed by sailors who really ought to know better.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. What people fail to consider, is that unlike many of those living on land, I don’t own a £20,000 Ford Focus hatchback (the most popular car in the UK), instead I have a £600 dinghy. I don’t own a £250,000 flat/house in the south of England. In fact the total cost of my boat, probably wouldn’t even cover the deposit on such a property.
I don’t have a big screen TV (the boat did come with a TV, I’ve never used it), a cable/satellite subscription or even a microwave. In fact, besides a couple of boxes of camping gear, everything I own is with me on the boat. Perhaps, I should be looking at these people instead and thinking “wow, you guys are rich. How can you afford all this stuff?”
Still, there’s a perception that sailing is expensive, and living aboard even more so. I won’t say that’s a myth, as there can certainly be some high costs involved, but it often costs less than you might imagine.
On that note, I’ve deiced to disclose my costs of living aboard a boat, whilst travelling around the Mediterranean, starting form June 2017. Perhaps my expenses will serve as a guide to other considering something similar.
June 2017 live-aboard expenses
|Marina and mooring fees
|Diesel/petrol and water
|Internet and telecoms
One-off boat costs/repairs
|Misc fixtures and fittings
All figures in Euros at €1.14 – £1
On the surface the live-aboard costs aren’t bad at all. Less than I would spend a month living in an apartment in the UK. For the most part I was based in Cartagena, I medium sized city, with good amenities, and cheap food and even cheaper beer.
When the boat expenses are added it becomes a whole different story, however it is worth pointing out, that I had only taken possession of the boat during May, and it wasn’t really properly prepared or ready for cruising. Consider it like buying a house then budgeting for some repairs such as new windows, or roof tiles, or a gardener etc.. Many of these expenses won’t be repeated. (at least during my ownership)
Marina fees – I was based in Yacht Port Cartagena from 1st to 21st June. I have a 10.5m catamaran, but fortunately I was able to get away with still paying winter rates otherwise this figure would have been higher. That being said, I ran into problems with the boat, which delayed my departure.
Diesel/petrol and water – It would be nice to separate these costs, but often they are paid for together when filling up at a marina or port.
The 30hp Yanmar diesel engine in my yacht consumes roughly 2.5/l per hour at cruising speed. As the wind in the Med is inconsistent, the engine motoring is often a necessity. I could save money here by learning how to correctly use my spinnaker, or being happy to only make 2.5-3knts at times under sail in lighter winds.
The boat contains two 150l (approx) water tanks. I don’t yet use salt water for washing dishes, and the head also uses freshwater. Without wasting water, but without conserving it either, I get around 10 days usage from the 300l total capacity. I really ought to try harder.
Petrol usage is limited to my Mercury 2.5hp 2-stroke outboard. It sips it. As such this cost is negligible, however I can reduce it by rowing more in calmer seas and anchorages.
Cash – Spain is a bit behind the times, and many places still don’t accept credit cards (though it’s better than Germany in that respect). The cash is money mostly spent on drinking, dancing, cavorting. It also includes some eating out at tapas nights, marina barbecues, and a few bus rides. In future it will also include laundry (where I can’t easily separate it out), but in this instance that was paid for at the marina.
Boat expenses – These aren’t really standard everyday liveabord costs. When I bought the boat it had been sat for a year, and so the bottom was foul, hence the high price charged by the diver. The life-vests that came with the boat were old and mouldy. Definitely not something you’d want to trust your life with.
Upon leaving the marina, the steering system failed, leaving me needing a tow back to my berth. Seems the previous owner(s) had done a bodge job on the steering wheel, that I hadn’t picked up on. I needed to buy a new wheel, and had this sent to me via DHL express. I don’t expect this to be repeated. In addition this also delayed me leaving which of course meant paying to stay longer in the marina.
The windlass appeared to be working when I bought the boat, but it was never stress tested. Whilst still in the marina, I noticed a problem with. On taking it apart it seems the motor was damaged and needed new points. I had it repaired, but it later failed further up the coast. This left me hauling a 25kg anchor and 8mm chain at 2kg per metre by hand. Considering I was only anchoring and not staying in marinas going forward, I had little choice but to order a new windlass.