Finances Aboard and How We Do This

The view from atop Allen's Cay

For fourteen years every year Rick & Audrey from s/v Naked Lady have been coming to the Bahamas from Panama City, Florida. Of all the places in the Bahamas that they have visited, they like Norman Cay in the Exumas the best, and they’ve been coming back here for ten years.

Tan from head to toe, Rick and Audrey couldn’t help but ask how we could afford to go cruising “at your age” to which Lala replied that we can do it because we are on a small and inexpensive boat. I thought that it’s also because we don’t have kids, we don’t have a mortgage, and we don’t have jobs that we care so much about that we can’t leave.

Rick and Audrey aren’t the first people to ask the question. Most cruisers that we meet are retired and able to cruise because they have savings or retirement income or investment income, etc. Most have children and many have grand children. Most have homes on land and will return to after cruising.

How difficult it is to de-interface from “life on land” and switch to a life on the water! Back when we were living on land up north in New England we had these expenses every month, among others

Rent: $900
Heating oil: $500 in winter, $50 in summer
Electricity: $50
Telephone: $100
Internet: $70
Car insurance: $100
Car maintenance: $200
Car fuel: $100
Food: $400
Entertainment/Misc: $400
Debt payments: $900
Total: $3,720

Now that we are living on the water in a southern climate we have these expenses:
Telephone: $40
Internet: $25
Boat maintenance: $100
Food: $200
Entertainment/Misc: $200
Debt payments: $600
Total: $1,165

Most notably, we are not paying rent, and we don’t have to pay to heat the house/apartment. That alone reduces our living costs by almost $1,500. Of course we don’t have a car and insurance and gas for commuting to a job. That’s another $500 every month. Telephone and internet are less expensive because we no longer use broadband and no longer have a house phone. We now only use our cell phones and iPad 3G internet. We are spending less on food because we cook almost everything rather than getting fast food or eating out a lot, and we are also getting food from the sea for free. Our entertainment costs are less because we now read more, spend more time exploring outside and traveling. Lastly our debt payments are less because we were able to negotiate reduced payments on credit cards because we have reduced income.

All together our current living expenses total about one third of what they totaled on land. Land living is expensive! Still we must find a way to meet our expenses each month. There’s the rub. If we want to cruise, we need to have either enough savings or be able to make enough money while we are cruising, or a mixture of both. The answer for many is to cruise for a while and then return to land to work and save money for another cruise. We will probably have to do this this summer, as our savings are dwindling.

So although many people ask how it is that we are able to cruise “this early in life” the answer is that it’s not all fun in the sun. Sailing is hard work, and not having regular income while having regular expenses is stressful, even if you are under a palm tree on a sandy beach. I suppose a good answer to the above question is that we’d rather deal with the financial uncertainties and GO cruising than be financially secure and trapped in one place on land or a life that sucks the passion out of us while our dreams and youth dwindle. This life is not for everyone, and not many people like us do it the way that we are doing it.

Most people our age are in the middle of careers and working their way through the rat race towards a day in their hopeful futures when they will be able to reap the rewards of their hard work. With the US about to go bankrupt, climate change taking its ever increasing toll on ecosystems everywhere, and peak oil about to throw the world’s economic and production/consumption system on its ass, there is no guarantee that reward will ever come from all the work. For us, it is urgently important to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle before the system comes crashing down.

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5 thoughts on “Finances Aboard and How We Do This

  1. s/v Gemini Dreams

    The American Dream is a TRAP! White picket fences are the mental prison bars of the working person.

    I spent less each month in the keys than I did EACH WEEK on land.


  2. James Legge

    Interesting to see how the costs stacked up in your land to sea breakdowns. Your pictures from the exumas are amazing. You are truly in sailing paradise. Impossible to but a price on waking up to those amazing views.

  3. Larry

    It is sad that you see your country and its way of life so negatively. Some may see the American lifestyle as a trap or rat race; others see it as the American Dream. If given the opportunity, most people in the world would choose to live in America!

  4. Jerry

    Global warming, climate change, climate disruption. Hasn’t been any warming in the last 10 years. Michael Mann’s hockey stick graph is total bunk. If you want to blog about plastic pollution then you have my ear. The American economy is not about to collapse, we are still the largest in the world and will be for many more generations. Also the oil is not about to run out, bacterial is busy making more of the goo as I write this. Oil is not an expendable commodity, it is the original renewable energy source.

    Fair winds and calm seas.

  5. Pam

    I agree partially with you and partially with Larry. You are young and this is a good time to do what you have done. When you get older you keep putting it off and you also loose your courage to take the risk at something so new and different. I see in your writings how much you have grown individually and together. Your marriage has serviced the ruff times and that is great. It will be a stronger marriage for it. Rule #1 Never go to bed mad at each other. Also try to hold hands facing each other when you disagree and make the promise that you won’t let go no matter what to each other.
    America is a mess at the moment, but so is the whole world so what ‘s new. It is part of history. People have all different dreams in each life. Mine is to be content sitting on the beach and watching the waves come in , just to listen to the water. There is something spiritual about water, we are all attracted to it. It is calming.
    Enjoy where you are, none of us are promised tomorrow. You may not be alive next week who knows. Enjoy yourself, You will be back at a job soon enough. You may want to settle down in Virginia near the coast where the cost of living is low and you can still have the boat to run in the water whenever you want.
    Don’t worry about tomorrow, for today has enough trouble by itself.
    Stay close and enjoy.
    God has opened so many windows for you two through this whole trip, be still and enjoy the time and adventures He has given you.
    Love to you both Pam


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