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so what does it cost anyway?


One question prospective cruisers want answered is "what does it cost?" The answer as you'd expect is wildly subjective, depending on the cruisers' budget, the country you are in, and the tastes of the crew. The crew of Baraka is by nature frugal in their personal tastes. We perhaps made a mistake in buying an older boat. Many more systems had to be replaced for extended cruising than we anticipated, hiking our startup costs way over expectations.

I just finished a summary sheet of expenses, and can share what I am seeing.

There is a clear division in these first 9 months of cruising, delineated by "inside USA" versus "inside Mexico". It is not that Mexiso is dramatically cheaper, but that the West Marine is no longer so handy, and now most of the installs of new equipment are finally done. Inside the USA, especially moored at Shelter Island in San Diego, we knew equipment and spares would be harder to locate down the road. We opened our wallets and let them hemorrhage. We paid riggers, sailmakers, and bought a new radar. Running out of time, Dave had the radar professionally installed instead of doing it himself. He generally does all system installs to ensure that he understands the equipment and has the right spares aboard.

In San Diego, I packed the boat with food that I assumed would be scarce in Mexico and beyond, based on our experience nearly 20 years ago. But times have changed, there are Costcos and Walmarts in Mexico, and most things can be found, at reasonable prices. If I had it to do over, I'd leave more lockers empty, bringing only favorite specialty items beyonds a few week's provisions.

So here's the story: In the last year before casting off we probably sunk around $20,000 into the boat (new windlass, sails, ham radio, inverter, batteries, used monitor windvane). Once underway, we spent another $16,000 in the states over the next 5 months (new radar and autopilot were the big ticket items, plus an inflatable double kayak). This included spares for all systems, filters, impellers, belts, you name it. I sometimes think Dave could rebuild this boat.

Crossing into Mexico, these expenses abruptly slowed to a trickle. We have had to replace 3 tired water pumps and rebuild the starter motor and its spare, but these amounted to a few hundreds rather than thousands. Now we have better visibility into the real ongoing cruising expenses.

These include moorage, running about $400/month. We tied up in Ensenanda, La Paz, and Puerto Vallarta. We have been at docks half the time in the past 4 months, a LOT more than we expected. It was convenient when I had to leave the boat and go home, or when we had guests, or needed to do dockside maintenance. Most expensive was PV, at $33/night.

Fuel is running about $150/month, including propane for the stove and gas for the outboard. In the states we continued paying for wi-fi and cell phone ($100/month) but we have not paid for these in Mexico, beyond a one time Skype payment of $10. We are getting by fine without a cell phone, using Skype in some anchorages that have free wi-fi.

There are some annual expenses - about $70/year for buoyweather, which we can receive via ham radio, $250/year for Sailmail, $75 a year for the website and email, $18 for Latitude 38 subscription, and the big one, $3000/year for boat insurance.

Our monthly expenses other than moorage and fuel are hard to track, as we simply pull cash from ATM machines to cover all expenses. This amount covers groceries, dining out, laundry, clothing, souvenirs, dinghy dock fees, and small boat maintenance items. Laundry is expensive - so far I have not hand-washed aboard, instead taking our laundry to places that wash, dry and fold for a per kilo charge. I would guess we spend $40 a month on laundry. Bank charges for "foreign transaction fees" are running $20 a month.

We never use credit cards except for fuel and moorage. There are too many stories of invalid charges after using a card in a small store or restaurant.

A typical meal eating out (fish or prawns for 2, and a couple beers apiece) runs $10 a person or a bit less. We eat out quite often, at least several times a week. We estimate our dining budget to be around $400 a month.

We shop for food in nearly every village, buying fresh fruits and vegetables, tortillas, and sometimes meats, seafood and cheese. Since our shopping is limited to what we can carry, we typically spend less than $20, a couple times a week. Once a month we hit a big store and buy more, spending $100 or so, and taking a taxi back to the boat. So call groceries about $300 a month.

Although we run the watermaker underway in clean water, in port we have twice had 200 liters of purified water delivered to the boat. This cost less than $20 each time.

We have some non-cruising stateside expenses - annual property taxes on our house, and occasional house maintenance expense. These are not included in the spreadsheet summary. Our biggest expense is health insurance. We are looking into alternatives, as this item will soon become our largest single expense.

I've included a link to my spreadsheet summary for these first 9 months. Please note that until the beginning of February we were still in the states. Feb-April are the first real cruising months outside the states.

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