Kindred Spirit Cruising Costs

This looked like an appropriate picture for this blog post. Credit goes to the www.cruisemapper which is a cruise ship site. Entirely different cost!
Here’s  an appropriate picture for this blog post. Credit goes to the www.cruisemapper website which is a cruise ship site. Entirely different cost!

“How much does it cost to go cruising?” That is a question with as many answers as there are cruisers. Hang around with any group of cruisers or surf the internet and there will be answers given, from to extravagant. Most of the cruisers we have met fall in the middle.

The answer to the question of “what does it cost to go cruising?” — It all depends.
On what?

  • How obsessively expenditures are recorded (the accuracy factor),
  • How expenses are categorized (the organization factor),
  • Maintaining a land home as well as the boat (part-time or full-time factor),
  • Wants and needs (the life style factor),
  • Cruising grounds (the where factor),
  • and, most of all, your income (the reality factor.)

I have decided to share our cruising costs for this recent trip, knowing that I may regret it. 😉 How you spend your money is a very personal decision, on land and on water, but hopefully this might be useful to anyone considering future cruising on their own boat.I have provided a description of each expense category for clarity. My definition of a category could be quite different than someone else’s. Our home and boat are mortgage-free and we live within our retirement income.

About our cruising costs: The expenditures presented in the table below are for the 8 months (September 13, 2015 through May 11, 2016) of cruising only and do not include the costs to outfit and remodel Kindred Spirit. (That’s another spreadsheet.)

  • Groceries and Provisioning
    • We purchased as many non-perishables in “sufficient quantities” (whatever that may mean to me at any given moment) before we leave home and again in Florida before crossing to the Bahamas. Groceries are much more expensive in the islands than at home. For both convenience and cost, we stock up on:
      • Toilet paper and paper towels
      • Coffee
      • Snacks – e.g. crackers, pretzels, chips, granola bars, nuts, dark chocolate (15 bags of Dove Promises).
      • Canned goods such as beans, diced tomatoes, tuna, salmon, and chicken (I learned not to bring a lot of canned vegetables and fruit because we don’t eat them, and we were able to find fresh often enough.)
      • Favorite cereals
      • Easy ingredients for happy hour foods or jars of special dips and spreads (Trader Joe’s).
      • Spices, sugar, flour, pancake mix, pasta, quinoa
      • It’s true what experienced cruisers say – If you don’t eat it at home, you won’t eat it on the boat. That said, we did try new things that have become new favorites for us.
    • Our Engel freezer holds quite a bit of meats and frozen foods for just 1.5 cubic feet. I packed it full in Florida before crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and never bought any meat while in the islands. To ease the strain on the Engel, I asked the Publix grocery store in Florida to individually wrap and freeze each piece of meat for me. Picked it up the next day and everything was frozen solid.
  • Restaurants, Snacks  – Lunches and dinners in restaurants, as well as all trips to local ice cream shops, coffee shops, and any snack we ate while off the boat. Enjoying local restaurants in ports is part of the enjoyment of a trip like this so we ate out much more often than we do at home, on land.
  • Beer, Wine, Alcohol –We purchased all of our beer and wine, and gin and rum in the United States. Wine is a mix of box wine and bottles. We take the bladders out of the boxes and store them in a plastic bin. When ready to use one, we have a nifty “wine bag” that holds the bag. We finally found a few good beers (Sam Adams and Founders IPA) that come in cans, which are easier to store, and won’t break. We also indulged in a Soda Stream to make tonic for gin & tonic and seltzer for me. No need to store the cans and/or bottles, or worry about discarding the empties.
  • Entertainment, Excursions – A rental movie, play, performance, local event, museum, tour, or any activity in a port.
  • Recreation, Hobbies – books, including e-books, iTunes, tires for our bikes. I read constantly while cruising (never really had decent tv reception with the little antenna) but kept my book costs low by using my hometown library’s e-books. I highly recommend this option to any heavy reader!)
  • Cell Phones and Internet – This is a challenging category. We tried to keep the costs as low as possible and still remain reasonably connected. Our decisions may not be acceptable to others.
    • Cell phones – I have an iPhone and Al has a flip phone (yes, there is still one person left with a flip phone). We increased our data (Verizon) to 12 gigabytes per month and used my phone as a hot spot for MacBook and iPad internet connections. In the Bahamas I suspended our Verizon cell phone service for 3 months, saving those monthly fees. We did not use a cell phone while in the Bahamas. The VHF radio was enough for local contacts and FaceTime on a wifi connection helped us to stay in touch with our families.
    • Internet – We chose one of the Bahamas internet providers, Out Islands Internet and paid the cheaper rate for multiple months rather than go month by month. OII is inconsistent and slow, but we heard that WiMax, the other option is the same. That’s just the Bahamas, mon. We got used to it, almost.
    • Al installed a wifi booster, the WIRIE, to amplify weak signals and make them usable on the boat. Without this, our monthly 12 gigabytes of data would never have been enough. We were often able to get free wifi in many locations or amplify a marina’s available free wifi in the anchorage or mooring field. Without the WIRIE we would not have been able to use the Bahamas OII signals on our mooring in Hope Town.
  • Souvenirs – Anything purchased as a special memento.
  • Clothes – Certainly spent much less than when I am home! No malls, no shops, no place for delivery!
  • Laundry – Ahhh, laundry. A must-do that isn’t fun, unless you can hang out by the Hope Town Inn and Marina’s pool on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas. The downside of that lovely setting is the cost of laundry in the Bahamas — $5.50 per wash and $5.50 per drying cycle compared to $1.50-$2.00 each in the U.S. marinas. A few marinas, such as Charleston Maritime Center and River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC, have free laundry.
  • Water – This refers to water purchased to fill the boat’s water tanks. Water is free in the U.S., but not in the Bahamas. We chose not to install a watermaker on Kindred Spirit. Since we do not live aboard and have no plans to venture into uncivilized regions, there really wasn’t a need for such an expensive piece of equipment. However, I do like having water. Really like it. Kindred Spirit carries 250 gallons in two tanks. Al installed a water filter at the galley sink so we have drinkable water. His water collection system was a tremendous success in the Abacos this winter, thanks to the frequent rains. We only purchased water once during those three months, just before we left to return home.
  • Miscellaneous – I really tried not to use this category, but it was helpful for things that just didn‘t fit anywhere else.)
  • Personal – Haircuts and color, special toiletries or personal care needs
  • Travel has been separated in two parts. The basic travel category is for taxis, buses, rental cars, etc. while in ports. For this second cruising experience, we also budgeted for two return trips home to visit our families, once for 10 days in November before we crossed to the Bahamas, and once for 12 days in March after we returned to Florida as well as a road trip across Florida to visit Al’s mother. These trips included airfare, hotels, rental cars, additional food costs, but have not been included int he table below.  The costs were  worth every penny!
  • Marina & Mooring Fees – Covers the cost of dockage and moorings. We anchor whenever possible. Our 77-pound Rocna anchor has been well worth the expense – we sleep peacefully at night. Until we went cruising the first time, we had never taken a dock anywhere in 20 years of boating together, but when cruising, a dock is often a nice treat and sometimes a necessity. We now have friends with docks along the way and were able to stay with them sometimes as well as the occasional free municipal dock (Chesapeake City, MD, Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, Portsmouth, VA). In the Bahamas, we took a mooring on a monthly basis for the 3 months we spent in the Abacos, making Elbow Cay our “homeport.”
  • Things for Boat – Items not related to maintenance or equipment. For example, anything decorative or non-mechanical.
  • Maintenance and equipment for the boat – Al does virtually all of our maintenance on the boat. He is highly skilled, creative, and talented at problem solving and troubleshooting. HUGE savings! Our maintenance costs are generally only for parts and equipment. Since we had just remodeled our “new” Kindred Spirit, we only experienced a few minor costs during the trip. If we were permanent live-aboards or cruising for a longer than 8 months, these costs would be higher.
  • Fuels – Separate categories for diesel for the boat, gas for the dinghy, and propane for the grill and galley
  • Insurance – boat, BoatUS, DAN

The costs of the following categories in our budget have been omitted from the published cruising costs below because they are personal or too variable depending on whether or not you maintain a home, carry health insurance, gifts, etc.

  • Medical and Dental, Health Insurance – We carry health insurance. Al is now on Medicare, but I have continued to pay my own insurance through my former employer. As an ovarian cancer survivor with lymphedema, I would never be without health insurance. Just too risky. We also bought DAN insurance, Divers Alert Network, which provides transportation back to the U.S. in the event of a serious health emergency. Fortunately, both of us are healthy “seniors” otherwise and didn’t have medical or dental issues while cruising. Now that we are back home on land we are catching up on all of our appointments.
  • Gifts – Obviously, a very personal category. We have four adult children and their spouses, and 3 grandchildren with 3 more on the way in 2016! As retirees on a fixed income now, we are not extravagant with gifts, but we do “give.”
  • Housing – We own and maintain a small home in Connecticut. I need that anchor. Those costs are separate and not included in this because it all depends on where and what kind of home you keep. Our utility costs are minimized by turning the heat down to 50 degrees, canceling the cable tv and internet. Our house is a condo-style so there is no need to worry about lawn care or snow removal, just pay the monthly fee. Property taxes are the biggest cost of maintaining a home.
  • Auto costs – We suspended the insurance on one car and left it on the older car.

Kindred Spirit’s Cruising Costs – The Numbers

CategoryBudgeted (Monthly/Total)Monthly AverageRangeTotal
for the 8 months
Groceries & Provisions$600 / $4800$523$314 – $1108$4,183
Restaurants, Snacks$400 / $3200$388$332 – $484$3,108
Beer, Wine, Alcohol$80 / $640$58$0 – $286$467
Cell phones$150 / $1200$91$0 – $157$730
Internet (OII in Bahamas)$70 / $280$64.50For 4 months$258
Hobbies/Recreation$50 / $400$19$0 – $85$150
Entertainment/Excursions$100 / $800$55$0 – $236$444
Souvenirs$50 / $400$66$0 – $183$528
Clothing$50 / $400$61$0 – $132$491
Personal Care$30 / $240$35$0 – $167$281
Water (in Bahamas)$25 / $100$35
Laundry$50 / $400$29$0 – $83$230
Travel$40 / $320$24$0 – $161$188
Miscellaneous$100 / $800$85$0 – $238$682
Fuel – Diesel for Boat$875 / $7000$447$0 – $911$3,337
Fuel – Gas for Dinghy$25 / $200$19$0 -$80$150
Fuel – Propane for Galley and Grill$50 / $400$6$0 – $27$47
Marina & Mooring Fees$500 / $4000$452$353 – $516$3,532
Boat Maintenance & Equipment$200 / $1600$121$0 – $256$968
Things for Boat$100 / $800$49$0 – $177$394
Bahamas Cruising Permit$300  $300
DAN Insurance$55  $55
BoatUS$150  $165
Boat Insurance$1600  $1600
 Total$30,085  $22,323

Budget surprises: Diesel fuel costs were a pleasant surprise. After cruising on a sailboat that consumed less than 1 gallon per hour, we had braced ourselves and prepared for a significant budget increase in this category. The trawler uses between 2.5 and 3 gallons per hour, but fuel costs were so low this year that we it was well below our budgeted amount. A nice bonus.

Our bottom line – Cruising costs us less than staying at home, even with the cost of maintaining the home while cruising. Interesting!

4 Responses

    • watsons

      Ellen, Al here…..she got more than 15 bags when she saw a sale in Fla but somehow in the Bahamas we lost track of them. Came back with 6 bags!!

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