About budgets, demands and reality
It is one of the most frequent search queries about sailing: what does it cost to sail around the World? Before we left for our year at sea, of course, I also dealt with it and drew up a budget plan. And what does that warm the soul when theory and practice meet pretty much at the same point, as was the case with us? But before I have written the quintessence here, I wanted to get the opinion of our fellow friends sailing around the World and here we go.
As on land, it is a question of standard of living. The questions are which ship you plough through the waves, what lifestyle the crew cultivates and what is your personal contribution and craftsmanship. You can then build an honest budget plan on this, so that you have a basis for a decision for a sailing trip.
We met completely different types on our journey. People who managed to get along with 900 USD a month as a couple, both enjoying their freedom. Others had no budget limit, which of course makes life much easier.
The formidable “Yachtingworld.com” provides a sailors opinion. There is a survey, about the estimated monthly running costs for a sailing trip. 76% of the readers think that you can sail around the World with a budget of max. 2,500 GBP (2,810 ?) per month. Well, this is above the average global income. I have no idea what the sailing buddies are sailing with, but I find that very optimistic.
In contrast, in yacht guides the widespread opinion is that 10 % of the ship value per year should be calculated for the running costs. Provided that you have no staff on board, two hands available, a proper toolbox and no champagne to brush your teeth, I think that is exaggerated after the experience with three ships.
I have approached the matter in a structured way by dividing the costs into four groups:
- Vessel fixed costs: unavoidable – insurance, maintenance
- Veseel variable costs: taxable – consumption costs, marinas, mooring fees, equipment
- Crew fixed costs: controllable – insurances, possibly running costs
- Crew variable costs: scalable – provisions, excursions, rental cars, restos/pubs, amusements
- Fixed vessel costs
These are the actually unavoidable expenses, no matter if you sail alone or with a large crew. The insurance costs are calculated from the ship’s value, 1-2% of the ship’s value must be calculated for an insurance with comprehensive insurance and liability in the year. In the Mediterranean less, in the Pacific more. Not even a few sailors sail without comprehensive insurance, but in times of climate change this is a game of chance. One cannot do without a liability insurance – there’s already from 200 € p. a. – otherwise most marinas remain locked. It’s the comprehensive insurance that really hits the budget, but it makes a lot of sense.
It makes a considerable difference in the travel kitty whether I pay 150 €/month for a 200,000 € ship or 1,500 €/month for a 2 million yacht. Therefore one should weigh very carefully the vessel.Bigger is of course nicer, but not only the purchase, but above all the follow-up costs have a large leverage and considerable influence on the budget. The price difference between a new 45 and 50 foot catamaran is about 400.000-500.000 €. The follow-up costs are on a useful life of 10 years but again about roughly half of this amount.
I calculate for our comprehensive insurance and liability 1.2 % of the vessel value for the Caribbean per year. The running costs for the flag certificate and radio licence are not particularly expensive for us in Luxembourg and I only consider this to be part of the fixed costs for completeness.
Maintenance I expect 1-2% of the ship value per year – for a new boat. In the first two years even less. You need antifouling, cleaning materials, lubricants, oil – no matter how new a ship is.
With used ships, the bill looks different in percentage terms, an engine or sail change can be significantly more expensive. Here a 5-10 % rule is not a bad planning basis. If one has financed his ship, the running costs for interest and repayment belong also in this point.
Some costs depend heavily on how much you do yourself. The new underwater coating every two years is not nuke physics. It’s like painting the basement, you can do it yourself, then you only have to pay for the crane and the material. Much depends on the equipment and the quality of the vessel. As a liveaboard you usually have a working list and do the small things before they become big issues. Good care maintains friendship.
Many spare parts are considerably more expensive on the way, e.g. due to customs and transport costs or higher trade margins. Therefore, plenty of spare parts on board help to keep you in a good mood. Chandler like e.g. the German SVB.de deliver reliably in the whole World. Also sometimes a Dinghy to the half price (inclusive supply) of the Chandler in St. Martin, as I was allowed to experience. Check our our favorite online chandler before you leave, just in case.
Communication costs at sea are also fixed costs. For the long offshore passages one should absolutely have a satellite connection to load the weather data and in an emergency to reach someone by phone. Alternative: SSB Pactor, that causes no running costs. For our weather planning we use the Iridium network with the Iridium Go (805 € hardware). The tariff package for an Atlantic Crossing costs 825 € and for that you get 1.000 minutes with a very slow connection. For the weather data alone these are indispensable expenses. In the budget, these costs are only incurred for the periods with long offshore passages. We need this in the first year and then again when we go to the Pacific.
Conclusion: With regard to the fixed ship costs, I expect 2 % of the ship value p.a. for the first two years and 4 % p.a. thereafter.
- Vessel costs variable
These costs depend on the ship’s equipment and the preferred type of travel. If you have a water maker, you save the sometimes considerable costs for water in the tropics. Good energy management saves shore power and marinas. The decision how much time you spend in marinas influences a big cost block. Anchoring is free, a mooring e.g. in the Nature Reserves of the US Virgin Islands costs about 30 USD per night. Marinas are between 50 USD and 200 USD for a 50ft mono per night. This quickly makes a difference of +- 3000 USD per month. We have invested quite a lot in equipment for our cat to be as independent as possible from marinas.
But I only know a few sailors who use marinas intensively. So docking fees are a big disposition mass. Whoever stores his vessel on the hard during a hurricane season should not ignore these costs too.
We have budgeted 500 € per month for mooring fees.
The consumption costs for diesel are also very variable. Of course, the use of engines cost more than sailing. In one year we spent only 500 USD on fuel. In our budget we have 100 € per month for diesel and gasoline (outboard) in the expenditure list.
Conclusion: For our variable ship costs we have 600 € in the monthly budget.
- Crew fixed costs
Health insurance, running costs on land and other financial obligations incurred despite the trip. Everyone has to figure this out for themselves. It is helpful to go through last year’s expenses in detail and see if you really need them. A car, a telephone contract, a newspaper subscription or a membership in a sports club are not really useful if you are traveling. For us, health insurance is the biggest cost block for the crew fixed costs.
Conclusion: check and adjust
- Crew variable
This is the Magic Box and can easily be scaled according to the needs and means of the crew.
The most important thing is provisioning. Funnily enough, many European sailors think that “over there” everything has to be cheaper. Non, non, non – not in the slightest. 12 eggs in the BVI cost 8.50 USD, a can of beer in Polynesia 7-8 € in the Supermarché. I already saw Nutella for 10 USD – not that you should eat it at all. The prices vary greatly from place to place. But because of the lower cost of living nobody should go sailing. At least not in the Caribbean and Polynesia. In Asia it looks partly different. For fish lovers the possibility to catch their own dinner is fantastic, but of course you need good equipment – so it is rather budget neutral. If you add 50 % to your normal budget on land, you are on the safe side with your provisions and don’t have to live on it.
Additional costs and fun. What you spend on restaurants and pubs is up to the traveler’s wallet. With us it was location-dependent. There are islands where you cook better yourself because it tastes better. Other places offer delicacies that should not be missed. But that the painkiller at “Foxys” (Jost van Dyke, BVI) should not be sacrificed to a budget limit is a wisdom of sailing. Of course, it is not surprising that you spend more budget if you do a lot. Here a cup of coffee, there a beer – it’s just like in normal life.
Sailor parties are usually “potluck” events, i.e. everyone brings his share of food and drinks. If you visit sailors on board, you usually don’t drink more than you have brought with you. The other sailors also have to provide for themselves and this is always more effort than on land.
We also travel to discover. That’s why we almost always rent something mobile in the places we visit, even if we have folding bikes on board for shorter distances. Then there are local costs such as car rental, entrance fees, guides or other surprises. These expenses vary greatly, but are wisely part of a monthly budget. We have planned 300 € per month.
Don’t forget the “Immigration fees“, because the entry into a country is usually connected with different fees. They vary enormously from 0 USD to 200 USD for a two crew, some places require even higher costs. Who travels on a tight budget should therefore inquire about the fees before entering a country. The visit of the Brazilian island Fernando de Noronha costs for 5 days, a vessel and four sailors over 1.000 USD. Not bad considering you’re bringing your own bed. Some VISA costs are no longer in the small change range, e.g. for the USA (also US Virgin Islands absolutely necessary).
Who wants to visit regularly the old homeland, is wisely advised to plan a suitable travel budget for flights. This should increase the further you go to the west – the flights are getting longer and more expensive.
And here, too, there are communication costs for living close to the country. With Skype and Facetime, that’s mainly Internet use. We’ve never really made the right phone calls. On land you can either use the local offer of bars or public places. Or you can buy a SIM card from the local telephone company and use the phone/data card as a personal hotspot. If you own a “jailbreak” mobile phone, you have found the best solution. We have 100 € per month for communication within the budget.
Not quite banal costs can be the bills of exchange, cash withdrawals and credit card costs if you do not have the right financial solutions. Credit cards like to take 1.5% of foreign currency fees or even 5% for a cash withdrawal. But that doesn’t concern us, because we have the perfect financial solution with the “Weltkonto”.
The variable costs are surprisingly high for many newcomers if they want to take full advantage and participate in the social life of the sailors and the places they visit. A change in consumer behavior is often helpful. You simply buy the things that a place offers and cook flexibly according to what there is locally. Then, instead of green salad, there’s one with papayas or grilled tuna. That’s the thrill of travelling anyway.
Conclusion: the lifestyle decides about this cost block.
So in order to answer the question of what a circumnavigation of the world costs, you have to define your needs. It is logical that a used 35 ft mono can be used cheaper than an 80 ft Sunreef catamaran.
When planning your budget you should be very realistic and not “forget” any costs. Financial holes are as bad as leaks in the hull. It’s very bitter to notice on the way that you have miscalculated. Especially if you have got used to the lifestyle of a liveaboard. /HB