Friday, August 12, 2011

Costs - updated

Many of you have asked us to share our thoughts about the costs involved in sailing the oceans and traveling the world like we do so I thought I could show the most basic thoughts here. I will only get into it quite briefly now to not make it all sound boring but generally, these five factors are what must be considered before taking off for any journey around the world, according to us:

- The cost of the boat - or whatever other vehicle you might wish to travel in.
- Monthly costs like food, living, harbor fees, custom fees, boat maintenance etc. 
- A buffer for unexpected costs and happenings.
- A good travel insurance for yourself (and your boat).
- Communication in terms of Internet and/or phone.

The cost of your boat/vehicle is naturally very individual. If you browse the boat sites out there you will realize that there are seaworthy ships from as low as €15.000 and up to the millions, all depending on what you are looking for and what your requirements are with safety, comfort and style. There are obviously a wide range of safety equipment, electronics and other things that needs to get installed on your boat to make it ready to cross oceans if you are not buying a completely ocean ready boat that is.

Ok, so you have your boat, or you are maybe planning to travel the world in a backpack, and now you'll need to figure out how much money you need to bring with you. We live much cheaper here at sea compared to what we did at home in Europe, this means almost no shopping (maybe only €100 per month), not much restaurants, no clubbing and not at all as much bar hopping that we might have done in the past, or at least it is much cheaper here in the Caribbean.

Harbor fees: Since we left Europe behind, we have rarely spent our nights in marinas. There are so many amazing anchorages to choose between here in the Caribbean, and also since we are living on our savings with not much incomes coming in, we do not feel like wasting our money on harbor costs when we can be out in the free nature. We spend maybe 1-2 nights per month in harbor. This occurs mainly when we feel the need of cleaning out the boat completely or when we wish to top up the batteries and fill the water-tank without hassle. Cost in harbor for a boat in our size is around €20-40/night here in the Caribbean and I count water and electricity included in this cost. This sums it up to a total of €60/month.
Sometimes we pick up a mooring buoy when anchoring is prohibited, add an additional €60/month for that.

Custom fees: Depends of course on how many different countries you wish to visit. If you are sailing only in one country this will never affect you, but as soon as you cross borders you will get aware of the very different procedures and costs that comes with traveling in and out of countries. Here in the Caribbean we love entering French islands, not only because we know that there is plentiful of good wines, cheeses and yoghurts to choose between in the grocery stores, but also because the clearance procedures are the simplest and best of all, it is free to clear in and out of them. You register yourself on a computer based in the customs office, get a stamp by the officer and off you go. On other islands the procedure can take much longer time, you might have to run between the immigration, customs, police stations and you will probably have to pay a big fee divided in many small fees to enter their land. Bequia is a good example of a very costly clearance. Last time we had to pay approximately 200 ECD (around 70 Euros) to get the allowance to sail and anchor in and around the waters. Might not sound much for non-sailors but imagine that we have cleared in and out to/from ten countries in only the past six months and much more will there be, plus you will have to add your mooring fee and sometimes also anchorage fee in case you wish to anchor somewhere where the waters are included in a national park. Since we're traveling quite a lot in between countries these days, our estimated monthly customs cost is around €250 although we try to avoid this as much as we can.

Food: Also very individual of course. Are you a gourmand or do you do well with pasta and canned meat? We try to not eat out in restaurants too much while living this life as I have all the time in the world to experiment with dishes that I always dreamed of making, and also because we do not want to spend our complete monthly budget on bars and restaurants. I could maybe estimate the dining-out-cost to be around €200 month in total. Some months more, some months less obviosuly. We shop groceries for around €100/week = €400 month. I guess you can do it much cheaper than that and also you could spend much more than that if you want but try to calculate what you really would feel conformable with, and of course what your wallet allows for. Food cost per month: €600. In fact, some months, when living much more remote and far from cities and restaurants, we have made it in around €400, we hope to get it down to this cost when we get out in the Pacific for example.

Boat maintenance: This depends so much on how well maintained your boat is. We are lucky that Alex loves working on his boat projects and that he has done it on this very boat since the first day he bought her - this has given us quite a lot of peace of mind and we haven't had any real failures with Caos since we left Morocco behind (there was that autopilot thing last year if you remember?). But we're counting around €275 per month for engine maintenance, varnish, change of oil, diesel and so forth.

Laundry: Spending around €40 per month on this.

Insurance: We have chosen this boat insurance which also covers our personal travel insurance needs. Assurances Plaisance have proved to be the best for our needs and they allow us to sail here in the Caribbean in hurricane season as long as we follow strict guidelines and safety instructions in case of a hurricane where we are located. For other travelers, for example backpackers, I would suggest this travel insurance which seem to be the best out there to help you insure yourself and your belongings while traveling the world by foot, plane, train or however you transport yourself in the world. We pay around €3.000 annually for our boat and personal insurances with Assurances Plaisance, this can of course be much cheaper if you choose to sail in only one specific area of the world and if you are backpacking obviously.

Communication: Most people who are sailing or traveling around the world rely on free or paid wifi in coffee-shops and bars to stay connected with family and friends. We do too, but we have also a satellite unit onboard our boat when a wifi is too far away. The installment and the actual unit was ridiculously expensive (around €7.000) we certainly believe this will be less expensive in a couple of years, but the monthly cost thereafter is alright, we pay around €200 for the airtime plan that we chosen. This satellite connection gives us great security in the way that we can monitor the weather easily from any ocean in the world, we can regularly check our emails, we can call emergency or whoever we want from anywhere in the world through the sat phone that comes with it and of course, the blog will be updated every day if we feel like it.

So the sum of these factors brings it up to:

Food cost: €600 
Customs, mooring, harbor fees: €370 
Boat maintenance: €275
Laundry: €40
Insurance: €250 
Internet: €200 
+ Shopping: €100

€1835 or $2644 per month.

We know it is very easy to live much cheaper than this, the day we would absolutely need to, we could easily cut down on the food cost, the customs, the Internet and so on and we know of people who makes a trip like ours in €500/month. I believe in general that if you have a good boat, or a good plan for how to travel the world, plus if you have money saved for food and unexpected happenings plus a good insurance, then you're free to go. I haven't included the buffer for unexpected costs in our calculation but I guess there isn't much left for us since we are spending most of the money we have on living a very, very comfortable life.