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Last Updated on April 26, 2020 by Amy

We (and every other blogger/vlogger/participant in online forums) see a ton of questions about cruising costs. Answers can vary so widely, but we thought we would at least share some basics of what our first year of cruising looked like financially.

Tracking

I’ve been a big fan of Mint for many, many years (longer than I’ve known David actually).  Mint works incredibly well to help us track our spending.  Plus, it really helped us track our savings prior to cruising and help us save for our trip!

While we can use our credit card a lot, often it makes more sense to use cash.  David and I each keep track of our cash expenses in our phones or by keeping receipts.  Typically, before we leave a country, I go through and reconcile our notes with Mint.  A cool thing Mint does is take our cash spending and deduct it from the ATM withdrawals.  If we track correctly when we leave a country, we will have no more of their foreign currency left, and the ATM withdrawal category will be $0.

What About the Rest?

We don’t share costs outside of this perspective.  The remaining costs – like health insurance, food, travel – are 100% based on personal preferences.  In this lifestyle, you can eat out as much as you want, or as little as you want.  You can travel home three times a year, or not at all.  You can take outside, land-based trips, or not.  Health costs are going to be very dependant on an individual’s age and health.

What Does it Cost to Sail Around the World?

As you’ll see below, our average yearly costs for all the marine items was $36,250. That includes repair & maintenance, boat insurance, dockage, customs & immigration, gas & fuel, and communications. Our world circumnavigation took us four years and three months.

$36,250 x 4.25 = $145,000 total

The only thing missing is factoring in the cost of our boat. We will take a fairly large hit since we bought our boat new. Someone who’s bought a used boat is going to fare much better financially than we did.

Docking Around the World

Here’s a look at a breakdown of how we spent our nights while sailing around the world. Keep in mind that we are a 44′ catamaran.

Total1,547$/Night Average% of total
Dock306$43.45 19.78%
Mooring1348.66%
Haul Out17711.44%
At Sea19912.86%
Anchor73147.25%

It’s also really interesting to look at a breakdown by year for our docking costs:

Nights$/Night Average% of year
2019 – Indian Ocean and Africa180$34.77 49.32%
2018 – Australia and Southeast Asia68$42.91 18.63%
2017 – South Pacific19$30.34 5.21%
2016 – Caribbean and South Pacific24$51.99 6.58%

We spent way more time at the dock in 2019 than we did any other year. Most of that was in Seychelles and South Africa. Also, these long stays meant we could pay a monthly rate instead of a daily rate, which significantly drops the per night price.

In Seychelles, we got stuck. The winds shift in July to come from the SE, which means the conditions to sail to Madagascar are really unfavorable. They didn’t shift back until late September. This also coincided with some personal difficulties and overall malaise over the cruising life, and we were very happy to sit for a few months in a very cheap marina (~25 USD/night).

In South Africa, there are very few protected anchorages and some extreme weather conditions. Most cruising boats marina-hop the coast. We spent almost six weeks in Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront Marina, a glorious stay in one of our favorite cities and another very cheap marina (~$40 USD/night).

So how much does a nightly marina cost for a boat of our size?

We were quoted $200 by two different marinas in Nassau Bahamas (Lyford Cay Club Marina and Atlantis Marina) and one in Sydney (d’Albora Marinas Cabarita Point). In both cases, we were able to find free anchorages and take taxis or public transit as needed.

One 15 Marina in Singapore was $120 a night, but also one of the best marinas we’d ever been to. To be on Sentosa Island with so many amenities was amazing. We had free transport to central Singapore, a huge Western grocery store, a pool, a gym, beautiful shower facilities, and anything else we could need.

Alternatively, we paid around $100 USD a night for some marinas that were totally not worth it: Royal Phuket Marina in Thailand, St Francis Marina in South Africa, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Australia. These places tended to be too far away from town and minimal amenities. This usually is because they just aren’t catering to transients.

On the other hand, moorings were typically incredibly cheap. Most of the time we flew home, we left Starry Horizons on a mooring where it was much cheaper and easier access to land didn’t matter as much.

Formalities Around the World

Here is what we wrote down for our formality costs around the world. Please note that this is NOT perfect. Often if we paid in cash, we forgot to write it down. The best source for information is Noonsite.

Antigua$0.00 
Guadeloupe$0.00 
Dominica$5.00 
St Lucia$0.00 
Grenada$74.78 
Panama$1,970.00 Canal Transit, 2020 Price Increase
Galapagos$1,380.00 
French Polynesia$0.00 
Niue$50.21 
Tonga$441.12 Two Visits, Visa Extensions Both Times
Fiji$470.71 Two Visits
Vanuatu$83.00 
New Caledonia$0.00 
Australia$656.83 One-Year Visa
Indonesia$560.98 Rally
Singapore$239.52 
Malaysia$0.00 
Thailand$288.66 
Sri Lanka$230.00 
Maldives$1,301.59 
BIOT$400.07 
Seychelles$1,135.08 
Madagascar$242.60 
South Africa$0.00 
Saint Helena$94.50 
Brazil$0.00 

Cruising Costs Year 1

The locations

Location plays a big part in every single category. For this first year, July 1st, 2015 through June 30th, 2016, we started in the Bahamas, sailing to Canada, Maine, Bermuda, spent three months in the Caribbean, went through the Panama Canal, and then sailing through French Polynesia. June 30, 2016, found us in the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia.

Repair and Maintenance – $16,500

We are surprised by how high this number is for a new boat, but not surprised that it is the biggest category for our cruising costs. About $4k is the bottom job in the BVIs, which we will have to do every year. The other major expenses were fixing our spinnaker in Canada, fixing the leaking minikeel in Nanny Cay, and our prop that fell off in the USVI. Half the money ($8,250) is smaller charges of less than $400.

Vessel insurance – $10,000

When we left France we were using Pantaneus for our vessel insurance, at $4,800 a year. However, that covered the Atlantic only, so we had to change our policy to cover the Panama Canal and Pacific. Pantaneus was going to cost $14,000 instead, so we shopped around and switch to Jackline at $8,400 a year.

Read about our vessel insurance.

Customs – $4,000

There is no charge for clearing into some countries, like French Polynesia. We paid $5 in Dominica, $52 in St Lucia, $40 in Grenada, $47 in St Martin. The Galapagos was $1,355.  This category also includes our canal transit at $1,970.  These two stops really increased our overall cruising costs for our first year.

Docking – $3,500

Moorings in the Caribbean are typically $25-30 a night. Moorings in Tonga are $6 a night. Dockage in Maine and Bahamas was $200 a night. Most of the Caribbean was $75 a night for a slip. Tahiti was $71 a night. Shelter Bay marina in Panama was $78 a night. Halifax $68.

In one year we spent 51 nights in a mooring (14% – including two times we left the boat to fly back to the states), 31 nights at dock (8% – 14 of those in Shelter Bay, Panama) and 7 nights on the hard (2%) for a grand total of 89 nights (24%) paying for our location.

This is higher than we thought it would be.  Our biggest error in planning this expense out was we didn’t think about where we would be storing the boat when we left it.  It’s easy to think that when we are onboard, most of the time we will be at anchor.  When we are gone though, we want to feel secure with where we leave Starry Horizons.  Thus, docking expenses becomes a higher part of our cruising costs.

Diesel, Petrol, and Propane – $3,700

We are not one of those boats that refuses to turn on the engine.  While we prefer to sail the entire way, we turn our engines on in order to arrive during daylight or when the wind dies and our autopilot can no longer steer.  We also run our generator at least every 5 days to run our watermaker.  With our 125 gallon tank, plus our 50-gallon fuel bladder and 4 jerry cans (20 gallons), we’ve topped up/filled up 11 times in that year, with our most expensive being close to $500 in the Bahamas.

Communications – $2,000

This covers our expenses for our satellite phone, our InReach tracker, and running our website and email for Out Chasing Stars.  For a more in-depth look at communications expenses, check out our blog post Communications.

Total Cruising Costs & Boat Expenses: $39,700

Cruising Costs Year 2

Here’s a summary of our second year, covering from July 1st, 2016 to June 30th, 2017.

The locations

July 1st of 2016 we were in French Polynesia.  We made our way through the South Pacific and spent cyclone season in New Zealand.  We took a trip back home and then did a 35-day road trip in New Zealand.  This year also includes the time we spent away from Starry Horizons crewing on S/V Julia, about 35 days where our expenses were covered.

Repair and Maintenance – $16,500

As expected, the repair & maintenance section is the largest part of our cruising costs.  The difference between R&M this year and R&M our first year is a mere $88!  This includes 2 haul outs – one in New Zealand where we did a ton of projects including a bottom job and one in Tonga to fix a leaking thruhull and corrosion on our sail drives.  Again, half the money ($7,950) is smaller charges of less than $400.

Vessel insurance – $8,300

We are still covered by Jackline for the Pacific region.  Read about our vessel insurance.

Customs – $370

The fees for entering countries this year were small – $25 for New Zealand, $50 for Niue, $100 for Tonga, and the most expensive, Fiji, was $160.  A big change from our cruising costs last year!

Docking – $2,900

Most of this category is docking in New Zealand.  We paid usually about $30 USD for a dock in New Zealand, which is pretty amazingly cheap.  Starry Horizons was docked at the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua, at the Whangarei Town Basin, and part of our storage in Norsand falls into this category as well.

We did not pay for any docking in French Polynesia during this year (but the previous year we paid for docking in Tahiti).  We did pay for a mooring in Niue, and also paid for moorings in Tonga.  The Beluga Dive moorings in Neiafu are $15 TOP ($6.75 USD) a night in the peak season and $12 TOP ($5.40) a night in the offseason.  This made Neiafu an incredibly cheap place to leave our boat for 7 weeks while we crewed on Julia ($330 USD for all 7 weeks).

Diesel, Petrol, and Propane – $2,300

Starry Horizons didn’t move as much this year as she did in our first year.  She was sedentary for over 4 months, so as expected our diesel costs were significantly lower than the previous year.

Communications – $2,350

This covers our expenses for our satellite phone, our InReach tracker, and running our website and email for Out Chasing Stars.  For a more in-depth look at communications expenses, check out our blog post Communications.

Total Cruising Costs: $32,720

Cruising Costs Year 3

Here’s a summary of our third year, covering from July 1st, 2017 to June 30th, 2018.

The locations

July 1st of 2017 we had just arrived in the Ha’apai group of Tonga.  We spent the rest of the season in the South Pacific, especially in remote locations, which means we didn’t spend much money.  In December we arrived in Australia, a country that has a cost of living comparable to, if not more than, the US.  Also in this time frame is nearly three months at The Boat Works in Coomera near the Gold Coast.  For a majority of that time, we spent 6 weeks traveling around Australia while Starry Horizons stayed on the hard.

Repair and Maintenance – $13,000

We saw a significant decrease in our Repair & Maintenance expenses this year.  Our first and second years were nearly identical at $16,500.  This year outside of our battery project, we spent $13,000 dollars.  This includes the haul out at the Boat Works and new bottom paint and a majority of the projects we tackled there.

If we’d chosen to just replace the AGM batteries instead of going to Lithium-Ion batteries, the cost for the batteries would have been roughly $4,500 instead of the $27,500 for our electrical refit.

Vessel insurance – $9,500

We are still covered by Jackline for the Indo-Pacific region.  Read about our vessel insurance.

Customs – $1,200

The biggest expense for customs was our Australian Visa and clearing into Australia.  The visa was expensive because we had to travel to get our medical exams done.  The clear in itself was roughly $400.

Docking – $3,250

From July 1, 2017, to December 1st, 2017, we did not stay the night on a dock at all.  There are just so few marinas in the South Pacific, and even if we wanted to, they were full. We stayed on moorings for a total of 14 nights in the South Pacific.

In Australia, being at a dock has become much more common.  This category includes storing Starry Horizons on the hard during our 6-week Australia trip and storing her in a marina during an 8-day trip back to the states.  While we tried to get a slip in the marinas near Sydney around the holidays, they were all full.  If we’d been able to find one near the city center we would have paid roughly $200 a night.  Instead, we anchored for free.  Elsewhere, docking has cost us less than $60 a night, with the exception of Hamilton Island Marina, which was nearly $100 for one night.

Diesel, Petrol, and Propane – $3,000

We filled our diesel tank 6 times this year, three of which were in Australia.   Part of this was our decision to motor in light winds (like from Lake Macquarie all the way to Southport) and running the generator more often (our watermaker was at half production for a while).

Communications – $2,500

This covers our expenses for our satellite phone, our InReach tracker, and running our website and email for Out Chasing Stars.  For a more in-depth look at communications expenses, check out our blog post Communications.

Total Cruising Costs: $32,450

Cruising Costs Year 4

Here’s a summary of our fourth year, covering from July 1st, 2018 to June 30th, 2019.

The locations

July 1st of 2018 found us in Cairns, Australia, getting ready to join the rally and depart for Southeast Asia.  We cruised through Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, all of which are very inexpensive places to visit.  We had a short stay in Singapore and Sri Lanka, and then two months in the Maldives, the most expensive cruising ground we’ve been to.  We ended the year in Seychelles.

Repair and Maintenance – $16,000

Well, if we are anything….we are consistent!  Our first two years of cruising, our R&M cost was just over $16,000 – this year it’s almost exactly that number.  This includes two haul outs in Thailand, one at G&T Ship Yard and one at PSS. The haul-out at G&T included a bottom job.

Vessel insurance – $9,500

We are still covered by Jackline for the Indo-Pacific region.  Read about our vessel insurance.

Customs – $2,660

Half of our customs cost for the year was the Maldives.  It is a very expensive place to cruise (and a bureaucratic mess).  Most of the other countries were a few hundred dollars each.

Docking – $4,100

Our docking expenses were unusually high this year because we made three visits back to the states (two being for family memorial services).   Starry Horizons stayed on a mooring in Lombok (the only dockage we paid for in 100 days cruising Indonesia).  In Thailand, we left her at Royal Phuket Marina, and in Seychelles at Eden Island Marina.

Our most expensive marina was One 15 Marina in Singapore for roughly $120 a night, which we absolutely loved.  Looking at the cost of hotels on Sentosa Island with comparable amenities, clearing into Singapore and staying at the marina was the right call for us.  We did pay for docking a few times in Malaysia and the Maldives at the town wharf for roughly $25 a night.  Royal Phuket Marina was overpriced for the amenities and location at nearly $100 a night.

In total, we paid for docking/mooring 70 nights (19%).

Diesel, Petrol, and Propane – $5,200

As expected, crossing the Indian Ocean and cruising around the equator so much blew a lot of diesel.  We filled up three times in the Maldives alone (at over $500 a pop), plus big fills in Singapore and Seychelles.

Communications – $2,700

This covers our expenses for our satellite phone, our InReach tracker, and running our website and email for Out Chasing Stars.  For a more in-depth look at communications expenses, check out our blog post Communications.  This year our expenses went up as we have had to upgrade our website hosting service (good problems to have!).

Total Cruising Costs: $40,160

Looking to the 5th Year

I’m not sure if I will post the 5th year costs – it depends on how the year shapes out for us.  You can read about our 2020 plans.  I hope that this information is helpful to you!

Pint it!

38 Comments

  1. This is a great post! My husband is very concerned about the maintenance costs and how much to budget for them. Did you do most of the work yourselves or did you pay to have it done?

    1. You know, we didn’t realize how much work we do ourselves until you talk to other boaters who are unwilling to tackle many of the projects we have. We do a lot of work ourselves.

  2. Hi Amy,

    I published an article linking your post about cost of living on a catamaran.

    I invite you to add one of your pictures, updates to the budget, or add additional context to my quote. Feel free to contact me via email and I can add your content.

    Always good reading your inspirational and informative articles.

    Respectfully,

    Marco Sison

    My article: https://www.nomadicfire.com/sailboat-life/
    Your article I linked to: https://outchasingstars.com/cruising-budget-first-year-new-catamaran/#Cruising_Costs_Year_4

  3. Super helpful to see your numbers, thank you! We are in our first year now currently hauled out for bottom paint and saildrive repairs (there goes the maintenance budget). Very helpful to see what is realistic for docking/mooring. We are also eating our way too much in our first year 🙂

    1. I struggle with that sometimes too….I love trying local food! Thankfully after we left Australia dining out has been really cheap.

  4. Wonderful info thanks you.i just started an excel document to begin tracking live aboard costs. We hope to be live aboard sooner than later

  5. Hello

    My name is Jan and I love your stories and videos …

    Looking myself to buy a Helia very soon but need to split cost with 1-2 moore persons. Just will use it like 3-4 month a year… If you know anyone ….

    Anyhow my question is does it cost anything to lay by anchor when you are outside the islands ?

    Take care ,,,

    1. Hi Jan! Good luck finding people to share the boat with. That’s got to be challenging.

      Most places, anchoring is absolutely free.

  6. This was short, sweet and informative! Thanks for the breakdown – helped me start thinking of a couple categories I didn’t consider before.Can’t wait to follow y’all and see what 2017 brings! Safe travels!!

  7. Thanks David and Amy, we are awaiting our new Helia Evo at the end of Feb . we plan to continue living aboard in Newport RI for 2 years, while working/saving and fitting out the boat – Solar, Hydronic Heating, and ocean prep. It’s great to have your expenses itemized and allow us to budget for our trip. we hope to cruise “till we drop”. we live for you blogs and videos which keep us focussed and excited.

  8. So, what was the total? I didn’t see it listed znfdoung the rough math myself it looos like ~$40K/year but I think I’m missing something?

    1. I didn’t want to post a total, I think everyone has different things they would pay for. We have a lot of yearly expenses we didn’t list because they are not expenses every cruiser would have. For examples; doctors, storage units, other insurances, etc.

      1. Hi there,
        I think those expenses would be great to list, i.e. doctors, storage, insurance, ect. Those are all perfectly legitimate expenses that can easily be over looked. My husband and I are 42 now and will be 46 when we start cruising. We will still be relatively young but health insurance is a huge concern since we will no longer be employed and way to young for Medicare. Does medicare even carry over in foreign countries?? In summary, if you could include the full spectrum of your expenses, that would be that much more helpful! And thank you so much to take the time to write this. It is a great help in the planning stages.

  9. Greetings Admiral Amy, Captain Dave and the star of the show Starry Horizons. Thank you for such an informative coverage of your travel expenses. And thank you, Amy, for answering my similar question earlier this week. If it helps to make you feel any better, my wife & I privately own & operate a “Beechcraft Kingair 350 twin-engine turboprop aircraft. I like to average around 10 to 15 hours flying each week. But at $2700 per hour, well what can I say, it’s like sailing, once you’re hooked it’s difficult to stop! Cheers.

  10. Great roll up of the expenses. I am surprised about the maintenance too. We have a 2002 Hunter 326, so about half the size of Starry Horizons, and spent 14K on maintenance for 2016. Hopefully now that you have worked out the bugs this year will be much kinder to your wallet.

    Thanks for the numbers. This info always helps those of us still waiting to finally get away for good.

    1. Thanks! I am feeling pretty good about maintenance being less this year. Plus we haven’t had many major things happen. I think we are past broken in and into smooth running. Knock on wood!

  11. Thank you Amy and David!
    Somehow, these figures and comments are good news. After reading so many stories where people mostly says that whatever your budget, you will spend more, the projections I made were much higher than what you got (fuel, maintenance and insurance)!
    With 2 engines and genset, looks like you did good on fuel (i believe the number was for main engines and all related dinguy oil and gaz)

    Thanks again for this great 1 year read point !

    1. Thanks Cyrille! You are right on the fuel. Hopefully this will help you plan a bit and I will update you once we finish this second year of cruising!

    1. Thanks Nils! We will be keeping up with you via Facebook and it may be a few years, but I’m sure paths will cross again.

  12. That was great info to have, my wife and I are planning on making the leap in the next 9 years so getting a feel for true(within reason) cost of living is some great knowledge to have. Especially the insurance side of it. That is the one area that I can’t get good info on. Like where the boat can be and for how long and hurricane season etc. The one question I have is- With it being a new boat was none of those needed repairs covered under any kind of warranty? I keep seeing people buying “new” boats and then having all kinds of stuff breaking, like Chase The Story/Cheeky Monkey’s ice maker and the auto pilot. All of this is making me start to lean more towards a used/BROKEN in boat.

    1. Hi Mark! A couple things:

      Here’s a blog post I wrote about the insurance issues:

      https://outchasingstars.com/insurance-for-cruising-boats/

      The contract covers warranty time lines, but the best bet is to ask a broker (talk to Frank!).

      Cheeky monkeys issues have not been from the factory. I think that after a “break in period” on our boat, we are having very minimal issues. Keep an eye out for a post in march about the projects we have tabled till NZ. I think there are plenty of blogs out there hat detail costs while cruising on a used cat.

  13. Thank you for this info. I have not found a blog with this much detail. Very helpful for our future planning!

    BTW – My wife and I have been following your videos since before you left France. Very informative.

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