Let’s get to brass tacks, shall we?
Our projected budget for cruising on Calypso is $4000/month. This is a WAG (wild ass guess) budget, pulled from not-quite-as-much thin air as our very first budget; the largest unknown is the cost of health insurance. This is for everything, from toothpaste and rice to new sails to a new dinghy to flights home to see family. It includes things like flying the kids in for their school vacations, and being able to say YES to adventures like the Panama Canal and the Galapagos. It does NOT include college costs, as those have been saved for and are being paid for from a different account. It includes a (totally guessed-at) number for health insurance. It does NOT take into account any income from businesses or projects we’re involved with like FastSeas, or the podcast, or Good Old Boat, or the provisioning course I’m creating. If we can stick to this budget, we should be in good shape when we’re done with sailing and need or want a home base on land. We have no desire to blow everything we have on cruising only to be dependent on others when we’re too old or decrepit to sail more, and as much as we love our boat, we’re practical enough to know that at some point we’ll be done sailing (sob.)
Do you need this amount to cruise? No. Absolutely, 100% NO. (Conversely, do you have to spend this little? Again, a resounding NO.)
When we went for 3 years in the mid-1990s, we spent $750 a month as an average. Seven hundred and fifty dollars. All in, from provisioning to new dinghy to EVERYTHING. The only thing not included in this number is the initial refit, which included things like a stove and a toilet and bulwarks and a paint job; all those things happened in the first year of owning her, before we moved aboard. When we took the kids from 2009-2010, we spent $1750 a month, again as an average (we’d budgeted $2000 a month, for a reference.) Our projected budget is close to double what we spent with the kids, with half the people on board. We’d rather wildly over-project than run out of money. Our projected budget doesn’t mean we plan to spend that amount a month but rather that it will smooth out over the years; if we can keep it more in line with what we spent our first time out, so much the better.
This will be paid for in a boring way. There’s no wildly successful dot com business that we’re selling. No viral YouTube channel or mega-bestselling book. This opportunity is the result of a long runway of habits and personality, and a number of choices we’ve made. We’ve saved money, partly because it’s our nature to be frugal, and partly because we’ve been planning this for a long time. The cars we drive are old (1996 and 1998). The house we live in is fully paid for (and will be sold next year.) The vacations we’ve taken over the years are with family and friends, or on the boat itself. Most importantly, perhaps, is that we’re sailing the same boat we bought 25 years ago and which we maintain ourselves.
Let me be very clear. We are beyond fortunate in a lot of respects. We didn’t start out with any college debt that needed to be paid off. Our parents have supported us with loans when needed (loans that have been paid back, though without interest.) We HAVE family places where we can vacation; we have jobs that afford us vacation time. I can go on and on about the things we’ve been lucky to have just handed to us, and I can also go on and on about the things we are grateful to, out loud, every single day. There’s a lot that we’ve got in our corner due to circumstances well beyond our control.
But a key piece to how we are affording our plan is in the choices we’ve made and continue to make. A friend from college, when we took off the first time, asked me with deep incredulity, “How are you affording this?” This same friend racked up her credit card all school year and worked her ass off in the summers to pay it off. This same friend laughed at us for driving our old college cars once we’d graduated; she took out a loan for a brand new something or other, wanting to show the world that she’d become successful. She really could not understand how we could possibly afford to sail off for a couple of years, on a boat that was already fully paid for.
If you’re reading this and wondering if you too can afford to sail to your heart’s content, my answer to you is yes, you can. It takes some work, and some planning, and some ignoring of the naysayers. Mostly, though, it takes deep belief in yourself and a willingness to buck the tide a bit. It’s not fast, nor is it sexy. It’s not an overnight sensation or a lottery win.
When I see you out there, please knock on the hull and say hi. Chances are better than good that we’ll invite you on board for sundowners as we watch the sunset together.