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costs of living full time on a sailing catamaran

COST of BOAT LIFE: Monthly Living Expenses

In 2016 we set off to explore the world on a sailboat with absolutely no previous experience.  We didn’t know what to expect or how to budget for such an unknown lifestyle.

Sure, we had done several google searches on “how much does it cost to sail around the world” but we couldn’t find anything all that helpful (sooo much more info out now).  It was mostly a bunch of hypotheticals or listicles of what to consider.

Some things were easier to guess at, like how much we would spend on food (because we’re still going to eat).  But we had no idea what we would be spending on things like fuel, repairs, and maintenance.

Over the past four years, we’ve sailed to seven countries and put over 13,000 nautical miles under our hulls.

We’ve learned a lot in that time and learned a lot about our spending habits in this new salty life.

Everyone always says BOAT is just an acronym for Bust Out Another Thousand.  And in the beginning, it felt that way.  The first year was buying and outfitting for off the grid and it was a total wallet buster!

But since then, we’ve been able to stick to our budget pretty closely and we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

So, what does it cost to sail around the world?

Not many people are willing to share their personal expenses or talk about money (so please be kind).  But it’s hard to plan a big life change on hypotheticals.  So, here is what it costs us to live and travel full time on a sailboat.

We’re not living on a shoestring but we are living on a budget.

Everyone has different habits (and vices) so how and where we spend money could be drastically different from yourself.  But, at least with some real-world numbers, hopefully, this helps give you some insight into this lifestyle on the sea.

The devil is in the details…so please watch the video as we explain a lot more about each of these categories.  Jason is incredibly disciplined about keeping track of our expenses…every single penny.  We’ve averaged out our annual expenses from each category from 2017 – 2019 to get these numbers.  So they are representative of our life from Panama all the way to Tonga.

boat life living costs

Boat Insurance: $500 per month

Boat insurance has become increasingly more expensive and more difficult to get every year.  So let this serve as your fair warning.  (P.S.  If you are not a USA citizen it will most likely be easier/cheaper for you)

  • Boat Insurance: $424 per month
  • Renters Insurance: $76 per month
  • The general rule is 1-3% of the value of your boat each year.

 

Repairs & Maintenance: $396 per month

Remember we blew our Maintenance budget (and boat buying budget) when we were outfitting the boat in Florida.  So she was in tip-top shape when we hit Panama.  We got off light here with minimal issues and repairs:  Watermaker (a few times), fridge repairs, Fake G4 Chain, New Starter, we mostly try to forget these expenses because they happen at the most inopportune times. Unfortunately, after a couple of years of minimal repairs, our next year is going to be a beast.

  • The general rule is 10-30% of the value of your boat each year.  This is a sliding scale and wildly variable based on how much of the work you do yourself.

 

Bureaucracy: $131 per month

Documentation, Customs & Visa’s.  This includes all the government fees for checking in and out of new ports and countries: Health Minister, Customs, Immigration, Zarpe, Visas, BioSecurity, Waste Authority, and whatever other badged person they can send to collect money.

This also includes our USCG SailBoat Registration and the Delaware Boat Registration for our dinghy (Minion).  This also includes the fees we paid for sailing through the Panama Canal without an Agent.

 

Dockage: $124 per month

Occasional dockage for the boat, fees for using a dinghy dock when we’re anchored out, the random mooring ball fee, and our haul-out in Tonga so we can get the boat on the hard for cyclone season.

 

Fuel: $112 per month

  • Gasoline $26
    • Dinghy
    • SCUBA Compressor
  • Diesel $86
    • Generator / Watermaker
    • Engines

boat life living costs

Provisions:  $736 per month

All supermarket items from groceries to wine and even household supplies like biodegradable cleaners, body lotions, toilet paper, laundry soap, and so on.  It even includes random things we’ve purchased at supermarkets like a frying pan, a sarong, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, replacement flip flops, etc.

 

Entertainment:  $252 per month

The majority of this goes to Eating Out: $230 per month

There are a few random expenses like Audiobooks, Music, Museums, National Parks

 

Travel:  $196 per month

 

Telecom:  $165 per month

This includes our Iridium Go which acts as our Satellite Phone, email, and weather. We turn this off if we know we are staying in an area for longer than a month to save $$ and reactivate before we take on our next passage.

We also have Google Fi so we can keep our USA phone number and get cell+data as we near land and before we check into port.  It also includes the occasional Cyber Café for WiFi and the local SIM cards we once we get to land.

 

Misc: $142 per month

The biggest one in this category is Pet Fees: $88 per month.  Food, vet visits, litter, biosecurity & importation fees for each new country…

Bank Fees – In the beginning, we rarely had the opportunity to pay with a Credit Card, so the few times we used a CC we were charged Foreign Transaction Fees (FTFs).  In Panama City, Ecuador & French Polynesia more businesses use credit card machines, so I applied for a $0 FTF card, but it has a yearly fee.  I prefer to use a CC to track expenses, so this yearly fee is worth it for us.

This also includes wire transfers, and the occasional ATM Fees (I have ZERO Fee ATM card, but certain ATMs won’t read it, so I have to use a different ATM card.  It’s complicated…I know 🤷🏼‍♂️).

And Postage/shipping for occasional items we need (like boat documentation renewals).

 

Healthcare: $106 per month

 

boat life living costs

Average Costs From 2017 – 2019: $2,800 per month

This does not include business expenses: camera gear, computers, website hosting, email service, etc.

This also does not include any clothing items we have picked up along the way not purchased at a market (which is rare).

And that’s it!  I hope you found this helpful or at least interesting.  The pie charts make it easy to see where the majority of our money goes.  Provisions and boat insurance.  Bet that wasn’t your initial guess!

 

🙏 THANK YOU!

Ups, downs and all around, we share it all.  We’re able to do so because people like you show up each week, read, watch, comment, share, shop our gear store, and toss a tip in our production jar.  If you like what you see, there are lots of FREE ways you can show your support.  Thank you for being a part of the journey!

 

🎥CAMERA GEAR USED TO FILM THIS VIDEO📷

🎶MUSIC IN THIS VIDEO:

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (72)

  • Michael

    Don’t you folks have dual citizenship?

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      No, but Fiji will have to adopt them if this keeps up haha!
      Curious Minion

      reply
  • Blake

    I apologize in advance since I did not read all of the comments, maybe someone has pointed this out already. I do not recall you including the cost of the actual boat in your budget. In the end, $2,800/month does sound appetizing to cruise the world in a catamaran, but that’s the actual total for y’all (<yes, YALL!!! Native Texan here!!!). Did you pay cash for your boat or do you have a loan? I understand this expense could vary wildly considering the the boat details. Year, Cat/Mono, Length, Condition,….etc. But I think your input on this matter would be greatly appreciated by myself and a lot of others that enjoy following your story. Thanks!!!

    reply
  • Virginia Begg

    Loved the video. We fulltime rv and I’d really like to know how you got renters Insurance. I know our rv policy won’t cover the cost to replace our cameras and electronics and that’s one of my worries. Thanks

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      You may just need to call around. If your policy covers you as a full-timer, then it should have a certain amount of contents coverage. If you call them & it doesn’t, ask if you can get additional coverage for your cameras, electronic gear etc. I’ll bet they can tack on additional coverage for a few bucks.
      Curious Minion

      reply
  • Katie Thomas

    Just wanted to share the exciting news that we just ordered our first composting toilet for our trailer! We are very excited to give it a try. Very interesting to see expenses. Thanks for your videos, they are a great pick me up.

    reply
    • Danielle svunSHELLtered

      My family and I live on sailboat and are getting ready to set sail in a few months. We are looking into health insurance and would love to know what company you have as well as your rentals insurance and boat insurance? We love you guys and all of your helpful insight on the sailing life! Thanks for being you!

      reply
  • April WINSHIP

    Hi Nikki & Jason,
    Love your videos. We cruised for 10 years on our catamaran Chewbacca and raised our 2 girls aboard from 5 & 7 until 15 & 17 when they declared that they would like to experience being American and have regular friends that didn’t leave! I know that my husband and I discovered all kinds of gifts and talents we each had that until you are living the self sufficient life we wouldn’t have discovered. The cruising life added a rich dimension to our already close relationship. What talents did you discover about each other that were brought out when you began cruising? My husband turned out to be fantastic with the sewing machine and sewed everything from hanging storage bags, dinghy covers and rain catchers. We appreciate how you paint the cruising life in realistic terms.
    Keep up the fantastic videos and writings.
    Hope you get back to Curiosity soon.
    April

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  • Jules Vern

    My boat insurance is 75 dollars a month. But my boat is a 27 foot piece of junk boat. As far as anyone will know it’ll just be a junk boat regardless of what I do to it. My boat is pretty easy to replace compared to a big cat though. I can’t imagine insuring things like rings etc, never occurred to me, you loose a ring and it’s gone you save up and get another. At some point you’re paying a ton of money because some insurance company says that’s what people do. Meanwhile they rake in the cash.

    reply
  • Paul

    Was surprised your maintenance expenses were so low. I was told we would need to haul out yearly to clean bottom and re-apply anti-foul and to do maintenance on sail drives.

    You haven’t found the need to do this?

    Great meeting you in Miami!

    reply
  • Jackie Colestock

    This was very enlightening. Speaking of maintaining your boat in good working order…what ever happened to Sheldon and SV Indigo?

    reply
  • Craig

    Very good details. This is comparable to our monthly expenses at home with no mortgage payment. I’m wondering how this compares to your motorhome days? We’re gearing up for that lifestyle!

    reply
  • Valerie Coffey-Rosich

    Random lab photo bomb was cute! I’m sad for you guys that Fiji looks to be a bummer because you can’t go anywhere thanks to the pandemic. If you ever are allowed to explore, I hope you can go and explore Fiji before you leave. I’d love to know your honest opinion about whether it’s worth traveling to or not. Would love to know how it compares to French Polynesia!

    reply
  • Wayne Cancryn

    Hi. Thanks so much for the excellent information. Curious about the specifics around your health insurance which looks surprisingly inexpensive. Can you share the details around what/who you use, coverages & deductibles, etc., where you are covered and how it works in terms of claims, payments and reimbursement? How do you feel about this health insurance. The good, bad and the ugly.

    Thank you!!

    reply
  • Todd

    In case you did not notice there seems to be a boat baby boom going on. Every time I turn around another boat couple has gotten knocked up. I know it’s not totally PC to ask straight up but we are all in the Patrion family here – so what gives?

    And thanks for all of the great and helpful videos! We have a catamaran in order and who knows may run into you somewhere! If so you can think – oh, they are ones who had the nerve to ask …

    reply
  • Luke

    Thanks so much for your openness! We are doing some planning and your insight is very helpful!

    reply
  • Charles O. Wetterman

    How and where do you pay your income taxes?

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      Per a previous answer from Nikki, the Wynns pay personal and corporate taxes in the U.S.A. Like pretty much everything these days it can all be done electronically.
      Curious Minion

      reply
  • Jeanette Brennan

    Excellent job on the pie chart and expenses. Very helpful and thanks for sharing. I bet you would have liked to have had this info when you started out! You truly are helping others by sharing the real facts and figures. You guys rock!! Stay safe, well and happy! Thx again for sharing the truth about the expenses. 😍💰💳⛵️🍅👍

    reply
  • Rick - GoingNoWhereFast

    I think while you stranded on land you and Jason maimize your makeup skills and show us what you will be doing in 50 yrs. As a “normal” hard working factory guy waiting to get to retirement so I can spend some of my millions (of pennies and hoarded Toilet Paper rolls), I wonder how long you can pull this off. I’m so jealous! Take care, stay safe, Hope you break free of your current quarantine soon!!

    Rick

    reply
  • Kimberly A. Selleck

    Just wondering, you didn’t mention a monthly mortgage (boat) fee, so assuming that you own the sailboeat outright? Can you tell me how much you paid for the catamaran when you bought it? Thank you!!

    reply
  • Alan Solomon

    Thanks so much. Another terrific video.
    I am sure it took some work to make those pie charts. I would love to travel. Not sure about boating though. Sea sickness? Maybe my stomach will eventually settle down?
    The thing that struck me was at the end of this video. Walking the beach. Nikki is in front of the camera and then, I saw it!!
    The palm trees, grassy area and a red roof or two in the background. I am used to seeing you guys with a background of Blue Ocean Water and waves, not palm trees or grass. Stay out of the expectations. It’ll make you crazy! Positive prayers for you both.
    Me yacova na gauna e tarava noqu itokani. Vakamose…

    reply
  • Kay Tennant

    Hi Guys ! Great video outlining your expenses. It was quite extensive. Thank you 😃. I mentioned to you a couple years ago about getting
    DAN insurance for diving. Did you ever check into it ? Is it worth having for traveling and diving off your own boat ? It is not only a great thing for any diver domestic or traveling but i have recently seen that it is even required at Many international resorts thru out the world.
    Also, I’d love to hear about what’s going on with your container. Although that might still be a story in progress. But when its all said and done I’d love to hear about it ! I know it’s going to be good one !

    reply
  • Susan Loeffler

    Fantastic video! We found this super helpful and appreciate the information and your honesty. We would love to hear more about your insurance both for the boat and the renters insurance you mentioned.

    Thanks so much.

    reply
  • Mona Lee

    How diffcult was it to find your apt. in Fiji and how much is it costing? Is food pricey there?

    reply
  • Tracey

    Love the video and the honesty! Pandemic or not your videos are interesting! Keep em coming! How is the lil guy?

    reply
  • Jane Ashman

    Any news out there about when if maybe you might be able to get to the boat? Best wishes!

    reply
  • Eric

    Why is it that my comments do not show up? (And it was certainly not abusive or offensive).

    reply
    • Curious Minion

      Because if it’s your first comment it is automatically held until it can be approved by a moderator (to prevent spammers from getting a foot in the door). This is common for most blogs.
      Curious Minion

      reply
      • Eric

        Thanks, but it wasn’t my first comment.

        reply
        • Curious Minion

          New computer maybe?? If not I’m going with aliens. Definitely interference from little green beings.

          reply
  • Tim n’ Carol

    Hi Nikki and Jason,
    We’ve been following Gone With The Wynns’s fascinating travels since way back in your RV days.
    Our question: what are Nikki’s wardrobe expenses? (We didn’t see it on the chart).

    reply
  • Eric

    Dog stole the show.

    reply
  • Emma Nicolls

    Thanks for putting this much effort into your blog. It’s really great to be able to read all this stuff. I struggle to find other sailing Youtubers with a blog as good as this one.

    reply
  • Darren

    Guys,

    Just wanted to say thanks for your efforts. As always, your videos are great. What a great “live vicariously” product you have provided for RV’ers & amateur sailers! It’s nice to see you “getting ALL the marrow” from your adventure & sharing your feast!

    Check your tip jar, & ENJOY!

    (James) Darren Martin

    reply
  • Colin Cattanach

    Hi guys. If you are IN NZ and want to consider replacing windows here, we just had 8 on our DS replaced and resealed for, what I thought, was a great price. Not affiliated in anyway so if you need the contact details, please let me know.

    reply
  • Bruce & Patricia McLain

    Nikki & Jason, Thank you for keeping your records and sharing. We sailed for 4 years in the Pacific from 1994 to 1998. Before we left we could not find anything about costs. Boat insurance was not available if only 2 people were sailing a boat and health insurance was not available. Our average was $1,000 per month and we had such a wonderful experience!

    reply
  • Susan

    We enjoy your channel. Great video and appreciate the info. What software do you use to track expenses?
    Thank you!

    reply
  • Bill Doty

    Would buy a recipe book, and would like to know the difference in MH vs boat budget

    reply
  • Meow

    Keep Going Guys! We love and Miss you! Love the article.

    reply
  • Kathy Donaldson

    As are many others, I am interested in the dog! So cute!

    reply
  • Mark Dykeman

    Once again a very good video. We really like these ones, that tell how it really is, or how to. Thanks for all the helpful info over the years.

    Hope you guys are OK on your Island, here on our Island of Newfoundland and Labrador it is a little cooler but we seem to have the virus under control. It help being on a small Island in these times and controlling travel. Hope you get back to your boat soon.

    We have been looking at you old videos, lots of fun there. So it looks like you had 3 RV’s. Not sure why you changed so often, and how you made the decision to sell and buy a boat. Maybe a video??

    really looking forward to your repair and upgrade video when you get to the boat.

    Stay save

    reply
  • Paula Burr

    Thank you so much for the excellent videos! I’m very interested in knowing more about your health insurance. What company do you use? How long have you been with them? Have you ever had to file a claim and if so, was the process fairly painless (no pun intended!)

    reply
  • Marge Nehlsen

    Interesting. Who’s dog was in the video in background and then right in front. How is Pip? Things opening up do you should be able to leave soon
    Stay safe and happy.

    reply
  • Fred Kaluza

    About living expenses…Jason and Nikki, maybe you include it in you “business expense” category but…Nikki, you always have the nicest outfits on. Unless you make them yourself or find them at resale shops, I imagine they are a significant portion of your budget. Just curious…Fred in Michigan.

    reply
  • Stella MacDonald

    Hi Jason and Nikki,
    Hopefully the borders will open up soon for you.
    Jack days he likes the classifications that you have…..easy to use and practical.
    Take care.
    Jack and Stella
    Delta BC

    reply
  • Tracy Petterson

    Curious about where all of your income comes from to pay for all of your expenses.

    reply
  • Tom Fitch

    Where’s Pip? We need an update.

    reply
  • Shirley Gautreau

    Just wanted to tell you that I so enjoy your weekly videos. We are not a boaters but my husband and I are RV’ers and we love to travel. We have travelled to many places in the world and I really enjoy your adventures on your catamaran. Hopefully you will get back to your home in the near future and be able to travel again. In the meantime I still enjoy watching every week as I find both of you very interesting, informative and likeable people.

    reply
  • T C Spencer

    What are your income sources ???

    reply
  • Todd

    1) Health Insurance and Boat Insurance deep dives: Yes please!

    2) I’m guessing you are working off of a spreadsheet somewhere. While we can reconstruct a high level view from this post, if you have a detailed view you are willing to share, would you post that file somewhere for Patrons only?

    3) The unexpected stuff:
    Top 5 Worst $ spent: what was your biggest ‘rip off’ on a regular basis (besides the anchor chain, shipping stuff)? Doesn’t have to be a ‘thing’ (although it can be), might be a fee, an experience, whatever. Avoid this if possible!
    Top 5 Best $ spent: What was the most pleasant surprise/ value for money? (Besides good ground tackle). Something or some experience worth WAY more than whatever someone charged you. Yes, the best things are really the crazy free stuff that randomly comes along, but pick something you paid for but was unexpectedly SO worth it. Do/buy that again!

    reply
  • Andy Windsor

    Thank you for this costs breakdown, not that I am about to follow in your footsteps, but it does give an indication of the sort of fees that you pay when checking in or out of a country. I suspect that a few of these are so high because they are aimed at Holiday Cruises, where the Holiday agent handles a whole ship at a time. Was the Provisions segment coloured White to reflect Ice Cream? and I do not recall seeing any ice cream being consumed while you are in Fiji, or did I miss that bit? As an aside, don’t forget to service the Engine on your Dive Compressor, it is a Long time since you have used it, and the carburettor may well be gunked up.

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  • tracy

    We so enjoy ever episode and love your traveling felines now on land. PIP though should become your newest family member. Highly respect your sea life but we are land lovers and first followed your RV life. But will not deter us from continuing to watch your continued adventures! Love your Figi videos. Continued safe travels!

    Tracy & Jason

    reply
  • RJ

    Seems similar to full time travel in a motor-home, we are on year 10!

    reply
  • Janaea A Cordier-Barnard

    This is super helpful thank you so much for doing this and letting us see the inner workings! We try and track as well so this helps to just see how we compare. Janaea

    reply
  • Peter Jeffries

    You neglect to add in the significant cost of depreciation. From the time you buy a boat it almost always starts depreciating. If you buy a 20 yr old boat, maybe not so much, but if you buy a late model boat the depreciation is significant. All the toys and gear you buy for your boat also depreciate. That might not show up in repairs bit those nice additions to the boat almost never increase the value of the boat. Even though we might tell our spouse “of course they do“.

    If you buy a new boat for $500,000 then ten years later its maybe worth $250,00, if your lucky, so the real cost of ownership in this case would be all the expenses you mentioned that would normally apply, plus $25,000 per year depreciation.

    reply
  • Sue

    Hello from Canada – tell us about the dog!!! So cute!

    Take care and be well

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  • Jim Ege

    Great stuff! I enjoy your honesty and integrity in regards to the sailing life. People head into these kinds of endeavors never being aware and fail miserably. Dog bomb was hilarious!!

    reply
  • Denise & Ted Horwood

    Thanks Jason and Nikki! Love the video and all the information. We have been watching you for a couple years now and have followed your journey with immense pleasure. This particular video was very helpful as we prepare to disembark on our own journey towards this lifestyle! We had wanted to leave this year from the US and cruise the Caribbean but alas the pandemic hit and so looks like we are stuck on land for a little bit longer than we wanted. Hope you get home soon. BTW, we love Pipsqueak. Hope Pipsqueak finds a home too. We ended up adopting 2 of our foster baby kitties and the mother just over 10 years ago now.

    Thanks again for being so open about your expenses. It’s about what we had anticipated. A bit more planning for us and perhaps we will meet you in person someday! Would love a video of recipes that Nikki is able to make on the boat. I will be a newbie on the water, hubby has sailed for many years as a commercial fisherman. Bit nervous about cooking on a boat and Nikki seems to do it so well. Would love those easy recipes and perhaps a tip or two about ways to be healthy but also practical while moving on a boat. Thanks again, Denise (and Ted)

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  • Michael Larkin

    Photo bombing Lab

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  • Steve Kass

    I must have missed an episode. When did you get a dog?

    reply
  • Tim

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s very interesting and helpful.
    I always wondered what the actual cost could be for a voyage like yours.
    Best of luck to you!

    reply
  • Carol Bufala

    Hi Nikki & Jason, thank you so much for this info. Great Video! I learned so much from your RV video’s in fact you were the inspiration for us seniors (me & my sister ) to Full time RV. I don’t think we will go the boating lifestyle but I do enjoy watching you both. My question; for those of us that followed you from RVing to Boating, do you have a comparison chart between the two lifestyles? I remember you doing an RV budget Video but couldn’t find it. Thanks again, Carol

    reply
  • Bonnie

    Hi guys. What’s the story on the cute doggy video bombing the story? I couldn’t get enough of him/her.

    Thanks for all the info. It was enlightening

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  • Richard M Calbo

    What was your most expensive month?

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  • Josh

    It would be great to hear more about boat insurance. Most videos you find online are from brokers (boat and insurance) and it’s hard to tell how much smoke they are blowing. Love the explainer videos, thanks!

    reply
  • Chad Morgan

    Hi, love the vids and been following for a while now. You mention health insurance for $68 a month? Can you elaborate on that, please, and how it works when travelling?

    reply
    • Chad Morgan

      Nevermind, I get it now – watched the vid….thanks!

      reply

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