Monday, 20 January 2014

a question of dollars

A tiny speck in the South Pacific: Beautiful Suwarrow
How much does it cost? That was the first question typed in the comments section of our Facebook Page, after I opened the floor to inquiries regarding our life as voyagers. And while I didn’t mean to sound flippant, my immediate response was “It costs as much as you have.” That’s what it comes down to, really. You spend what’s in your wallet. We have cruised with folks that own newer, bigger boats with many luxuries. They mostly hire people to maintain or repair their boats. Wherever they go, they often eat out, go on costly tours or rent cars to explore inland, all because they can. We have also cruised with boats that didn’t have anything but bare bones. Our sister ship “Clover” that left for the South Pacific the year before us, was a minimalist’s dream. I met her friendly captain Shane very briefly, and I know one shouldn’t believe everything they read, but an article written about him in Latitude 38 said he left North America with $300. We also met a boat that would catch fish for your next supper in exchange for charging their Kindle, the young couple also swam to get to shore. I’m not kidding. Most of us out here are neither extreme, but how much we spend to explore this great, big world still significantly varies. And it's doable, even if you don't have a lot of money.

“But you guys sold a house!” is the comment I have often heard from others. Yes we did, and it would have taken a lot longer to get out here if we hadn’t. Yet there are many ways to make voyaging happen. It depends on what your expectations are, where you wish to go, what type of boat you have, and how well it withstands the demands of offshore sailing, (if that’s what you’re planning on doing). Sometimes, it’s just timing. Our buddy Ben managed to find an affordable, decent boat which he purchased with a friend. They then learned to sail it and took turns to take it across the Pacific from San Diego to Australia! He’s 26 years old and didn’t sell a house to go sailing.

How much it costs depends on what you can’t live without. When I say “what you can’t live without”, I mean what you don’t want to live without. It’s your choice if you want a certified liferaft (for some that’s a no-brainer), or if you refuse to sail under 4 knots. We have friends we love dearly, who categorically refuse to sail under 4 knots… That is unimaginable to us. First, that means you burn a lot of fuel as light winds are common. And diesel costs money. On Nyon, we only carry 35 gallons of it, that’s including our Gerry cans. We have to be choosy about when we turn on the iron jib. But that’s not the only reason we sometimes sail at less than 2 knots, we much prefer the sound of the wind and waves over the roar of a diesel engine.

Shades of blue in Makemo, Tuamotus
If it looks like I’m avoiding giving you actual numbers, it’s because I am. I am not comfortable sharing my finances on the Internet.* But I understand the question. Many wonder how we could afford to not work for 2 ½ years while voyaging nearly 15000 nautical miles. I’ll tell you: we sacrificed a lot, and to be honest, most of the time it was easy for us. We generally choose to live very simply. Still, we are at the point where we also have to start working again. We need to put some money into the boat and into the cruising kitty. As we settle into life in New Zealand for the time being, we apply the same approach we have had while travelling. We ask ourselves these kinds of questions: Do we need it or do we want it badly? Is there a cheaper option? Is there a free option? Can we trade for it? Of course, we did treat ourselves to the occasional meal out, but in Mexico that usually meant taco stands while in the South Pacific, it meant going to a roulotte.  We learned the art of using Sikaflex to fix our hiking sandals. We mended our clothes and washed all our laundry by hand. We anchored out 99% of the time. (Although in the South Pacific, we did use moorings more frequently due to the depths of certain anchorages.)
Heading to Moorea, as seen from Tahiti
Now that we’re in New Zealand, we live on a mooring, not a dock. (It’s much cheaper.) We live in a tiny village where there just aren’t many places to buy things (unless you’re buying boat bits). There are plenty of free anchorages within a couple hour sail. Do we feel isolated? A little. But we like going for walks and hikes, sailing, and storytelling. Those are all pretty much free. We might eventually have to buy a car, but we’re holding off for as long as we can. We walk everywhere and borrow other (kind) people’s cars and bikes when we need groceries. Sometimes we rent a car for the day. We discuss every major expense to death, and we each have a spending “allowance” that we can use as we wish without prior discussion with the other. (I’m talking about $20 a week here.) As we make money again, we will split it in three categories: 1) Day-to-day living, 2) Savings 3) Boat repairs/maintenance. We note everything we spend. Sometimes we let loose, and splurge, we’re only human after all. But living simply is a goal for us, not just a necessity. The fact that we don’t want to be sucked onto the consumerist train encourages us to make the choices we make.
Nyon leaves La Paz, Mexico
Photo courtesy of SV Eagle
Owning a boat costs money, and travelling costs money. How much money you have saved will dictate what kind of boat you buy, how old the boat is, and how much of the work you do yourself. How much money you have might lead you to cruise Mexico for very few pesos, or spend a little or a lot more to explore the South Pacific Islands. Depending on your interests, you may explore foreign countries by enjoying free activities. We hiked a lot, spent as much time as possible in the water and we shared homemade meals with new friends. If you like being in marinas, checking out local restaurants and organized activities, you will want to budget accordingly.

If you’re dreaming of sailing over the horizon, and you actually make it out there, how much money you have will not change the fact that one day, you will likely find yourself in an anchorage with both a multimillion dollar yacht and a tiny hippie boat with no refrigeration. Trust me: the sunset will look the same from both cockpits. So allow me to answer your question with a question, Rob: "When you say, how much does it cost?" I say, "How much have you got?" (And what are you waiting for?)


Tahanea, Tuamotus

*If youre interested in some proper number crunching here are a few links of other cruisers' budgets. While they vary a lot (due to the size of the crew, personal preferences and priorities, etc), they will give you a more concrete image of the costs of cruising. 

For Scream's budget in 2011-2012. Click here.

For Wondertime's South Pacific budget (2012). Click here.

Further reading:
Voyaging with Velella. Click here.
Estrellita 5.10B has linked to a number of sources on their blog. Click here.

If you have any links to recommend on this topic, please include them in the comments below..


14 comments:

  1. Thanks. I guess this post was by Rick. You should write on your Nyon blog more often - you write very well. A relaxed yet informative style. Cheers. rh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw Rob, sorry to disappoint you but I wrote this piece. (Rick hasn't written for the blog in over a year)... Although, I also wish he'd write more often! :) Cheers, Kyra

      Delete
  2. Good explanation without revealing numbers, and thanks for the links! Did you feel the quake?

    Don

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Don. Enjoy, there's lots of good reading there! (You're the second person to mention the earthquake, we felt nothing: just gale winds the past two days!)

      Delete
  3. We were told on the news it was about a 6.2 which is a big one, but I guess if you were o the boat you might not feel it.

    Don

    ReplyDelete
  4. You guys might not be comfortable revealing your numbers but I am. It cost everything you have :) Funny thing but I have never been able to associate money with living. What will truly cost you everything is not following your dreams whatever they may be. As usual great topic, great writing, great...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I like that. It does cost everything you have. Rick's favourite quote right now is: Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life. (Michael LeBoeuf)

      Delete
    2. Ain't that the truth!

      Don

      Delete
    3. Is it time for an update?

      Don

      Delete
    4. It sure is, one will be coming soon, we're in the throes of transition and writing has not been at the forefront. I will update very soon!

      Delete
  5. “He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” – Dutch Proverb

    www.nomadicliving.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Do you guys have jobs you are able to do on the boat to continue bringing in an income? I have heard of people finding ways to earn while they cruise, but it doesn't sound so easy! Are you still able to do artwork while on the move Kira?!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Is the blog over?

    Don

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...