Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Save Money While Outfitting Your Boat

I realize that I've done a couple of posts in a row now filled with numbers, but what with our pre-departure spending binge it's been hard to move on to other topics. This is the last one for a while, I swear! Here are a few ways we used to save money while preparing for our sailing extravaganza.

Buy in bulk. Whether it's food or your trip to West Marine, buying in bulk helps to save cash. We purchased all our dry goods at Costco, which, though an ungodly amount of food, should get us through the islands without having to restock at high prices. Also, we purchased everything from West Marine at once, giving us this handy little thing called bargaining power. By not buying an item here or two items there, we actually negotiated a pretty good deal on our West Marine trip.

Buy from places other than West Marine.  I don't know if you've noticed, but anything with the word "marine" attached to it seems to cost a gazillion times what it would in a regular store. When you're trying to get a boat put together without a ton of cash, that particular price discrepancy looms large, but with a little creativity you can find other ways to purchase the same thing. For instance, jacklines - the polyester webbing you attach yourself to when working on deck - at West Marine are more than $160 for 80 feet. You can purchase essentially the same thing from any sporting goods store that has a rock climbing section, and we bought 80 feet of nylon webbing for $0.38 a foot from REI, saving us about $130. Other places to look are used boat supply stores, Craigslist and eBay.

Do as much work as you can yourself. The cost of having a shipyard do most of your work can be huge. Thankfully, I have Vlad, who can fix pretty much anything that's fixable. Without his talents, we probably couldn't afford this trip.

Don't buy it if you don't really need it. I know this sounds obvious, but I can't even count all the times I've been in a store and purchased something that wasn't on our list and that we didn't need. Not only do you not have enough space on a boat to bring the kitchen sink and everything else, but it doesn't make sense for your wallet either.

I was talking to my mom a couple of months ago, and we were discussing why young people don't go cruising very often. My mom is a somewhat of an expert on this subject since when she was in her early 20s she sailed across the Atlantic twice and the Pacific once. Her theory is that sailing is just a much more expensive proposition now than it was in the 70s. These days, not only do you have the cost of the boat and its upkeep to think about, but you also have a ton of electronic equipment that just wasn't available when my mom went sailing. Chart plotters and AIS had yet to be invented. My mom and Bill used ropes (I'm sorry, lines!) for jacklines. They rowed into port, and their diesel engine didn't work at times, turning my mom into an excellent deckhand. And yet, they still managed to sail all over the world with nothing more than a solid boat, a sextant and charts.

Some people might say that you can't cruise without all of these new products, and undoubtedly those products make sailing an easier task. Case in point, the GPS! But it's good to consider, for those of us without a lot of money but the desire to go out and see the world, that it can be done without mountains of dollars.


  1. "Don't buy it if you don't really need it." <---- That's just good advice in general.

  2. How cool that your mother sailed the seas when she was younger! So it's in your blood. She must be getting a lot of satisfaction knowing that you will be sailing, too. Point well made about finding things that will work just as well but don't have the word 'marine' in front. Mike uses a rock climbing harness from REI to climb the mast. Works great.

    1. Her stories are pretty amazing and definitely inspired me to try this adventure. Maybe one of these days I'll put some of them on the blog.

      Vlad uses the climbing harness too. We don't trust the creaky bosuns chair that came with Bettie!

  3. All valid points, well said!
    That's how we're doing it out here.