Whether you’re planning on sailing around the world or cruising local waters, there are several ways to dramatically cut costs. Today’s guest poster cruises on just £500 a month! We’re very excited to have Elena of Sailing Kittiwake sharing her secrets for cruising on the cheap.
Even though there are plenty of sailing vlogs and blogs out there that tell the adventures of young cruisers, there still seems to be a misconception that cruising is only for the rich, the YouTube stars, and the retired. This couldn’t be less true.
Speaking from the perspective of a youngish (I’m almost 30) liveaboard cruiser, I can honestly say that life on the water can be cheaper than life on land, if you’re frugal.
On land, rent used to be £800 per month; then we’d need to pay for bills, transport, food, fuel, and more. You can easily make those calculations in your head – it’s a big sum. At the moment, living on a small sailboat, we spend around £500 each month. Sound good? Then read on!
The truth is, you can make the sail cruising lifestyle as cheap as you like. Here’s how.
Get a small, simple boat
If you buy the biggest boat you can afford, there is a very good chance that you won’t be able to maintain it. Boats need constant repairs and little upgrades, so budget for those before buying (it’s better not to compromise on quality here!). The more delicate and complicated the boat, the more it’ll cost to look after it.
We went for a heavily-built fiberglass 26ft catamaran with a small rig (a Heavenly Twins 26) and we stripped out the pressurized water system, as well as the electrical marine loo in exchange for simpler systems, to keep things easy to power, maintain, and repair.
Get into DIY
Marine professionals are costly to hire; there is no denying that. If you don’t want to end up spending all your cruising kitty on repairs and upgrades, you’ll have to teach yourself some DIY skills. Get to know your boat, do some online research, ask questions on forums, and watch video tutorials. This will easily cut your maintenance costs to a fraction of the price.
Live on the hook
To really keep costs down, try and aim to anchor out most nights, if it’s safe to do so. Spending time in marinas, as much as it’s fun and convenient, will quickly drain your savings. We’ve set off three months ago and never been in one. We occasionally pay for a mooring ball, if that’s the best option.
If you really can’t say no to the comforts of a berth, check mooring costs well and look around before committing to a place – there might be a much cheaper option just a day away.
Use those sails
Not only are your sails free to use, but they’re also a simpler technology than your engine, so they need less maintenance and are generally cheaper to replace. Motoring a lot can seriously hurt your finances, as well as being smelly and noisy.
Learn to be patient and to depend on the weather conditions. It’ll pay off, and sometimes having the weather dictate to you when you leave a place, can give you time to really enjoy it.
Get a rowing dinghy
Another great way to save money is to row your dinghy as much as you can. An inflatable can easily get punctured and they aren’t easy to row, so you end up using the engine more. This adds fuel and repair costs to your monthly allowance.
We have a plastic dinghy (a Walker Bay 8), which we row everywhere. This means we use little petrol and the outboard is in great condition (it’s also usually tucked away safely in the big boat).
Fish and forage
Fishing and foraging are both great ways to feel in touch with the sea and eat delicious, fresh, free food. There is nothing like eating some freshly caught fish in the cockpit, while admiring a beautiful sunset. Pure satisfaction!
While fishing requires a little investment – buying some fishing lines and lures – foraging is completely free and it’s super easy.
We love to pick up mussels and cockles on the beach at low tide and cooking an excellent seafood risotto with them. It’s not just about saving money; it’s also the lovely feeling we get when we know we’ve sustainably caught our own food directly from the ocean.
Choose your cruising grounds wisely
It’s inevitable that some cruising hot spots will be more expensive than others. It’s easy to figure out whether a place will be too costly for you – check the marina and mooring prices (they’re usually a good indication) and read other cruisers’ accounts of staying in the area.
We try to avoid stopping in places where we know life is more expensive, as we know someone will try to charge us for water, the petrol will be more pricey, and even the food will be more costly.
Keep making money
As a young sailor, if you want to keep going and don’t want to go back home to make more money every few years, you should look into ways of making money while you’re away. There are many digital nomad jobs out there, just waiting for applicants.
We work freelance from our laptops taking up copywriting and digital marketing gigs every month. This means that we keep growing our cruising kitty as we go along.
Know your limits. There are lots of young sailors who set off thinking they’ll be gone for years and end up going back home after a few months, because they spent all their money. If you don’t want to end up in this situation, you’ll need to budget ahead very carefully. Take into account all possible expenses and keep track of your spending to know where you stand.
We have a monthly budget of £500 total and we write down each expense on a spreadsheet to make it easy to know how much we spent.
How do you keep your costs down? Let us know in the comments below!