Having completed one year on the road, I thought it might be useful to take an overall look at our finances. In general, we’ve done quite well while cruising, once you take out the cost of the boat refit and preparations for cruising – the new rig and complete overhaul of the engine. In fact, without those costs, we’ve managed to spend an average of just over fourteen hundred dollars a month, which, with a savings of around four hundred a month, should pay for yearly maintenance costs and the occasional repair. For example, we expect to spend money this summer/fall on a new anchor chain and a haul/bottom painting, which will probably eat up the entire “savings.” Of course, we’re hoping that South and Central America will be cheaper than the Eastern Caribbean, at least for stuff like food, so maybe our costs will go down.
Item Monthly Avg Total spent
alcohol $154.89 $1,858.66
boat maintenance/supplies $132.64 $795.87
boat repair $1,382.15 $16,585.80
bureaucracy – port fees, etc $115.48 $808.34
cats $42.30 $507.59
charts and guidebooks $27.98 $335.73
clothes $17.32 $207.80
communications $26.69 $320.29
diesel and gasoline $110.20 $1,322.36
eating and drinking out $109.73 $329.19
entertainment $144.23 $1,730.72
food $490.60 $5,887.18
household $46.28 $555.33
insurance $13.33 $39.98
marina/mooring $55.84 $670.03
other $28.33 $340.00
personal care $53.26 $639.09
stuff $39.34 $472.13
transportation $68.37 $820.38
utilities: boat $48.82 $292.91
subtotal: expenses $2,854.53 $32,866.52
minus boat refit $1,418.08 $15,629.12
savings minus boat refit $429.95
Just for clarification, here’s how I categorize things:
Alcohol: Alcohol not bought in bars.
Boat maintenance and supplies: The regular costs of running and maintaining the boat, e.g., oil, fuel filters, and general trips to the chandlery.
Boat repair: Any major expenses repairing broken things.
Bureaucracy: Port fees, customs, etc – also includes use of “mandatory” moorings, like in Nevis.
Cats: Food, litter, vet visits.
Communications: Internet and phone calls; we do most of our calling on Skype so this is pretty much just internet. I count the cost of the first beverage at a cafe with free internet here, but the second goes in eating and drinking out.
Eating and drinking out: A new category started a few months ago; previously was in “entertainment.”
Entertainment: Tours, concerts, museum fees, etc
Food: Groceries and the occasional street food while out and about.
Household: Toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, sponges, new dish towels, etc.
Insurance: Actually, the cost of our renters’ insurance, which covers our possessions from theft.
Personal care: Toiletries, laundry.
Stuff: Things we buy that are tangible, like books, sunglasses, souvenirs, etc.
Transportation: Flights, buses, etc.
Boat utilities: Propane, water, trash disposal, pump-out.
Some notes on the past year:
Alcohol: Ouf, we’re rather ashamed of this. In our defense, we don’t spend a lot in bars – generally – and alcohol is wicked expensive in the Caribbean. We really cut down on drinking in 2012, but you wouldn’t know it because the costs remained about the same. Still, we’ve cut back even more and are planning to only drink for social occasions in Curacao – good for our livers and our pocketbook.
Bureaucracy: This includes the cost of Pip’s passport renewal, about $300, so the actual cost of port fees for the time we’ve been out of the U.S. is actually about $76 a month.
Diesel and gas: I would really like to have figured out the average cost per gallon, but our records on this suck. I think it’s probably about six bucks a gallon average since we left the states. If you’re planning a Caribbean cruise, try to avoid buying any petroleum products, including engine oil, in the French islands, as they have very high taxes. I think diesel was eight bucks a gallon there. The bargain spot was Portsmouth in Dominica, where it’s a duty-free $4.68 a gallon, cheaper than the states. I think we’ve used about 140 gallons of diesel since we left the states, about 20 gallons a month. This has actually decreased since we decided not to have a fridge (the solar can almost keep up with everything else, including charging electronics, our biggest draw these days) and no longer have to charge the batteries; we did a lot of motoring/motorsailing earlier on when we could have sailed simply because the trip was only an hour or two and we needed to charge the batteries anyway. Now, we’re only having to charge once every week or two, so we’re sailing more.
Food: We’re spending about the same amount in the Caribbean as we did in the states – not a surprise as that’s what folks say happens, but we aren’t eating nearly as well. We’re still eating very well – you know I’m a total foodie and will never live on rice and beans – but really buying only stuff that is reasonably priced. We haven’t been able to catch a lot of fish to supplement, as some people expect to do, but I haven’t tried terribly hard. Except coffee, which is non-negotiable and deadly expensive in places. On average, this works out to about $8 per person per day, which is pretty damn good if you ask me.
Household: If you are coming to the Caribbean and have room, buy lots and lots of paper towels, toilet paper and any other paper products you use. They are astoundingly expensive here.
Marina/Moorings: We haven’t stayed in a marina since we left the states, and actually only stayed one night in a marina while cruising in the U.S., that because our anchorage became untenable in high winds. We spend a bit on moorings in the BVIs and USVIs, as many harbors don’t have any room for anchoring, so you have to pay to play: $25-30 per night in the BVIS, which is generally a total rip-off, and the national park in St. John charges $15 per night, which is totally worth it. Apart from $120 for 10 days on a mooring in Pointe a Pitre when Philip went back to the states, we’ve spent very little on moorings since (we put the mandatory mooring in Nevis under bureaucracy, since we didn’t have a choice and would have anchored if permitted). Pretty much everywhere, you can anchor for free.
Personal care: In the states, we got haircuts. Now, I cut our hair, so that’s a bit saved. That said, we’ve found that there aren’t Laundromats like in the states when you get outside of the Virgins, and even if there are, it’s about the same cost as having your laundry done. We are generally spending about $60 a month down here to have our laundry done, which is only about a third more than Laundromats in the states were costing us. We do a small load from time to time on the boat to save money, but, if you’re thinking, “Oh, we’ll do all our laundry ourselves to save money,” be forewarned that it’s a heckuva lot of work and requires a lot of water, which isn’t free or easy to get. I spent a week in Pointe a Pitre doing a month’s worth of laundry: two small (5 gallon) loads a day took about 2 hours each day to wash, rinse, dry and fold, and that doesn’t include the time fetching more water. All in all, that month’s laundry took me about 15 hours of labor and 70 gallons of water, which is 4 trips to shore burning gas in the dinghy and $17 worth of water at $.25 a gallon. So, we are doing small loads to keep up and just paying for our laundry to be done these days.
Stuff: We don’t buy much stuff. Never have, but we’ve really cut down on the boat. After all, you not only have to find a place for it, but really should get rid of something for each new thing you bring on board. That said, a surprising amount of this total is new sunglasses. They go overboard or get broken A LOT. I’ve gone through four pairs of sunglasses in the past year, losing two pairs while leaning overboard and having two just break because of the rough lifestyle. Of course, I went through this many in the states, which is why I had one decent-ish pair for sailing ($20 ones with polarized lenses, instead of the $5 plastic crap ones I bought from street vendors for everyday wear), but even those went overboard, so now I get the cheapest I can find that still have UV protection, knowing they’re going to go bye-bye within a couple of months. Philip has a good pair of prescription glasses that he ONLY wears while sailing during the day; these have survived well, but even he has lost several cheap pairs to the great blue. And, no, I do not wear croakies. Probably should, but Ugh, uncomfortable. Anyway, the point here is that if you have the same tendency to kill your sunglasses, you might want to consider buying a half dozen or more from your favourite street vendor before leaving on a cruise. Even if you’re good with glasses, it might be a good idea to have spares on board in case you do lose your good ones, because they’re not cheap down here.
Transportation: We used a credit card that accrued airline miles for everything – including our big re-haul — for years before setting off, so we had over 100,000 miles accrued when we set off. We used American, which works well in the Caribbean as they seem to fly everywhere here. With a flight last fall to AZ to see my family and two flights home since, that’s gone, so this might be artificially low, though each flight was between $100-$200 in taxes and fees and taxis to the airport. We haven’t rented cars at all, preferring to take local busses for around a dollar a ride, so other than the flights, we don’t spend much here at all.
Boat utilities: We use a propane tank every six weeks, and they cost between 15-20 bucks to refill, consistently. Water ranges from 10-25 cents a gallon, and our 110 gallon tanks last us about 2 weeks, sometimes more. Trash usually costs a couple bucks to dispose of, and pumpout is a non-issue here, as there are no pumpout facilities, but averaged about ten bucks a week in the states.