Cash. Dinero. Duckets. Dollars. Call it what you like, but it's probably the core thing that shapes your sailing plans (or lack thereof). Your choice of boat is largely based around how tall your pile of money is, and likewise the depth of your Scrooge McDuck gold-coin-pool influences how you'll equip your boat. And that just gets you a boat on the dock.
Where you go, how long you can be gone for, and what happens when things break will all be shaped largely by money. Will you stay at marinas or anchor? Will you visit expensive places or bypass? When someone asks you out to dinner, will you go?
The sea may be a symbol of freedom, but your boat ultimately is a symbol of how much money you have.
We try to answer everyone who writes to us. Since we're not famous like some people, we don't get a lot of mail in the first place. A few days ago I got this email from one of our three readers (the others being our parents), talking about their sailing plans.
The only other hurdle is money. I realize you guys might want to keep that part of your lives private, but if you're able to share anything about how to fund this type of adventure, it would be much appreciated.
I guess the best way to answer that is to talk about how much it costs and where we get our money from.
The cost of sailing is, unfortunately, completely all over the map. Sailing an equipped vessel in good shape and being at anchor is actually rather cheap, although of course have an "equipped vessel in good shape" isn't cheap in and of itself. For some specifics, here's some costs we incurred in our first year:
- $6,000 for a Hydrovane. We put this cost off because we didn't need it until we decided to cross an ocean, so it showed up in our first year.
- $4,000 for a watermaker. Again, put off until we decided we needed one.
- ~$500 for various canvas projects (that's primarily material costs). Chaps for the dinghy tubes, covers for this and that.
- $800 for an apartment in La Cruz for one month (during Lyra's birth).
- $1200 for an apartment in Puerto Escondido for six weeks.
- ~$600/month for moorage fees for maybe 9 of those 12 months. We've probably been anchored about 25% of the time but with two little kids (and/or a pregnant wife) we honestly like being at the dock if we're not off somewhere remote and interesting.
- ~$300/week for combined fun/food/whatever spending money. It's hard to track because most remote places only take cash so you end up withdrawing a bunch from an ATM and then using it for whatever, then you need more cash again.
- $2800 for a new mainsail. Our old one was getting pretty beat up and we wanted a new one before we did the Pacific.
- $500 for fuel, all in. We tend to sail a lot even in the relatively motor-everywhere culture of Mexico, and when we do motor we keep the RPM's low and are happy making 5.5 knots.
- ~$1,500 in airfare for family or personal visits back to the US.
- ~$5,000 in medical costs but roughly $3,000 of that was pregnancy related. And we have two little kids, so there you go.
So that's our costs, as best I can remember them, and then for how we make money:
- We have some amazon.com referral links scattered around the site, which make about $20/month on average which is roughly what it costs to host therebelheart.com, so that makes the site at least free.
- I wrote a book, which has made a couple of hundred dollars. At this rate, in a few years, I'll about break even for having a minimum wage job (taking the total revenue, divided by the hours it took to write it).
- Charlotte wrote a series of magazine articles that dropped some money into the bank.
- But the lion's share of our money comes from me working my corporate job as we move around. The specifics of that I'm not at liberty to share, but I can provide some generalities. I spend, on average, a few hours a day on the phone (satellite or cellular). I spend on average about 15% of my time back in the United States, normally for 3-12 days at a time. Sometimes it's every month, but from August-October I never went back once. We spent about four weeks back in San Diego during July where I was in the office every day.
I definitely spend more time than anyone else we've met, by a long shot, working while sailing. A lot of people who are working while sailing tend to work in project mode: they're on-again-off-again type arrangements, or something like writing where it comes in big pushes and then you can breathe a little. For me it's more like a river that I can dam up a bit but that delays (and creates) a flood.
Another thing to note is that for the five years before our trip, when we were working on the rigging, engine, decks, and paying off the boat (and our other bills), we lived pretty cheap. I've never bought a new car in my life, we didn't travel anywhere exotic for half a decade, and opted for saving as much as possible.
So the secret for us, boringly enough, is saving and working. I wish I could make it more interesting.