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Cruising the World by Sea Expenses

How much does it cost to travel by sea? — What are the expenses for traveling the world by sea? How much does it cost for a year aboard a boat? From asking around, it is my impression that the costs are relative to your approach: if you put effort into your living and do [...]

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How much does it cost to travel by sea? —

What are the expenses for traveling the world by sea? How much does it cost for a year aboard a boat? From asking around, it is my impression that the costs are relative to your approach: if you put effort into your living and do everything you can yourself and live frugally, traveling by sea is cheap, but if you want everything done for you and want conveniences, it is expensive. This dichotomy is the same as for traveling by land — traveling can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it.

“The laws of the sea state that you can anchor almost anywhere for free,” spoke the Captain as I sat in his house on a hill in central Maine. He had built his house himself, and it sat comfortably underfinished as we sat in the dinning area in front of a fire place that I am sure set many moods during the long, dark winter months.

I have been receiving  a lot of contrary information about the cost of long term international cruising on a sailboat. Some say that it is cheap, other say that it is expensive. The Captain tells me that it is possible to sail full time around the world living on your boat for $8,000 a year, while other people have told me that a boat is a hole in the sea to chuck your money.

“I have heard of people traveling around the world on a sailboat for $2,500 a year,” another knowledgable sailor told me right before saying that a lot of people view sailing as, “taking a cold shower while shedding hundred dollar bills.”

It depends on how you approach sailing
was his point.

You can travel cheap on a sailboat, or it can be outrageously expensive. This is also the dominant axiom of world travel:

Traveling is as expensive as you make it.

If you want luxery and everything provided for you, then traveling anywhere is expensive, but if you do your own leg work, put time and effort into finding the cheapest of everything, and eating bitter, then world travel is laughably cheap.

I can travel through Europe on $10 a day. Whereas most people drop hundred dollar bills at each turn in this region. If you put effort and time into your living strategy, traveling is cheap; if you want everything done for you, luxery, and conveinence, traveling is expensive.

It is my impression that this is exactly the same scenario as sailing. If I do the leg work myself, if I do my own repairs on my boat, trade work for equipment, buy food in bulk and cook for myself, and put time into finding the cheapest anchorages and avoiding marinas and docks, traveling by sea can be very cheap. But if I want a boat that impresses the sailing community, pay other people to repair it, eat at restaurants and drink in bars, and stay at marinas and at docks, traveling the world by sea will be very expensive.

This is a difference between spending $2,500 a year and $25,000.

I have learned a standard operating procedure for world travel that enables me to travel cheap, but this is a standard operating procedure that requires me to work at living every single day. By working at living I mean doing things for myself. If I am willing to put time and effort into my living — if I trade work or websites for accommodation, camp, make my own food, ride a bicycle — then I am able to travel with very little money.

Paying money is for people who do not want to bother with their own living. Paying money is for people who want to sit back and have life done for them. Cruising the world has been confussed as being an act of the luxurious.

It is my impression that, like traveling, crusing the world by sea is an act reserved for both for the extreme rich and the extreme poor. Traveling the world by sea is both for people who want life done for them as well as those who want to handle, take care of, and control every nuance of their existence.

Traveling by sea will either make me more dependent on other people or more dependent on myself.

The more I rely on myself, the cheaper I am able to live.

It has become my impression that the bright side to living is that its enjoyment is proportional to the work you put into it.

You only get what you give.

The more you polish your life, the more it will shine.

I look forward to traveling cheaply by sea precisely because of the challenges — precisely because I will need to put my attention into living. I will need to learn, to discover, and work. I am excited at the prospect of ever chiseling my mind sharp simply from living poor.

I fear that I would be a very bored man if I had a million dollars.

Alas! old man, we’re wealthy now, it’s sad beyond a doubt;
We cannot dodge prosperity, success has found us out.
Your eye is very dull and drear, my brow is creased with care,
We realize how hard it is to be a millionaire.
The burden’s heavy on our backs — you’re thinking of your rents,
I’m worrying if I’ll invest in five or six per cents.
We’ve limousines, and marble halls, and flunkeys by the score,
We play the part . . . but say, old chap, oh, isn’t it a bore?
We work like slaves, we eat too much, we put on evening dress;
We’ve everything a man can want, I think . . . but happiness.
Come, let us sneak away, old chum; forget that we are rich,
And earn an honest appetite, and scratch an honest itch.
Let’s be two jolly garreteers, up seven flights of stairs,
And wear old clothes and just pretend we aren’t millionaires;
And wonder how we’ll pay the rent, and scribble ream on ream,
And sup on sausages and tea, and laugh and loaf and dream.

And when we’re tired of that, my friend, oh, you will come with me; And we will seek the sunlit roads that lie beside the sea.
We’ll know the joy the gipsy knows, the freedom nothing mars,
The golden treasure-gates of dawn, the mintage of the stars.
We’ll smoke our pipes and watch the pot, and feed the crackling fire,
And sing like two old jolly boys, and dance to heart’s desire;
We’ll climb the hill and ford the brook and camp upon the moor . . .
Old chap, let’s haste, I’m mad to taste the Joy of Being Poor.

– Robert W. Service, The Joy of Being Poor

Vagabond Journey on the joys of living cheaply

Preparing to travel by sea series

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Filed under: Boat Travel, Save Money for Travel

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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8 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com September 9, 2009, 8:30 pm

    From sailing around in the Caribbean, my hesitation might come from two things: Bay fees (the cost of anchoring in the bay or tying up to the dock), and the usage of fresh water. Unless you’ve got a fresh water maker on board, you’re going to be living of life of paying to constantly refill your water reservoirs, water rationing, and far too many salt-water showers. How will water rationing combine with an infant and your wife (think washing dishes and washing Petra)? Well, I’m sure there are plenty of yachties out there who’ve taken their young families on trips that could help answer those questions. I’d certainly be hitting up those message forums.

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  • craig | travelvice.cm September 9, 2009, 8:34 pm

    Oh, for what it’s worth, I remember the boat paying something like US$10-15 to anchor in the bay, maybe $25 to tie to the dock. Of course, using the shower and bathrooms at some places costs extra, as does the fuel for your dingy.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 10, 2009, 11:39 am

      Thank you Craig,

      This is exactly the type of information that I am looking for — real anecdotes from people who have sailed.

      I will definitely keep these points in mind, especially the one about the potable water, as we move further into this sailing venture.

      I am going to try to get on a sailboat and travel some long distances before buying a boat myself. I am just trying to get a feel for sailing right now, and taking it step by step.

      I will send you an email soon.



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  • kindle September 10, 2009, 12:07 pm

    Have you ever considered working as crew on a boat? Fort Lauderdale florida is a good place to line up work. Lots of captains putting together crew for voyages down to the panama canal as well as transatlantic voyages to the canaries and the med. I used to hang out in southern spain and met quite a few americans who had gotten a free trip to spain by working on boats out of lauderdale. Different types of jobs from a kitchen cook to scrubbing the deck. They’d hang out in the marina in F.L. and approach the captains until they found something suitable. It would give you some real experience and you might even make a buck or two.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 11, 2009, 6:59 pm

      Good suggestion,

      I will try to do that soon. I did a stay down near Ft. Lauderdale back in ’99, but this was before I gave much heed to sailing. I may return soon and look for a boat to get some cruising experience on.



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  • John Trudeau October 2, 2009, 12:48 pm

    I have been wondering the same things about sailing. I have no experience sailing. I did serve 6 years in the Canadian navy. I would be concerned about bad weather. We got into bad weather off of Newfoundland 80 ft waves 100 mile winds. This sank an oil rig and all hands were lost. How would a small sail boat handle in this type of storm. I also would want lots of training in navigation in the middle of the ocean there are no land marks to go by and if your just off shore fog can blow in very quickly.I hope to keep reading on how you proceed on your sailing.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 3, 2009, 12:00 am

      Hello John,

      Thank you for your advice. Those 80 foot waves sound amazing. Could you see them from where you were on the boat or were you below deck?

      Thanks for the suggestions.


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  • John Trudeau October 7, 2009, 9:49 am

    I could see the waves from the bridge. The oil rig was the Ocean Ranger it was one of the largest oil rigs in the world at the time. There is a book wrote about what happen and a list of ships that were involved. I was serving on the HMCS Nipigon. You should be able to get the story on the internet.

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