|The sunsets are free.|
I've gotten a lot of questions lately about the cost of cruising, and truthfully our first question when we came up with this crazy idea was "can we afford it?" We decided that we could manage, but it has been more expensive than we planned.
Our initial budget was $1,000 a month. We thought that’ll be easy. No problem. We will probably be able to get by on much less. After all, we didn’t have a champagne lifestyle before we left by any means, but our spending has been more like double that. I’m not an Excel spreadsheet budget queen. I’ve never had the discipline or desire to track every penny I spend. But I’m starting to try because frankly I’m curious. Where the heck is all our money going? We don’t eat out very often, and when we do it’s at local restaurants. We rarely stay at marinas. We haven’t been able to go to West Marine since April. And every couple of weeks or so we’re out in the middle of the ocean for a few days and we can’t spend any money at all. (The seagulls won’t change money and refuse to take Visa. Only American Express.)
But after we’ve discussed this thoroughly, I’ve decided that it has less to do with us - and, yes, that includes our beer budget - and more to do with how we’ve gone about this trip. For instance, checking in and out of Mexico cost us about $175, but we spent close to another $100 just in futile trips to Cancun (travel expenses and food because we often were unprepared and had to eat out). Plus, we only spent two weeks there. When you’re paying that much to get into a country, the more time you spend in that country the farther your checking in and out money stretches. Plus, you learn how the system works - which modes of transportation to take where, which stores have the best food for the best prices, which restaurants are delicious, nutritious and cheap, who to talk to get the best deals, etc.
And then there’s diesel. We have run the motor way more than we expected. On many of our travels, we’ve run into the following issues - running out of time before dark and having to get through a reef pass, trying to get ahead of potentially bad weather, no wind, and having to round the Cape of “Thank Goodness I Survived That” before the winds and seas doubled in force. When we first started out, we talked about how we would NEVER use the motor, but that has just not proven to be the case.
Also, we have gone to places that are expensive. Having to spend three weeks in Key West waiting on parts and our sail was a budget buster. Isla Mujeres, and really the whole Yucatan, was pretty expensive and Bocas has comparable food prices to the U.S. (though the beer is much cheaper!) Basically, anywhere where there are tourists you have to watch your cash, and everywhere that cruisers congregate is super touristy. Food and drinks are overpriced. Marinas are expensive. Even laundry costs a ton. (But oh, how I loved those Mexican ladies who washed our clothes. They managed to fold them so perfectly flat and precise and the clothes smelled so good that it was like magic. After that, I never wanted to do my own laundry again.) And heaven forbid you ever have to hire a local in one of these places to fix something for you. We paid $80 in Roatan to have someone fix our aged outboard, and it worked. For about a week.
What this all boils down to is being in a hurry. We were in a hurry to leave because, well, we wanted to go. And we’ve been in a hurry ever since. It might be the weather or hurricane season or what have you, but rushing does not a saver make. My advice to anyone who is interested in going out there and sailing for as long as possible on the cash you have is to avoid any and all tourists spots (though I will forever love the beach on Isla Mujeres and chasing the chickens in Key West) and keep it slow. It’s sailing for crying out loud. We only go four miles an hour as it is!
People say that the cash hemorrhaging gets better after the first few months, and this is starting to be the case. As we have slowed down, our bank accounts have smiled in relief, and so have we. Despite Vlad's dentist bill.